Planning a military wedding? You'll be happy to hear that they're not all that different from civilian weddings. Many military couples get married in an academy chapel and/or have the reception on a base, but some decide on a wedding with military traditions in their own church, and have the reception at a hotel or restaurant. It's not the location that creates a military wedding; it's the uniforms. Remember, wedding requirements vary depending on rank and military branch, so check with your base protocol officer to find out exactly what you need to do. Check out what we learned about military wedding rules and traditions. If you have specific questions not answered here, call the protocol office or chaplain's office at the nearest military installation (or the one you're eyeing for your wedding) for all the information you'll need.
Probably the main distinction of a military wedding is that the bride and/or groom, as well as service members in the wedding party, usually wear their uniforms. The type of uniform depends on the style of the wedding, the time of day, the season, and most importantly, the government-issued uniform manual:
- Mess dress uniform is worn for both ultra-formal and formal weddings (i.e., a white or black-tie affair). For most branches, this means a dark-blue uniform, but during the summer months, the army and navy men may wear white pants.
- Class-A or Service dress uniform is appropriate at a semiformal event (comparable to a suit). Like the Mess dress uniforms, these are also dark-blue and sometimes with white pants.
- The bride and bridesmaids can wear their uniforms (if applicable) but many military brides opt for a traditional white wedding gown. Bridesmaids might wear navy bridesmaids' gowns to complement the colors of the men's uniforms, or any other color dress the bride prefers.
- If any of the groomsmen are members of a different service than the groom (Army instead of Navy, for example), they simply wear a uniform of comparable formality to his. The groom and best man do not wear gloves because they will be handling the rings, but the other ushers wear white gloves throughout the ceremony. Boutonnieres are never worn with uniforms; instead, officers wear their military decorations.
- Should the fathers of the bride or groom be active or retired officers, they may wear uniforms. So may mothers, although they usually choose to wear traditional mother-of-the-bride attire.
- Any non-military wedding-party members simply wear traditional wedding clothes of the same level of formality as those in uniform.
- Military guests (active or retired) may wear their uniforms or traditional formal attire. For a black- or white-tie affair, put "Mess dress uniform invited" on the invites to request that your guests come in uniform. For a semiformal wedding put either "Class A uniform invited" or "Service dress uniform invited."