Bride and groom on a carriage ride

How to Plan a Military Wedding

There are a lot of details involved in planning a wedding, especially military weddings taking place on an installation. Although there's no official protocol for military weddings, you might want to incorporate some military traditions into your big day. And you'll want to follow the rules and regulations regarding the wearing of your uniform and using proper military titles on invitations, name cards and seating charts.

Military chapels

Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to get married in a military chapel:

  • Book early. Many chapels require advance booking, typically three months before the event or up to a year for some of the more popular chapels. Learn about service Academy Chapel weddings for your service branch: Military Academy ChapelNaval Academy Chapel or Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel.
  • Get help from the chaplain. The military chaplain can explain restrictions or other protocols specific to the chapel and help you select a florist, photographer, wedding coordinator and other vendors.
  • Include civilian clergy if you want. You can have a civilian clergy member lead or assist in your religion's service if you're getting married in a military chapel. He or she can work with the military chaplain to plan your ceremony.
  • Consider pre-marital counseling. Some military chaplains or civilian clergy may require pre-marital counseling, so be sure to know the requirements ahead of time.

Military traditions

You can decide which military traditions you want to honor for your wedding. Here are a few to consider:

  • Sword or saber arch — This is one of the more popular military wedding traditions. Six or eight service members line up in pairs and make an arch with their swords or sabers for the bride and groom to walk under after the ceremony.
  • Uniforms — All service members in the wedding party should wear the same uniform the groom chooses to wear. A service member bride can also wear her uniform. 
  • Music — You can include your service branch's song in the recessional or play military-themed music at your reception.
  • Cutting the cake — One of the highlights of a military reception is cutting the wedding cake with a sword or saber. The bride holds the sword with the groom's hands over hers, and they cut the cake together.

Other details

Here are some more details to think about when planning your military wedding:

  • Wedding insurance — Wedding insurance is essential for most military couples because the mobile military life can be unpredictable. Make sure you understand the details of your coverage, including coverage for military duty or deployment.
  • Invitations — Formal invitations should follow military protocol for addressing service members. The resources listed below have specific information on this subject.
  • Seating — At a formal reception, you may want to follow military protocol and seat your military guests by rank. Your installation protocol officer can help you with your seating chart.
  • Installation security — If your wedding or reception will be on an installation, make arrangements for your non-military guests and vendors with installation military police.