Military Wedding Traditions

By Adrian Cavlan

Here at Sound In Motion, we get extra pleasure from serving members of our military. After all, these brave men and women do so much to ensure our freedom and our very ability to be able to enjoy things like weddings and family celebrations. In some countries, day to day reality is so dangerous that people can’t ever fully let their guard down for fear that something terrible might be right around the corner. So, we cherish these days and our ability to bring the little bit of joy that we do into people’s lives.

Interestingly, the military have a few traditions that can set their wedding celebrations apart from those enjoyed by civilians, so let’s take a short look at a few of them:

Military Chapels:

To have a military wedding (i.e. in a military chapel, presided over by a military chaplain), at least one party (bride or groom) must be a part of the US Military, regardless of branch. The good news? It’s FREE! Military chaplains, by regulation, cannot accept a fee or even a donation.


When sending out your invitations, specific wording should be used depending on the rank of those being addressed. Both on the invitation and on the envelope, if the military personnel’s rank is captain or higher (Army) or lieutenant senior grade or higher (Navy), their title should appear before their name. If the rank is lower, it should appear after their name. “Mr.” should not be used to refer to any personnel on active duty.


There are regulations to follow for military personnel regarding the level of formality and the season. The class A service dress uniform is a common choice, whereas the (dinner) mess dress uniform more of a “black tie” equivalent. For military guests, the choice to attend in uniform is optional. For non-commissioned officers and other enlisted, dress blues or Army green uniforms can be worn at formal or informal weddings. Female military members may choose to be married in a traditional gown or in their military uniform.


One thing to remember, however: a boutonniere is never worn with the uniform! Typically, military decorations replace this.

Officer & Personnel Seating:

At the ceremony, the bride or groom’s commanding officer and his spouse may sit in the front pew if the parents are not present, or they will sit near or with the immediate family members. During the reception, military guests are traditionally seated by rank.

Swords, Sabers (or Rifles!):

The “Arch of Sabres” is usually part of a military formal wedding. The arch of swords takes place immediately following the ceremony, preferably when the couple leaves the chapel or church, on the steps or as they walk out of the chapel. 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)!” NOTE: It is the couple’s responsibility to pre-arrange this part with their wedding party and/or guests, as the military does not send personnel for this.

Cake Cutting:

Or, “more fun with swords!” Makes for a great photo : )


Well, that’s about all we have. Once again, we salute our service men and women and wish all of them the very best that married life has to offer!

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