Tradition is the foundation of any military wedding celebration. By honoring our military, you are establishing a family tradition of patriotism and service.
A military wedding includes a tradition called the Arch of Sabers which is reserved for commissioned officers of our armed forces. If a patriotic couple wishes to honor their service to their country as part of their wedding celebration, they may choose a military wedding theme for their specific branch of service. For military wedding accessories, focus on the couple's branch of service and the colors associated with it.
Unless noted, each item relating to wedding protocol is the same for all branches of the United States military.
- A pre-nuptial investigation form must be completed as part of a pre-marital wedding course. Check with your Chaplain for complete details.
- If the wedding ceremony is to be conducted by a military chaplain, mail a formal invitation to the chaplain and his or her spouse to both the wedding and reception.
- There is never a fee for a military chaplain.
- Military chapel weddings are reserved for military academy graduates, their children, academy staff and faculty members. An American flag is on display at the ceremony.
- If the officer getting married resides on base, other officers on base and their spouses should be formally invited to the wedding and reception.
- The bride stands to the right of her groom. Note: if the groom wears a sword, it is worn on his left side.
- Groomsmen, whether civilian or military, walk the bridesmaids in on their left and will stand to the right of the bride when at the alter during the wedding ceremony.
- Military guests are shown to their seats in order of rank, with higher ranking officers towards the front of the church.
Arch of Sabers
To ensure a couple's safe transition into their new life as a married pair, there is a military wedding tradition for commissioned officers called the Arch of Sabers. Non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel can use a variation of this tradition called the Arch of Rifles for their military theme wedding.
Following the wedding ceremony, six to eight men in their dress uniforms, wearing white gloves, will form an arch with their raised sabers, blades up. The newlyweds will walk under the arch and when the couple comes to the final pair of saber bearers, they will be stopped by sabers coming gently down in front of them. This is their signal to kiss each other. Once they have kissed, the sabers are raised to let them pass completely through the arch.
If you are a bride, be warned -- a playful pat on the derriere at the end of the walk through the arch from one of the saber bearers may be the bride's welcome into the military family!
Check with your Commanding Officer for further specifics relating to how to conduct the Arch of Sabers.
Military theme weddings can be anywhere and incorporate decorations that reflect the couple's military affiliation or symbols of it. For example, you could use military wedding accessories that are specific to the Navy in decorating your reception to be held at a seafood restaurant where you'll be giving away nautical themed favors!
Military wedding receptions are a time to have fun. Sometimes held at officers' or enlisted clubs, they can also be held in hotels, country clubs or restaurants just like civilian receptions. Check your local area for specific places that cater to military receptions for the best deals.
Anything that includes the military is governed by protocol. For specific conventions used during weddings for the Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines, check their websites or Militarywives.com and look for the wedding link.