How to Create a Military Themed Wedding

Featuring Carolyn, a certified wedding coordinator and owner of CM Planning Co.!

Wedding planning can be tedious and overwhelming.

That’s why I brought Carolyn, a fellow milso and certified wedding planner, to talk all about creating a military themed wedding!

Military weddings can be more stressful than regular weddings, things can change so rapidly. Planning a wedding far out is rough because you never know if your significant other could get orders or have a training that weekend.

We all know anything can happen, and it’s out of our control. Don’t let this keep you from having the wedding you want!

There are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to military weddings and the planning process. 

Be clear with vendors

Always communicate to your vendors that you are a military couple.

Review contracts carefully and see if vendors will add in a military clause so that in case of a reschedule or cancellation, you are not out all of the money you have put down.

Some vendors will also allow a date change with no extra rebooking fees, and in some cases you might be able to get back any deposit you put down. 

Try asking for military discounts

It doesn’t hurt to ask about military discounts.

Some places will do larger amounts than others, and some may not offer it at all but you won’t know unless you try!

Locations near bases are usually very military friendly and offer discounts for most things. This can help save you money, and it’s never a bad thing to knock a few dollars off a bill. 

Prepare to be flexible

More rare, but still an option, is to see if your venue will allow you to hold several dates.

During the busy season, this is probably not an option because they wouldn’t want to lose guaranteed business.

If you’re able to get married during the off season, you may be in luck here. It depends on your location; Chicago’s wedding season is April-October, while places like Florida weddings are common anytime except for June, July & August.

This is mainly due to the weather in each location. Getting married in the off season not only saves you money, but can offer greater flexibility. 

Check on base

Most installations have chapels which service members can use for a wedding ceremony.

This will need planning because you will need to arrange for any non-military guests or vendors to get onto the installation, as well as booking the chapel.

Some chaplains will require premarital counseling so keeping that in mind for your timeline is important. 

Know the traditions

If the couple decides to include any branch specific traditions like the saber arch, you will want to ensure that you’re doing everything correctly.

Cake cutting is also a big tradition in military weddings, using the saber to cut the first piece of cake. This applies to commissioned service members that are permitted to carry a sword saber.

If the service member will be in uniform, etiquette will need to be kept in mind. If the groom is commissioned he may choose to wear a saber or cutlass, in which case the bride will stand to his right at the altar, opposite from nonmilitary weddings.

If the bride is the service member, she can wear her dress uniform or a white gown. Regardless of her choice, she can carry a bridal bouquet.  For ceremonies and receptions, guests need to be seated by rank. 

Each branch has a book of guidelines while in uniform, and there will be a section included about wearing a uniform for a wedding. If you have further questions, have your service member speak to their Commanding Officer.

Consider a separate ceremony and reception

A common misconception is that it’s weird to have a reception if it isn’t directly followed by a ceremony. And that’s not true.

Especially in the military, your reception may come months or years after you are legally married. And that is okay!

Your friends and family probably know and understand your unique situation and they will still gather to celebrate.

If you’re not liking the idea of calling it a reception, you can plan it around your anniversary and have it as more of a celebration or anniversary party.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be titled ‘wedding reception’.

Military weddings can be difficult whether your service member is getting ready for a deployment or you’re PCSing, it can be hard to plan or have the wedding you always dreamed of. It’s okay to do things untraditionally!

Hire a wedding planner!

There are so many wedding traditions that may differ if you choose to have a military wedding, but the planning doesn’t need to be more stressful!!

Hire a planner that has experience with military life and/or military weddings to ensure you have someone with the knowledge to do what you’re asking. 


Make sure to follow Carolyn at @weddingdayadventures on Instagram, and check out her website here.

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