Patriot Brides and Grooms: Planning A Military Wedding With All The Pomp And Circumstance
May 25, 2017 12:56 PM Back
Arm in arm you will become husband and wife…and if you’re marrying someone in the armed forces…consider adding some or all of the abundant and rich military traditions to your significant celebration.

While each branch and division has its own distinct customs there are some basics that will help make set the stage for your military soiree and showcase your national pride and allegiance.

1.  Locations That Pay Homage To National Loyalty: Forget fancy catering halls and go for the gusto; hosting your pre-nuptial parties at or on a military base, exchanging your vows at one of many magnificent military chapels and parting patriot style on military grounds. Just remember that in order to host your nuptials at one of this fabulous chapels or sensational service academies you must : Be a military graduate; a dependent of a graduate;  an officer or enlisted individual assigned to the academy complex; an active or retired staff or faculty member;  a dependent of an active or retired staff or faculty member.

Use of the chapel is typically FREE, though a donation is “expected”. Décor is typically arranged and conducted by the Chapel Alter Guide and are “universal” for all military weddings. However, some chapels do not provide this service and allow the couple to take care of these details themselves. The reception traditionally follows and takes place at the on-site officers’ club.

2.  Securing Your Official Officiant: Military weddings are customarily conducted by the chaplain (that is available for your wedding date). So, you WILL want to have a meeting or two with those available to conduct your wedding ceremony to ensure it goes as planned and goes smoothly.  Since chaplains are commissioned officers there is no fee associated with their services. However, making a donation to the chapel is always appreciated. And, if you are having an assisting outside officiant  it is customary to offer him or her an honorarium.

3. Rank and File: Guests, especially military personnel should be seated according to rank, with those with the highest ranks seated in positions of honor at both the ceremony and the reception. Furthermore, a prominent position should be reserved for the commanding officer (of the bride or groom). Military guests should also be seated according to rank.

4. Rank and Style: If the groom is THE military member, then he should wear his official military uniform for the ceremony and celebration….and depending on his rank and the branch he is in the groom may also opt to add some extra  elegance to his ensemble with a sabre or cutlass and  traditional white gloves.  His bride traditionally stands to his right (the reverse custom typically seen at non-military weddings in an effort to avoid the sword). If it is the bride who is the military member, SHE get a choice: either  her official military dress uniform or a traditional white wedding gown. In either case she get to walk down the aisle with a customary bridal bouquet.
5. Golden Arches: The arch (formed by  commissioned military officers) symbolically creates a safe passage for the couple to enter their new life as husband and wife.

The arch is formed following the ceremony with ushers lining up along both sides of the aisle or steps of the chapel (weather permitting) and raising their blades in an arch for the couple to pass through. Non military ushers simply stand respectfully at attention during this part of the ceremony. Once the couple had made their way past the sabres and the command is given to return sabres to their sides, the cutlass are “put away” and ushers escort bridesmaids down the aisle.

Note that while aspects of this pomp and protocol may vary according to branch it is seen as one of the major highlights of a military wedding.

There are also some modern variations to this tradition including:

*Officers breaking from “tradition” and announcing the couple by saying: “Ladies and Gentlemen…may I present Colonial and Mrs. Jones”

* Lowering the last two sabres to block the couple’s “safe passage” until they kiss

* A Marine Corp tradition (often also adopted by the Air Force) in which the last sabre to be lowered gently taps the new Mrs. and the officer holding it says: “Welcome to the Marines / Air Force Ma’am”.

6. The Well Received Groom:  Military pomp and circumstance calls for the gallant groom to precede his bride most often with national colors and flags flying in the background.

7. Delicious Traditions: For commissioned officers fellow officers stand in formation by the wedding cake allowing the bride and groom to pass through. The groom then hands his new wife/bride his unshielded sabre and together hand over hand (his over hers) they cut the wedding cake together.
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