- Check with your commanding officer for the right steps to take for getting married while in the Marines. In the past, Marine Corps members had to receive permission to become married while in the service. This is no longer the case for non-commissioned officers (NCOs), who are able to marry whenever they choose. Some commissioned officers in the Marines may still have to clear their marriages with a commanding officer. It's best to check with an officer to get the correct Marine Corps paperwork for the marriage after you and your spouse become engaged as well.
- Make sure your uniform is in the best condition for the wedding---all honors and medals should be included on the attire, as the spouse in the Marine Corps can wear his or her "mess" (semi-formal) uniform for the wedding ceremony. If both individuals are in the Marines, they can also wear their formal attire, which is evening attire that is blue in the winter and white in the summer. The couple may request that any individuals in their bridal party who are Marines do the same. If the groom decides to wear a traditional tuxedo, wearing a boutonniere is a common practice. This is not allowed with the Marine Corps uniform, since it goes against uniform regulations and could result in disciplinary action for the Marine. Women are permitted to select the wedding dress of their choice, but should not add additional adornment to their Marine Corps formal uniforms, even if the uniform is being worn to the wedding. Members of other branches of the military may wear their uniforms to the ceremony as well---the uniforms just need to be the same level of formality as the Marine couple's.
Arch of Swords Ceremony
- Decide whether you would like to have an Arch of Swords ceremony after you and your spouse are declared husband and wife. Everyone participating in the arch must be an officer, or you can choose a group of all non-enlisted personnel. Groomsmen who fit this description and are in the Marine Corps can form the double lines of swords that you and your spouse will walk through when leaving the chapel or wedding site, and they must all be in their formal uniforms. Marines from the honor guard of a naval base may also be qualified to form the arch.
- Individuals in the Marine Corps can choose to have the wedding at a naval base chapel, with a naval chaplain presiding---this is the usual method when Marines are getting married away from home. However, the wedding can be held in a church or chapel off-base, which is common when only one spouse is a Marine. It is common for the bride to have to plan the wedding while her groom is serving in the Marines at another location, so settling on a location as early as possible can help ease the stress of wedding organization.
- Make an appointment with the counselor on the naval base before getting married. A military marriage comes with challenges that are different from those of a traditional union, since the spouse in the Marine Corps may be deployed for months or even years at a time. There are also cases where both spouses may be deployed in different places. A trained military counselor will help you and your future husband or wife come up with ways to keep your marriage strong when you are away from one another, as well as methods for reconnecting and keeping your relationship exciting after a deployment. There are also counseling sessions available for you and your stepchildren or children from a previous relationship, so that everyone involved can learn how to become accustomed to the new family dynamic.