Military Wedding Traditions

Updated: June 27, 2018
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    A wedding is a significant and momentous time for everyone involved. Brides and grooms alike are filled with unparalleled anticipation for their special day. Military members and civilians all know there is always a lot to be done, and a countless number of decisions that must be made prior to the exchange of I-do’s. For those planning a military wedding, there are some traditions that you should at least consider incorporating into your nuptials. Here are some of the most prominent military wedding traditions that you might consider:

    Staff Sgt. Phillip Vitela, right and his wife, Kate, receive a blessing from Maj. Billy Graham, chaplain, after exchanging wedding vows Jan. 29 at French Theater on Lewis Main.

    Staff Sgt. Phillip Vitela, right and his wife, Kate, receive a blessing from Maj. Billy Graham, chaplain, after exchanging wedding vows Jan. 29 at French Theater on Lewis Main.

    1. Military Dress

    The active duty bride or groom can choose whether to wear their Mess Dress, Class A Service dress, traditional gown, or formal tuxedo. While it is more common for brides to choose a traditional wedding dress, it is quite a popular choice for the groom to choose military attire.

    If you do choose to wear a uniform, traditionally, boutonnieres are not worn. Typically, military decorations will replace the traditional flower worn by the groom.

    2. Swords and Sabers

    A fun way to distinguish your military wedding apart from a typical civilian wedding is exiting the ceremony venue beneath an arch of sabers. This unique tradition takes place as the married couple departs the chapel, synagogue or church. The newly married couple walks underneath a picturesque arch of swords, sabers and/or rifles. Usually the couple kisses and then proceeds under the arches. Once the couple reaches the last two members of the line, the new bride is swatted on the backside, and the saber bearers will exclaim, “Welcome to the (Branch of Service)!” This last step is irrelevant if the bride is also serving in the military, for obvious reasons.

    3. Military Chapels

    You may be interested in utilizing a military chapel for your wedding venue. Not only does this add to the military ambiance, but it is cost-friendly as well. If the service is provided by a military chaplain there will be no cost because military chaplains are commissioned officers, however, it is always courteous to make a small donation to the chapel.

    As with any chapel, military chapels are in high demand for weddings. It is important to reserve this military base wedding venue in advance to ensure it is available for your special date.

    Service academies also hold some of the most striking, beautiful venues to house your wedding. For example, the Air Force Academy’s chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado is well known for its unique architecture and breathtaking surroundings. Military service academies also provide separate chapels to accommodate different faiths including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist chapels.

    4. Cutting the Cake with a Sword

    This is an exciting addition to a wedding reception that is sure to become a cherished memory, and should also make for a great photo. Instead of a standard wedding cake knife, the bride will hold a sword or saber, while the groom places his hands on top of hers to guide it through the cake.

    These are only a few examples of the unique and distinctive traditions of a military wedding. Don’t hesitate to contact your base’s chaplain or a local wedding planner for help incorporating these or any other special traditions into your monumental day. Don’t forget to take advantage of the many military wedding discounts available.

    Regardless of whether you choose to have a traditional or nontraditional wedding, any marriage ceremony that welcomes a new spouse into the military community, is one of great meaning. A strong and supportive military family plays a crucial role in the well-being of our country.

    Written by Team