Army Training

A guide to military wedding etiquette
Almond Leaf Studios

The ultimate act, at its religious essence, remains the same–be it a traditional or military wedding. Nonetheless, for our brides getting hitched to a man in the service, it's appropriate and important to incorporate all the pomp and circumstance his duties entail into your wedding. Whether currently or previously enlisted, the tradition of military wedding protocols can be carried out, varying by branch. You may choose to wed in your own church or an academy chapel. And since we've already covered wedding invitation addressing etiquette, we can get straight to the ceremony basics. And if you still have reservations or hesitations on a specific formality, simply call the nearest military base. The chaplain's office will be able to assist with any extra details you need. 


The Officiant

Should the couple enlist an active duty military chaplain to preside over the ceremony, they need not pay a fee. Reserve chaplains should be paid. And don't forget to tip the officiant regardless. Unlike for the traditional church officiant, a monetary gift is appropriate. Military tradition states that the chaplain be extended a formal invitation to the reception

The Attire

While most brides in the service opt for the traditional wedding gown over uniform, the groom should don his military regalia. For white or black tie affairs, the groom will wear a Mess dress uniform. The Mess dress is the most formal uniform and will most likely be dark blue in hue. For summer nuptials, army and naval men will don white pants. For a semi-formal wedding, the Class-A or Service uniform should be worn. This ensemble is very much similar to the traditional suit (also dark blue), and can be worn with white pants as well. The groom should not wear gloves, as he will need his bare hand for the ring. A boutonniere can never be added to the military uniform. Rather any and all military decorations should be displayed on the jacket. 

The Bridal Party

Bridesmaids can wear navy dresses to match any groomsmen in uniform; however this is not necessary. For civilian groomsmen, they should don suits of similar formality to that of the groom. Should a groomsmen be a part of a different military branch, he should also wear a military uniform of similar formality. The best man should not don gloves, since he will be handling the giving of the ring. 

The Guests

Should the couple wish for serving or retired military guests to wear uniforms to the wedding, a line indicating such should be included in the invitation: For the black or white tie wedding, you may say, "Mess dress invited." For the semi-formal wedding, "Class-A (or Service) invited." Civilian guests should simply abide by the traditional rules of etiquette for wedding dress. 

The Ceremony

The Arch of Swords ceremony varies in execution by branch. For the Army, each officer will hold a sword over the couple both as they leave the alter and as they leave the church or chapel. Before the couple passes the last two officers, they will cross their swords, preventing the couple from leaving the church or chapel. The second officer behind the bride will tap the bride's behind with his sword and say, "Welcome to the Army." Then the couple will exit. For Navy and Marine, the swords are raised immediately following the blessing or benediction. Marine and naval men will also serve as ushers. For the Air Force, groomsmen will have swords raised as the bride walks down the aisle, rotating to always be facing the bride, including as she exits the church. Note: all sword bearers should don white gloves. 

The Seating

Commanding officers should sit front row with his or her spouse, only if parents are not present. Otherwise they should be seated next to the family of the military bride or groom. Flag and general officers should be sit directly behind the family and commanding officers. 

The Cake

It's military tradition that a sword be used to cut the cake. The groom should place his hand over the bride's as they cut the first piece. Note: do not add any sort of decoration to the sword. 

The Extras

Instead of wedding guest favors, opt for a donation to a related charity, such as Wounded Warrior Project. This touch of thoughtfulness adds to the regal beauty of the military wedding. 

{Photo above from the Real Wedding of Jill and Chris, from our Fall/Winter 2012 issue, shot by Almond Leaf Studios. Click here for some gorgeous shots and a fairy tale synopsis.}

Categories: Bride + Groom