Planning a wedding is hard enough… but when you add all of the formal etiquette that goes along with a military wedding, it can all become pretty overwhelming. I consulted many different books and websites to make sure I had all the information that I needed for our military wedding. One book that really helped me was, The Military Wedding, which you can buy from Amazon here.
Not all military couples choose to have a formal military wedding, but I’m so glad that we did. The Army is such a huge part of our life and we wanted to honor that (plus, having a military wedding is so special and something to be extremely proud of).
While it can be overwhelming to make sure you are prepared for a military wedding, it really isn’t as stressful as it seems. There are only a few major things to note, but once those parts of the wedding are well planned for, it flows seamlessly.
Since I experienced this only a few months ago, I wanted to share some of the information and my tips with you! So this is it!
Note: This information is specific to a formal Army wedding… different branches have different etiquette and traditions that I am not familiar with.
Using proper military etiquette on your invitations is key! The invitation itself is not much different than civilian invitations, with the exception of titles. Because Connor is a Lieutenant in the Army, it was appropriate to include “Lieutenant, United States Army” underneath his name. Note: in the army, both first and second lieutenants are referred to simply as “lieutenant”. I also want to comment that I think it is important to choose classy invitations. Of course, invitations should match the personality of the couple, but should also be chosen in good taste as this is a military event. Also, fun fact, I actually hand-made all of my invitations to save some money.
This is a great way to let people know that you are having a military wedding. This will encourage guests to dress in a more formal way, and will give them a little bit of an idea what to expect from your ceremony and reception. Many guests do not know what it means to have a military wedding, so it is never a bad idea to give them a little insight.
The Dress Code
The military uniforms are truly what make the wedding a military wedding. When it comes to the wedding party, all members of the party (who are in the military) are often wearing the same uniform to create a sense of cohesion. Also, you get to save a little money on flowers because boutonnieres NEVER go on military uniforms. Guests who are members of the military may choose to wear their uniform, or they may choose to wear civilian clothes. When it came to my bridesmaids, I wanted them to wear long evening gowns because those best matched the formality of the occasion. Just like military balls… when the men are dressed in their uniform, it is appropriate for women to dress elegantly as well.
This isn’t really an etiquette thing, but I still wanted to address what it means to have to work around military life. When planning a military wedding, there is one thing that you can absolutely count on: military commitments will mean that many of your active-duty guests will not be able to attend. Here are two examples from our wedding.
One of Connor’s best friends, who he asked to be a groomsman, was not able to attend. We were heartbroken when we found out that he would not be able to stand with us as we got married, but we also understood. Fortunately, we found out about this fairly early on in the planning process, but we did have to change a few plans because of military commitments.
We also had a few guests who, at the very last minute, had to change their plans of attending because of changed military duties. It happens. This is something that you have to plan on. How you handle these situations is where the etiquette part comes in. Have backups for seating charts, inform the venue early on that the guest count will probably change at the last minute, and make sure your guest knows that you understand and are not upset.
The Arch of Sabers
This is a long standing military tradition. Because we were married in a church (and most churches do not allow weapons inside) our Arch of Sabers was performed at the bottom of the steps of the church. This tradition requires at least six military personal. As we exited the church, before entering the arch, we were introduced… “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Lieutenant and Mrs. Connor Venrick”. We walked under the arch, but were then stopped as the last two saber bearers lowered their sabers and required a kiss to pass. After our kiss, they lifted their sabers. I was officially initiated into the Army as I was tapped on the behind and greeted with “welcome to the Army ma’am”.
The Cake Topper
I admit… this is not a military tradition at all. The cake and cake topper can be whatever you decide on as a couple. But, I just had to share with you my cake topper! I custom ordered or cake topper from Military Cake Toppers (an online website) and I am still in love with it! There are different variations of the couple, and the groom can represent any branch of the military. I was able to customize every detail of his uniform, as well as my dress type and bouquet color. The cake topper was about $160, but it is a keepsake that only we have and will have for the rest of our life.
This is the tradition that I was most excited for. Why? Because I got to use a saber, obviously! Traditionally, the groom unsheathes the saber, hands it to the bride who then holds it while the groom places his hands over hers, and together they cut the cake (after many minutes of posing for pictures). Tip: place the tip of the saber in the center of the cake, and then push the rest of the saber down, thus cutting the cake. Sabers really aren’t as sharp as they seem, so they don’t cut through cake with the ease that a knife does.
I think that’s it. If you have any questions about preparing for a military wedding, please contact me or leave a comment below!