Confetti investigates the tradition of sword arches in modern military weddings. Add a dashing touch of pageantry on the day you marry.
What could be more delightful and dramatic, when you’ve just exchanged vows with a gorgeous man in uniform, than a walk under an arch of swords? This ancient tradition, also known as an arch of sabres or steel, is only applicable to servicemen and servicewomen not civilians. It used to be that only commissioned officers were afforded the luxury of an arch of swords but in these enlightened times all ranking members of the army, navy, marines or air force are allowed them.
Those presenting swords are known as the honor guard and should attend, like the groom, in full dress uniform – their boots polished, their swords shining. Usually there are between six and eight officers used to form the arch. The head usher or senior officer then issues the command, ‘centre face’, causing the honour guard to form two lines facing each other. At the further command, ‘Draw Swords,’ each officer then draws his sword, lifting it in one motion above his head with the blade curved outwards, cutting edge up. Only the bride and groom, never the bridal party, are allowed to walk through the arch of steel towards their new life together.
Several popular variations exist including announcing the couple to the assembled guests, ‘Ladies and Gentleman, may I present Mr and Mrs Smith,’ and lowering the final two sabres, blocking the couples way, to demand they kiss – usually to rapturous applause!
Etiquette wise, swords could be used in a non-military wedding in certain limited contexts. For example, if the groom and ushers were wearing traditional national dress that is usually or commonly seen with a sword, then they too could adopt the ritual. Although how many brides would want to walk under an arch of heavy Claymores?