If you’re anything like me, you were probably scrolling through beautiful military wedding after military wedding (and elopements, too!) on Instagram while you were day dreaming about your significant other popping the question. There are no shortages of breathtaking military couples on Insta. While we all love to look at them, I knew right from the get-go that these scenes weren’t going to be my fairy tale wedding as I entered into life as a Navy wife.
Our dream wedding was a simple celebration somewhere wooded. We wanted only our closest friends and a small handful of family to witness our celebration. There were a few big factors, however, that meant getting married without any witnesses. You read that right. In the state of South Carolina, you don’t need a single witness to get married. It was just my husband, our officiant, and me.
Okay, let’s get the big one out of the way first. We were very early on into our careers and didn’t have much in the way of money. Our dream wedding was perfectly affordable, but we were still under a lot of financial stress. My cross-country move to be with my future husband was the same month!
A tiny outdoor wedding is affordable. An elopement is only the price of an officiant. We also knew that after we were married, we would be in a more stable place financially. The Navy provides a housing and food allowance to sailors living off base, with an increase for those who are married or have children. Instead of adding to our debt to try and host a military wedding, we could increase our financial security. We wanted to invest in our future, not in only one day.
We are both working students with little time to spare. When we got married, my husband was still in training. This meant every week he a regular person’s work week, mandatory physical training, and watches. He also had anywhere from ten to twenty additional study hours, usually with mandatory study hours five nights a week.
Because of his strict schedule, he can’t just take a few days off to get married or celebrate with a mini honeymoon. It also meant he can’t schedule his leave far enough in advance to account for a wedding. He wouldn’t be able to reliably predict which days he will be free. During training, he has to keep up with his class, so he while he’s earned plenty of leave, he hasn’t had many opportunities to use it.
How upsetting would it be to have your friends and family scrounge together the money to fly across the country to see you get married only to tell them on your wedding day, “Sorry, he actually had to work today,”?
To add to the craziness, I also am a student while I work full-time shift work. Shift work means I have very little control over what my schedule looks like in a given week. I can be scheduled any day Monday through Sunday. I might start as early as five am before you count my commute, or finish my work day as late as midnight! Then I have lectures, homework, quizzes, final exams, etc.
Even now that we’re married and my husband hasn’t had his first deployment yet, some weeks we only really see each other once or twice for any chunk of time longer than what it takes him to fall asleep at night (spoiler: he passes out when his head hits the pillow).
Our Own Fairytale
At the end of the day, all of these issues could have been solved with a little patience to save up and wait until his training was over. If we really wanted to, we could have had a military wedding big or small, fancy or simple. The real limiting factor to our guest list, despite everything else, was simply that we were very in love with no interest in waiting to be married.
We couldn’t be happier that we get to call each other husband and wife, white dress and guest list be damned.
P.S. Here’s the only photo from our wedding day, courtesy of our officiant. I can’t wait to get it framed.
Navy wedding on Folly Beach pier, South Carolina.