It’s that time of year again: beautiful formal gowns, perfectly manicured nails, and men in immaculate dress uniforms. Ball season only comes around once a year, and, for me, it is something I look forward to all year.
This year will be my fourth military ball. I have attended as a girlfriend, as a spouse, and even as a brand new mom. I have seen some pretty interesting things at these events, from girls in heels so high they were barefoot before they even made it through dinner (guilty) to dates so drunk they couldn’t make it through the ceremony.
I think I may have finally figured out the most important secrets to having a spectacular night. So whether you’re a first-time attendee or a seasoned ball-goer, here are my 5 tips for a successful night at the Military Ball:
1. Don’t spend a fortune on a dress.
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the ball, and this can lead to spending quite a bit on a dress. If you have the budget for this, then go for it. Just keep in mind that you will be wearing this dress for only one night for a few hours. Also keep in mind that this may not be the only ball you attend. If you’re like me, you may end up attending several. Dropping hundreds of dollars on a dress for each one would be unrealistic.
Many women (like myself) opt for buying used dresses, swapping dresses with other women in the area, or using a site like Rent The Runway. For Military Moms Blog’s tips on dress rentals, check out this article.
2. Wear comfortable shoes.
There will be a LOT of standing and sitting throughout the ceremony. Not to mention all of the dancing and walking around to mingle. I learned this one the hard way and was miserable for it. My advice is to wear a short heel that you’ve worn before. New shoes that have not been broken in or that are too high could make for a very long night. Honestly, this year I may just wear flats!
3. Remember this is a work event.
The term “ball” should be used loosely. It is a formal work event held to celebrate that particular branch of the military. This means that “pre-gaming” could be a very bad idea as well as drinking TOO much at the ball itself. I have seen both dates AND service members escorted out for being too drunk. They didn’t even make it to dinner, which is not only embarrassing, it’s bad news with the bosses around.
Which brings me to my next reminder. Remember that you will be meeting high ranking military personnel and their families. Try to keep in mind that a revealing dress could come off as disrespectful. No you don’t have to dress like a nun, but try to steer clear of plunging necklines and slits that come all the way up your thigh. The last thing you want is to make a bad impression on your date’s bosses, coworkers, and family members.
4. Be respectful and attentive during the ceremony.
Know BEFORE attending the ball that it is held in honor of that branch. This means that it will include a ceremony with guest speakers and time-honored traditions (like the cutting of the cake). These can sometimes take up a good portion of time. Whether this sort of thing interests you, please be respectful. The majority of those in the room will be interested and taking it seriously. Don’t talk to the people next to you, and don’t play on your phone. Be attentive and who knows, you may end up enjoying it!
5. Enjoy yourself!
Get all dressed up, get your hair and nails done, have a few drinks (just not too many!), eat some good food, and dance! The ball only happens once a year, and many go out of their way to make it special, so have fun.
I’ll even give you this extra little tip … if the ball ends, and you’re still not ready for the magic of the night to fade away, then plan ahead! Book a hotel room or an AirBNB and see what nightlife the area hosting the ball has to offer. Once the ball is over, you can go out and enjoy a less formal setting. Even if you’re not interested in a night out on the town, you may be able to find a discounted rate for a hotel room where the ball is being held. Use that opportunity to leave the kids with the grandparents, sitter, or friends, and order yourself some room service!
Regardless of how you END your night, just keep these 5 tips in mind and you will have a blast.
It might not be the ball you’ve heard of in fairy tales, but with the right shoes and the right date, it will be a night worth remembering. And unlike fairy tales, the Military Ball has a meaning and a quality to it that has a magic all of its own.
Have you been to a Military Ball? What’s the biggest tip you would give a first-timer? Is this your first ball? What is a question or concern you may have about attending?