Ball Etiquitte - Military Style

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Disclaimer: I somewhat hesitate to post this or even type it because believe me, I am no expert of military wife etiquette. Though I try and do what I can, I have fallen short in the past (don't we all?) The point of this is to relay some information  I received today on base considering ball season in the air....

Marine Birthday Ball Etiquette  

This supersedes all else; understand and appreciate why you are there. If you are not familiar with Marine Corps Ball traditions, educate yourself beforehand. During the ceremony, remain silent and attentive, stand and sit when appropriate. Use the restrooms beforehand and do not answer your phone or send text messages. Savor every minute of this inspiring ceremony.

I have never been to a birthday ball before this past weekend, the only military ball I've been to was for the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M when Marshall and I were still dating - and that was a Navy-Marine Ball. This past weekend was at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego and was it grand! I was very impressed. I talked about that more in my previous post.

Consider yourself a representative of the Marine Corps and carry yourself with respect and dignity. If you choose to partake in alcoholic beverages, ensure that you eat prior, drink responsibly, and in moderation. Enjoy the celebration but do not behave in a regretful manner, disrespectful to your spouse and the Marine Corps.

I have learned a lot of lessons with spouse conduct and etiquette in the past few years, and throughout my life, for my mom taught me a lot as we were growing up. I was very careful to talk, very picky about my dress, and very much aware that the night is all about the Marines, not myself. Especially because for the first part of the ball I was by myself for Marshall was in the ceremony - I was a little nervous, but made it through fine. Thankfully Marshall's buddies led me to the table and held a conversation, so I wasn't completely alone except for finding the ball from the parking garage itself. No acting up- It's not about you!

Introduce yourself to everyone at your table. For a solid first impression, smile, make eye contact, and keep your drink on your left so you are available to shake hands. Always shake firmly and confidently.

The past few days surrounding that and now, anywhere you go on base you can overhear Marines telling each other "Happy Birthday!" Now I'm just used to it, and it's really great that Marines make a strong effort and are prideful of their birthday when they celebrate it each year! Even just listening in to conversation between Marshall and his buddies, since I was just accompanying him, you can really tell the camaraderie these men share. It was good to see a few familiar faces and get to know Marshall's co-workers a little better too. And on any given day, Marines passing each other on base give a little "Oorah!" to the other. So cool.

The Ball provides an exciting opportunity to dress up and enjoy a night out with your spouse! Present yourself as a lady, selecting a dress that is flattering, appropriate, and comfortable. Ask yourself, would my mother approve?! If your response requires a resounding "Absolutely not!" then pursue another option.

In my last post you can see the long black fitted gown I wore, one of the few that my mom found for me soon after we were married. It was all of the above - and quite warm, too! I almost wore this other pink dress with sequins, but it was more prom like than anything else. Glad Marshall caught that one!

The Ball does not have to break the bank. Splurge on one item but cut corners on others. Consider swapping dresses and jewelry with friends, re-wearing a gown or shoes, shopping at a dress consignment, or renting a dress online. Skip the salon and gather with friends to do hair and nails. Swap childcare with neighbors who have Balls on opposite nights.

Going to the ball is required until there are extenuating circumstances - medical, travel, etc. The Marines have to go and have to be sure you stay long enough to have a quick chat with the few above you, and if necessary, continue the after party with those said few. I was lucky enough to already have a few dresses to choose from. We just had to get a Sam Browne belt for Marshall (he was in the saber line) and the tickets themselves - which cost a bit. But it's required, and it's a date night, so what can you do? We almost got a professional picture taken, but got one from Marshall's phone instead, previous post. I still like it!

The Marine Corps succeeds with the support of family close at hand. When your children are of appropriate age, explore options for attending a Family Ball if the opportunity is available. This will expose them to a historical tradition and provide increased validation for their mission as a member of the Marine Corps family consider inviting parents, relatives, or friends as well.

What else can I say?! Though I didn't see any children there, everyone got childcare elsewhere, and I've honestly never heard of a Family Ball before. It was a great night - just wish we got some of that birthday cake! (And that I got more pictures!)

Last but not least, remember to wish the Marines a Happy Birthday!


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  2. Such a FABULOUS take on ball etiquette! I've been to my fair share of them between the Navy Balls and the Medical Service Corps Balls and I'm shocked every single time when people break simple etiquette! So much of it seems common sense, but like you said: I'm thankful for a grandmother that raised me right and taught me how to carry myself. We were once at a command event where one wife was so rude (not a ball, more a dining out), she would take the mic and hide it and talk into it during the event. Her husband had to call everyone the following day and apologize. How in the world could you act like that when you're representing your husband and you're there with his COWORKERS?!?!
    Oh, the stories on the things you see at events! I'm just glad I'm not one of the subjects of any of them!


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