Before you pop the question or say “I do” there are a few boxes that need to be checked for couples in the military.
There’s lots to tackle before you get to the altar (or courthouse, if we’re being honest). It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but it’s all 100% possible and totally doable.
Resources to Plan Your Military Wedding with Ease
Congrats! You’re and your partner are about to enter an exciting and hectic time in your relationship: wedding planning. Oh, and you’ll get to do it on the US military’s schedule. Which makes it super fun and wonderful.
Before You Pop the Question
There are no rules about who military troops may marry. Marry the person you love. Same sex marriage is legal and recognized across the country.
However, there are some small caveats at play.
First, students at service academies must graduate and get commissioned or leave the academy before marriage. So wait until after one of those two life events, and you’re golden.
Also, there are rules about fraternization, meaning crossing rank barriers. For example, an officer and an enlisted member cannot get married. However, if two people of equal enlisted rank do so and one partner later gets commissioned, they are grandfathered in and the relationship is totally fine.
Just make sure you’re not in either of those two categories before you ask your partner to get hitched.
Planning Your Big Day
You might picture a sword arch or cutting the cake with a saber. Maybe you’d like you or your spouse-to-be to wear dress uniforms. Perhaps you think it’s a rule to follow these traditions.
Great news: your wedding is still 100% yours. No need to risk cake on dress blues or eat cake off a sword. You do you.
In the process of planning your wedding day, there are tons of resources you can access that can make the process easier and cheaper:
- Base Chaplains: military chaplains of all denominations can provide pre-marital and marriage counseling at no cost to you. You can also often rent out the base chapel for free – and book a minister into the deal. There is a suggested donation, but even that will be less expensive than renting a civilian church.
- MFLC: contact your local Military Family Life Counselor for individual or joint marriage counseling. This is a judgement-free zone to explore your relationship and the impact of military service with a trained counselor.
- Use Uniforms: its fancy clothes you or your partner already own, so use it! Ask military friends in your wedding party or on the invitation to feel free to wear their best military uniforms, too. Just be sure everyone in the wedding party is wearing the same uniform in terms of formality, even across branches of service.
You might also want to consider getting wedding insurance. The military’s missions don’t stop for your big day. Which means that short-notice deployments, TDY trips and other unexpected events can derail your careful planning. Having insurance can help you to recoup some of those losses.
Another way to get around the military’s schedule is to get married on short notice. Contact the chaplain, local churches and justices of the peace to learn about last minute cancellations or openings. You can do the same with reception venues in your desired location, too. Often you can score a good deal by picking up someone else’s cancellation.
If you’re inviting other military members to your wedding, you might want to consider how to address the invitations and arrange seating. You can skip all of this if the military aspect isn’t factoring into your big day. For more formal or military-focused events, consider addressing invitations with military rank (Staff Sergeant and Mr. Smith) and seat guests by rank. Contact your base or unit protocol officer for assistance.
After You’re Hitched
Congrats! You did it! Now you’ve got to handle all the paperwork of getting married.
If you are changing a last name, you’ll need to:
- Update your SSN
- Get a new driver’s license
- Apply for a new passport
- Update bank, insurance and other name-associated accounts
- Double check other important life documents and rules
For every new military spouse (and sponsor!), you’ll need to:
- Enroll in DEERS
- Get an official dependent ID card
- Update SGLI to include the new spouse as the recipient
- Update chain of command with the spouse’s new next of kin and contact information
- Update the military member’s paperwork and file to reflect marital status, next of kin and contact information
- Obtain blanket and special power of attorney documents to provide access to accounts and services when the military member is away
- Memorize the military member’s SSN – it’s used for literally everything
All of these name changes and updates can take time, so don’t book your honeymoon in your new married last name. Your booking does need to match your passport or other identifying documents.
Also, make sure you’ve double checked the military member’s leave status and deployment schedule before you book any big trips. Many military couples delay their honeymoon to accommodate the mission.