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Military Wedding: How To Plan With 10 Top Traditions

Military Wedding: How To Plan With 10 Top Traditions

Tips for planning a military wedding.

Planning a wedding can be stressful with so many decisions to make and elements to coordinate, but planning a military wedding brings additional factors to consider. To help military brides navigate the unique experience of planning this type of celebration, we have created 10 top tips that will cover everything from what to wear to traditions to follow. Whether you are an active service member or you are marrying one you will want to know the basics about how to plan a military wedding before you start the planning process. Keep reading to get all the information you need to make your day perfect!

What is a military wedding?

This is a wedding where one or more of the members of the couple is on active-duty in the Armed Forces or is a veteran of a branch of the Armed Forces. Based on the preference of the couple tying the knot, some may choose to pay homage to the military in a significant way while others prefer to limit things to only a few traditions and nods here or there.

Each branch of the Armed Forces has their own individual traditions and unique ways to honor the service member.

How long is a military wedding?

The ceremony usually sticks to close to 30 minutes and can be followed by a simple and small or large and elegant reception depending on the couples preference. It can take place on a military base but they also can be hosted at a more traditional wedding venue if the couples wants.

How is a military wedding different?

A military wedding has a few significant differences than a non-military wedding mostly centered around traditions that are worked into the ceremony and reception. Below is a list of the top 8 differences you will see at a military wedding:

  1. Venue – The couple may decide to tie the knot on a military base and not at a traditional wedding venue.
  2. Uniform – Dress uniforms will be worn by anyone in the wedding including groom, groomsmen, parents and any guests who is a current or retired service member. A bride who is in the military has the option to wear her dress uniform however most decide to wear a traditional wedding dress instead.
  3. Seating by rank – You will notice high ranking officials such as a general or admiral have preferential seating at both the ceremony and the reception.
  4. Flags on display – You will see flags on display most likely at both the ceremony and the reception.
  5. Arch of sabers – The new couple will have a moment usually as they leave their ceremony where they exit through an arch of sabers.
  6. Patriotic music – It is not uncommon to hear a particular service branch’s signature song. Many couples will chose this song or a medley of signature songs as their ceremony exit song.
  7. Cake cutting with a sword – If a member of the marrying couple is an officer, the couple can decide to use a ceremonial saber to cut into their wedding cake.
  8. Military sendoff – A military couple may decide to have a special sendoff with their guests waving mini flags or a red, white and blue firework display.

How can I create a budget for my military wedding?

Wedding planning always starts with setting a budget. Military couples can enjoy many discounts for important wedding details such as bridal gown, music, wedding rings, wedding cake, etc. (A small thank you for serving our country!) At the very least, military couples can save on their venue by choosing to host their wedding at a military chapel. A military chapel is a great option to consider when planning because the chapel and military halls and restaurants are free of charge, which cuts a lot out of your overall wedding budget. It can also help with the scheduling and the unpredictable nature of living life as a service member and never knowing where or when you’ll be deployed.

What is the wedding attire for a military wedding?

Couples planning a military wedding still have some decisions to make when it comes to wedding attire. It’s customary for the service members getting married to wear their ceremonial dress (military suit) instead of typical wedding attire. If the groom is a service member, he may opt to dress in whites in the spring and summer or blues in the fall and winter. If the bride is also a service member, she may choose to wear ceremonial uniform as well, but many choose to wear a more “traditional” wedding dress. A similar dress code applies to guests who are military members. Men often where their military suits and women wear their military suits or dress-code appropriate dresses.

What are the traditions to follow?

Brides planning a military wedding should consider including some unique traditions to honor the service member’s important role and provide guests with an unforgettable experience.

For example, an exciting ritual is having the best man pass the wedding rings to the couple hanging from the edge of a sword! Another thrilling custom is having the newlyweds march down the aisle passing underneath the arch of swords or sabers held by military cadets. Having the newly married couple cut their cake with a specially designed blade or even a sword is a sight you won’t forget!

There are often numerous kinds of military-themed decorations, such as labeling tables with the names of military formations and teams. Some military couples give custom-made challenge coins as wedding favors; these unique memorabilia will serve as a memory on this unforgettable celebration!

How should attendees’ rank be acknowledged and honored?

It is important to use the correct title and rank for military members on the save the dates, invitations and seating arrangements. It is customary to seat high ranking officials and distinguished service members closer to the front at both the ceremony and the reception.

Is there a protocol that needs to be followed?

This type of wedding can take place anywhere but many couples will choose to tie the knot at a military academy chapel or host their reception on a military base. It is encouraged for couples to always reach out to the base’s protocol office and/or the chaplain for advice and information about what rules and protocol will need to be followed to avoid any hiccups on the wedding day.

Do military weddings differ by branch?

While some traditions are seen through out all military branches there can be some small difference based on the specific branch and location of the wedding.

What’s expected of civilians when attending a military wedding?

If you are attending a wedding on a military base and you are a civilian you will need to factor in some extra time as you will most likely have to show your ID at the front gate to be allowed onto the base. You will also most likely have very strict rules for where you need to park and where you are allowed within the base so make sure you get clear information when you arrive.

All in all, military weddings in the U.S. are all about paying proper respects to the Armed Forces and to the unit the bride and/or groom is serving and celebrating the couple and their love for one another.

Feature image c/o @annabowserphotography.

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