MilSpouse Rules for Military Balls


We tend not to go to many work functions in our house, mainly because my husband is rarely around, and when he is he prefers it to be family time. But there is one function that we don't even discuss whether or not we will be attending (short of whether or not he'll be around).

I'd let y'all guess what it is but I'm sure other Marine Corps families don't even need two guesses to figure it out.  It's the birthday ball.

Ah, the birthday ball. I know some military wives who LOVE the ball. I'm not sure if I'd put myself in that category, but as the years tick by I find myself appreciating it more and more.  It's a chance to see my husband in a uniform other than a flight suit (although there really is no uniform better than a flight suit). It's nice to see the guys my husband spends the majority of his life with. And as we hit the 10 year mark at war, it's a chance to remember what we are a part of, to honor the service of all Marines, past and present, and to remember those who have sacrificed.

And it's certainly some great people watching.

Now, I'm hardly a fashionista or etiquette expert, but I'd like to pass on some of the things I've observed in the last decade or so of balls. And please, add some of your own.

Here are my five military ball rules.

First thing is first -- remember, this is a work function.  This basically encompasses everything.  I find it important to just keep this in the back of your mind as you pick out what you're wearing, what you're talking about, and how many times you hit the bar.  You will be hanging out with the people your spouse both works for and who work for him or her.

Please folks, cover up your boobs and wear a dress that's long enough so that I'm not getting flashes of areas I don't want to see.  Look, I'm not saying this from a jealous place (even though I've nursed three kids so I am jealous of you perky boobed people) but again, keeping in mind the above that this is a work function as well as a ball, dress appropriately.  I can't tell you how many younger girls at last year's balls had their boobs falling out all night. Dresses that might have worked at prom when you were 17 might not be considered appropriate for the ball.

The best example I can think of is from last year when a girl had a dress on that was a two piece.  Yup.  A two piece dress - a bra top and a long skirt.  Frankly, I'm shocked no one kicked her out. And she did get a lot of looks ... but I don't think that they were the looks she was going for.

I'm of the frame of mind that long dresses are good (though not your wedding dress, every year there is one or two that leaving you guessing) but so are shorter dresses.  Sure, it's a ball, but cocktail dresses are also very much OK.  In fact, in the past two years I've just worn a simple black cocktail dress and I've fit in just fine.

Bottom line: wear what find comfortable. But keep in mind, if some bases and commissaries have dress codes, you should probably apply the same common sense to what you're wearing at the ball.

Put your phone down!  We have our phones on us 24/7 these days. I personally feel naked without mine, and being as we have 3 kids at home, while we are at the ball I keep mine with me.  HOWEVER. DO NOT PLAY ON YOUR PHONE DURING THE CEREMONY.  In fact, don't speak during the ceremony.  I uttered a word to my husband at the last ball because he put his chair on my purse and he looked at me like I had just farted in church.  Marines take the ceremony, even if it's the same one every year, very seriously.  And rightly so.  Give the ceremony its due respect by putting your phone on silent and slapping that bad boy into your purse where it belongs.

Tweeting or texting in the line at the bar?  Totally OK.

Don't get sloppy drunk.  I don't know about your ball, but our ball is a drink fest.  The last few years have been an open bar and people pay a lot of money for tickets to keep that way.  My husband takes full advantage of it.  Me?  Not so much.

I tend to think that it's best that I don't get wasted in front of my husbands bosses.  My theory is that my husband is a Marine and is celebrating their birthday, and it's probably a little different if he gets wasted then if I get falling down drunk.  Not to mention, I've seen spouses vomit on other Marines or get "down and dirty" on the dance floor. It's just a hot mess. Last year someone did a striptease before her husband dragged her off the floor and, hopefully, home.

If you don't hold your liquor well I think its best to air on the side of caution.

If your ball is held in a hotel think about getting a room.  We hold our ball about an hour away at a large hotel. My parents usually come into town to watch the kids and hubs and I head to a hotel for the night. It's nice to get dressed there, after all blues are not so comfy on a longer car ride.  Not to mention that then there are no lines for the bathroom and if you are wearing a fuller dress you aren't wrestling with it (or your spanx) in an itty-bitty toilet stall.  Not to mention, if you have an open bar at the ball staying in the hotel just makes sense.

If there is a hotel attached to your ball venue make sure to call and ask if they have a ball rate and block of rooms put aside. We were able to get an amazing rate for a great room.

Have fun!  Enjoy the night, the traditions, eat some cake and revel in being with your spouse or significant other and remember: don't get so drunk you do something embarrassing.  YouTube is not where you want to be if you didn't post the video yourself.

Edit: a reader shared this great guide to dressing for a military ball. Check it out!

What are your own ball tips or cautionary tales?

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