The Smart Military Spouse’s Guide To Military Promotions

The Smart Military Spouse’s Guide To Military Promotions

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Holt’s Cigar Company via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m clueless when it comes to planning my husband’s military promotion ceremony. I mean, his promotion is his promotion, right? I don’t need to do anything.

Let’s be real.

His promotion means we I will invite his parents to the ceremony and arrange their lodging and transportation to and from the ceremony.

His promotion means we I will order the food and cake (am I the only one who thinks service members eat way too much cake?) for the post-promotion reception.

His promotion means we I will be obligated to follow the military traditions and customs which are a mystery to me.

Am I the only one who feels the panic of unwritten expectations regarding my husband’s promotion?

Save yourself the time of posting on Facebook “my husband is being promoted next week. I’m looking for advice” and read through our Smart Military Spouse’s Guide to Military Promotions. This guide features the five most common questions that military spouses ask about military promotions along with our keeping-it-real answers.

The 5 Most Common Questions Military Spouses Ask About Military Promotions

The Smart Military Spouse’s Guide To Military Promotions

We just found out that my husband was selected. I’m so proud of him. Should I post his promotion on Facebook?

You can #humblebrag about your service member’s selection until you’re blue in the face. Many military spouses will post a photo of their service member in uniform with the message of “I’m so happy to share that my man made (fill in the rank here)” followed by a snippet of his accolades.

Here are two things to consider before you post on Facebook:

  • Does your service member want you to post about his selection? He may want to be the one to share the news on Facebook. Not sure? Ask him.
  • For every person selected, there is someone who wasn’t picked up. It sucks when your service member wasn’t picked for promotion. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t post your happy promotion news on Facebook. I’m just saying you may want to stop and think before you post.

What should I wear to his promotion?

The official recommendation is business casual attire. I recommend wearing a solid-colored outfit that complements your service member’s uniform.

Many military spouses will wear dresses to their husband’s promotion ceremony, but if you are a slacks and blouse gal, then wear pants. Many wives will embrace a patriotic wardrobe on that day by wearing red, white or blue. If that’s you, go ahead and show off your stars and stripes.

If you don’t want to wear an Americana spirit dress, then don’t.

You want to be comfortable and dressy for the ceremony. Most likely a photographer will be there taking pictures.

The same fashion advice applies to your children. My then 4-year-old daughter refused to wear a dress to her father’s promotion ceremony a few years back.

She wanted to wear her bathing suit.

We compromised by letting her wear a casual (not itching dress) with her sparkle Toms. We were all relieved when she agreed to wear her cotton dress.

What am I expected to do during the promotion ceremony?

Traditionally a spouse pins on the new rank during the promotion ceremony. If your husband wants you to do that, he will tell you. If he doesn’t mention it, ask him who he wants to pin him. If he wants you or his children to pin him, practice pinning the night before the ceremony.

Pinning isn’t complicated but depending on the pin and the uniform it can be harder than it looks. My hands often shake when a crowd is watching me pin my husband and shaking hands makes that short moment feel like forever.

Don’t be offended if your husband has his father, his sister, his commanding officer, your kids or his chaplain pin the new rank on his uniform.

The Smart Military Spouse’s Guide To Military Promotions

Should I buy him a gift for his promotion? What should I buy?

A small gift isn’t a requirement, but it is a thoughtful gesture.

Promotions will be few and hard between in his military career so why not buy a gift for him? My husband has been promoted 3 times in 16 years and I’ve always gotten him a gift.

Here are 3 ideas for a promotion gift:

  1. Celebratory Cigars. A box of cigars is a classy way to mark the occasion. Holt’s Cigars has 550 premium, handcrafted brands, as well as machine made cigars, cigar samplers and cigar accessories. Holt’s Cigars offers a 10% military discount for active military, veterans and retirees, National Guard members and Reserves. Here’s how you can score this military discount.
  2. Engraved Pen. You can order an upscale pen and that can be his gift. Many people will have the pen engraved with his name, rank and promotion date.
  3. Something New for His Dress Uniform. Our husbands have the basic requirements for their dress uniforms and nothing more. Visit the uniform shop on your military installation and purchase a bit of flare for his dress uniform. The employees at the uniform shop can help you pick out an appropriate gift. Ask about cuff links, tie tacks and belt buckles.

Do we host a party or a luncheon after his promotion ceremony? What do we put on the cake?

Your service member may want to host a small reception after the promotion ceremony and traditionally, yes, there is cake. Even if it’s 9 a.m.

If the ceremony is later in the morning, you may host a light lunch of sandwiches and cake or offer to take your guests to a restaurant following the ceremony.

In regards to cake, I’ve opted for a rectangular cake that says “congratulations” along with my husband’s new rank. For example, it could say “Congratulations Master Chief” with the emblem pin.

If your local bakery doesn’t feel comfortable putting his battalion’s logo or a military emblem on the cake, you can have the United States flag or your service’s flag put on the cake.

Congratulations on your husband’s promotion. Remember this ceremony should be a moment of joy, not anxiety. You deserve to enjoy this day as much as your service member.

Throw on your favorite dress, give him a box of cigars and smile for the camera. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up the cake. It isn’t a promotion ceremony without a cake.



  1. Charmaine Lindsay-Engdahl

    Thank you very much for this article. I’m the proud wife of a 30 years Chief Warrant Officer and mother of one of the first female on a US submarine. Our daughteris being promoted to Commander this month and this article helps me to limit many explanations to friends who are not associated with the military traditions.

  2. I am desperate here. My boyfriend is an officer in the Air Force officer and is promoting to captain. He told me about his last promotion and his parents and sister sent a couple things to be read by whom was promoting him… I kind of feel like I should write something… we have only been together 7 months but we are genuine and serious and love eachother. Also, we bonded on crosby stills & nash, particularly the “shadow captain” song. He’s talked about how he can’t relate to the song and what not. There’s a line in it that I think I could use and make it very sweet (and short) that would speak to his work ethic and leadership skills and optimism. My question is…most importantly… is it even my place or is it weird for me to write something/is there typically a place in the ceremony for that ? I would be able to get it to his friends promoting him ahead of time.. Would it be weird in anyway? If its not…any advice on what and how to write something for this kind of thing. I know nothing about any of this but am googling and getting no where. Its 14 days away.
    Thanks in advance!

  3. I love that you mentioned that one good gift for my military partner who just got a promotion is a uniform accessory he could wear. My boyfriend just got promoted in the army. I’ll follow your advice and get a new belt buckle for him, as well as his new rank insignia pin. Thanks!


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