Birthday Ball Time!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a guest post over at Goodnight Moon about what to wear for the birthday ball. And recently, I had a question turn up in my email asking about how to "do" the ball. So I'm going to post my post as well as answer a couple of questions (Scroll to the bottom to see the answers!). If you have any more for me, be sure to leave them in the comments!

It's almost that time again...

You Marine girls know what I'm talking about. A time filled with cake, satin, dress blues, and up-dos...

That's right! Birthday Ball time!

I remember how clueless I was about these sort of things when I went to my first ball. Do any of you watch Army Wives? Remember in the first season where Roxy stands up and salutes at the dinner they were at? Well... I asked my husband if I was supposed to do anything when an officer came around (like salute). I just didn't know these things!

(The answer is no, by the way)

Maybe if there was a blog like this one to help guide her, she wouldn't have saluted the Brigadier General and spilled her drink all over her way-too-short mini-dress and ended up naked in the women's bathroom. But fear not ladies, that's what I'm here for!

"Who died and made you queen of all things birthday ball?"

Well, nobody. But hey, I like to share my "knowledge", so go with it.

Let's start with dresses, shall we?

The Marine Corps ball is considered a formal event. Many Marines choose to wear their Dress Blue Alphas (the super fancy one worn in the commercials...). The Husband likes to wear his because they are comfortable. I have no qualms about this because I like when we get all fancy...


My personal rule is that if your Marine is wearing his dress blue alphas, you go a little more formal. I like to stick with floor length because that's always screamed formal to me. Tea-length (falling at about the shin) or knee-length can be done, but not always, use your discretion. You can go a little less formal if your Marine is wearing his service alphas (the green pants and jacket), but keep it classy.

Example time!

The dos:

These are from the past two birthday balls we have been to. The one on the left is from the 234th birthday, the one on the right is from the 233rd birthday (In case that wasn't obvious).

This is my good friend Brittany. She is awesome.

This is my good friend Ashley.

I know,"She's is an Airforce wife"....but she is pinnacle of class, so pay attention.

I don't have any personal examples of shorter legnth dresses, but these would be a good thing to aim for.....

Color is really up to you. I like to stick to colors that match The Husband's uniform, but that's just me. If you want to try something else, I say go for it. There is no rule saying you have to be matchy-matchy!

Let's discuss the don'ts of ball apparel, shall we?

Alright, I understand how much fun it is to get all dressed up for the ball. I look forward to it every year for that reason. But let us not forget something...

This is not a high school dance, ladies!

We are adults. Pink glitter ball gowns died at senior prom. They were "SO CUTE!" then. Now they're just obnoxious. And let me let you in on a little secret, glitter doesn't come out of anything, let alone your Marine's uniform. Whoever said it was the herpes of craft supplies wasn't kidding.

I have nothing against tasteful sequins and have seen them done. The women who wore them looked absolutely fabulous.

Also, the mini-dress? Not appropriate. If your butt is on the chair, and by "on the chair", I mean if the skin of your back-side is touching the chair, your dress is way too short. If you drop something and there is no possible way for you to pick it up without giving the entire Battalion and the guest of honor a show, your dress is way too short. If 15 and 16 year old girls are trying on the same dress, it's probably too short. If I can see your belly button or the top of your butt, it's probably cut waaaaay too deep. Find something else! There's like 500 million dresses out there! Okay, maybe not that many, but there are a ton. Special order if you can!

"But I have a baaaaanging body and I want to show it off!"

I understand. I myself have a "banging" body (hows that for self-esteem?), but I also don't need to wear a quarter inch of clothing to show it off. Trust me, if you wear the right style, no matter what your body type is, you'll look good all the time. Less is not more in this case. More is, well, more.

Also, think about your Marine. Whether you like it or not, you are a reflection of your husband/fiancé/boyfriend. If you show up looking like you belong at amateur hour, it doesn't make either one of you look good.

Now, I've seen some girls buy some AMAZING dresses. Absolutely beautiful. But they don't fit and in turn, come about this close to flashing the entire party. Please figure the cost of alterations into your dress budget, girls. It will save you a lot of adjusting, a lot of double sided tape, and a lot of embarrassment.

Example time!

I do have a lot of personal examples that I could share, but since I feel that would be wrong to embarrass the unsuspecting (and I don't have their permission), I'll just got with the designer's pictures off their websites.

No, really.

Zebras are not blue.

I swear to you, I saw someone at the ball with an almost identical dress last year... Just no!
Don't laugh, I'm for real.....

And for the last one....

Yes. "That's a wedding gown."

I'm not crazy. At the 233rd ball, THREE women showed up in their wedding gowns. Three. And no, they had no just gotten married. I know this for a fact.

Also, while we're on the don'ts, please refrain from wearing your Marine's dog-tags as a necklace with your ball gown. We know you're here with someone in the military, no need to wear his dog-tags!

Sometimes, there is an after-party. At the 233rd birthday, The Husband's battalion rented out the nightclub at the hotel we were at. It was just the unit and their dates and it was so much fun. Way more fun than I thought it would be. Anyway... feel free to get a little party dress for the club! Still remember to keep it classy, but a lot of people will change into something else before heading to the after-party. Feel free (if it's in your budget) to get a second party dress.

Now that we've covered what to wear, let's just discuss how things will go that night.

Generally, you'll show up early and get the professional picture taken (we do every year, it's not a bad price, so look into it!) and mingle with your friends while waiting to be seated for the ceremony. You get to see everyone else's dresses (we know what the Marines are wearing, that's not as much fun), take pictures, grab a drink, etc. Plan accordingly! They'll usually tell you what time cocktail hour starts and when you have to be in your seats. If you're unsure, ask your date or your FRO or check the program.

Once they allow you to find your seats, you'll be apart of a ceremony that generally lasts about half an hour to an hour. It's full of traditions and speeches. PLEASE do not be disrespectful and giggle and talk and be generally obnoxious during this time. It's so incredibly rude and makes you look ridiculous.

There will be a couple of times where you will stand during the ceremony. Don't fret! They'll tell you when to get up. There will also be a few times during the ceremony where only the Marines will stand. They'll make it clear who's supposed to stand when and who's supposed to stay sitting. This is why it's good to not talk and pay attention, because if you don't hear them tell everyone that only Marines should be standing, you're going to be the only civilian standing at the inappropriate time. This happened last year at the two tables behind ours where they were all talking and laughing during the ceremony. They probably didn't hear the part asking all civilians to stay seated and in turn, about 10 girls were standing when they should have been sitting. They looked totally awkward when they figured it out.

If you still aren't sure, locate the more "seasoned" wives. They're usually sitting at tables with Marines with a lot of stripes/brass and medals. Take cues from them.

And one last thing: the alcohol will be flowing. Marines know how to party and as long as you ARE 21 and of legal age, you can partake. The Husband's old unit usually set up a bar tab so those OF AGE could drink. If you are OF AGE and totally LEGAL, enjoy! Just enjoy in moderation. You don't want to be the one getting wheeled out of the club or after-party unconscious (Yes... I've seen this too).

Back to some do's!

Do: Have a blast. Like I said before, the Marines know how to party. I've never had a bad time at a ball. They're fun, motivating, and who doesn't like getting all dressed up for a night out?

Do: Pamper yourself! If you can swing it, get your hair and nails done and maybe even get your make-up professionally done. Seriously. The guys get to celebrate their birthday, but there's nothing saying you can't treat yourself every now and then. If you can swing it, do it. It makes that day that much more fun.

Do: If the ball is out of town (or a decent distance away from the home base), try to get a room at the place the ball is being held. It makes it so much easier to be staying where the ball is being held. Typically, if the ball is held someplace with a hotel, there will be discounts available to you. If you haven't heard anything, contact your FRO, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Do: Take tons and tons of pictures.

Do: Be polite and be on your best behavior! You might be meeting a lot of your Marine's higher-ups that night. Smile, shake hands, and chat it up.

Do: Buy a classy and stylish dress. They're out there! I promise!

Do: Factor in possible alterations, shoes, accessories and hair/makeup/nails into your budget. It's easy to spend way too much money if you're unprepared for these expenses.

Do: Get shoes you can walk in. Learn from me and my way too tall heels at the first ball I went to: No matter how cute they are, they are out to hurt you and they will accomplish their task. If you're not used to wearing heels, get some conservative, but cute and comfortable, shoes. You won't regret it.

Do: Have the best time EVER.

The Don'ts Review:

Don't: Wear something skanky.

Don't: Talk and giggle during the ceremony.

Don't: Get fall down drunk. It's probably not fun ending up in the ER on ball night with alcohol poisoning.

The good news is there are a lot more do's than don'ts, so don't worry! I swear it's not as stiff and uppity as it sounds! The ball is a blast and you need to enjoy it to the fullest. 

1: Should I get my hair and nails done? This is entirely up to you. For The Husband's first birthday, I got my nails done but did my own hair and makeup. For his second one, it was in Vegas and since I'm from there, I had my hair girl come to the hotel and do my hair (as well as a few other wives hair). I like to because I enjoy the feeling of getting prettied up for an event. But if I was short on time or cash, I wouldn't mind doing it myself. 

2: How to act around his superiors? This can be very intimidating. I remember being a very new, and very young wife, and being absolutely petrified of meeting my husband's superiors. My best advice is to be cordial and polite, but don't be afraid! My husband's superiors have never been rude or scary to me. If you meet someone in your significan other's command that is in charge of him, take a deep breath, relax, and be kind! Chances are, they'll shake your hand, introduce you to their date if they have one, ask a couple of questions and you'll all be on your way. As long as you aren't "that girl", things will be fine. Just remember, your behavior reflects on your Marine, whether or not we want it to or believe it should.

3: Is it ok to be a nervous wreck about this? Sure. I mean, I'm always nervous about things when I don't know what to expect, but I assure you, there is nothing to be nervous about. 

4: What do I do if I already bought the dress and there is a rumor about a deployment when the birthday ball will happen? Well, the thing with rumors is that they are just that: rumors. Never believe anything until there are orders in hand. And even then, things can change. That said, if a deployment happens instead of a birthday ball, just hang onto the dress! Every unit I've ever known has still had a ball, even if it was late. 


  1. I love that you posted this! It is amazing what some people will wear to any type of ball. In the 6 that I have been to, there is always a handful that are dressed inappropriately.

  2. Hey...Stopping by to let you know I nominated you for a award. Check it out and see if you wanna play along :)


    p.s It is amazing what people wear i've only been to 3 balls my self but each one someone has to out do the last years (crazy girl) lol

  3. Oh. So no on the wedding dress? ;)

  4. Aww, I love this! I wish this post would have been around on my first ball! The only description I got from my boyfriend was that they were like "prom on steroids." Not the best description. Guys..

  5. Aww, this is perfect! I wish that this post would have been around for my first ball. I was a nervous wreck. My boyfriend's description of, "It's like prom on steroids.." definitely left a lot to the imagination. It ended up being perfectly fine and an amazing time. But, if only this would have been around to help me, there would have been a lot less stress and worry. You explained the ball perfectly and I am sure that you'll help so many other girls out for their first one.


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