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What's Up Weddings

Somewhere Back in Time: The Traditions Behind the United States Naval Academy Chapel

Apr 11, 2017 10:17AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Unlike civilian institutions, midshipmen are not permitted to have a spouse while in school. As such, the USNA chapel becomes quite busy in the weekends following commencement each spring. A typical Saturday following commencement could see as many as 6-10 wedding ceremonies in one day. These dates are typically reserved for the graduating class, but there’s more to holding your nuptials in the USNA chapel than just that.

Weddings in the United States Naval Academy Chapel are scheduled no more than one year in advance, so booking your desired date may require planning. Also, couples desiring to be married in the Chapel must have completed pre-marital counseling.
The Chapel was consecrated in 1908 and, as such, carries some wonderful traditions. The sword arch is a long-standing tradition at Navy weddings. Traditionally, it consists of six or eight officers standing on three of four steps in front of the Chapel facing each other with room in between them for the bride and groom to pass. Each set of two officers facing each other crosses their sword downward to prevent the couple from crossing. The couple has to kiss to “gain entry” of each step and the officers raise their sword to let them pass. After the couple passes through the last arch, the officer holding a sword closest to her gives her a gentle tap with the sword to welcome her in the Navy.