Few things in life are as exciting (and stressful at the same time) as planning a wedding.
Things can be even more stressful when planning a military wedding, due to the extra layer of protocols and etiquette to be observed throughout the ceremony.
From the invitation formalities, seating arrangements, and displaying the national flag, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and worked up during the planning phase.
Furthermore, you have to keep in mind that different branches of the armed forces have varying wedding customs and rituals which ought to be respected. Nonetheless, there’s no denying that military weddings can be quite elegant and their sophistication sets them apart from the traditional wedding.
But how do you put on a memorable military wedding?
1. Book a Military Wedding Venue in Advance
A military wedding often takes place in a military chapel or on academy grounds, but many choose to have their military wedding in a more traditional venue such as the Midlothian Conference Center.
If you do want to use the military chapel, you’ll need to book far in advance, preferably a year ahead of time, by writing to the chaplain’s office.
For your request to be accepted, you have to be either a graduate, dependent of a graduate or staff member in the military. Usually, there are no charges for using the chapel but a donation will be appreciated.
2. Wedding Attire
It’s customary for the service member getting married to dress in their official ceremonial suit.
If the groom is the service member, he must wear a saber or cutlass accompanied with white gloves. It’s important to note that when in the ceremonial suit, flowers or boutonnieres cannot be added to the suit. Nevertheless, after the wedding ceremony, the groom can change to the usual tux for the reception.
Brides in the military can choose to wear a traditional wedding gown or their ceremonial dress and still carry a bridal bouquet.
Also, the bride should stand at the right-hand-side of the groom in order to avoid the blade which is part of the groom’s ceremonial attire.
3. Seating Arrangement
Seating arrangement in a military wedding is done with respect to ranks of the attending service members.
The commander of the bride and groom should be seated with the parents of the couple. If the parents of the groom and/bride are not present, the commanding officer and their spouse should sit at the front pew.
Other military guests should be seated directly behind in accordance to their ranks.
This same arrangement should be honored even at the reception, especially when it comes to high ranking officers. Military guests can choose to be seated together at a table of their own or be seated among civilian guests as a noble act.
4. Research Available Officiates
Typically, a military wedding will be officiated by the military chaplain. But, this doesn’t mean you cannot involve your civilian clergyperson to co-officiate the ceremony.
Try talking to both of them in advance to discuss the possibilities of having them officiate your wedding.
5. Wedding Insurance
Wedding insurance is essential for the couples given the unpredictable military life. And since planning a wedding takes almost a year, you may wake up to the news that your wedding date has to be moved due to the relocation of your military spouse.
Having wedding insurance will save you the frustration that comes with the ceremony being postponed. When buying the insurance, make sure you understand the terms of your coverage including coverage for military duty or deployment.
Also, consider asking your partner if they have military wedding policy covererage to avoid overpaying.
6. The Arch of Saber
This is one of the most anticipated traditions in a military wedding. If you’re new to this, you’ll want to consider practicing during the wedding rehearsals.
Basically, an arch is formed by ushers using the sabers, and the bride and groom pass through the arch symbolizing transition into a new life together. The last two ushers will then lower their sabers and one of them lightly ‘swat’ the bride and welcomes her into the army life. If the bride is a service member, this step is omitted.
For a Navy wedding, the arch must strictly take place indoors, while the Army and the Air force have their arch either indoors or outdoors.
In most cases, the military groomsmen participate in forming a saber arch, but guests can also be included to help create the arch.
Other Military Traditions
Consider these military traditions for your wedding:
Cutting the Cake
There can be a little spin put into this tradition, whereby the saber bearers enter the reception room and form a saber arch in front of the cake. The newlyweds pass through the arch again and approach the cake. The groom then hands his bride his saber, and they cut the cake with his hands over hers.
Security is paramount especially given the attendance of high-ranking military officials. For security reasons, the officials may not like the idea of being photographed. So, it’s good to find out in advance and let your photographer know who to avoid and what photos shouldn’t be shared publicly.
Be Careful with Written Materials
Military guests should be addressed according to their title. The person with the military title should be listed first, whether male or female and then their spouse’ name follows with ‘Mr. or Mrs.’ prefix.
This rule should be adhered to from the invitation cards all the way to the escort cards.
Displaying the Flag and Decorations
The flag should always be at the left-hand side of the officiant, as viewed by the guests, at the chapel and even at the reception.
As for the decorations, it’s best you choose colors that complement the official colors of the military. For example, use a red theme for if it’s an Air force wedding. The cake toppings should also be according to the branch of the military.
Planning a Military Wedding Has Never Been This Easy
While planning a military wedding can be overwhelming, with the sheer amount of protocols involved, it’s still possible to plan a memorable wedding without too much stress and hassle. To help you kick start your preparations, be sure to use the tips above.
Need some help with planning your wedding? We’ll be happy to, just request a proposal from us.