Is there anything more elegant than a military wedding? I’ve never been to one, but who doesn’t want to experience the pomp, circumstance and extra elegance earned by service members?

Military weddings are pretty much the same as any other type of wedding, with the exception of dress and a few ceremonial details. Gentlemen in the service are allowed to wear their dress uniforms, and oh boy, if you have a chance to trot those babies out, do it. Not only are those uniforms symbols of all the sacrifice and exceptionally hard work involved in military service, they are known to make the wearer stand up straighter and look more regal. Bottom line: a person’s carriage improves to suit the uniform.

Most of the time, we’re used to seeing the men in the uniforms. But what if the bride is in the service?

What to do if the bride is a servicewoman

If the bride wants to wear her dress uniform, she is certainly allowed to do so. Depending on her rank (enlisted or officer) and military branch, she may have a long skirt and jacket combination or pantsuit, with gloves and any symbols of rank or decorations as she has earned. Cloaks are also, (as I understand it…feel free to chime in and correct me if I’m wrong!) still part of some dress uniforms.

USMC Enlisted Dress uniforms (for enlisted personnel)

And, of course, she may choose to go for a more traditional wedding gown if she chooses.

The only thing to remember is that if a servicewoman wants to wear her uniform in any way, she must be “in uniform.” No mixing and matching parts of the uniform to wear with her white gown. It’s very much an all-or-nothing situation.

Now, if the bride is wearing a wedding gown, it better be grand enough to draw attention away from all the well-dressed men!

Make sure the bridal party matches

You wouldn’t dress your bridesmaids in cocktail dresses if their escorts are wearing white-tie, would you? Likewise, if the groomsmen are going to be in dress uniforms, make sure the bridesmaids are dressed just as formally. This may mean full-length gowns in dressier fabrics like organza; satin; taffeta; and shoulder wraps.

Remind the ladies to stand up straight; it wouldn’t do at all for the groomsmen to outshine the bridesmaids!

Flattering color/flower arrangements

Colors are an important consideration if there are going to be uniforms involved in your wedding. For instance, if you have a bunch of marines in their dress blues, chances are they are not going to look too great next to ladies in emerald green, who are carrying hot pink flowers. I’m not saying you have to base everything on the uniforms, but make sure all the colors of your wedding palate at least coordinate with them. Personally, if I were marrying a serviceman, I would keep the flowers white, and probably dress my bridesmaids in black or some other neutral color. Want to dress it up? Put the ladies in a muted gold, or jewel tones. They look better against the richness of military uniforms.

This works.

This...also works. But not as well.

Placement in photos: bride on the right

Speak to your photographer about composition in your photos. Odds are s/he already knows how to handle this, but in case you’ve recruited your brother or uncle to take over the photographic documentation, here is the simple rule for making sure the couple is well-showcased:

The eye tends to travel from left to right. Whether this is because of years of conditioning from reading or just natural tendency, I don’t know. But I do know that this is a principle used by graphic designers, ad designers and photographers. The military uniform is going to pull a lot of focus, especially if the man wearing it is significantly taller than his new spouse.

Keep the balance by keeping the bride on the right side of the frame. This will keep the photo more balanced, and will keep any one individual of the couple from dominiating.

Likewise, when taking group photos: try to keep the ladies in the foreground, especially if they are dressed in a dark color.

Embrace the pomp and circumstance

People wearing military uniforms have earned the right to wear them, and have also been educated on how to wear them. Those uniforms demand repect, and the people who wear them will display the decorum and elegance so rarely seen today.

To all of this, we say, YES! Embrace it, every aspect of it!

Have an Arch of Sabres. Display the flag behind the receiving line (as long as it’s directly behind the newlyweds). Use the sabre to cut the cake*.

*Fun fact: at my parents’ wedding, the best man used his sabre to cut the top off a champagne bottle. Twenty-eight years later, people still talk about it.

Enjoy all those priviledges, have a grand time, and make it the best dress uniform occasion ever.