The Arch of Saber, men in uniform and cutting the cake with a saber are all traditions we’ve seen in military weddings. But what do they mean? Today is a very special post because we have Tanza Cooper of LeeHenry Events here to unpack all of the military wedding traditions for us! Being a military spouse herself, she knows the ins and outs of the military and the wedding traditions to go along with it. So in honor of the 4th of July and the men and women who have served our country, I’m so proud to share Tanza’s expertise with you today. Take it away, Tanza!
In one of the most anticipated moments in the wedding ceremony, the officiant announces, “You may now salute your bride”. The symbolic mark of a kiss signifies that two separate individuals have now become as one. For most traditional wedding ceremonies, the kiss also signifies the conclusion of the ceremony and the presentation of the couple. However, this is not the case for military wedding ceremonies.
The transition from the salute of a kiss to the salute of saber bearers marks the one unique tradition for a military wedding that no other traditional wedding can claim. This military tradition for the Army is known as the Arch of Saber ceremony. Each branch of service may perform this ceremony slightly different but with the same concept.
At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom exit through an arch of swords drawn upward by six to eight service members. As the couple enters through the arch, the final command given to the couple is that they must kiss to pass beyond the last set of saber bearers. Once the kiss is complete and the last set of sabers are lifted, the couple passes through. As the couple is leaving the arch, a saber bearer will give a gentle swat (sometimes a little tougher) on the behind of the bride and says “Welcome to the Army Mrs. (inputs bride’s new last name).”
The Arch of Saber ceremony is just one of the many long standing traditions of a military wedding. Below, I’m listing seven additional traditions that can be options to incorporate into a military couple’s big day.
1. Groom in Uniform For military weddings, the groom wears a specific military uniform which represents not only his military occupation and rank but also his dedication, commitment and sacrifice to this country. Once the couple is married, the uniform signifies that they become one in service and sacrifice to this country. Although, the wife isn’t considered a “green suiter”, (Army term for the person who has been sworn in to serve) she still serves in many capacities.
2. Groomsmen + Guests in Uniform Groomsmen or ushers who are retired or currently serving in the military can wear their uniform. There are some couples who prefer only the groom to wear his uniform and all groomsmen to be dressed in a tux or suit. This gives the look of uniformity and is the preferred dress if not all groomsmen are military. An important fact to remember is the groom or any groomsmen in military uniform do not wear boutonnieres.
It is always optional for guests to wear their uniform. On occasion, a few guests will wear a uniform but most opt to wear civilian clothes.
3. Commanding Officer’s Seat The groom’s commanding officer and spouse is usually sitting close to the front preferably on the first row but not farther back than the second row.
4. Military Chaplain Some couples may decide to have a military chaplain serve as the officiant rather than their church pastor – especially if the ceremony is held in a chapel on a military installation. Military chapel weddings come with their own set of rules.
5. Wedding Cake The bride and groom can cut their first piece of the wedding cake with a sword (saber) instead of using a traditional cake knife. The sword is always left undecorated.
6. Receiving Line Receiving lines are so yesterday in a traditional wedding but are still a very important part of the military culture. Therefore, the groom may opt to have a receiving line.
7. Remembering Military Family Members Incorporating memories of deceased family members who served in the military can be as special as placing a flag, their photo and perhaps some of their military memorabilia or awards on a table or at the deceased family member’s place on the pew.
To be able to witness some of these long standing military traditions are awe inspiring and add such pleasant elements to the bride and groom’s big day.
Wow, Tanza! I learned so much about military weddings just from this post! Thank you so much for sharing your background and insight into military weddings with us. It’s much appreciated – especially in this 4th of July holiday week! You can check out more of LeeHenry Events’ work here and also be sure to follow along on Instagram!