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Do's and Don'ts of Military Balls article

Dos & Don’ts Of Military Balls

For as long as my husband and I have been married, September has meant attending a military ball. The Military Police Corps celebrates its birthday in September, which in my experience has always meant a week of esprit de corps, concluding with a ball or dining out function. In November, the Marine Corps will celebrate their birthday with a ball, so what better time than now to share a few dos and don’ts for those who may be attending said events.


Make sure to dress appropriately for the occasion. Since the dress uniform can be considered the equivalent of a tuxedo, long formal dresses are normally expected, although not necessarily required.

A tea-length dress is acceptable, but anything any shorter should probably be reserved for a semi-casual event. I don’t necessarily think that skin is a bad thing, but do remember that you are representing your service member.

My preference is to keep things on the modest side, but a little shoulder or back is not the end of the world. As far as colors, I think as long as you’re staying away from neons that glow, you’re good! I’ve experimented with a rainbow of subdued colors, and our photos have always turned out great!

Try to look your very best! Now, this absolutely does not mean that you need to go out and spend a ton of money on professional services. Get on Pinterest (Link opens in new window) and find some simple hairstyles and makeup looks to practice on yourself. There are plenty of Unilever brands such as Dove (Link opens in new window) skin products and TRESemmé hair products (Link opens in new window.) that will help you achieve the perfect look all on your own!

Have a great time! Attending your first ball can be a nerve-wracking experience! There is a lot of protocol that goes into these events, but they’re also meant to be fun. Reading up on the order of events might help you know what to expect next. Ask your service member to introduce you to other dates at your table or around you. Who knows, you could go home having met a great new friend!


In the receiving line, don’t shake the first person’s hand. This is the adjutant. This person will whisper your name to the rest of the receiving line. As you pass through the line, you’ll shake hands with leaders and special guests, along with their dates. This isn’t the time for conversation, but rather a quick hello. Also, don’t bring your drink from the social hour through the line with you. Either finish it before getting in line, or just leave it behind.

PLEASEEE! Don’t toast to the Fallen. It happens just about every time. There will be various toasts made at the beginning of the formal portion. Some of these include the President, the Service, and the ladies. Hopefully, you’ll have a program in front of you, but generally, the toast to the Fallen is followed by a moment of silence. You don’t toast to yourself either. In this case, the ladies in attendance would remain quiet when the toast to the ladies is made.

Whatever you do, DO NOT let your wits get away from you! At the last ball I attended, there was a spouse a few tables away from us having a little bit too much fun during the guest speaker’s speech. My husband and tablemates still remember exactly who the accompanying service member was. Once again, remember that you are there representing your date.

Regardless of what you decide to do or wear, remember that it is a privilege to be able to attend these types of events and it should be treated as such. Not everyone has the opportunity to be able to attend these types of events.

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