Military Weddings – I salute you!

I’ve had the honor of officiating for many service members, active duty, reserve or veteran. When speaking with the engaged person (most often a man, but I’ve had several women service members, too) I also ask them about their families. It’s not uncommon that those serving are following in the footsteps of parents and/or grandparents.

I want to honor their service in meaningful ways – whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.

I like to include something in the ceremony recognizing their service along with some history of the family and even guests, if applicable. I want to go beyond ‘thank you for your service,’ which has become so clichéd as to have little meaning left. The sacrifices any service member makes, along with their partner and family, deserves to be honored. It’s who they are and because a wedding is a celebration not only of the love the couple share, but their individuality as well, it’s part of the journey worth telling.

The tradition of having the attendants or ushers create an arch for the newlyweds to pass through is a well-known. It is the highlight of any military wedding and a great visual. It’s not mandatory but certainly memorable, but many couples are not lucky enough to have a large enough group to pull this off, unless getting married on base.

The arch can be swords, sabers or rifles. However, for swords and sabers it has to be performed by commissioned officers, since they are the only one’s permitted to carry them. Enlisted personnel, however, can form the arch with rifles. Military personnel who do not bear arms simply salute.

The wedding arch honors differs slightly among the branches of the Armed Forces, but usually the person most senior in rank commands, “Draw swords,” and of course, they do. Their swords raised, they touch tips with blades facing away from the couple, to form that arch under which the couple will pass.

After the newlyweds recess under the arch, the senior usher commands, “Return swords”.

All members of the bridal party wait until the swords are returned to their scabbards before they proceed. Only the bride and groom pass under the Arch of Swords!

Not every service person wears their uniform for the wedding but I must say I think a groom does look great in uniform for his wedding! The uniform is white in summer or dress blues in winter, and a bride she may choose her ceremonial uniform as well, but many choose a traditional wedding dress.

For invitations use the military person’s rank if it is captain or higher in the Army and lieutenant senior grade or higher in the Navy.

It is also traditional for the wedding cake to be cut with a saber or other type of military sword. Be careful with that!

Here’s a tip: boutonnieres are not put on uniforms, but a bride can carry a bouquet even is she’s wearing her uniform.

Another nice detail is to use dog tags either attached to the bouquet, for a photo with your rings or in some other creative way.

Incorporating flags is an obvious choice  – the US Flag, of course, but also those specific to the branch of service. Perhaps the flags from the branches of the service would be nice on tables.

Patriotic touches are more than appropriate as well. I had one military couple (both bride and groom were serving) who used a red, white and blue theme and had confetti cannons shot off for the recessional instead of the saber arch.

The official colors of the Armed Services are as follows, so you know what to do!

Army  – Black & Gold

Navy – Blue & Gold

Air Force – Ultramarine Blue & Gold

Marines – Scarlet & Gold

Coast Guard – White, and shades of blue and red known as CG Blue and CG Red

To our engaged members of the military: I salute you!

THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the use of your fabulous photography

Todays column also includes some great photos by Nereida Castillo


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