So you’re getting ready plan a military wedding and marry your service member. Congratulations! If your military dating relationship has been challenging because of long distance, deployments, and training schools, then you probably can’t wait until you can both settle down and actually live together every day.
But wait… if you are like other military fiancées, then you might get stuck on the very first step of wedding planning – picking a military wedding date.
When should you have the wedding?
You’ve probably learned by now that military life is full of unpredictable schedules. Your service member may have no idea where they will be stationed a year from now. And they can’t just take vacation days when they want to. They will have to request leave and have that leave approved by their chain of command, which makes it impossible to get married on a date when they are training, in school, or on deployment.
Planning a wedding around the military can be a real headache. Trying to coordinate their training schedule with your life and family events can seem like a never-ending game of Tetris.
But there are some strategies that military fiancées have learned can make wedding planning a little bit more manageable. Will one of these ideas work for your wedding?
How to pick a date for a military wedding?
1. Choose a holiday weekend for your wedding date.
Even though military training schedules are unpredictable, there are certain dates that most service members can count on having some time off.
Many units offer three or four-day weekends during the following holidays:
- Martin Luther King weekend in January
- President’s Day weekend in February
- Memorial Day weekend in May
- 4th of July “weekend” in July
- Labor Day weekend in September
- Columbus Day weekend in October
- Veterans Day weekend in November
- Thanksgiving weekend in November
- Christmas Day “weekend” in December
- New Year’s Eve weekend from December to January
It is much more likely for a service member to get approved leave (vacation time) during these dates. Of course, there are still exceptions like during deployments, but they should have a general idea of their deployment dates in advance.
The added benefit of these weekends is that most of your guests will also have a long weekend on these dates, so it may be easier for them to attend.
2. Choose a military wedding date after school graduation.
After attending Boot Camp or Basic, service members typically go directly to another school for training. The length of the school varies depending on the type of training, but it should be for a specific number of weeks or months. Upon boot camp graduation, they will receive orders to their first unit.
If you plan a wedding for graduation weekend, family members can attend both the graduation and the wedding! It is a stressful time for the service member, since they will be preparing to move to the next base, but it is a convenient time for you to marry them and join them so you can get on their paperwork for moving and housing.
3. Plan a pre-deployment wedding.
If your service member’s unit has already announced their approximate deployment dates, then they may also announce “leave blocks” for the service members to request leave and spend time with their families before deployment.
If you know these approximate dates early enough, you can plan your wedding for those dates. The unit will not be actively training and the service member should be able to get at least a week of time off for the wedding and honeymoon.
However, the challenge with this strategy is that if deployment dates change (and they sometimes do), then they may have to leave earlier than expected, potentially missing the wedding date! It can also be difficult to get the unit to announce pre-deployment leave dates in advance.
4. Plan a post-deployment wedding.
Deployments are long enough to give you adequate wedding planning time, and a unit typically grants leave blocks after the deployment where the service member can have time off.
However, the challenge is that deployment dates are never set in stone. There is always the possibility they will extend or delay their return. So if the unit says they are scheduled to return in May, do not try to plan the wedding in May because that will be too tight and stressful. However, if you plan it for at least a month after the homecoming date, it is more likely to hold.
5. Do a courthouse wedding.
With all the challenges listed above, it’s no surprise that many military couples decide to have a quick, legal courthouse wedding first. This can be taken care of in a single afternoon, regardless of military schedules.
It’s a convenient way to get an official marriage license before deployment or PCS moves, so the new spouse can be included in military benefits. Many couples plan a big family wedding celebration for some time in the future, when they can have more flexibility or prior knowledge to the military training schedule.
So if you’re struggling to choose a date for your military wedding, consider these options. And happy wedding planning!