Going to My First Military Ball and Have No Idea What to Expect

Updated on September 09, 2008
T.P. asks from APO, AE
4 answers

I am going to be attending my first military ball at the end of October and have no idea what to expect or how to prepare. Can you please help me?

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answers from Stationed Overseas on


I haven't been to an Army ball before. I'm a Navy wife and have been to Navy balls, Dining-Outs and Marine Corps Balls.

The first thing is always use your best manners in conversation, in the receiving line, on the dance floor, and when it's time to go. Of all the advice a person can give this is the most important. If there are things you're not sure of, your husband was given a tutorial in manners in his training. The two of you can go over this together so you both know what to expect of one another. For my husband, who was brought up in a well mannered home, there were some things at the table that he didn't know and was more than happy to share with me. For example, when you eat your bread roll; put your butter on the bread plate, break off and butter only one small bite at a time. This isn't how we eat at home, but it is how we eat in polite company.

The others are correct in that there are some ceremonials and a guest speaker. There are lots of traditions followed at these things too. Is this your husbands first ball too? If not ask him about how the order of the evening will go and that should help you. If it is (this is unlikely as he's probably been to at least a Dining-In to practice his manners training) then have him ask and find out about the order of the night as well as any traditions that will be followed. For us, we always leave when the smoking lamp is lit at the end of the evening. This is when cigars and cigarettes come out and we're not fans of either.

As far as dress goes, your husband will be wearing his dress uniform. You need to decide how the two of you will look best together. Find out what uniform he'll be wearing as this has been decided for him already by the command. I always go formal because he's in a tux (not everyone has or wears the tux dress uniform) and there's no way my man is going to out dress me! :) Plus, unless your man is a Medal of Honor winner you want the best thing he's got on his uniform to be the love on his arm. Then again, are the two of you dancers? If so, whatever you wear make sure you can dance in it. After all it is a ball. Keep this in mind when you pick your shoes too.

Most of all, this is meant for fun. And the others are right, this isn't the time to express your unhappiness at his repeated deployments or bad pay. Keep you conversation on the up side and NEVER gossip. You may even find spouses in attendance without their spouses due to IA, TAD, or God forbid KIA or MIA. Be sure to spend time with them and make them feel welcome and part of the family as it was hard for them to buck-up and come alone.

Usually there is also a memento for you to take home to remember the occasion. At all these events we've been to it's been engraved wine glasses; once it was engraved beer glasses. I love these things as they fill our cabinet over the years. They are cheap glass, but now we have a nice set of mismatched stemware. Now when we have a party everyone knows their glass by the engraving!

Sometimes there are photographers there. Get to the ball early in the cocktail hour and use that time to get your picture taken (your mom and dad will kick you if they don't get even a wallet size.). This is when your hair and make-up is at it's best so take advantage and record that expensive up-do! Over the years, it's nice to look back and see how we have changed. I think the most we've ever spent on this is $15 or $20, so bring some cash for it and the bar if you choose to imbibe.

So mind your P's and Q's and have a Ball!



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Well the ball is always a formal event so, you will want a formal evening gown. Make your appointment for your hair (if you're not doing it yourself) now as you wont be able to get one at the last min. If you have tattoos you might consider a dress that covers most of them. There is generally some ceremony and often a recieving line. Remember to be nice and respectful to all you meet as you never know who's wife you may be speaking to and it isn't the time for complaints or poor attitudes. The ball is a lot of fun and a great chance to meet others. Sometimes they have seating charts so be sure to have your husband find out if that's the case. They often have toasts so if you don't drink do be sure to raise your glass anyway. The reason I put so many cautions is that others are watching how you and your husband behave and this is a great chance to make a good impression (for yourself and your husband) on people you likely will come across again at some time in the future. There is often an opportunity for a formal picture of you and your husband. Other than that and don't drink too much I'd say have fun and enjoy the evening. You might consider bringing a small camera for snapshots.



answers from Stationed Overseas on


my husband is now 15 years in the Army and I have attended many balls. Ask your husband how he feels about the ball(s) first. (My husband hates those things and just goes because it is expected of him and so we go for the formal part and after it's announced we leave that minute--so in that case why spend a lot of money on a dress, make-up and hair do. If yours likes official functions and you plan to stay out a while that night, either at the ball for the "modern" dancing or somewhere else then you take that into consideration.)

I am a very practical person. Since my first child I always wear the same dress because you don't see the same people twice if you are moving a lot. I always do my hair and make-up alone (just more than usual. For the make-up you can go stronger than usual as there is always kind of dimmed light.)

Over the past 15 years things have changed a lot and before that the long very formal gown was a must. But like I said the past years you'll see every dress/pansts suit you can imagine from long, very formal to short dresses-cocktail to pants suits. I always think about the balls as you wear the same as you would for wedding party. Some people go very formal and others go less formal but they still fit in.

In a way it's sad that these affairs have become so casual but on the other hand you can save a lot of money that way.

Hope you have fun,


P.S. Just be like yourself, people will always talk (either positively or negatively) and for the better it's not as important anymore what you do as a wife as it used to be 20-30 years ago. Wifes pretty much have their own lives now and if you behave normally all will be fine. My husband is an officer and let me tell you we and the very high ranking people all live the "same" lives (more or less) and we all have problems of our own to cope with. There are women who carry the husbands rank but there are so many out there that don't. Just stick with them and be polite to the others.



answers from Columbus on

Just get a nice formal dress and a dependable baby-sitter so you can relax and have fun. Usually there is some sort of entertainment, like the Army Band & Chorus. When you first walk in you usually get right into the receiving line. Then you go in and there will be a speaker, then the food is served. The one thing I was disappointed about at my first one was that there was no dancing, I had pictured gliding across the floor to ball-room music, instead toward the end they played Hip-Hop music and nobody danced to it, and that's how all of them I've attended have been. Another disappointment my first time, I had someone do my hair and make-up, and although the hair came out okay, I hated the make-up, it was awful and I didn't have time to change it. It was so much more than what I was used to wearing. So if you go out for an up-do and make-up, make it clear what you want. And make sure you get a dress you feel comfortable in, you don't want to feel stiff, or constantly be adjusting straps or tugging up your dress along the bust-line. If you don't have a dress there is a great web-site that sells formals and cocktail dresses, and their prices are good. http://www.therosedress.com/ OF course the down-side to that is not being able to try it on and test if you feel comfortable, but they do ship quickly so if you order now you should have enough time to return the dress if there are any problems. Have fun at the ball!