A military wedding seating plan need not be a military operation, but you do need to follow certain rules to preserve the official formality and importance of the event.
When deciding where to seat guests at a military wedding, it is important to seat military guests by their rank and title, with the highest ranking officers in the places of honour . Traditionally, military guests are shown to their seats in order of rank, with Field Marshals, Admirals and Generals taking the highest ranking positions, and Officer Cadets the lowest.
Table name cards
As with wedding invitations to military personnel, if you choose to write place cards including a guest’s rank and title, it must be done in the correct layout. Note that:
- Abbreviations of military titles should be avoided at all costs.
- The rank should be placed on the same line as the name.
- The service should be listed on the line below.
- If, for any reason, you are writing a place card for a couple, the lady’s name should be written first.
- Consider adding a military touch with gold edging to the cards, a military emblem or a design of crossed swords or sabers.
Military wedding receptions are often held at officers’ clubs or other regimental buildings, or in a hotel or restaurant. Table decorations can include national flags and the standard of your unit(s) as well as floral centrepieces. Often, if room allows, the national colours and distinguishing flags can be placed behind the bride and grooms central place at the top table.
If the groom but not the bride is in uniform, protocol demands that the groom stand before the bride in a receiving line at the reception. If he is not in uniform or the bride is a member of the military, the order in which they stand does not matter.
Cutting of the Cake
Traditionally, a saber is used to cut the cake at a military wedding. After leaving the receiving line, the bride and groom pass underneath an arch of saber bearers in front of the wedding cake. The groom unsheathes his saber and passes it to the bride and together, with the groom’s hands over the bride’s, they cut the first slice of cake. The saber must be undecorated, with no ornamentation. Saber bearers must wear white gloves and uniform.
Slight variations occur in this tradition – for example, at a Marine reception, it is customary to use an officer or noncommissioned officer’s sword to cut the cake. It is wise to check before hand if you are unsure of the exact protocol.
When the first slice has been cut, photos taken and bride and groom have kissed, the blade of the sword or saber must be thoroughly cleaned prior to returning it to the scabbard.
If you’re using a sword or sabre for your wedding, you should remember to add ‘ceremonial sword’ cover to your wedding insurance policy.
As previously alluded to, wedding protocol for Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy personnel each differ slightly. It is therefore advisable to check with commanding officers or the base’s protocol officer to get the latest regulations and guidelines on weddings.