So, you’re going to be a military spouse. In that case, let’s talk about weddings…and the military.
I thought I’d tackle this subject before I began to view wedding planning with the rose-colored lenses Father Time likes to hand out. But in summary – YES. Everything you’ve heard is true. Wedding planning is EXTREMELY stressful. Add the unofficial military mantra of “hurry up and wait” into the mix and you’ll be pulling out your hair before you make it to your first dress fitting.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Within weeks after my husband’s proposal, I had my dream dress. Basically, he left for a preaching engagement and returned to the news that I had a wedding dress in my closet (what can I say? I was thrilled to be marrying the love of my life).
A few weeks after that, I had a spreadsheet of venues (don’t judge me), organized according to level of interest and with columns for prices, whether it was byoc (bring your own wedding caterer), and pros and cons for each.
A few months passed with relative ease of planning and I found myself wondering when the bridezilla part would come. I absolutely judged every single woman who has ever complained about wedding planning.
They weren’t me. I was ready. I was superwoman.
I was wrong.
Boy. Was I. Wrong.
The Air Force recruiter was reluctant to tell my husband when he’d report and where his first station would be. Dates changed, locations changed. It was extremely frustrated and, I’ve now learned, absolutely normal for the military.
I didn’t go into full bridezilla mode, but I went to some dark and stormy places on the inside before all was said and done. My now-husband, dealing with his own set of concerns, became disconnected from the wedding process.
As a chaplain’s wife now, having observed the soldiers in my husband’s unit and the weddings he’s officiated, I can reassure any bride-to-be that it is absolutely normal to get ceremony married, sans ceremony, and have a wedding later. Doing so will actually probably relieve a good bit of your stress. It definitely has its advantages – you can go ahead and change your last name, you’ll be included on his orders (which means you can go ahead and obtain your dependent identification and gain base access), and the government will cover the bill for your move. And, when all is said and done, the only thing that matters is that you and your spouse have made a sacred commitment to each other.
That aside – if and when you proceed with a wedding ceremony, keep the following wedding planning tips in mind (and the bridezilla in you from reading her head):
- Set your budget, have a guest list cut off and stick to both. Good rule of thumb: If you haven’t spoken to the person in the last 3-6 months, they’re likely not an essential guest.
- Use a no-cost service like Hotel Planner or Skipper to book room blocks. They’ll match you with great hotels near your venue, help you work through the contract, and there’s usually no penalty if all of the rooms ultimately aren’t booked (trust me, this is vital).
- If you don’t want to spend the money for a wedding planner, a “day of” planner is absolutely worth it. Ours (we had one for the ceremony and one for the reception) were our saving grace and kept us from having to deal with big (and small) issues on the day of our public ceremony.
- Negotiating contracts to allow you to pull out without losing money. Explain that your significant other is in the military. Many venues and vendors understand and will work with you. Just make sure to get it in writing.
- B.Y.O.C. – The ability to bring your own caterer is important if you’re hoping to save money on food. This allows you to shop around for the best quality caterer, with the best prices.
- It is OKAY to skip the alcohol. Your guests will survive.
- Nix the flowers or use artificial ones. They last so much longer.
- Have your wedding on a Sunday or other off day, and shave hundreds, or even thousands off of venue costs
- Have the ceremony and reception at the same location and you can skip cocktail hour altogether, while also cutting down on traveling time for yourself and your guests.
- Use your base chaplain. They are ready and willing to officiate over your ceremony and offer some great pre-marital guidance in the process.
Try these tips and you’re well on your way to successful wedding planning, leaving you to focus on other things – like everything that comes after you become a milspouse.
But, that’s a post for another time.