Honor this important part of your life.

By Blythe Copeland
September 03, 2020
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A military service career—whether you or your partner are active, reserve, or retired—often plays a huge role in a couple's relationship, and highlighting that part of your lives at your wedding offers an opportunity to honor this important commitment. "There are so many ways to incorporate military service," says planner Vanessa Michelle of Vanessa Michelle Co. in Los Angeles, California. "It really depends on the couple's personality." Go big with an escort card wall designed to look like a collection of vintage love letters between servicemen and their or partners; include classic USO performances on your playlist; or keep it subtle with cuff links or bouquet accents that include branch emblems. One caution, says Michelle: Choose just a few elements to include, or else you risk turning your wedding into a themed affair that overshadows your relationship.

Before your big day...

An elegant way to incorporate your military background onto your big-day paper goods is with a custom crest, says Michelle. Among other icons that represent your personalities and family history, you can include references to your specific branch of the military or more universal icons, like the American flag or a small accents of stars or stripes. "We can really use that all throughout the wedding," says Michelle, from save-the-dates and invitations to ceremony programs, menus, and custom linens. Pre-wedding photos also give couples a change to incorporate a military nod: "Even with their engagement photos, they can shoot something super cute—like a reenactment of a vintage military portrait, something where they're coming home, or something with the American flag or the branch's flag," she says.

At your ceremony...

Make a military impact at your ceremony by having the groom wear his dress uniform instead of a tuxedo or suit. "The uniform is so handsome," says Michelle. "If all of his groomsmen are servicemen, that would be ideal—that would be so beautiful, for them to all be in their uniforms." (If the groom's party includes civilians, have them wear a classic tuxedo; the combination of uniforms and traditional formalwear, says Michelle, will still charm your guests.) Bryan Rafanelli of Rafanelli Events in Boston, Massachusetts, suggests incorporating iconic military sabers into your exit for a timeless moment. "The saber is a subtle way to honor service that is both elegant and elevated," he says. "The tradition entails that the bride and groom pass under an honorary arch of saber or swords, typically when exiting the building in which the wedding ceremony took place. This is a symbolic salute to the newly married couple."

At your reception...

Small hints to a military service—like anchor place card holders for a Navy family or custom-printed cocktail napkins with a pun or famous movie quote—are subtle ways to remind guests of your military service without creating an over-the-top reception theme. "I always believe the escort card display and the bar menu are places where you can incorporate something personal, like naming signature drinks after a military reference or having the flag in the back," says Michelle. She's also worked with couples who organized a release of doves as a quiet tribute to the bride's late father, who died while serving in the military; registered for donations to veterans' charities instead of gifts; or made donations to organizations that support service members and their families as an alternative to favors. For all of these newlyweds, honoring their military background let them add a personal touch to their day without "over-saturating" the event. "I'm always about subtle hints, while keeping it really beautiful—a reflection of the couple," says Michelle. "A wedding should be lighthearted, exciting, and all about love."

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