If you are currently planning a military wedding, then you are in the right place! Hi, Dana Arnold here. Navy Wife and Professional bad ass wedding photographer based out of Monterey, California. I have been a full time photographer for over three years now. My business started in Hawaii, then moved to Virginia, and now here we are in California. Looking back, most of my couples ( I have shot over 50 weddings ) were military couples. And.. most of those were military weddings.
As if planning a wedding is hard work, adding being in the military is the cherry on top. There are a few types of military weddings. Ones where the two elope and do not have a wedding at all. A wedding where you live in one state but are planning your wedding in a different state. Lastly, a wedding where you get engaged and decided to plan a small gathering before they deploy. My husband and I were the last type. We got engaged in March and then had our full wedding ini June. Yikes.
I am here to help you with all three types of wedding scenarios! Included will be links, advice from past couples, and tips from my own experience as a wife and wedding photographer!
Planning an elopement
It is not uncommon for a military couple to have an elopement with just the two of them, a photographer, and an officiant. In fact, it will save time and money. The process is quick, and beneficial if you decide to have it right before a military move. If this is something you are considering, here is some guidance to help you!
- Look into a local chapel or ceremony spot for your elopement. This can be a local botanical garden or park. Most are only a couple hundred dollars to get married at. Some are free, or have military discounts
- Use Wedding Wire or The Knot to find your officiant and photographer.
- If you need a wedding dress within a few weeks, bridal shops tend to have off the shelf options where dresses are also discounted.
- If you have more than a few weeks, there are plenty of shops online that sell bride gowns for less than $300 Lulu’s is one of them
Planning a quick military wedding
If you got married and want to get say “I Do” within 6 months, do not stress. You can plan a full wedding. My husband, our families, and I planned a full wedding in only 2 1/2 months. It was stressful most times, but we got it done! Want to see our favorite wedding photo?
The reason we did this was because when we got engaged in march 2015, we found out we were moving to Hawaii and they would not move my stuff for free. Sounds “dependa” I know, but I swear I am not like that. Ha! We quickly got married at the courthouse in Saratoga Springs, but since we were a six hour drive away from our families, and we’re not moving until August, we planned our wedding for June 13th, 2015. Here is how we did it, and it might work for you as well!
- If you are planning a wedding that soon, odds are, most venues will not be available. Find a church that your family members might go to and reach out to them. We used my husband’s grandma’s church so it was sentimental. Don’t worry, my husband is not religious but the church still allowed it.
- Find a local restaurant that may offer wedding receptions or catering options. Small BBQ joints usually have catering and is more affordable than most wedding venues.
- Use a local community center. I know, not that glamourous. But, we used the local JCC and made it pop with the most beautiful beach decor. Plus, it was only $800 for the whole day and no one cared about the look, they cared about the food and the DJ
- Once again, use Wedding Wire to find a local florist, baker, DJ, etc. This will help speed up the process in finding a vendor and within your budget. Didn’t work? A local FB page for wedding professionals or yard sale pages usually will rack in a bunch of people. This can be overwhelming though.
Thankfully, 5-6 months should be enough time for you to find a dress and have it altered.
Planning a Military Wedding
Now, if you are stationed at location for a few years and decide to have a full wedding there, then this part is for you. To be honest, this will be a lot of fun. In most military towns, you can find some beautiful venues and some might even have military discounts. Plus, being near a military base and having a full wedding, you are more than likely to get ahold of enough officers for a military sword arch.
Although local to you, this is destination for your friends and family. So, it’s important to plan this wedding around that thought process. You also have to think about deployments. Most people wait until shore duty or land training/schools (where they won’t deploy for a year or two).
- Before you start planning, take into consideration how long you will be there. Usually staying their for 2-3 years will make this planning easier, and you will have time to save up
- Use Google to find a wedding venue. ” Wedding venues in ___” will do and trust me, you will get many. If you want to find one in a strict budget, use The Knot. You can customize based on how many guest you will have, and your price range.
- Most major military towns will have many many photographers. If you use instagram, use the search bar and say ” city name wedding photographer” and I promise many will show up.
- Since you will have time, and will want to do a sword arch, the first step for this is to have your spouse reach out to their commanding officer and ask to point them in the right direction for contact. Or, if you know many officer friends with swords, just ask them. In return, invite them to the wedding or give each of them a thank you gift. I mean, they are military. Beer and food might be enough!
A few more things to add
- It is okay if you elope and then have a wedding much later on down the road. It’s also okay if you elope and do not any type of wedding.
- If you are the bride and you are the one in uniform, make sure you get a professional spray tan, to get rid of that uneven tone from your uniform if it has been rolled up lately. This way, you will look more even with skin tones in photos. (see what I mean in photo bellow on right)
- Before you plan a wedding, have your spouse ask their commanding officer if there are any deployments or trainings coming up. There might be, but most of the time, when they talk about weddings and the general timeline, they will either say its fine, take leave and I will approve, or not a good timeframe. It can be tricky, but your spouse has to communicate with their command. The military can be harsh, but when it comes to weddings and celebration, i have yet been in contact with a bride whose spouse did not get approved to be at their own wedding
- Finally, Make sure you take time off to still spend time with each other that does not consist of wedding planning You both are stressed enough with military life and with their job. Adding more can cause fights, especially during wedding planning season. Schedule weeks off to enjoy time together!
Thank you for reading!
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