Everyone has that old family photograph of a war wedding featuring their grandparents or great-grandparents. They’re a nostalgic record, but how do you update that look for a 21st Century military-themed wedding?
For each branch of the armed forces, Navy, Army or RAF, there are individual wedding customs you can embrace to make your wedding special and more personal for you. There are so many choices to make, from the location of your wedding ceremony to your venue, suits, bands, and so on.
Where to tie the knot
You could start your day by marrying in the military chapel; if you decide to do this then you need to make sure you reserve your day as far in advance as possible. Like any church, military churches tend to booked up a long time in advance. Ensure you don’t miss your opportunity of marrying at your dream venue by getting organised as soon as you make up your mind. All services have more than one chapel in order to celebrate all of the faiths of their practicing servicemen. So whether you’re Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or a follower of any other religion, your branch of the military should be able to accommodate you. There’s often no charge for the use of the chapel. It’s usually expected that you make some kind of monetary donation by way of a thank you, however.
For the ceremony, it’s normal to seat the guests according to their relationship with the bride and groom. However, if many of your guests are servicemen/women, you could seat them according to their rank, with the highest ranking officials located immediately behind close family. You can also extend this theme to your reception seating plan. This might even make the plan easier to compile.
One of the easiest changes to make from the usual wedding look is to embrace your groom’s uniform. Get him in his dress uniform and your best man and ushers in theirs too if they are also servicemen. Dress uniform usually includes some sort of sword or cutlass. An interesting and unexpected implication of the groom’s sword is that the bride stands on the groom’s right-hand side rather than on the groom’s left, in order to avoid the sword. The groom’s look is normally finished with pristine white gloves.
If you do decide to go for military dress, keep in mind that no additions are allowed to be made to military uniforms. That means no buttonhole flowers or corsages. This saves you money, of course, but if it’s vital to your plans then this probably isn’t the option for you. Civilian guests can still wear corsages and buttonholes, of course. If a bride is in the forces she could wear her military dress or a conventional wedding dress.
One of the best looks at a military wedding is the Arch of Sabers, which symbolises the newlyweds walking through a safe passage into their life as a married couple together. It is traditionally only performed for commissioned soldiers, although The Marine Corps NCOs are also authorized to carry sabers so they can perform this photogenic tradition if required.
Another exciting sword tradition is the cutting of the cake. Use your sword or sabre to cut the cake – just make sure that it’s clean first! You could even start making your guests aware of your military theme from Day One by sending out military themed wedding invitations as suggested by @fmilitaryspouse, who recommends, “Military Red White and Blue Wedding” invitations. There are so many other brilliant military themes you can add to your wedding look. Ideas include using military tags on your bouquets, unusual cake designs, military bands, themed table names or colour coordinating your wedding to suit the colours of your branch of the services. Let your imagination run wild!