So, you are engaged to your sailor. There is a wedding in the future. How does the Navy handle all that?
First, let me say congratulations. Second, let me give you advice up front: be flexible, be patient and easy-going, and know there will be bumps in the road ahead. Navy wife is no simple task, and your wedding is not on the Navy's agenda. You have to fit it in when and where you can. That means you must always have a Plan B. No, the Navy will not guarantee your sailor can go home to get married. That wedding day is not in his seabag.
And as with all "advice", if it rings true for your individually, great. If not, feel free to ignore me. We're all individuals. All I am trying to do is provide a wider view of how things work in reality, to get the brides and families to think about things outside the civilian experience. As usual, what is true for one sailor may not apply to the next. Please, share wedding stories in the comment section. LOL, or tell me just how wrong I am.
I don't have the nuts and bolts of getting married in the Navy in front of me, as it varies by things such as training status, rank and duty station. If the sailor is an E-3 or below, they MUST put in a special request chit to marry. The Navy wants to know beforehand. In writing. If two sailors are marrying, same thing. E-4 and above? Check with your individual commands. I've only seen one marriage request denied, special circumstances overseas. School commands may be strict about this, and may require counseling and courses on finance.
Part one: Timing.
So, how soon should you marry? Before boot camp? After A school? Once the sailor gets a permanent duty station?
Before boot camp means you're a Navy dependent from day one. It does mean you are beginning your marriage with a couple months apart. From a money view, this is good. From an intimacy and communication view, this is one tough deal for a young couple.
Right before A school? The sailor still must concentrate on schooling, and may not have unrestricted liberty. If the school is short, you may not qualify for a move to the area. The plus side is again, money and that set of orders in the future. The downside is you may distract them from their intense study schedule and be resentful that as a new wife you aren't getting much attention from them. During this time, the sailor is expected to run the special request chit asking permission.
After A school? Or C school? There is supposed to be a leave period before reporting to the new command. Let me say that slowly and clearly. SUPPOSED TO BE. That means MAY BE. Maybe. Some sailors must report right away and do not get time to go home. The upside is you know where he's going. The downside is called "unaccompanied orders". They receive those orders before they leave school, and a spouse cannot be included until they're actually a spouse. Fiances don't count. Yes, a sailor can request a waiver and bring along the dependents later. This means more paperwork and time spent waiting for approval. Overseas, it usually is denied. Marrying once they reach their new duty station? Not a bad idea, if they aren't deployed right off. You won't be on the orders, so the Navy will not pay for your move. Junior sailors, E-3 and below, cannot take dependents overseas. Be aware they can be sent without chance of you joining them.
Part Two: The Engagement.
Long or short or non-existent? Are you going to school? Are you living with your family? Does he have a long training period with all his schools? Are you pregnant? Must you have a big ring and does that jive with his pay?
Part Three: The Big Day.
So, White Dress Wedding with all the family and music and flowers and dancing? Or a casual ten minutes with a JP and a nice dinner after? Something in between?
I can promise, straight up, a Bridezilla who must control every detail and fuss over every issue will not be happy. She guarantees she will be upset about something, and throw the uncertainties of being a Navy spouse into that mix? Explosive. The Navy is ultimately in control.
To decide which type of wedding is right for you means looking at your personality, your family, your means of financing it, and what a wedding means to you. Not a marriage, marriage is different than that first day. What would make the both of you happiest? Is it realistic?
Do you dream about the dress? Have your colors and music picked out since you were five? Have a deposit on the perfect reception place? Your mom has all the favors made up? Then you need to know a solid "when" not a "when he may be able to take leave". That often means before boot camp or after the move to a permanent duty station. The training pipeline can throw you curves.
Do you just want to be the Mrs.? Don't care if you're married in jeans or a designer gown? Want to get on with the Navy spouse thing? Then the quick marriage is the right one for you.
Part Four: Family
Are you hometown sweethearts? Then it is simple to include the family, they are there. Are you from blended families? Things get more complicated, can you handle making peace if you must? Are you from different states and your families live far apart? Can you ask a family to bear the expense of flying in? Flying in if the plans might change? Where will they stay? How long will they be there? How will his family/your family react if they are excluded by timing and place?
My MIL has not forgiven me after 22 years for marrying in Vegas.
Part Five: Money
Who is paying for this shindig? Have you saved up for your day? Do you need a $3,000 dress? A sailor is not a rich person, and if you're planning on moving to be with him, furnishing an apartment and having babies, do you really want to be in debt? That $100+ on favors could pay the utilities for a month. Think on it.
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of big fancy weddings. Too much stress, too much money. I do understand this type of wedding is important to some couples, and if it is, you must do all you can to pull it off. I am a big believer in the family potluck picnic wedding, everyone gets to share and contribute and participate.
Part Six: Bad Ideas
Do NOT surprise your sailor with a wedding when they are home on leave. Happened to my hubby. His ex and the families took him to the church. He didn't even say "I do". The women all shouted "He Does". Poor guy was a bit dazed and tried to refuse to sign the marriage certificate. His marriage lasted three days before he filed for divorce. (They must have faked the marriage license, he says he never signed one and was told one wasn't needed).
Do not plan and pay for a wedding if you don't know 100 per cent for sure your sailor will be there. Nothing ruins a party like a sailor who has duty.
Do not get married for the BAH and benefits. Duh. Marry because this is the one person you will stand by for the rest of your life. This is also known as Do Not get married to get out of your parents' house. You can do that all on your own if you try.
Do not get married because you are afraid of being alone and left behind. These are normal feelings, but no reason to tie the knot. Besides, as a Navy spouse, you will be alone and left behind more than once.
Do not get married while planning to get your sailor out of the Navy. I've seen it. Ugly and painful.
A baby on the way? Marry before the birth if possible, It will be simpler financially, and he will qualify for paternity leave. That isn't for the birth, BTW, that's for seeing the baby sometime during the first year. Ten days non-chargeable leave.
So, congratulations, and I hope I have given you something to think about.