So you're getting married! As a service member, you may be interested in using the services of a military chaplain and holding your wedding in an installation chapel. To better plan your wedding and ensure that it meets all your expectations, consider these tips before you walk down the aisle:
- Pre-marital counseling — Since your chaplain has expertise in premarital counseling, consider taking advantage of it. Even if you're sure you don't need it, you might find that counseling raises questions and issues that you and your partner can address now to better prepare you for a happy, successful marriage. Also, many chaplains require premarital counseling before they will agree to perform a marriage ceremony.
- Eligibility — All active duty and retired service members, National Guard and Reserve service members (while on active duty), and dependent children of active duty and/or retired military service members are generally eligible to use the chapel. Inquire with your local installation chaplain office for specific requirements.
- Scheduling — Check with your chaplain's office to schedule a chaplain for a wedding. Keep in mind that many chaplains require an application, usually at least three months in advance of your planned wedding date.
- Wedding ceremony — Be aware that wedding styles, ceremonies, and preparation standards vary widely among military chaplains. Try to keep an open mind and be flexible in your approach to your wedding.
- Faith-specific ceremony — If you and your military chaplain are of different faiths and you would prefer that your wedding be handled by a representative of your own religion, your chaplain should be able to refer you to a clergy member of your own faith to perform your service.
- Early planning — Speak to your chaplain early in the wedding process to find out whether he or she will conduct a ceremony consistent with your plans and expectations.
- Fees — There is no fee for weddings conducted by a chaplain, and active and Reserve chaplains are prohibited from accepting monetary donations. However, to express your thanks for the service performed, you may make a donation to the chaplain fund at the installation chapel.
- Marriage retreats — Consider participating in an Army Strong Bonds, Navy/Marine Corps CREDO Marriage Enrichment or Air Force MarriageCare retreat, which are chaplain-led programs designed to strengthen relationships and help you maintain a strong marriage.
- Contact — For contact information for chapels, check your installation's home page or MilitaryINSTALLATIONS under the program service "Chapels."