Attending A Military Wedding For The First Time? 8 Things To Know Before You Go

Attending A Military Wedding For The First Time

Published on October 7th, 2023

Attending a wedding is always an exciting experience, but when it’s a military wedding, there are certain unique customs and traditions that you might not be familiar with.

From dress code with thin ribbons to unique protocols, a military wedding brings an extra layer of significance and formality.

If you’re attending a military wedding for the first time, here are eight essential things to know before you go.

1. Dress Code: Unveiling Elegance And Respect

Military weddings often demand a more formal dress code than civilian weddings. Traditional military dress codes typically involve formal attire, such as cocktail dresses for women and suits or tuxedos for men.

However, if the couple prefers uniformed attendees, remember that military uniforms are significant. Active-duty service members may wear their formal uniforms, while veterans and guests might choose civilian formal attire.

As a guest, adhering to the dress code demonstrates your respect for the couple’s dedication and the gravity of the occasion.

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2. Ceremony Etiquette: Respectful Observance

Military weddings often feature unique ceremonial elements that are both impressive and solemn.

The sword arch is a common tradition, where the newlyweds walk under an arch formed by crossed swords held by uniformed members.

During the ceremony, guests are expected to maintain a respectful silence, and it’s customary to stand while presenting the colors or national anthem.

Remember that military weddings often have a punctual start time; arrive early to avoid disrupting the event’s solemnity.

3. Rank And Protocol: Navigating Hierarchy

Military weddings often involve attendees with various ranks and positions.

Understanding military ranks and protocol is important to avoid any unintentional faux pas. Address active-duty service members with appropriate titles, such as “Lieutenant” or “Captain,” followed by their last name.

Veterans and retirees can be addressed by their rank and full name.

While it’s natural to want to engage in conversation, be mindful of their role and that they might be on duty or adhering to protocol.

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4. Reception Traditions: Celebrating In Style

The reception is an opportunity to celebrate the couple’s union and express your joy for them.

Military wedding receptions often feature military-themed decor, such as camouflage accents or symbolic colors.

Watch for the cake-cutting ceremony, where the groom might use a saber to cut the cake.

The first dance is also a memorable moment, and the couple might choose a song that resonates with their military journey.

While enjoying the festivities, participate in the toasts and express your heartfelt congratulations.

5. Gifts And Tokens: Thoughtful Gestures

Choosing the right gift for a military wedding can be a meaningful way to honor the couple’s commitment and service.

Consider personalized gifts that reflect their military background or shared experiences.

Military challenge coins, engraved dog tags, or custom-made military-themed decor can make for thoughtful and cherished presents.

Additionally, consider contributing to a honeymoon fund or a charity that supports veterans and active-duty service members.

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6. RSVP And Security: Preparing Ahead

Military bases and installations often have strict security measures in place. If the wedding is taking place on a military base, be sure to RSVP well in advance and provide any required information for security clearance.

Keep in mind that all attendees, even non-military guests, will need to comply with security procedures.

This might involve presenting identification, vehicle searches, or adhering to specific entry points. Being patient and cooperative is crucial to ensure a smooth experience for everyone.

7. Seating Arrangements: Mindful Placement

Seating arrangements at a military wedding often have additional considerations.

The head table might include the couple, their families, and any service members in uniform. It’s important to be mindful of the designated seating arrangements and follow the protocol.

If you need help figuring out where to sit, feel free to ask an usher or a member of the wedding party for guidance.

Remember, the seating arrangement is carefully thought out to honor different ranks and relationships.

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8. Decor And Symbolism: Embracing Tradition

Military weddings often incorporate symbolic elements into the decor. From patriotic colors to ceremonial flags, these details reflect the couple’s connection to the armed forces. Be attentive to these symbols and appreciate the effort put into designing the ambiance.

You might also find military memorabilia displays or photographs showcasing the couple’s journey.

Conversation about these details can lead to meaningful discussions and connections with other guests.

Celebrating Love And Service: A Military Wedding Experience

With these guidelines, you ensure a respectful presence at the event and contribute to the reverence and joy that mark the occasion.

As you attend a military wedding, remember that you’re an integral part of an experience that embodies love, commitment, and respect for those who serve.

Image Source: Chichi Onyekanne