“We’ll Get Around to It Eventually”: Fitting a Wedding Into a Military Lifestyle

Family GeekMom
"Getting hitched" in Leesville, Louisiana, August 1995. I still have the dress and even still wear it on occasion. The best $39.99 I've ever spent! Photo used with permission.

What happens when you cross two overachieving meteorologists who chose to join the Air Force — and happen to be in love?

You put “Get Married” on your To Do List, in between dry cleaning, getting an oil change, and the oodles of military training trips the two of us had.  We visited the trailer home of Arlene, the Justice of the Peace of Vernon Parish, Louisiana, and got married among four of our closest — um — office mates.

My boss's wife made the beautiful wedding cake. That's my boss's office, which should be everyone's first choice for a wedding reception location. We still have that token Wilton-brand topper. And I remember that poster hanging up behind the cake: it's the Fort Polk, Louisiana quick-reference phone directory. Photo used with permission.

This is common in military life.  Especially when it comes to fitting wedding and wedding planning in between trips to the field, trips for additional meteorology training, etc.  Military couples “get hitched” and put off the real church wedding with family and friends for a later date.  Typically this is done so a couple can get stationed together, or to get military medical and housing benefits transferred to the new spouse.

In my case, I simply couldn’t handle the stresses of planning a wedding while living so far from our friends and family…and my future spouse who was living in Pennsylvania while I was just getting set up in Louisiana.  Our schedules were so busy!  My husband was actually still in college, and was awaiting orders for Air Force Officer Training School, so to plan a date simply wasn’t going to work.  We didn’t want wedding plans to get in the way of his entering the Air Force, the work force, his earning potential.  In addition, my father was stationed in Guam at the time with the Navy.  Flying my parents and sister back to the states wasn’t an insignificant expense — about half of what I was willing to budget for a wedding!

That was 15 1/2 years ago!  We contemplated renewing our vows for our 5th anniversary, having a church wedding and a classic reception.  Oops, in August 2000 we were just returning to the states after bring stationed overseas in Seoul, Korea.  In fact, our furniture was being moved into our new house in Ohio on our anniversary itself!

How about our 10th anniversary?  Probably not…we were again in the middle of a move from Florida to North Carolina — complete with a toddler and newborn!

This still weighs heavily on my husband and me — that we haven’t had a traditional wedding with the chance to exchange vows in front our friends, family and God.  No pretty dress, no beautiful wedding portraits…I’ve never gotten to experience that special day that’s supposed to be “All About Me Us”.

Army Aviators Ball, Seoul, Korea, May 1999. Instead of a wedding dress, I had to invest in a dress uniform. Photo used with permission.

My wedding day was not an “all about me us” kind of day.  We got married in the morning, then I had to work an overnight shift that night.  Really!

But as reality and practicality sets in, I wonder how to tastefully go about inviting the now-hundreds of friends (after living in 7 different communities, you pick up a lot of great friends) and family to a church wedding after 15+ years and two kids.

I think about others who have similar challenges, but make it a higher priority than Dave and I apparently did.  They made the wedding happen: the choose the date, the location and the wedding party.  If guests can make it, great, if not, so sorry.

There’s also the matter of budget.  I consider the wonderful things my husband and I have done over the past 15 1/2 years…we’ve traveled the world, had great experiences and have led a pretty darned good life…despite a lifestyle of deployments and frequent moves.  Do I want to invest $10,000-20,000 for a lavish party?  Now that we’re that much older, I certainly don’t expect the parents to do it!  After all, our parents now have their 50th Anniversaries in their scopes and perhaps we should be investing in their celebrations instead.

Help me out readers!  Should we have the later-in-life wedding?  Or should we save our money?

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11 thoughts on ““We’ll Get Around to It Eventually”: Fitting a Wedding Into a Military Lifestyle

  1. Fancy church weddings can be done on the cheap – I think we maybe spent $5000 on our wedding.

    I’m sure that your family and friends would love to celebrate with you, no matter how long after the fact it happens!

  2. If you want one, go for it (and like ChaosMandy said, I’m sure your family and friends would be delighted, and given they’re your family and friends it’s not like you’ve got to tell them the backstory from scratch either!) – but i certainly wouldn’t spend an arm and a leg on it… (I’m 29 and single, the older I get, the more I do not want the huge fancy wedding “ideal” – a nice small simple wedding in the church will do for me)

    But I’d also say – if you don’t really want one at this point in time, don’t feel like you have to have had one – the marriage is the important part, not the wedding. If you don’t want to spend the money on it, or you don’t want to deal with the hassel, then don’t.

  3. I personally had a $175 wedding (13 yrs ago) with about 20 people (immediate family and very closest friends) and my husband’s uncle, who is a minister, officiated. We wore clothes we already owned, no flowers, no decorations, ate homemade lasagna and a grocery store cake.
    I have no urge to go back and do the white dress, flowers, etc. as I actually loved my intimate, no frills wedding. It seems to me that the big difference between our wedding and yours though was the immediate family and closest friends.
    Perhaps you should consider a vow renewal with your parents, his parents, the kids, and a few special friends. I understand being military, you have a huge group of acquaintances/friends, but I am sure you still have a smaller group of friends that have been with you through thick and thin … or maybe you just would want it to be family if you truly can’t pare down the friends. Basically it sounds to me like something intimate that focuses on the way you feel about each other and allows you to show that to the people you care about most, would make you feel like you had a day significant enough to acknowledge the very important and happy life you two have now built together.
    Good luck on deciding!!

  4. If it is important to you then do it. I’ve been married twice now. Neither of my weddings cost more than 5,000. My second marriage cost about 2500. We plan on going to Bali or Fiji at some point. That said we’ve been married 3 years now. Maybe for our 10th anniversary? You can do things inexpensively or you can throw lots of money at it. Either way it sounds like it is important to you or you wouldn’t be blogging about it. Good luck!

  5. I had a similar wedding just before my husband’s deployment to Iraq. We couldn’t be prouder of how much money we saved, how much stress we avoided, and what great stories it generated for our family. Shortly before our wedding, we attended a 10-yr vow renewal for friends who’d had a no-frills wedding and wanted the big church gala for their anniversary. We promised ourselves that, if we still wanted it 10 years on, we’d do the same. At the 7 year mark, with two kids, we’re thinking that a vacation with extended family would be much more fun — and with cheap condo rentals via Armed Forces Vacation Club (afvclub.com), it would be more practical too. You might look into AFVC for your own celebration.

  6. Thanks for the comments, ladies!

    @Susannah: Love the Armed Forces Vacation Network! Great option for us…but I will say that the best vacation my family had ever had was with the Armed Forces Recreation Center at Fort Fisher, NC (just below Kure Beach). There were these vacation cottages for rent for less than $100 per day and it fit 8-10 people! I made the arrangements through 4th Services Squadron at Seymour-Johnson AFB and it was perfect for us! Right on the beach, lots to do…

  7. I say, if you’re still thinking about it and still pondering the lack of a typical wedding, then….go for it! It can totally be done cheaply, and frankly, a renewal of vows is a fabulous reason to ave a party to celebrate the life you have built together and to reaffirm your commitment to each other. My husband and I are planning a renewal of vows with a ceremony and reception for our tenth anniversary, since we were married on a Tuesday by the JOP in 2003.
    Do it! I don’t think you’ll regret it one bit. 🙂

  8. Do it up big on your 20th, and webcast it for those far afield. Heck, by your 20th, there might be holographic skyping for all we know!

  9. My husband and I got married 2 years ago this April. It was 3 months before he deployed. We spent a total of $500 including the rings, dress, retired minister, and food to feed our 6 guests. It was cheap, it was simple, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We did have Star Wars cake toppers on our ice cream cake though lol.

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