6 Tips to Get You Through the Military Ball

Photo Credit: Destiny Ogden

It’s that time of year again- we are heading into the season of the military ball. You will soon find yourself as a guest at an extravagant military function. I have been to my share of military balls and have seen it all – from the scantily clad to the reenactment of “Dirty Dancing” – but let’s be honest- a formal military function isn’t the same as going to your high school prom; there is pomp and circumstance that we must take into consideration. Here are a few areas of etiquette to consider when attending a military ball:

1. “You’re so vain, you probably think this ball is about you don’t you, don’t you?” Okay, I put a spin on a perfectly good song. But the truth of the matter is that as guests of service members the ball is NOT about us. This is easy to lose sight of being that we spend time and money on every component of properly attending such a function. But the honest reality is that the military function will take place whether or not you attend; the only one required to attend is your service member. So be on your best behavior as if you were the guest of a wedding/birthday; enjoy the day being with your service member and celebrating their service to their respective branch – all the while keeping in mind that this is not your house.

2. Flag etiquette is essential, and unfortunately is becoming a lost “art.” There will be a ceremony that will include the presentation of colors (military flags being marched to the ceremony and from). This is a point in time where the service member is to be at “attention,” unless you are also a service member it is appropriate to place your right hand over your heart while you are standing (like you would in saying the Pledge of Allegiance).

3. Flag etiquette leads us into the ceremonial etiquette. There will be a ceremony, with traditions and speeches. While this may seem boring, these traditions are important part of fostering reverence for country and service branch. Be respectful, keep quiet, put your cell phones away, and appreciate the function for the beauty that it is.

 4. Formal dinners can be confusing. Always work from the outside in for your silverware. Servers serve on the right. Immediately place your napkin on your lap, and when finished with your meal place your used napkin to the left of your plate (not on top). Don’t forget to use your manners – please and thank you go a long way.

5. Appropriate apparel may seem like a cliche, but I think most of us have seen the pictures of ladies as guests at a military ball with their “girly parts” hanging out. (Check out these military fashion do’s and don’ts!) Let’s not become a viral picture to circulate through social media; I was once offered a classy piece of advice from a former Sgt. Major and friend; keep the B’s in mind:

  • Boobs – Keep the girls under control. You are sure to be dancing and you don’t want the “ladies” to be dancing to a different beat.
  • Bare legs – If your legs are showing your dress might not be long enough. Military balls are typically a function where you would wear a floor length gown; cocktail dresses can be reserved for other military events such as formal dinners.
  • Back – Make sure to have a shawl of some sort, you don’t want to catch a draft.
  • Bauble (or in other words, jewelry) – A military ball is an appropriate time to pull out your most treasured pieces of jewelry. Don’t forget to accessorize!

6. It is possible to look your best, and still save money! Click here for hot tips on how to look your best at the military ball, within your budget.

Lastly, and questionably the most important – have fun. No complaining! Complaining about a ball is my biggest pet peeve. I get it – the military ball can be expensive. But this is a day that happens every year. That means we have 365 days to plan for it. Leave the complaining at home, and enjoy yourselves. While this night isn’t necessarily about you, you do get to dress up and be Cinderella for the night with your significant other. I can’t think of many other opportunities where you get to spend the night together in such a classy fashion.

Have fun!

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