How Much Does A Military Wedding Cost?

Feb 17, 2024 | Military Wedding, Wedding

Whether you’re a seasoned sergeant major in the Army or just starting out after basic training, you might be curious about the costs involved in a military wedding. We get it – weddings can be expensive! Whether you’re thinking about eloping, considering a double proxy wedding, or planning a big traditional military ceremony, we’ve got all the info you need to understand what you might be spending. From breaking down the factors that affect costs to discussing optional expenses, keep reading to get a sense of what your wallet might be feeling after the big day.


Factors Affecting Costs

Military weddings, much like civilian weddings, can vary significantly in cost depending on several factors, such as location, venue, guest count, and more. Let’s dive in. 


POV: You step off the plane onto a sunny isle. The wind is in your hair. The sand in between your toes. You’re ready to start your vacation and also get married to the love of your life. Having a military wedding off base can get pricey. The location you choose definitely plays a big role in the cost. You can also opt to get married at a military chapel or somewhere on base, which may come with discounts or lower rates than a pricey, island wedding. 

Venue for the Ceremony & Reception

Whether you host your wedding ceremony in a park, beach, military chapel, or court house, the venue will play a big role in how much you spend. And don’t forget about the reception venue. These costs together can add up quickly! 

Guest Count

As a reference point, according to The Independent, the average number of guests in 2023 was 74. More guests obviously mean higher expenses for catering, seating, venue space, etc. Couples should carefully consider their guest list to ensure they stay within their budget. 


Depending on what season you get married, you may pay more or less. For instance, the most common wedding season is in the summer, which is when venues and vendors tend to spike up their prices. On the other hand, in months like January and February, weddings are less commonplace, so there may be cheaper prices at this time for things like catering and venue.

Day and Time 

Most weddings take place on the weekend in the afternoon. It’s rare to find a wedding that takes place on a Wednesday at 9am, but it’s possible! The prices you’ll see for the most common times to get get married, such as a Saturday at noon will be higher than those for weddings at 10am on a Tuesday.

Decorations and Theme

The theme and decorations chosen for the wedding can add to the overall cost. If you want to have the reception area decked out in Marine Corps insignia and American flags, well, this is going to cost more. If you want to choose a more traditional and minimalist approach to decor and theme, you’re likely to save more money this way.

Wedding Attire and Accessories

The cost of attire, including uniforms, dresses, suits, and accessories, can vary widely depending on the style and quality chosen. As you probably already know, there is an allowance for military uniform purchases, so hopefully there’s no need to spend money there. As for all of the other attire, you’ll need to pay out of pocket. Your scale of “bougie”-ness for wedding dresses, jewelry, and other accessories will dictate how much you end up spending! 


Expenses Breakdown

Now, let’s turn our attention to the breakdown of wedding expenses. Everything from the marriage license to the cost of military wedding traditions. Let’s get into it. 

Marriage License Fees

You need a marriage license to get married. This is basically an application that requires you to have an official wedding ceremony within a certain date. And, yes, marriage licenses do expire, so you need to get married within a certain time frame after getting the license. The fees for a marriage license will vary depending on your county and state. For instance, in San Francisco, a marriage license costs $120. In contrast, a marriage license in Forsyth County, North Carolina, a marriage license cost $60. 

Marriage Officiant 

You’ll need to hire someone to marry you. Many couples can find this option for free, especially military couples. According to, many military bases offer military chaplains for free wedding services. You can also ask a friend or family member to do it for you, as long as they are properly licensed to marry people. In addition, many civil servants, such as judges or magistrates may officially marry you in a civil courthouse. This typically comes with a civil ceremony fee, which typically hovers around $50-$120, depending on your location. 

Venue Rental

Venue rental is typically one of the most significant expenses for any wedding. Couples should budget for the rental fee, as well as any additional costs for setup, cleanup, and security. Not to mention, you will need a venue for the ceremony and the reception (if you plan on having a reception, of course). 

Here are some venues and their prices to give you an idea of what you can expect: 

  • Military chapel: According to, most military chapels on base will be free, you’ll just need to coordinate logistically for time slots. 
  • Virtual ceremony: In some areas, you may be able to get a virtual ceremony done, such as Montgomery County, Alabama where you can get married online for $111.
  • Court house: The price will vary, but you can expect to pay around $100 for a civil ceremony at a courthouse. (See San Diego’s pricing here as a reference point). 
  • Disney: Getting married at Disney will cost a minimum of $15,000. 


Catering costs can vary depending on the menu, service style, and guest count. Couples should carefully consider their catering options to ensure they stay within their budget without compromising on quality. Here are some examples of catering costs from different vendors: 

  • One San Diego catering company, Bekker’s Catering, offers appetizers, a salad course, a buffet dinner, dessert, and beverages for 100 guests for $9,954, including gratuity. 
  • Another catering company in North Carolina, Carolina Crust, offers mobile pizza catering for a minimum of $4,000 for 50 guests. 
  • If you’re in Missouri, you can check out the Happy Chef Catering Co. where they offer a wedding catering service for just $15.95 per person. That clocks out to be around $800 for 50 people! Not bad at all! 

As you can see, the pricing for catering will vary depending on how fancy you want to get, your geolocation, and the number of guests attending. 

Attire Costs

The cost of attire for the bride and groom, including wedding dresses, suits, and accessories, can add up quickly. Couples should shop around for the best deals and consider options such as renting or buying second-hand attire to save money. In addition, some stores, such as David’s Bridal offer Veteran’s Discounts and/or Veteran’s Day discounts. 

To break down even more, wedding dresses can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,000 and beyond. Add on to that any jewelry, cuff links, etc., and you’re looking at a potentially hefty bill if you don’t set a budget!

Military Traditions

Military weddings often include specific traditions and customs, such as the cutting of the cake with a saber or the presentation of a military arch of sabers. While these traditions add to the military theme of the wedding, there may be some expenses involved in participating in these. For instance, if you don’t have six to eight military friends to help with the sword ceremony, you may need to pay someone for their time. 

Photography and Videography

Photography and videography are essential for capturing the memories of the day. If you want to capture your special day, you should budget for a professional photographer and videographer to ensure high-quality images and videos that will last a lifetime. According to the Knot, in 2022, the average cost of a wedding photographer was $2,600 and $2,100 for a videographer. That means, you can expect to spend (on average) about $5,000 for both a photographer and videographer.  


Entertainment, such as live music or a DJ, can really make or break a wedding reception. You should budget for entertainment that reflects your preferences. For instance, if you love live music, you can expect to spend anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000 or more, according to


Transportation arrangements, such as limousine or vintage car rentals, can add a touch of luxury to the wedding day. For example, you’ll need to consider how the bride and groom will get to and from the ceremony and reception. And same for the guests–if they are staying at hotels, how will they get to and fro the wedding? And don’t forget about tip! The average US couple (according to WeddingWire) spends about $750 on transportation for the entire wedding day. 

Wedding Insurance 

Given the nature of the military work life, if there is any chance at all that you or your partner could be called to duty during your planned wedding date, you may want to consider getting wedding insurance to cover any canceled fees. For example, Wedsure offers insurance packages for as low as $125. 


In the end, it all comes down to planning and budgeting for your military wedding. Whether you’re envisioning a big, traditional bash or a smaller, more intimate affair, understanding the costs involved is key. By considering factors like venue, guest count, and timing, you can make informed decisions that align with your vision and budget. And remember, it’s not just about the celebration – it’s about starting your new chapter together on solid financial ground.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Military Wedding Costs

We’ve answered some of your burning questions about military wedding costs below.


Q: Do military weddings cost more than civilian weddings?

A: No! Not necessarily. In fact, they probably cost less given the available veteran’s discounts and free on-base marriage services. 


Q: What are some cost-saving tips for military weddings?

A: Opt for venues with military discounts, consider off-peak wedding dates, and prioritize essential expenses while being selective about optional additions.


Q: Are there any specific traditions that significantly impact costs?

A: Traditions such as military dress uniforms, ceremonial swords, military decor/theme, and paying for wedding insurance for unexpected military obligations may affect the cost.

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