Whether it runs in the family, it’s a religious custom, or it’s a mandatory initiation into the married world – you will find countless traditions being practiced all over the world at weddings. The Saber Arch had to have been one of the most interesting ones I had seen done. I studied up a lot on military protocol during weddings, and the Saber Arch was one that caught my attention. The images are dazzling – a stunning bride, her soldier, and the procession of the newly married Mr. and Mrs. under an arch of military sabers. Magnificent!
Tradition calls for any officers and enlisted attending the wedding or in the bridal party to assist in this movement. It’s typically 6-8 saber bearers who fall in line right before the end of the ceremony. Once they’re in line, the senior usher or the officiant will announce the newly married couple. As they begin their walk, either out of the chapel or (if outdoors) away from the arch, the bearers raise their swords and the couple proceeds through. At this moment, one of two things usually happen.
1 – The last two bearers will drop their swords, detaining the couple momentarily. Before releasing the couple, the saber bearer to the couple’s left will give the bride a swift swat on the bum with his saber and announce, “Welcome to the (insert branch here), ma’am.” If the bride is already a member of the military, they omit this step.
2 – In some ceremonies, every pair of sabers is lowered, stopping the couple from passing. Each pair may say something along the lines of “kiss required to pass” and they will not raise their sabers until the bride and groom share a kiss.
In my opinion, not only do traditions like these make for great photos, but they carry on a legacy of those who have exercised them before us – before our generation. When these customs are passed along, the memories live. Following tradition is a beautiful way to honor family and customs. This is something ALL branches of the military firmly believe.