Military Wedding Traditions and Customs

Updated April 17, 2017

Military traditions are set out for each branch of the military. These traditions and customs vary between mandatory rules and optional traditions. Weddings are one type of ceremony that has many different optional traditions depending on rank, civilian status and branch of the military served.

The Army's Arch of Sabres

In an army wedding, the arch of the sabres is the sword ceremony that takes place after the wedding ceremony. When the newlyweds leave the chapel, the arch of the sabres commences. This typically takes place outside and the couple walks under the dull edge of the sword. Traditionally, the arch is formed by either six or eight military who stand in equal lines facing each other. They raise their sabres, cutting edge up, until the tip touches the sabre tip directly opposite. Songs played are usually "Carry Sabres," "Rear Face" or "Forward March." Ceremoniously, the last two men forming the arch lower their swords and stop the couple. The sabre bearer to the right of the bride then swats the bride on the backside and welcomes her to the army. However, if the bride is a member of the military they show enough respect to omit this part.

The Navy and Marine Corp's Arch of Swords

The Navy and Marine Corps wedding traditions include the arch of the swords for commissions, warrant, staff and noncommissioned officers. After the wedding ceremony, traditionally the couple passes under an arch of swords held by peers of the military. At the bottom of the stairs of the chapel, they form according to equal rank and hold up their swords, with the highest rank farthest from the chapel exit. During the ceremony, they also have the honour of seating the mother of the bride and other guests.

The Air Force's Arch of Sabers

The Air Force, similar to the Army, performs the arch of the sabres. They form two lines in front of the performing chaplain and allow the couple to kneel under their swords. After facing the guests, they then face the Bible and form an arch under which the couple exits. After passing the arch, the couple pauses for the command for the swords to be lowered into the belt, and the ceremony is finished.

Attire Traditions

Officers and enlisted military are traditionally required to wear their dress uniforms for a formal wedding. Military personnel are required to wear clothing similar to that of civilians, which coincides with formal dress blues, otherwise known as bravo uniforms. Brides have a choice of wearing their uniform or a wedding gown. Military guests also have a choice of wearing their uniform or civilian attire.

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About the Author

Sarah Trevino has been a freelance writer since 2005 and specializes in food and wine, television, home and garden, and weddings. She has written for numerous websites and publications, including OMG!, Procter & Gamble and various blogs. Trevino holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Central Florida and a graduate certificate in health and wellness.