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Military Promotion Ceremony

Military Promotion Ceremony: blog post image

What to Expect & How to Plan

Military Promotion Planner from The Organized Military Life

Have a promotion coming up? Grab your Military Promotion Ceremony Planner NOW! This 8 page planner will help you remember all the details of the day, stay organized, and keep your cool during the big day!

Throughout my husband’s military career, he’s been promoted several times, and it was not until this last promotion that we decided to do anything special to commemorate the occasion. Luckily for us, his command had a fantastic team in place that handled many logistics, and I was left with the details of the food, our family, and making sure everyone and everything got there in time. AND THAT WAS ENOUGH! Even with so many logistics covered, I still felt overwhelmed about remembering all the details. So, here’s what you, as a military spouse, need to know for your next Military Promotion Ceremony.

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What is a Military Promotion Ceremony?

Our family at my husband's last promotion ceremony.

Attaining a military promotion is a profound honor, deserving of a grand celebration. Service members often undergo a rigorous selection process or progress through various levels to reach this milestone. While not every rank calls for a ceremony, the expectation grows as service members accumulate years of dedicated service. These ceremonies are a great way to honor not only the achievements of your service member but also the unwavering support of those who stood by their side throughout this remarkable journey.


Square blog graphic: The logistics are simple but can quickly compound if your don't have a good plan.

While many of the logistics of the actual ceremony should be handled by your spouse’s unit, it’s always essential to have a plan of action for the other logistics of the day. If you are having family come in, do you have their itineraries and where they will stay? You may want to think about what you and your family will wear during the ceremony as often there is a photographer. Are you going to have a party after the ceremony? What do you want the cake to look like? Are you planning to give your service member a gift? Is your service member planning to give gifts to the kids? The logistics are simple but can quickly compound if you don’t have a good plan.

What to Wear

 The question I see the most on the Military Spouses’ social pages is what to wear to a ceremony like this. Most ceremonies occur in the daytime, either mid-morning or early afternoon. Therefore, business casual or “Sunday best” would be the appropriate dress. A lovely dress, slacks, a blouse, or a pantsuit would all be appropriate for women. For males, remember that all the servicemembers will be in uniform. You might want to wear a jacket and tie if you feel comfortable. The same dress would be appropriate for the kids, but if they want to be a little more casual, that would be perfectly fine, too. Here are a few examples of what would work:

Options for female spouses:

For male spouses:

For the kids:

If you like the Americana look:

Visiting Family Members

Many families choose to visit for a promotion ceremony. And while having family attend is amazing for everyone, it does bring up some logistics! Where will everyone stay? How is everyone getting to the ceremony? If the ceremony is on a military base, you will want to make arrangements ahead of time so they can access the base on the day of the ceremony. If family members are staying with you, you will want to plan for their visit and transportation for the day of. Thinking through these details in advance will ensure you don’t hit any major hiccups on the ceremony day. In fact, if you can enlist your family members to help, even better!!

The Cake

The cake was my nemesis during the ceremony planning. I had a fantastic cake planned, complete with my husband’s insignia, but the cake maker had an emergency and canceled a few days before. Panic mode activated! The grocery store offered to make a cake but couldn’t replicate the rank insignia without an edible printout. The commissary couldn’t help either. So, I gave up on my dream and settled for a simple ‘congrats’ and a US Army cake. Let’s say cake coordination is not my strong suit! In the end, I probably didn’t even get a picture of it; they cut it and served it immediately. Moral of the story? Don’t sweat the cake too much. Get a delicious sheet cake, stick in an American flag, and call it a day!

But if you have your heart set on a beautiful cake, here are some beautiful examples of Military Promotion Ceremony cakes if you are looking for some ideas!

Food and Drinks

I would not spend too much money for the actual ceremony on the food or the drinks. You may have many people attend, but they are not expecting to be fed a full meal. They’ll grab a small plate, say congrats, and be grateful to take the rest of the day off (or at least a long lunch!). We did a few platters of Chick-fil-A nuggets, a couple of fruit trays, sodas, and water, and we had a half-keg. Note: We ended up returning the half-keg about half full. In retrospect, I would have bought more water and sodas that I knew we would go through at our house.


Lucky me, I hit the jackpot with decorations! I found red, white, and blue decor on a 70% off Fourth of July sale at Michael’s. Pro tip from a seasoned military spouse: Americana decor is always a win. I’ve used it for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day, and even lent some to a friend for their promotion ceremony. It was handy for “American” themed BBQs even when stationed overseas. Grab it on sale, even if it’s not your usual style. For my decor, I kept it simple with balloons, a few flowers, and red, white, and blue table settings. It didn’t break the bank, and while you could go all out with fresh flowers and a balloon arch, remember, the ceremony is brief, and no one’s judging your decor!

*sponsored ad from American Flags:

American Flags


After reading several posts on the spouse’s pages, I realized I might have messed up. I did not get my spouse a gift… but I did do all of this coordination, so I think that should count. Right? RIGHT? Anywho, I didn’t get my spouse anything except Chick-fil-A nuggies, the infamous cake, and beer. Other spouses chose to get their spouse a gift, but I did not. However, during the ceremony, my husband gave the girls and me roses, and he had a challenge coin for my son and my Dad, which I thought was a classy touch. Other than that, we didn’t do anything else for the gifts. However, after reading these posts, here are a few ideas for gifts that I’m going to keep in mind for the next time:


The day of the ceremony can be a whirlwind. Managing all the logistics solo is daunting, with so much happening simultaneously. The key? Delegate! Fortunately, I had a fantastic team from my husband’s unit eager to assist. One person handled Chick-fil-A and cake pickup, while another picked up the keg. I dropped off drinks, ice, and decorations beforehand, and they handled the setup. Your time will be too tight to do it all. You’ll be busy getting everyone ready and ensuring they’re out the door on time. Remember to coordinate family members’ transportation or enlist the help of friends and coworkers. Have a dry run a few days before ensuring everyone knows their roles. Also, lay out clothes, decorations, and drinks in advance. Trust me, leaving anything for the day of is a no-go!

The Actual Ceremony

All of these things will be well-planned and thought out beforehand so that on the day of the ceremony, you can be relaxed, calm, and able to enjoy the moment. You get to celebrate your spouse’s hard work, but it’s a time to celebrate you too. You do so much to support your military service member. I dare you not to cry when they mention you as the military spouse during the ceremony. If all is planned well, the ceremony should be a time to relax and bask in the one hour that your spouse gets recognized for all of their long hours, time away, and dedication to their country. It’s remarkable, so enjoy it. 

After Party

Many people decide to do a little party after the ceremony. Most of the time, these are simple in planning. I’ve seen people get together at a local brewery or bar where you can show up, and no complicated planning is necessary. I know other people have rented out a venue and had catering or a cocktail hour.  Other couples have decided to do a little shindig at their house afterward. We chose not to have a party and went to a favorite restaurant. It is unnecessary or expected to do an after-party, and it’s up to you if you choose to do one. 

How do I keep this organized?

A military promotion ceremony should be a special day, but like most memorable days, they don’t just magically happen. With organization and planning, your military member’s promotion ceremony will be a significant and memorable day. That’s why I created my Military Promotion Ceremony Planner to help keep you organized on your and your military member’s big day!

Military Promotion Planner from The Organized Military Life
Have a promotion coming up? Use this planner from The Organized Military Life to help make it all go smoothly!

Take a look at this preview of what all is included in my 8-page Military Promotion Ceremony Planner here!

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Happy Organizing, y’all!!

17 Responses

  1. I remember when my husband was promoted from second to first lieutenant. We were living in Germany and my mother was also there in attendance. I got to pin on one of his bars while the commander pinned on the other bar. Pictures were taken. I had just broken my glasses, so I was wearing prescription sunglasses. I looked like I was blind. Our family celebration was low key but it was a special day.

    1. That’s too funny! True confession: I tested positive for the virus-that-shall-not-be-named 24 hours after that picture of our family was taken. I was hot and sweaty and felt TERRIBLE all throughout the ceremony and had no idea why. I honestly thought it was just stress from all the planning and logistics! I was both relieved and mortified to find out the result of that test. I had shaken hands and talked with everyone. But, miraculously, no one else but our family got sick from the ceremony. The things we military spouses have to endure! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I sincerely appreciate it!

  2. Congratulations on your husband’s promotion! It sounds like you created a special event honoring his accomplishments. And you had exactly what was needed to make him feel honored, acknowledged, and celebrated. Way to go, Jana!

    1. Oh you’re so welcome! It seems all so common living in this military world, but I knew nothing about military life when we got marriend 17 years ago. There’s still so many things that I’m learning as we go along, and I hope that by sharing my experiences other spouses can benefit. Thank you so much for reading!

  3. Congratulations to your husband. What a fun event to prepare and plan for. An honor well-deserved.

    I attended a similar event for my dear childhood friend. I’m afraid I didn’t quite throw the party you did, but I was so glad to be there and help her celebrate.

    1. Thank you so much! I think ours was pretty low key in the scheme of how these things go, but even for low-key it still took some thought. Thank you so much for reading 😊

  4. How lovely! Congratulations to you and your husband. Thank you for your service.

    I have enjoyed having celebrations at our home over the years. Buying end-of-season party decor is a great tip! I also found making homemade iced tea and buying powdered lemonade is an affordable way to have a variety of drinks.

    Your gift is the planning. You did a fantastic job. I hope everyone had a wonderful time.

  5. I loved reading your article. Many of the points are transferable to any significant event in a person’s life, understanding the protocols, knowing what part of the celebration you are responsible for, who to invite, how to make them feel comfortable, the budget and what suits your family best in the situation. Thank you for the look into your life as a military wife.

  6. This is a wonderful article and I appreciate you sharing this event on your page. Congratulations to your husband. Planning something like this when you live overseas must add to the pressure. At the end of the day, I think your event was great and everyone had a great time.

    1. Thank you so much, Janet! Luckily this was a couple of year’s back so I was able to plan this in the States with Chick-Fil-A! But yes, it was a fun event and I hope that I can give others a clear idea of what to expect when planning their own. Thank you!

  7. Mazel tov on your husband’s celebration and for all your successful hard work (the cake and virus-that-shall-not-be-named notwithstanding). My grandfather serviced in WWI and my father in WWII, but I’ve never known anyone while they were in military service. You’ve given an eye-opening look at how a family can create a special celebration and observation of a military promotion.

  8. Oh thank you for mentioning that we will need help getting on base. I forgot how much trouble it was getting on base when he came back from his first deployment.

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Jana Arevalo- Declutter Coach, The Organized Military Life

Hello! I'm Jana

Hi! I’m Jana! I have been a military spouse for 18 years, and I am experienced when it comes to PCS moves, organizing new spaces, and creating more efficient systems for my family. I understand the feeling of anxiety and overwhelm that can come with clutter, and that’s why I love helping military spouses, busy moms and small business owners declutter and organize their homes, digital lives and paperwork!

I am an Amazon Associate as well as an affiliate with Share-a-Sale and List & File, Military Life Binders. I receive a small commission (at no cost to you!) if you purchase through my links. Thank you!


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