First and foremost, most of the comments in this FAQ relate to the Army - the service in which Marlow White has the most expertise. Many principles, however, pertain to all military services.
There are no Army uniform regulations governing the wear of swords or sabers. The closest manual the Army has is FM 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremonies, which details saber and sword manual of arms, but not specific guidance on the wear of the sword and saber.
Use of the Sword and Saber during Weddings:
Check with the officiating clergy to see if the sword or saber may be worn inside of the sanctuary. Some clergy do not allow weapons of any sort on church or synagogue grounds. If the clergy OKs the use of a sword or saber, keep in mind one should never draw the sword or saber inside the sanctuary as it is a place of worship.
The sword arch:
Again, check with your clergy if you wish to perform the sword arch outside the church or synagogue, keeping in mind that some clergy may not allow drawn swords on the grounds and may prefer it to be done at a reception site.
If there is a possibility of rain, and you have planned to have the sword arch outside the entrance (which is a popular location for an arch), you will likely want to move the arch inside to the foyer (but not the sanctuary). Again, check with the clergy ahead of time for this rain contingency.
Tradition dictates that as the bride and groom pass through the arch, the last two bearers drop their sabers or swords, forming a cross to block the path of the couple. The groom then kisses his bride. The crossed swords are raised for the couple to pass through. The bearer on the bride's side, as she passes by, gently swats the bride on the back side and says "Welcome to the Army, Ma'am." Keep in mind that a male Soldier should always escort a woman on his left arm when given a choice, allowing his right hand to remain free to render salutes.
Marlow White values tradition; however, the "sword swat" is one tradition that we feel is diametrically opposed to the purpose of the wedding to honor the bride. Certainly, keep this in mind as you plan your sword arch. Consider whether the "sword swat" fits the desired purpose of your wedding. At the very least, we recommend that you warn your bride so she can expect it, so that you are not the cause of her embarrassment.
Additional resource discussing the sword/saber arch:
The sword/saber is often used to cut the wedding cake. If the reception is on the grounds of a church or synagogue, please check again with the clergy.
Wear of the Sword or Saber:
The Groom: When a Soldier is under arms ceremonially, he should wear white dress gloves. The gloves present a problem at a wedding, especially during the exchange of rings and during the ceremony when the bride and groom hold hands. Since a Soldier who is getting married has a #1 goal of being a gentleman and honoring his bride, we recommend the groom remove his gloves prior to the wedding ceremony. The gloves can be handed to the best man, who can hold them until the ceremony is over, at which time the groom can put them back on.
Father-of-the-Bride: The Father-of-the-Bride, if wearing a sword ceremonially under arms, will have the same issue discussed above in the Groom section. Many Father-of-the-Bride's enjoy a private time with their Daughter-Bride before the ceremony; it is acceptable to remove your gloves to hold hands during this private time.
The Receiving Line: It is proper to remove your gloves during a receiving line.
The mess uniform is correctly worn in the evening, after retreat.
We recommend wearing a ceremonial belt underneath your cummerbund. The belt will not be visible, although the ceremonial belt leaves less of a "bulge" in front than other belts.
Army Service Uniform:
The Army Service Uniform can be worn at any time of the day.
The ceremonial belt is worn with the ASU.
Air Force traditions are generally similar to the Army
Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard: if you have information regarding wedding traditions for these services, please e-mail