When a soldier weds, mostly in crisp military uniform, the bride and groom step out of the church and march under outstretched swords forming what is called the arch of sabrEs. Indeed, military nuptials in church or military chapels are like other civilian weddings, just that they’re differentiated by among others; the absence of suits (although some sport them) and the couple marching under the honorary arch of swords. Even when it rains, the arch sabres ceremony comprising six or eight officers is performed inside the church or chapel!
With permission from the presiding clergy, an officer can have two arch sabre ceremonies inside and outside the church. The sabre bearers are normally officers of similar rank who take positions up with their sabres touching the tip of the sword. They stand such that there is enough walkway for their recessional as they pass through without squeezing each other out of line.
By the way, the sabres are backswords with straight single edge blade and hilts with a single handgrip. The last two sabres bearers, however, ‘detain’ the couple via crossing their swords in front of them before the officer on the right gently swats the bride’s backside with the words: “Welcome to the Army!”… or whichever branch of service the groom is in.
But why is the arch sabres (which is omitted if the bride is a fellow officer) observed? Well, this worldwide ceremony was borrowed from American and English military traditions.
After the swatting, one of the last sabre bearers says something like ‘kiss required to pass’ upon which the couple ‘do with their lips what the hands do’ and the sabres are raised to permit their exit.
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