By Buddy Blouin
We hear about them all the time, but what is a military ball? A lot of people don't actually know what goes on there.

The military ball is a formal night full of festivities celebrating the people who serve our country and our country itself. It’s the perfect opportunity for civilians to meet and greet various military personnel as well as catch a glimpse into the life of those serving this country. There's food, drinks, conversations, dancing, and wonderful ceremonies that help bring everyone together and enjoy the night.

If you’re going to a military ball as a civilian, or for your first time as a member of the Armed Forces, it’s only natural to have some questions. There are some things you should expect and others you should know just to help you set your mind at ease so you can focus on having a good time. We’ve got you covered on everything you’ll need to be prepared for your branch’s military ball.

What To Wear to a Military Ball

One of the biggest concerns when attending military balls is going to be what to wear. Any formal event is going to have a bit of anxiety attached to it involving the night’s wardrobe. On one hand, you don’t want to be overdressed for the occasion in an obnoxious way. On the other hand, going underdressed is a major faux pas. Here’s what to wear if you are attending a military ball:
  • Military personnel will wear their class A uniforms. Some women who are serving may be allowed to wear formal gowns, as allowed by their Commanding Officer (CO).
  • Female guests should stick to formal wear such as formal, classy gowns.
  • Male guests should also be prepared for formal wear in the form of a nice suit or a tuxedo.
  • Stick to darker colors, although a small pop of color here or there is acceptable.
  • Makeup and hair should be classy but do not have to be overly professional.
Just as important as knowing what to wear to a military ball is knowing what not to wear to a military ball. Here are some things to help you and your date avoid having to hit exit in embarrassment:
  • Tacky dresses or over-the-top looks are not acceptable. You’ll also want to remain on the formal side of things and avoid prom-like dresses.
  • Skin is okay in moderation. Lingerie is, of course, not acceptable.
  • The same rules about going over the top also apply to men. Stick to formal suits and tuxedos with darker colors.
  • These events are long, and military balls feature dancing. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing to avoid a night of discomfort.
If there is doubt, err on the side of caution and avoid wearing it. No two military balls are exactly alike. You’re going to want to ask your CO or your date’s CO about the specific rules of the branch/unit attending the event.

When Is the Military Ball?

There are multiple branches of the military, and as such, each holds its own version of a military ball. Take a closer look at the various dates each branch of the Armed Forces celebrates its military ball:

The Army Military Ball

The Army Ball is held on the birthday of the formation of the U.S. Army: June 14th. This is a great place to network and meet military personnel from different units, but the event is also a respectful one. The Army uses this time to honor the fallen Veterans that have kept America safe throughout the years.

The Air Force Ball

The U.S. Air Force was created on September 18th, and its military ball is usually held around this time. The goal is to have the event on the exact day, but the Air Force Ball may be held on a date close to the actual birthday of this branch due to the fact that you are more likely to see more civilians here. Because the ball is a time to build stronger relationships with the local community, don’t be surprised if the date is moved to, say, the closest Friday, depending on the calendar that year.

The Navy Ball

The Navy League of the United States hosts the Navy Ball every year on the day the U.S. Navy was created: October 13th. You’ll be celebrating the storied history of Sailors and Veterans that helped keep the seas safe and America free.

The Coast Guard Ball

August 4th is when the U.S. Coast Guard came to be, and this is the date that the branch hosts its military ball. Similar to the U.S. Air Force, many local civilian leaders will be in attendance to help build better connections within the community, so the date is a bit more flexible. It is a wonderful night celebrating the service and history of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Marine Corps Ball

On November 10th, the U.S. Marine Corps was founded and so naturally, this is the date of its military ball. There are many military balls hosted by regional units, but the main celebration is also called the Commander’s Ball.

Be Sure To Have a Plan for Your Evening

Going to your first military ball should be a fun experience, but too much fun and a lack of planning can ruin the night and maybe even your life. If you are drinking, you’re going to want to make arrangements for a ride, such as an Uber or Lyft. Many events offer free or discounted shuttles available to get you to and from the ceremony safely.

You are also going to want to practice moderation. Going overboard with your drinking can lead to several disciplinary actions, as you or your date are going to be representing whichever military branch’s military ball you are attending. The last thing anyone wants is to act irrationally or have a date that does the same and then have to face the consequences the next day.

Considering that the dinner portion of these events is often held later in the evening after many ceremonious moments, you’re going to want to pace yourself, drink water, and enjoy a snack beforehand.

And lastly, you are going to need to prepare for plenty of pomp and circumstance. There are people you’ll need to meet, a presentation of the flag, speeches, and other events involving guests of honor. Be prepared to be on your feet and act in a respectful manner.

Military Balls Are a Night To Remember

No matter which branch you are attending, military balls are a grand night to enjoy with friends and family. There are great moments of ceremony to celebrate each other, the Veterans that have passed on, and America itself. If you are going to attend a military ball, be prepared for a night of painting the town red, class, and a whole lot of fun!

Read next:

Joining the Military: In-Depth Guide & Expert Tips

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