Military wedding customs and traditions date back centuries when officers carried their swords for far more than ceremonial purposes. Today, with many women serving in the military, there are, inevitably, new rules of etiquette that are added to the ceremony. In this article, we provide an overview of how to have a spectacular wedding whilst still respecting the traditions of the armed forces as follows:
Bridal party’s military wedding attire
This begins with the overall formality of the wedding. For example, if the wedding theme is white tie tuxedos, then the officers are required to wear full dress regalia. In case of a less formal or black tie wedding, an officer could wear his/her dinner uniform. However, lower-ranking and non-commissioned service members should wear well presented standard uniform dresses.
This is really dependent on the bride. For instance, she could wear her uniform or her white wedding gown if she so chooses. Here, the same formality rules apply to both service men and women. Another consideration would be to look to the established rules of the various branches of the military in order to be guided on attire.
Military ceremony- The traditions
Some things are common among civilian weddings and military weddings (like engagement rings, proposals, bouquets, etc). However there are many differences, including between the various brances of the military. Since each service branch takes pride in its own rendition of the ceremony of arch and swords, we take a look at a few of the protocols below. However, if you are looking to add a true military feel to the day’s events, it is advisable to carefully scrutinize each of the respective traditions.
· Army– Here, as the couple leaves the altar, each officer holds a ceremonial sword over them as they find their way from the chapel or church. And as the newly married couple pass through the last two swordsmen, these two officers cross their swords in a symbolic gesture meant to prevent the couple from leaving. Thereafter, the second officer standing behind the bride swats her gently on her rear end before welcoming her to the army. They are then allowed to leave the arch.
· Air Force– In this branch of the military, the sword bearers turn and face the bride as she makes her way down the aisle and then rotate to face her as she passes them. During the ceremony, they face the Bible and after the ceremony is over, again rotate to watch her leave.
· Marines/Navy– In these branches, swordsmen also double up as ushers and are not supposed to swat the bride at the end of the procession. Remember, in all sword ceremonies, bearers are required to wear white gloves.
· Commanding officers– They usually sit on the front row with their spouses if the parents of the bride and groom are absent. If present, they sit next to the family members of the military member who is getting married.
· Military chaplains– They are not required to charge a fee for conducting the service. However, military protocol stipulates that they ought to receive a formal invitation to the reception accompanied by their spouse.
Besides elaborate sword ceremonies, a long held military tradition is cutting the cake with a sword. This is done as the groom holds his hand over the bride’s as they both cut the cake. Remember, each military branch tends to cut the cake a little differently so it is usually a good idea to liaise with an expert when planning the reception. However, one big no-no is failing to decorate the sword. This cuts across all military branches.