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Family weddings. Beach weddings. Vegas weddings. Shotgun weddings. Though these events come with their own strategies and traditions (ie coming up with guest lists, eloping across state lines, finding an Elvis willing to marry you…), they pale in comparison to the full-blown formal military wedding.

This skimmable guide will help engaged military couples sort out the most basic do’s and don’ts of their upcoming nuptials. Couples can also browse awesome military discounts that can help shrink their wedding expenses.

General Etiquette

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Aaron Mitchell Photography

Manners are everything at a military wedding. If you are inviting many service members to your ceremony or reception, keep these basic rules of military etiquette in mind.

– Include military rank on wedding invitations and programs. This goes for everyone–bride, groom, groomsmen, parents. The rank goes before the name for higher ranking officers (ie: any soldier above the rank of captain). No active duty service member should ever be called Mr or Ms.

Wear traditional military attire. Female service members have a choice between wearing a wedding dress or their dress uniform. Military grooms must wear their uniforms. As a general rule, follow your service branch’s uniform guidelines.

Seat active duty military guests according to rank. Arrange the seating at the ceremony and reception so that commanding officers and high-ranking officials get special seats. Sergeants should sit by sergeants, captains by captains, etc. If their parents can’t attend, couples can place commanding officers in the front pew during the ceremony.

– Be careful with those sabers. Depending on a groom’s military branch, he might want to wear a saber or cutlass with his dress uniform. If he does, the bride should stand on his right instead of his left in order to avoid the sharp blade.

The Arch of Swords/Sabers

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Stephanie Brauer Photography

This is one of the most beloved and iconic traditions in the military wedding. After the couple says, ‘I do’ and makes their marriage official, they leave the venue by walking beneath an archway of blades. This procedure differs among the service branches.

U.S. Army: Only commissioned service members can serve as saber bearers. After an officer commands “Draw sabers,” six to eight saber bearers hold up their blades in their right hands, sharp side up. As the couple walks through the arch, the final bearer playfully smacks the bride’s behind and says, “Welcome to the Army!”

U.S. Navy/Marine Corps: These branches restrict this tradition to commissioned, warrant, staff noncommissioned officers, and noncommissioned officers. Unlike the Army, this tradition uses swords instead of sabers to create the arch. Sword bearers also double as ushers before the wedding ceremony.

U.S. Air Force: These saber bearers line up before the altar and pivot to face each other, the guests and then the Bible as the couple walks past. They form the arch after the blessing is over and the couple starts to walk out of the chapel.

Food

Leave your MRE’s at home! There’s no traditional military wedding food, so just make sure you get a caterer that appeals to you and your spouse-to-be. That said, here are some ideas to add some military pizazz to your wedding cuisine.

Choose cuisine that harks back to your military career. For example, for a Navy or Coast Guard wedding, consider serving seafood along with a general nautical theme. Remember that dishes like crab cakes and lobster rolls please a wider audience with their subtle fish tastes.

– Keep it 100% made in the US of A. Maybe you would rather feature your favorite foods from home over exotic dishes from abroad. Hamburgers, steaks, blue crabs, New York cheesecake. You can also make your wedding America-themed and include the colors red, white, and blue in your foods.

– Let them eat cake. The U.S. military loves enormous gaudy cakes. For the wedding cake, check out wedding toppers from all of the branches with the groom (or bride) in full miniature uniform. Take this a step further and make the whole cake half bridal gown, half uniform.

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Erin Wheeler Photography

It’s also a military wedding tradition to cut the cake with a sword of saber. Hack away!

Wedding Dress Discount Heaven

Weddings cost a pretty penny no matter what rank you are. Luckily, military service grants you access to discounts and promotions that can save you a few bucks along the way. To grab the online deals, verify your military status through Troop ID.

-Sear’s: Free ‘Shop Your Way Max’ membership when you verify your military status with Troop ID. Bargain wedding dress selection.

-Unique Vintage: 10% off for military customers verified through Troop ID. Special wedding section for bride, bridesmaids, and guests.

– Alfred Angelo: 30% off any wedding gown with a military ID at physical Alfred Angelo boutiques.

-LightIntheBox: Huge selection of discount wedding dresses and wedding party wear.

-Kohl’s: A variety of promotions for civilians and military members alike. Everything from wedding gowns to suits to wedding guest dresses.

-Nicole Miller: Free shipping and discounts for verified ID.me users. Expensive but beautiful wedding dresses.

-BCBG: Free shipping for ID.me users. Sleek and elegant muted colors (not huge selection in wedding gowns) a little more expensive.

-Bloomingdales: Various wedding deals when you use their wedding registry, sign up for the email newsletter. Beautiful, classic wedding attire.

-Monsoon: Free shipping U.S. shipping on any order. Large selection of classy, though expensive dresses.

Location, Location, Location

Fun fact: most on-base chapels will host your military wedding for free! But if you and your future spouse want to marry elsewhere, there are many military programs and discounts that can help make your dream wedding happen.

A Little White Chapel, Las Vegas, NV. With sufficient ID, active-duty military couples can get married here for discount price. It’s cheapest package has a base price of $75.

– Wedding Bells Chapel, Las Vegas, NV. Couples who choose this venue can wed on the iconic High Roller or in front of the Bellagio hotel. With a military ID, couples get 15% off.

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Active-duty couples get 50% off certain wedding packages at this tropical venue.

– Maui’d Forever, Oahu. Couples stationed or vacationing in Hawaii can enjoy special military exclusive wedding packages for discounted rates.

– Clifton Inn, Charlottesville, VA. This quaint Virginia farmhouse offers military members 25% off Sunday through Thursday.