What to Expect & How to Plan
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?
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.
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:
For male spouses:
For the kids:
If you like the Americana look:
Visiting Family Members
Many families choose to visit for a promotion ceremony. If your family members are joining you, you will need to think through the logistics of where everyone will stay and how everyone will get 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 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!
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.
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!