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Operation I DO: The First Five Things You NEED To Do After Marrying Your Service Member

Randi Fracassi

While sitting in the Social Security Office waiting for your name to be called may be the highlight of your time post-wedding (just kidding, we all know the Honeymoon is!), there are couple other loose ends that need to be tied up once you’re officially married to your service member. Navigating DEERS, receiving orders and managing your PCS move, obtaining POA, are all details that need to be taken of before you change your social media status (but hey, the lines are long and boring, and there’s quite a bit of time to kill…). Today I’m sharing with you the first five things you need to do post-wedding after getting married to a military personnel.

Let’s also preface this by saying that your Social Security information must be changed prior to all of this. While waiting with other folks in the Social Security Office isn’t exactly the highlight of the marriage experience, it is a necessity in regards to getting your name changed, which I would recommend, as it makes not only enrollment and HR paperwork for your spouse easier, but when you receive orders for your PCS (Permanent Change of Station, aka, moving in your spouse, or moving to another base). Your adventure with Social Security can be shorted by their readily available online forms (found here) and bringing in copies of your birth and marriage certificates.  It’s best to knock this all out in one day if possible, especially since your service member may have to take a day of leave in order to make sure everything is squared away.  

After updating this, get enrolled in DEERS and/or MilPDs, and learn all the fancy acronyms that accompany it. Y’all, the military and government in general is a real big fan of acronyms, and will go out of their way to name a program something ridiculous just to make an acronym for it I promise you. Essentially though, DEERS is the military benefits and resource database (officially called Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System), and MilPDs (Military Personnel Data System) supplements DEERS in that it also keeps track of events throughout your spouse’s career (such as promotions ((and changing eligibility as a result)), additional dependents, and separations). Usually you can do all of your DEERS, MilPDs, and ID paperwork in the same office, killing two birds with one stone. Remember; bring your birth certificate(s), Social Security Card, and your marriage certificate. I would recommend bringing copies of each in the event that they need to keep them.

While enrolling in DEERS and MilPDs, your spouse will need to visit their human resource contact within their squadron or battalion in order to have their pay and BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) changed in respect to their changed dependent status. What’s neat about BAH is that it changes based on location, and grants service members and their families the ability to live outside or in mixed housing.

 After taking care of DEERS and your ID, get added into TRICARE, the healthcare associated with the military. A full outline of the different packages for both enlisted and officers can be found here. Keep in mind that though your active duty service member already has dental, but it is additional for you.

Post all of this paperwork and phone calls and office visits, consult with a lawyer to obtain Power of Attorney. By having POA, you can manage finances, loans, and take care of legal paperwork if your spouse is away for training or deployed.

I would also familiarize yourself with the resources now available to you as a spouse. Besides taking a tour of post or learning about what exactly it is or where your spouse works, but reach out to a Key Spouse or the FRG (Family Readiness Group) about getting involved with your spouse’s unit, and beginning to integrate yourself. You will meet a variety of folks here – both good and bad, comforting and annoying, but the experience itself is what you make of it. And y’all, regardless if you get along with folks or not, at the end of the day, the community that is formed on bases is unlike that of any other; you can’t put it to words how it feels to look around a room, not saying a word, and the woman across knows exactly what you’re going through because she’s been there too. The support is invaluable.

Milspouses, what advice would you give to new spouses? Any tips or ticks to make the process easier? What did you find most valuable as you transitioned into an official SO role? In the meantime, I hope these tips assist you in streamlining your tasks as a new spouse!




Operation: I Do | Military Traditions, and do I Have to do Them?

Randi Fracassi

Welcome to the first installment of a new series here on the blog, Operation: I Do, where we’ll be discussing the different facets regarding military wedding and event planning, including determining formality, the differences between enlisted and officer events, wording paper goods, and etiquette when it comes to the military. I’ve been very fortunate to have had the experience to assist in coordinating and planning numerous military functions between the different branches, and I hope that by sharing this knowledge and the knowledge of other industry professionals, it can help ease the stress of planning for our future Milspouses and their servicemen and women.

We’re kicking off the first part of this series with common military traditions, and answering the question of do you have to incorporate them into your wedding. Though units, squadrons, flights, and battalions could possibly have their own traditions (and therefore be different, especially between branches), we’ll be covering traditions that have been observed between all branches. If you have questions about specific traditions, especially if you want to incorporate those from your service member’s battalion or squadron, be sure to ask your service member, and have them ask their coworkers or DO if they know of anything.

So, onto the traditions, and the pomp and circumstance that you may be wondering about!

The first and foremost, and possibly most photographed when it comes to military weddings, is the saber and rifle arch. The saber and rifle arch is has traditionally been at the end of the ceremony, and operates as a grand exit for the couple. Sabers are strictly reserved for officers, while rifles are used for enlisted members. The team operating the arch almost always where’s pristine, white gloves. If you areconsidering an arch, be sure to inquire at your venue if it’s allowed – as you can imagine, a venue may not be too keen on having operational weapons on their grounds, or the church may ask you to have your arch line up outside.

Saber Arch Captured by  Amy Arrington

Saber Arch Captured by Amy Arrington

Arch of Rifles captured by the  US Army

Arch of Rifles captured by the US Army

Speaking of sabers, it is traditional during the cutting of the cake to use the highest ranking officer’s saber as your cake knife. Now, whether or not you want to be wielding a saber around your beautiful cake will be totally up to you, but if you should decide to go that route, be aware of sanitizing the saber so you’re good to go for eating your first slice and a married couple.

It must also be noted that for seating throughout the reception, if you are doing assigned seating, to do so by rank. For the ceremony, it is also traditional to reserve seats for high ranking attendees (including veterans), and to have their seats reserved by family members. Observing the intricacies of hierarchy is not only following the rules and regulations of the military, but is a generous olive branch in acknowledging the lifestyle of your significant other. 

Another tradition, though more so of just a fun aspect you can incorporate and has become popular in recent years, is that of party shirts. If you've attended a formal event with your service member, you might've noticed a few folks wearing these. Party shirts are generally shirts where the back and sleeves have been replaced by fun fabric, and are commonly seen when folks are in Mess Dress (aka their tuxedo equivalent of a uniform). You can have a lot of freedom with party shirts, especially if your groomsmen are all service members (also, what a neat gift to give them the Day Of!). 

Party Shirts Captured by  Alex M

Party Shirts Captured by Alex M

Finally, the biggest tradition and perhaps most observed is that of wearing their uniform. Whether you decide on black-tie (which would be Mess for your service members) or business casual (which would lend itself to be Service), letting your attendees know what level of formality to expect will keep not only continuity throughout the ceremony and reception, but as someone who is currently serving, your obligated to give that nod. However, much like that of recently separated veterans, your service member is not obligated to wear a uniform at all; it is completely up to you and your future spouse as to that. If your service member is in the Guard or Reserves, it is suggested that they not consider wearing their uniform, or observe many of the traditions outlined above. 

However, the question at large left to answer is should you have these traditions incorporated into your wedding?

And the answer is both yes and no. 

Contrary to what many believe, unless you are not an American citizen, the government does not care who their service members marry. Like a regular job, they still have to report the change in marital status to HR, and you'll have to enroll is DEERS and Tricare, become their Power of Attorney (which I strongly's a struggle to pay the bills when you're FIL is still POA and you don't quite have bank accounts sorted out). Though it is generous to invite their coworkers, as you would consider if you were not marrying someone in the military or separated, there is a level of formality and tradition that is expected, and with that comes the uniforms and the arches, and wording your invitations differently (which will be coming soon, I promise!). This is a trial run for the rest of your lives together -- observing, acknowledging, and incorporating the different facets of your service member's life into yours, and knowing that there is something bigger that both of you are going to be a part of. 

I hope this little guide relating to some of the wedding traditions of the military helps you as you plan your big day! As someone who is a Milso and assists future Milspouses regularly, I love sharing this information and helping brides and grooms make sure that all the intricacies and details are followed through, and that they are pulled together in a tasteful and beautiful way. 

Happy planning,