This year, many brides-to-be have put their weddings on hold, either waiting for 2021, or having a small, private ceremony now with a celebration later. Oftentimes, military couples marry quickly so we can be added to orders and follow our spouse, no matter where in the world he or she gets stationed.

I wrote “Milspouse Confessions: We Married in Secret,” on the topic of military elopements, and it tells the story of others who have been there. As it was written prior to the pandemic, you’ll find that many of our brides felt pressure from family or friends at the time to have a big wedding, so they kept their first, fast, smaller wedding a secret. 

Here’s the perk — 2020 is a year where everyone is postponing, having civil or private ceremonies, and are looking to conserve money. What better year to elope? You may experience less pressure and more support than you would have any other year, so let’s talk wedding bells!

The Dress

Active duty service members typically wear their dress uniform during formal occasions. If you and your spouse-to-be are both serving, you can opt to wear your dress uniform for the ceremony. Otherwise, you can choose to wear a traditional or a special occasion dress (read: it doesn’t have to be white). Some brides marry in red, blue, and even black dresses, which all look stunning — it’s simply a matter of taste and how traditional you wish to be. You can purchase from an off-the-rack shop (such as David’s Bridal), hit a department store, a second-hand or consignment shop, or skip the public scene and order online. Amazon has an impressive selection of special occasion dresses, believe it or not!

The Ceremony

Depending on personal preferences and religious beliefs, you have control over your ceremony, no matter how brief it is. Many couples opt for a civil ceremony in their local courthouse, others choose the chapel on base, and others choose their backyard or a public park. Please note that a Notary Public can be your officiant, and some opt to be married by a close friend or family member, who chooses to acquire this qualification.

Sharing Your Day

Make sure someone snaps photos for you! Even if it’s another couple waiting in line at the courthouse — ensure that you capture the moment. (A bride in the linked article above regrets that she doesn’t have a single photo from her wedding day.)

A friend of mine had a Zoom wedding shower, where she and her fiance opened gifts, as their guests watched on. If you’re practicing social distancing and if travel restrictions are preventing others from being there with you, live stream your big day so that they can be a part of and witness the magic. A friend of mine recently attended her brother’s Zoom wedding from the comfort and safety of home. 

Consider creating a Facebook group so that your guests can participate and share photos and videos (screen shots and recordings). If on Instagram, create a custom hashtag for your guests to use so all images and videos can easily be found in one place.

If you wish to appoint a best man or maid/matron of honor who can’t be in attendance, they can share a few words via video chat. If you’d like to follow tradition by cutting a cake with your new spouse, you can bake or buy a small one, or even cupcakes, from a local bakery or grocery store, depending on your budget. And don’t forget a champagne toast — you can let your guests know that they will want to raise a glass of something with you (doesn’t have to be alcohol), as a way to wish you well, from a virtual standpoint.

Celebrating as a New Bride

When you’re finally alone with your new spouse, add some celebratory/romantic elements. Light some candles, create a playlist in advance that you can slow dance to, have a toast of your favorite beverage in commemorative glasses, and order takeout or delivery from your favorite restaurant. 

Remember that even if your wedding day wasn’t how you’ve envisioned it for most of your life, the most important person is there by your side, sharing it with you. Your day will be as special and as memorable as you make it, and we wish you the best! Welcome to the world of the military spouse!




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A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” former Army wife Jackie Toops enjoys exploring the various facets of her personality by chronicling military life, world travels, family, her love of the arts and more. Her academic background is in the fields of Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and she has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. Jackie’s articles have been featured on Army Wife 101, Wall Street International Magazine, SoFluential, HomeAway, Military Biz Connection and FamiliesGo. While stationed in Germany, she regularly discussed her articles on-air with the Armed Forces Network in Wiesbaden. A mother of two, Jackie enjoys coffee, freelance writing, languages and discovering new ways to express herself. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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