Understanding Military Wedding Rules

A Guide to Understanding Military Wedding Rules & Etiquette

Stephanie Bregman

May 20, 2020

Military weddings are an incredible thing. Not only is it a time to bring two families together thanks to everlasting love, but it is a time to bring respect to all of those who have served in the armed forces and who have given their time and strength in support of our great country. The military is known for its rules and regulations, so what are common rules and etiquette that should be expected from a military wedding?

Military Wedding Invitations

Invitations should be addressed to a person’s title if they are a serving or veteran member of the military. Common designations are as follows:

  • Title appears before name if they are a captain or higher in the Army or lieutenant senior grade or higher in the Navy.
  • Title appears after any personnel’s name if they are a lower rank.

Seating Based on Rank and Status

During the ceremony, all military officers in attendance should be seated near the front of the chapel. They can be seated with the family if desired by the bride and groom, or they can be seated behind the immediate family.

Uniform for Bride and/or Groom

The bride and groom ultimately decide what they wear the day of their wedding, and their choices can be dictated by whether one or the two of them served in branches of the military. Common choices range from their traditional service uniform to mess uniform—dress whites in the summer and dress blues in the winter—to dressing in usual civilian wedding garb.

Common choices for weddings involve females dressing in traditional wedding dresses versus their formal military uniform; men, on the other hand, will tend to dress in their traditional uniform during the wedding ceremony and then switch into either dress wear or a traditional tuxedo for the wedding reception.

Whatever the end decision, the choice comes down to the soon-to-be-married couple. But for anyone deciding to wear a military dress to the wedding, they should be on their absolute best behavior—a person in uniform is representing their branch of service.

To Boutonniere or Not

Boutonnieres, while often found on the groomsmen’s tuxedos at a traditional wedding, are not to be worn on military uniforms. Following military regulations, there are not to be any additions made to the traditional military dress—any and all decorations will have to sit in the place of boutonnieres. The bride is still allowed to carry a bouquet down the aisle, even if in uniform, as it is not seen to be part of the military uniform.

How to Groom for the Big Day

Anyone wearing a full military uniform to the wedding ceremony will also need to adhere to military grooming standards related to their branch of service. While you may think that regulations can be relaxed on the day two families are brought together, you would be wrong.

Any man planning on wearing their full military uniform will have to abide by the universal grooming standards of the military, which includes no facial hair. Even if your beard is looking epic, it has to go. Anyone thinking about bending the rules should think again—the uniform deserves an extreme amount of respect, and part of that involves following regulations exactly as they are set in stone.

Let the Flag Fly

As a sign of respect, an American flag and the bride and/or groom’s unit standard should be displayed at the ceremony, with both displayed to the left of the officiant. This is a keen reminder of the service that has been given to the country and for the pride felt between both the couple and attendees during this ceremony of love.

The Saber Arch

The Arch of Sabers Ceremony is often common for any newlywed that is a commissioned officer of the military, or any enlisted personnel that wishes to have the ceremony performed at their wedding.

The location of the Arch of Sabers depends on the branch of the military the spouse(s) served in. The Army and Air Force can choose to do it before or after the ceremony while the Navy usually does it right after the blessing.

The outdoor arch, completed after the wedding ceremony, is formed as the bride and groom are headed out of the chapel. Facing off, the veterans—with sabers in hand—will raise their swords, creating an arch for the bride and groom to walk through. As they reach the end, the last two swords are lowered, stopping the couple, where the veterans will yell for the bride to “Give the man a kiss.” The swords are lifted again once she does so.

If the bride is not part of the military, one of the men will tap the woman on the behind with their sword and they will yell “Welcome to the (Branch of Service), Mrs. (Surname).” This is a lovely, traditional way to welcome the couple as a military family, allowing them to pledge their loyalty to both their branch of service and the country.

White Gloves for Groomsmen

Any groomsmen carrying sabers during the ceremony, particularly those participating in the Arch of Sabers Ceremony, are required to wear white gloves, as fitting with tradition.

The only exception to this rule includes the groom and his best man, who will be handling rings and, thus, do not need to have gloves added to the fanfare.

Colors at the Reception

Colors chosen for the reception—flowers, table setting, drapes, and more—are guaranteed to include colors from the branch of service being recognized. If you look closely, you might even see that one or both of the spouses have a unique wedding band featuring an inlay or sleeve with the colors of the branch of service.

Seating for the Wedding Reception

Seating at the wedding reception is a similar story to that of the wedding ceremony. Commanding officers should be seated near the head table, in clear view of the bride and groom. All other military personnel can be seated at the discretion of the bride and groom, either seated together at tables dictated by the branch of service or seated among family members and friends.

However, choices of seating arrangements can be left to the discretion of the bride and groom. Furthermore, if the couple is looking for more insight, they can talk to their military friends and attendees, garnering their opinion on the matter to know what they’re most comfortable with.


Stephanie Bregman serves as the CMO for Manly Bands. Stephanie oversees all of the marketing efforts for Manly Bands including marketing strategy, PPC, SEO, Email, social media, Influencer marketing, sponsorships, and corporate partnerships for the Lehi, UT headquarters. Stephanie currently resides with her husband and two children in Florida and loves to spend time with her family.

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