Your Guide to the Military Ball

Being a guest at a military ball is something you’ll never forget! There’s dancing, yummy food, fun company…and best of all? You get to celebrate your service member!

Like all things military, it can seem daunting when you aren’t familiar with the traditions.

That’s why I created this guide! I’ve got you covered all the way from rules to dress code.

What is a military ball?

The military ball is hosted by each branch of the military. It is a formal event where awards may be given to service members.

What else goes on?

The flags are placed by the color guard, and the national anthem is sung or played.

There are also speeches given, sometimes by unit leadership and other times by a special guest. More often than not, the speakers are inspiring and captivating.

A Prisoner of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA) ceremony is also performed, sometimes called the Missing Soldier or Missing Man ceremony. The table is set and unoccupied. Each item on the table has a greater meaning behind it that is acknowledged.

Each branch and unit have different traditions as well, such as a specific toast that is given.

Chase’s ROTC program would participate in a “grog”, where each group of cadets, or flights, would bring a different liquid to add to the pot. I’ve seen lemon juice, pickle juice, soda…it got pretty nasty.

At his squadron, you had the chance to casually call out another cadet or group of cadets for a misstep or fault that was made in the past school year. But it had to be in the form of a rhyme. The cadet you called out could always counter the taunt with a rebuttal, also in rhyme form.

(I’ve seen two people successfully go back and forth with rhymes 4 TIMES before one finally was sent to drink a cup of the “grog”!)

Lastly, there is always a dinner served, drinks provided, and dancing at the end of the night.

Who’s invited?

Of course, your service member, along with their unit and unit leadership. Other senior members of different units can be invited as well, along with community or local leaders. They may even open it up to the entire community.

Kids are not allowed, so make sure to find a sitter for the evening if you need one.

Did you say rules?!

Yes, but don’t worry!! As a guest, you are not asked to follow any rules. The service members have rules they need to follow, but you are not expected to know any of them.

There’s actually an entire list of rules for them, and often times it is provided on a handout when you walk in.

Is this going to cost me money?

Sometimes there is a small fee that covers the food and the venue. I’ve never felt like the pricing was unreasonable or ridiculous.

What should I wear?

This is a formal event. Your service member will be in their nicest uniform. (Service dress/Mess dress/Blues…)

As a guest, the dress code hovers somewhere between cocktail and black tie, aka white tie.

A knee-length skirt could cut it, but most wear a floor-length dress. A nice suit with a jacket and tie is also appropriate. Or a tuxedo if you want to be extra fancy.

You can have fun with it, I mean it is a ball. Just try not to go too overboard with flashy clothes or accessories – let your service member shine today!

Again, you don’t have set “rules” to follow, however the way your present yourself (actions, language, attire…) will reflect on your spouse/date, whether you like it or not. Is that fair? Maybe not, but that’s how it goes.

So why go?

This is a fun event, and a great opportunity to celebrate your service member! It’s also a chance to meet their colleagues and friends, as well as other spouses.

There will be many, so you don’t have to go to every single event. It is NOT mandatory as a spouse. But I recommend at least going once to try it out, I have loved it every time!

The military ball is a night you won’t forget!

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