Getting Hitched on a Military Installation

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So you’re in the military, toying with the notion of getting hitched on base, huh?  It’s not a bad idea especially if you enjoy being steeped in the rich traditions and customs that come along with a ceremony on base.  There are, however, several things to consider before you decide.  We’ve outlined some of the major challenges and advantages to getting married on a military base below.

Legality and Limitations

In order to be legally married anywhere in any state, you need to obtain a marriage license.  In North Carolina, one goes to the Register of Deeds for this.  You might want to write this one down; it’s one of the major requirements all-too-easily forgotten.

To get hitched on base, both (we’re hoping consenting) adults have to be US citizens. Neither party has to actually be a member of or affiliated with the military. Many civilian couples find they can save some money by booking their wedding on base and that the locations offer a sumptuous bite of history and aesthetically pleasing scenes. As always, check into the requirements well before you begin planning your event.

If you and/or your spouse-to-be is in the military, you may have to attend premarital counseling sessions depending on branch, rank or base. We’re very hopeful they don’t end in a cessation of the engagement. Seriously, it happens.

There may be additional rules and regulations that vary depending on the installation, religion of the chapel and military branch.  Be sure to do your research.

Also, it’s important to understand the statutes of marriage within the state.  For example, in North Carolina, did you know that after marriage, barring a prenuptial agreement, all property owned by the parties becomes marital assets and is legally just as much the property of one as it is the other?  Laws and statutes governing civilian married couples also govern married military couples.

Décor and Dress

Most chapels and chaplains on base offer their services for free (donations are customary).  Be sure to sit down with your potential chaplain to explore what is and is not allowed inside the chapel and during the ceremony.  It may be a good idea to ask if playing Pantera’s “Walk” during the bridal march would be deemed inappropriate, albeit rockin’.  If you’re planning a wedding with style, be sure it won’t be cramped.

Floral decorations may not be allowed in the chapel and some ceremonies may not be acceptable.  Certain chapels may not allow photographers to be present during the ceremony which may mean reenacting photos at a later time.  Be sure to clarify as the last thing anyone would want is a slew of angry military members after them…or angry chaplains.

Typically, you are allowed to display the American flag and service colors but always check.

As for dress, the service member bride or groom wears their highest level of uniform.  For example, dress blues for the Marines.  For wedding party members also in the military, they would don their service uniforms, as well.  Military decorations (medals and other shiny items of bravery and excellence) would take the place of a boutonniere…sorry, dudes.

There really are no regulations placed on bridesmaid gowns although we insist that they’re overpriced and unable to be worn again, in true bridesmaid tradition.  We’re kidding…please don’t do that…on purpose.

Ceremonial Bonuses

Although optional, white gloves, swords, and flashing sabers is where it gets good.  We’ve likely all seen the newly married couple walking beneath the vaulted hands of military members proudly crossing their sharp objects or rifles.  Any true patriotic military family just needs this in their wedding photo collage and it’s easily and well-done on a military installation.

As for the show weaponry, it depends on the branch.  Let us tell you…it makes for some damned stunning images.  There’s really nothing like crossing into the world of being a spouse under the hands of America’s finest.  Can you feel your heart singing Amazing Grace right now?  Because we can.

Guests and Vendors

This is where it gets tricky and some prep-work needs to be done.  To gain access to a military base, a military or Department of Defense ID is required.  For civilians, a list will likely need to be provided in advance with the names of each person, their date of birth and their driver’s license number for identification.

The base also may require proof of insurance and registration for vehicles desiring access.  If you’re concerned about your guests giving you grief, imagine how your wedding vendors will feel!

Ask the gate personnel for specific requirements and try and get procedures in writing so there are minimal hiccups on your special day.  We really should be glad gaining access to a military base isn’t easier.

If you’re willing to navigate a little red tape, an on-base wedding can be very beautiful and save you from pinching your pennies too tightly.  Just be sure that you follow the rules and perform your due diligence to make it as easy as possible for vendors and guests to get where they need to be…just tell them to head toward the steeple of sabers!


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