Throughout the United States, thoughts of war occupy many people. For those in the military, they are an even greater concern. Recent news articles have reported a dramatic upsurge in the number of military weddings. With continuing deployments and the future uncertain, it's no wonder so many couples are tying the knot. There's great comfort in knowing that someone you love is waiting for you -- and can benefit at home from your service to the government. To assist individuals planning a military wedding and honeymoon, About's Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways Guide Susan Breslow Sardone and I have prepared this Q&A.
Q: What do you need to know about marrying if you're in the military?
A: If you are in the States (not assigned overseas), getting married as a member of the military is much the same as civilian marriages. You don't need advanced permission and there is no special military paperwork to fill out before the marriage. You simply get married according the laws of the state where the marriage is taking place after obtaining a marriage license off-base.
If you are overseas and marrying a foreign national, it's a different story. There are tons of forms to complete; you must obtain counseling and your commander's permission (which is rarely withheld without very good reason); your spouse must undergo a security background check and pass a medical examination. Finally, the marriage has to be "recognized" by the United States Embassy. The entire process can take several months.
Regardless of where or who, once married, if the spouse is non-military, the military member can bring a copy of the certified marriage certificate to the Personnel Headquarters on the base to receive a dependent ID card for the spouse, and enroll the spouse in DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment
Reporting System), to qualify for military benefits such as medical coverage and commissary and base exchange privileges.
Timing can be important in a military marriage. If you have PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders, and get married before you actually make the move, you can have your spouse added to your orders and the military will pay for the relocation of your spouse and her property (furniture and such). However, if you report to your new duty assignment first, and then get married, you will have to pay for the relocation of your spouse out of your own pocket.
Actually "making the move" means reporting into your new base. So, you can leave your old base, take leave (vacation), get married, report into your new base, get your orders amended to include your new spouse, and the military will pay for the spouse's move. However, if you report to your new base, and then take leave to get married, you're on your own, when it comes to moving expenses for the spouse.
Q: Can you get married on base? If so, who should you contact?
A: Yes. The point of contact is the chaplain's office. Each military base has one (or more) chapels that are used for religious services. One can get married in a base chapel, just as one can get married in a church off-base. Base chaplains offer a complete variety of marriage choices, including religious (almost any denomination), non-religious, casual, civilian-formal, and military-formal.