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At the Military Ball...Six Etiquette Tips to Follow

At some point as a military spouse (or military significant other) comes the topic of a military ball. Should you go? Will you go? And if you do go, what's the deal? What do you wear? What should you expect? For newbies, there are so many questions.

To ease the anxiety of wondering if you'll be overdressed or under-informed, take a look at this helpful guide. Whether you're a first-time guest or a spouse who has never had the stars align to attend one of these special evenings, (We've all been blocked by school programs, deployments, family obligations...), these tips will help sort out your questions and allow you to be fully prepared for your military ball.

1. Attire

Of course, this is the biggest question of all: what do you wear?

Military balls are formal events that call for elegant attire, whether a gown, evening  dress or pant suit alternative. (So long as it's dressy enough, it's fair game.) That also means hair, makeup, and accessories – the full nine yards needs to go with the outfit.

Remember that you're there to make your service member look good. Classy is best. Avoid cuts that are ill-fitting or too revealing. There's a wide range for creativity and personal style, just remember to stay professional and pulled together. If you don't already know your service member's dress uniform colors, find out so you can compliment their look with yours.

2. Leave the Baby at Home

Yes, really! This is a topic that comes up. Though it depends on the type of ball (We'd bet money you would never see a baby at an infantry ball.), this is a night to get a babysitter. Military balls are formal events made for adults. That means a fancy setting, fancy clothes, drinks and no bedtimes.

For mothers who might have newborns or are still breastfeeding, bring the pump or opt to sit this ball out. It's simply not a night for baby to tag along and mom needs to feel comfortable out for the night.

3. Ask Your Service Member Questions Before You Go

Sure, they might not have the answer, but at least you tried, right? Ask them what side you should stand on. Are there certain people you should meet? Who's the person you should repeat that one story to? Whatever your hesitations might be, discuss them with your date for a better idea of what to expect.

4. Talk with Others at Your Table

Chances are you will be seated with people you don't know. This is typical ball protocol. Some might be your service member's peers or coworkers, others simply assigned to your table. Whatever the scenario, don't make it weird. Make small talk and keep up the conversations so the table doesn’t get quiet and awkward.

5. Avoid the Grog at all Costs

Though it may or may not be outlawed these days, if it’s there, don't drink it!

The grog is a vat of various boozes and other ingredients like sugar or even sand that are ceremoniously mixed together. For service members, it's a right of passage to take a sip, or several from this liquid camaraderie. For guests, it's a gross mix that is likely to hold germs and backwash. Even if you're dared, don't drink it!

6. Go with the Flow

If you're new to military life, there's likely to be a lot of pomp and circumstance that's unfamiliar. While you won't be put on the spot, the best thing to do is step back and watch it all take place. Stand when everyone else stands. Cheer when they cheer. Remain silent when they bring in the colors. You get my drift. You can do this! Essentially, don’t draw attention to yourself in these circumstances and follow the crowd’s lead to remain respectful during these pre and post dinner events.

Through it all, have fun and enjoy the experience.

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