Planning a Military Wedding

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The military wedding– a regalia of uniforms, flashes of swords or sabers, and the air of drama and dignity—this is quite and experience and a unique privilege of being in the armed forces.

Regardless of the time of day, all military weddings are formal, and that means full dress uniform (blue in winter, whit in summer).  Guests dress as they would for any other formal wedding at that time and in that season.  Often the father of the bride is the only male member of the wedding party in civilian attire, unless he is on active duty or retired military, in which case he might wear his uniform as well.   Other male attendants not in the military wear civilian formal attire.  A bride who is in the military may wear either her dress or uniform, or, more than likely, a wedding gown.  (If she will be in uniform, then it is appropriate to mention her rank on the wedding invitation).  Men in uniform do not wear boutonnieres.  Bridesmaids generally wear formal civilian attire, though they may wear dress uniforms if they are on active duty.

Military weddings often take place at chapels on bases, posts or academy campuses, but they may be held elsewhere.  In addition to flowers, decorations for both the ceremony and the reception should reflect a patriotic motif by including the country’s flag in which they serve and the standard of the groom’s and/or the bride’s unit(s).

The processional into the ceremony is the traditional one, but the recessional is characterized by the couple’s exit under an arch of drawn swords or sabers formed outside the church or chapel or on the steps.  The senior officer gives the commands to form two facing lines and to hoist the swords or sabers point to point.  Part of the tradition is for pairs of swordsmen to cross their weapons in front of the couple, allowing them to pass only after they’ve kissed.  As the couple exits the arch, the last swordsman on the bride’s side introduces the couple as husband and wife.  To be effective, there should be four to twelve sword or saber bearers who also serve as wedding ushers.

Protocol at the reception follows military procedure, with officers of the highest rank being seated first.  Of course, the most honored tradition of the military reception is the cutting of the wedding cake with the groom’s sword or saber.  The chaplain’s office, chief of protocol, or club manager on the base or post can give you specific information for your particular branch or service.

Should you or your fiancé want to marry at one of the military academies, at least a year’s notice will probably be needed.

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