The problem with planning a wedding while in the service is the unpredictability of the service. Orders in the military change with an instant, there is no guarantee for approval of leave, and the complications nearly always make it impossible to plan too far in advance.
We were lucky when we were married. The Army has this awesome policy that says if a servicemember is currently in training, they are guaranteed what is called Christmas exodus. Exodus is a leave time during the holidays. All branches are different and I believe the Air Force only guarantees one week out of the total of two possible weeks but I could be wrong. With our situation we had been planning on waiting to get married until at least the summer of 2011 or spring of 2012, but why wait if we're planning to do it after all especially when there was no guarantee for where he would be during those times.
When I was planning, my husband was in bct and I was pretty much left to the planning on my own. I tried getting advice and opinions from him but considering we were waiting on snail mail and phone conversations were too short to discuss anything of relative importance, I was on my own. We knew he would be home for Christmas but weren't sure if he would be granted the full two weeks or when he would arrive or leave. I had to set a date well in advance to get the invitations printed and mailed in order to receive RSVPs. (This is why most people in the military plan on doing courthouse weddings or very small weddings... of course our courthouse no longer does weddings... soooo.... lol.) So we planned for 2 days after Christmas, everyone thought I was crazy for having a wedding 2 days after Christmas AND on a Monday... but I didn't have much of a choice, did I? lol.
So here is my advice, if you are planning a wedding and are a little flexible with the planning. Plan for what you know. If you know for absolute certainty that he will be home for a particular event or at a certain time, plan for then. You probably wont have much notice to do so, so don't be expecting a full year to plan. I had less than three months to pull off a wedding of 100 guests, oh and on a budget of $5,000 or less.
I know some people advise against getting married prior to entering the service because the time apart and the strains that the military enforces can break a relationship. But I'm not going to lie, it would have been so much easier if we had just gotten married ahead of time and saved all the hassle of trying to plan on my own or guessing at what he would like.
When I was talking to own of my friends he was told some things by the recruiter that were bold faced lies so I thought I would mention some of it here to clear up the air incase anyone was told the same.
1. "While I'm in the service, after we get married they will transfer her to wherever I am"
This is only true if you have not transferred yet, have just arrived (and I mean JUST), or have not received your orders. If you have been on location for an extended period of time, they will not dish out a dime to move her. That means, if you are stationed overseas you will foot the bill for her ticket and her belongings or just have to deal with being apart until you finish up your tour.
2. "She wont receive benefits unless she lives with me"
After you are married and she is enrolled in the DEERS program and Tricare, she will have benefits. If she does not live with you or near a post, she may be stuck with Tricare Standard that has higher copays than Prime because she cannot got to a MTF (Military Treatment Facility), but that will change when she moves.
3. "I will be allowed leave after bct to get married and go home to see family"
I was livid when I heard this comment, why lie like that? The marines offer a short leave after boot camp because unless your MOS training is really long, you go straight from there to your first duty station. The Army is different. At the bct graduation you will be allowed 2 days to visit with family (Family day and graduation day). Those days are limited to the post or in the area surrounding the post. No leaving the state or anything like that and no extended granted leave for a vacation to see family. I flew from California to South Carolina to see my husband for 2 days (didn't even get to take him off post because we weren't married at the time) and then had to go back to California and wait for his Christmas Exodus.
There were SEVERAL other ones that I wanted to mention but my mind has gone blank. I'll update as I remember them. Just for good fun, I'll post some of my wedding pictures since I haven't done so already.