This post is part of a two part series on the Military Ball.
The military ball is the annual event that every service member looks forward to. As a night full of honor, food, drinks, laughs and dancing, it is hard to see why any military member and their guest would want to miss out. However, for first-time attendees, the thought of attending such an event can seem a bit overwhelming. To help you prepare for the event, here is a list of things to expect to see at any military ball:
The evening generally begins with a cocktail hour that precedes the main event. It is a great time to mingle, meet new people and chat it up with friends and your service member’s military buddies. Having a few drinks is definitely acceptable — just remember that the night is long and to pace yourself. My personal advice is to limit the drinks you consume during the cocktail hour. In my experience, it can make for a long, rough night ahead if you don’t.
Once the cocktail hour has ended, a receiving line will form so that you may be seated for dinner. Women are always expected to be in front of men, even female service members. It is a formality that seems archaic that is really only still followed out of tradition. The announcer will head the receiving line, and you are not expected to shake his or her hand. You simply need to introduce yourself, or allow yourself to be introduced, and provide a short greeting.
If you aren’t used to place settings or which forks are for what courses, you may want to brush up on your etiquette. I have never seen anyone called out for not knowing the formal rules, but if you are like me, you may want to know what exactly is going on. The dinner at a military ball generally consists of several courses so knowledge of formal dinner setting rules, including ways in which dishes are supposed to be passed, can be a lifesaver!
The military prides itself on tradition and ceremony, so expect to see these activities scattered throughout the night. The honor guard often sets a table for POW and MIA service members and the cake is often cut with a sword. During dinner, expect to witness several presentations that will be made to honor various service members. You will also see the tributes to colors, and should ask your military member in advance what the proper protocol is for their military branch.
After the presentations conclude, the dancing will begin. Typically dancing is kicked off with more formal dances, so learning a step or two before the ball may be fun, or at least make you feel more comfortable. While things may loosen up on the dance floor as the night progresses, don’t lose sight of where you are and keep the dance moves appropriate for the occasion.
Overall, don’t be nervous. These events are full of tradition and formality, but they are supposed to be about having a good time. Don’t be too daunted by the pomp and circumstance of it all. I have always had a great time at the military ball, and I am sure I have committed a faux pas or two. Think about it as a great excuse to get dressed up and get out of the house!