If you are a Marine spouse like myself, then you are probably getting ready for the Birthday ball! While it is exciting, especially if it’s your first one, there are a few things you should know!
Keep in mind the following:
- This is a WORK function. Treat it as such.
- It’s not about you! It’s about the celebrating the Corps (or your respective service, each one has their own birthday ball).
- Plan ahead, you know it’s happening every year, there’s no excuse not to be prepared!
- Your Marine’s attendance may be mandatory.
- Be Safe. There’s no excuse for impaired driving.
Each unit’s ball is different. They may be in a different location each year, and location will impact the final price of tickets. Tickets are usually priced in accordance with rank. You will have to get them a head of time. Usually your FRO or whoever is organizing the ball will send out emails or other announcements both to the Marines and the families. You may or may not want to book a hotel room near/at your ball location, usually that is up to you.
On Formal Wear
Ok, the fun stuff! Pretty dresses for the ladies and well cut suits for the gentlemen! Who doesn’t love getting dressed up? I’m going to focus on appropriate wear for the female spouses here – cuz well I don’t know anything about formal wear for men – maybe the male spouses out there could add some advice in the comments! Ladies, remember, this is a grown up formal event. It is not a club and it is not the prom. Your dresses should reflect that.
What not to wear to the ball:
- Short cocktail dresses
- Overly revealing dresses
- Prom dresses
- Casual Dresses
The ball is a formal event, floor length dresses are best. There’s a wide variety of formal wear out there try to pick something tasteful and on the more modest side. Remember, this is a work event for your Marine. You will be mingling with his superiors and co-workers, so make a good impression. As for shoes and other accessories, again, tasteful is best but have fun with it! You may be standing for a while, and of course dancing so make sure your shoes are comfortable.
- Cocktail Hour & Photos: When you first arrive there will usually be a cocktail hour. Make sure you find out before hand if the bar is cash or not. During this time there will also be an opportunity to get your photograph taken by a professional photographer. They will have a variety of photo package options at a variety of price points. This is completely optional, but I’d recommend it. It’s always fun looking back at your old ball photos.
- The Ceremony: After cocktail hour once everyone is seated, the ceremony will start. There will be a message from the Commandant, and a guest speaker. You will have to rise and sit at appropriate times – don’t worry you’ll know when!
- Dinner (and birthday cake): After the ceremony is over then it’s time to eat!
- Dancing: Finish out the evening dancing.
- After Party: This is completely optional, but usually some go out and continue the evening in their own ways with some sort of after partying.
As I’ve not been to other birthday balls, I can only speak to about my own experience with the USMC Birthday Ball. So your mileage might vary! I know there are some concerns about the ball, mainly cost so here are my tips for keeping the ball affordable:
- Set aside a few bucks each month for the ball – even a few bucks will add up over the year!
- Buy used dresses or trade with friends
- Re-wear previous year’s dresses – I have a selection of dresses (most hand me downs) that I rotate year to year. You don’t have to get a new dress/shoes/accessories each year!
- Look for clearance sales – especially after prom & wedding season when stores are trying to get rid of last year’s styles
- Trade child sitting duties – have friends in other units with kids? Trade sitting duties if your balls are at different times. Save on a sitter!
- Do your own hair, makeup & nails or make a party of it with your friends. Do it yourself spa evening anyone?!
The birthday ball is a fun occasion, so above all have fun! It’s not every day you get to attend a ball! Is there anything I overlooked? Have a newbie question about the ball (it’s ok, we all were nervous about going the first time too!)? Speak your mind in the comments!