Military Wedding Traditions – Don’t Be a Doofus

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Military weddings aren’t something you see every day.  Wrapped in traditions as old as they come, military weddings can be a sparkling and distinguished beacon to begin married life…that is, when they’re done properly.  Don’t be memorable in a bad way.  Educate yourself by reading our guide to military wedding traditions below!


Maybe the most notable part of a military wedding is the uniforms.  They demand a second look, can quiet any room and photograph damned well.

Each branch has their own uniforms and regulations.  A boutonniere is never worn on a uniform by the groom or any military member donning a uniform.  Even thinking about it may land you in the brig.

Should the bride be in the military, a traditional gown is still usually worn as opposed to a military uniform but that’s up to the bride.

Sword Arch

Sword arches work best either when the wedding party members are all military members from the same branch or if you ask a separate group of people to be a part of your sword arch.  Things can get muddy if some members of the wedding party have to separate for the arch.  And confusing.  You might give your wedding planner a heart attack.

There are variations in the tradition from branch to branch but they share some similarities.  Typically, there are six to eight officers in two lines.  They face each other, raise their swords or sabers to touch the tips, cutting edge up, to the sword opposite of them.

As the couple leaves the ceremony after the vows are exchanged and the journey into marital bliss is about to begin, they pass beneath the shining arch with the last two officers lowering their swords in front of the couple.  They’re the equivalent of the troll with a riddle at the bridge you need to cross.  The payment for passage is a kiss from the newly wedded couple.  Kisses are easier than riddles, anyway.

Sometimes, the last officer on the right sneaks a swat with his sword to the caboose of the blushing bride, an official welcome into the military family.  Sort of a “good game” butt slap at the end of a football game.

Seating of the Officers

At the ceremony, the couple’s commanding officer and their spouse will often be seated near parents of the couple.  If the parents are not present, the commanding officer can sit where the parents traditionally do.

At the reception, it’s also customary to seat officers, by rank, near the head table and/or the primary family members of the bride and groom.  This should be done similarly to how parents and close family of the bride and groom are seated and titles should be announced as they are seated.

Ok, not only is it customary but it’s just downright polite, man!

Cake Cutting

What could be a better instrument to cut a sugary, frosted tower of cake than a military-style mega-knife otherwise known as a ceremonial sword or sabre?!  This is one of the most fun traditions in a military wedding and you should definitely partake.  Note that the sword should not be decorated in any way for this ceremony.

For this tradition, the sword is presented to the bride, hilt first.  The bride then takes the sword, the groom then places his hand over hers and they proceed to cut a piece of cake.

Probably a good idea to make sure the blade has been cleaned.  No one likes a dirty dessert.


These are not so much traditions but very good suggestions to make your celebration a cohesive hat-tip to the branch you’re marrying into.

Some couples may have the branch theme song playing at the beginning of the reception as they enter or some other associated music.  It’s also a pretty easy on the planner and the eyes to decorate with American flags and other patriotic adornments.

You can even integrate the branch’s colors in the bridesmaid dresses, flower bouquets or centerpieces.

A little creativity coupled with the attention and respect deserving of military wedding traditions can prove to be just the right amount of flash and pomp to rightly represent and celebrate your military branch…and doesn’t that deserve a big ooh-rah!?


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