Everything You Wish You Knew Before Your First Military Ball

three women in ball gowns sitting at a table
(Waldemar Rivera/DVIDS)

Ever been that girlfriend nervously googling "what to wear to a military ball?" Because I have. Guilty as charged. But that was several years ago, and honestly, the internet pretty much failed me.

I showed up totally clueless -- but there's no reason you have to. We polled our readers for their best tips and everything you need to know before you head to a military ball - first, second or seventeenth.

What do you wear to a military ball?

"Think radiant and beautiful versus hot (save hot for a date)." - Rachele

"As a ‘command spouse’ -- as long as we don't see your arse or your boobs, wear what you want and what you can afford. If you have a prom dress that's appropriate, wear it. If you can't bend over and touch your toes without something falling out -- not for the ball. You would be surprised how much most command spouses really don't care if you are wearing a knee length dress, rather than floor length gown. Have a great time!!!" - Jodi

"Wear something YOU feel beautiful in." - Jennifer

"And for the younger spouses - Military Balls are not the same as Senior Prom." - Kay

"Wear what you can afford, if it's a prom dress, senior spouses can get over it. Use the bend over test." - Jodi

"The nice thing about PCSing it's that all your dresses are brand new again. My civilian friends complain that they pay $$ for a dress to just wear once, not us." - Susanne

"I have had a hard time this go round ... I'm pregnant! But I found a lovely dress with tons of stretch (just in case) and I'm wearing flats. I'm sure someone will judge me. I just don't care. I will represent my husband and we will have a grand time! It's all about being true to yourself and your husband. (And hopefully keeping it classy!)" - Melissa

"Any woman who goes to a ball when 8 months pregnant can wear whatever she wants, IMO, from a catsuit to a toga." - Magnolia

We actually ran a humorous post on What Not to Wear to a Military Ball l that's worth a read if you still have any questions (or just want a laugh; I wrote it, and it really is tongue-in-cheek), and we also have a follow-up with some specific suggestions if you are looking for What You Should Wear to a Military Ball.

What do I do during the ceremony?

Yes, there's going to be a ceremony. And yes, you should find the lady's room first. Unless, of course, you're pregnant. Then every mom there understands.

"Best part of being pregnant? No side eye if you sneak to the bathroom during the speeches." - Nicole

"I still forget not to take a drink through the receiving line (easier to remember when I'm in the line and need both hands free), and ladies first through the receiving line (at least that's how the Army does it). Also, if you have gold star families in attendance, please take the time to speak to them. It does them a world of good to know that they (and their lost soldier) are appreciated and remembered." - Magnolia

"Just don't get drunk. During the toasts, just take a sip, not a gulp. If you don't drink, ask if there is something else -- when I did they always gave me ice tea or ginger ale." - Nancy

"Please for the love of god, if you have to do it then save the trash dancing for after the guest of honor has gone home!" - Brenna

"Had a great friend go into labor during the cake ceremony at the Marine Corp Ball. As a strong military wife, she kept standing. Delivered 2 hours later, hair still in the updo!! Best ball ever!" - Karin

Where’s the after party?

"Save the serious drinking for the bar." - Mary

"There's a reason a lot of these are in hotels! Don't drink and drive!" - Sarah

"Bring flip flops to change into for the ride home!" - Becky

"Party it up later. It's more fun when you don't have to worry about what the boss is thinking!" - Natalie

"Two words: After party. Not in front of command!" - Brynn

What would you add to the list? What do you wish you had known before your first ball?

Keep Up With the Ins and Outs of Military Life

For the latest military news, videos, tips on military family benefits and more, sign up for a free Military.com membership and have information delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article

Military Spouse Videos

View more