Thursday, May 22, 2014

Military Wedding Details and Etiquette

In honor of our men and women in uniform on this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, today's blog post is about Military Weddings.
Many people who have affiliations to the Armed Services may want to incorporate their respective military organization into their big day. I was actually surprised at the lack of information available about the etiquette and particulars of planning a military wedding. While not a completely comprehensive manual, here are three important aspects to keep in mind when planning a military wedding.

For the groom and any active military male bridal party participants, the ‘correct’ dress code depends on their rank and the formality of the wedding.

For a Black Tie wedding, commissioned officers can wear either their dinner or mess uniforms. For an even more formal white tie and tails wedding, groom and groomsmen should sport their evening dress uniform. If any male attendants are members of a different service than the groom, they just wear a uniform of comparable formality to his.

Whether the wedding is formal or informal, non-commissioned officers should wear dress blues or Army green. Military attendants who are part of the sword or saber ceremony are required to wear white gloves. The groom and best man do not wear gloves because they will be handling the rings. Boutonnieres are not worn with uniforms; instead, officers wear their military decorations.

Active military brides (and bridesmaids) have the option to wear either their military dress uniform or a traditional bridal gown.

The Sword or Saber Ritual

The grand finale of a military wedding ceremony is the formation of a sword or saber arch. Immediately following the pronouncement of marriage, before the couple heads down the aisle, the honor guard form two lines opposite each other. On the command of "draw sword" or "draw sabers," the steel is raised with the right hand, with the cutting edges facing up. The couple enters the arch, kiss, and then pass through. The newly married couple then salute the honor guard. Members of the honor guard then sheath the swords or sabers and return them to a carry position. Depending on your particular church’s rules and branch of service, the arch can be formed either outside or in the foyer of the chapel, synagogue or church.

The tradition of the bride and groom walking through the arch of swords is meant to symbolize the couple's safe transition into their new lives together.

If the bride is a civilian, another tradition is a gentle sword tap on the rear that she receives from the last swordsman as one of the attendants tells her, “Welcome to the Navy (or the appropriate military division). Grooms, should you decide to adhere to this custom, it would be prudent to inform your bride about the possibility so that she isn't unpleasantly surprised!

Cutting the Military Wedding Cake

Finally, at the wedding reception many military couples choose to use the groom’s sword or saber to cut the wedding cake. Make sure the sword/saber is cleaned before the cake is cut and is cleaned, once again, before it’s placed back in its sheath.

Lastly, if in doubt about the correct military protocol, simply defer your questions to the nearest military base personnel; I guarantee that someone there can point you in the right direction.

Source: US Marriage Laws, Weddings for a Living
Photo: Pinterest