milspouse, PCS

When You Finally Get Answers

Holy Cow!!

Our no later than date came and went…. No real surprise there.  I almost expect it at this point.  You know who doesn’t expect it?  My mother-in-law.  Had to field constant questions from her… but whatever.  I’m used to that by now…

Two weeks after we were supposed to find out what our plans were, we finally found out.  My husband is going to graduate school in Dallas with a two-year follow on assignment at United States Military Academy.  Thank goodness we found out when we did because at that point the move was only 6 weeks away and we had to go out to Texas that weekend so that we could buy a house and close in time for moving day.  Nothing like crunch time to add a layer of stress to an already stressful lifestyle!!

We packed up the mighty SwaggerWagon (aka family minivan) and drove out to Dallas to house search.  I had found a real estate agent, gave her our parameters, sent a bunch of MLS listings that I was interested in and in 1 day we saw 27 house.  Phew!! Thank goodness my in-laws met us and took our kids off our hands so that we could get it done.  I seriously have no idea how we would have done it if we had to drag the boys with us.

We found an amazing house that not only fits our needs but should rent well once we are ready to move to New York.  This is the third home my husband and I have purchased since he joined the military and we still own the others, with renters currently living in them.  Now we are firmly in the mortgage process, which is such a pain in the butt.  Not difficult, just tedious and time-consuming.

Now that we have answered the question of where we are going to live, I’m trying to figure out the rest of our lives!!  I was able to schedule pediatric and dental appointments for the boys.  My older son is on the waitlist at 2 different preschools and I am waiting to tour facilities before plopping down tuition.  I’m having a bit of difficulty finding an adult dentist for myself.  Now that TriCare has switched from MetLife to United Concordia it is really difficult to find dentists that accept the insurance, especially since we won’t be stationed in an area with a base.  I know that I can go to a major chain (think Aspen etc) but I would really rather go to a private dentist.  So that is a bit of a pain in the rear.  I’ve put in notice with Joseph’s current school and with our on-post housing complex.

Overall I’m making great progress and feel like I’ve really got the logistics of our move under control.  We are now 3 weeks away from my husband’s change of command.  It’s going to go by in the blink of an eye… Can’t wait to see what else pops up!!

blog series, FRG, military traditions, milspouse, volunteer

Who’s Who in the FRG?!

holiday party-6

Now that you know what the FRG is and how to join, I bet you’re wondering who does what within the organization!

Advisors, Leaders, Key Callers, Treasurers, Newsletter Editors… the list of ways to help your FRG function really is endless.  Like everything else in the military the terminology can be odd or confusing.  I’m going to break down what each role is, who usually performs that role and what kind of commitment you can expect from your role.  Since the heart and soul of the FRG typically happens at the company level, that is what I will be basing my descriptions on.  Please note that there are similar positions at the battalion, brigade and division levels!!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of volunteering there is one fact that cannot be stated enough!  The FRG is a COMMAND led organization.  The ultimate person in charge is the unit commander.  All of the volunteers fall under the command’s discretion.

FRG Advisor- The FRG advisor is the FRG point person at the battalion level.  I know, I know, I said I was going to focus on the company level but the company FRG does not function without the battalion FRG Advisor.  They receive information about training cycles, troop movements, and family functions from a higher level (usually at a brigade steering committee meeting) and disperse the information to the company commanders and FRG leaders at a battalion level steering committee meeting.  The FRG advisor does not lead their own FRG but does plan battalion family events.  The FRG advisor has traditionally been the battalion commander’s spouse.  I’ve actually never been involved in an FRG where the battalion command spouse wasn’t the advisor, but it does happen.  One of our previous advisors once told me that she never was an FRG leader or even active in the FRG, but the advisor role was perfect because she was able to be a basic point person without the commitment of a full FRG.

FRG Leader-  The FRG leader IS NOT in charge of the FRG.  I cannot stress that enough!  Most people will think that the FRG leader is in charge because they are the ones sending out emails, recruiting volunteers, planning events, etc.  While the FRG leader does do all these things, these tasks are completed only after receiving the commander’s seal of approval.  A lot of times what is being planned and implemented is 100% the commander’s but the FRG leader is getting the job done.  FRG leaders (and commander) attend monthly steering committee meetings where they are briefed on community events, updates to benefits, training calendars and troop movements.  They then take that information and send it out to all the members of their FRG, typically via email though Facebook has aided many.  FRG Leaders also plan social events, run fundraisers, start meal trains, curate baby baskets… really the sky is the limit on what they can do.  Similar to the advisor, the leader is typically the commander’s spouse.  This is not always the case.  many company commanders these days aren’t married or their spouses have careers that don’t allow for a large volunteer commitment.  In these cases I have seen everything from a “seasoned” NCO spouse to one of the other officer’s wives do the job.  The most important part about doing the job is the commitment to the position.  It can be a lot of work, often thankless and quite stressful.

Treasurer- The treasurer is a key volunteer that is essential to the operation of the FRG.  Every FRG operates an informal fund.  The informal fund is a bank account the holds all fundraiser monies and donations that come into the FRG.  The treasurer is responsible for all deposits and debits from the account.  If the account is in good standing when the treasurer takes over, it can be pretty basic bookkeeping.  If it is a mess, it could be a whole different story.  Personally, I don’t think it is fair to dump messy accounting on a new volunteer, so it is pretty common to have an FRG leader/Commander clean everything up before a new treasurer is instated.  Whenever money is involved, it is important to have a trustworthy and responsible individual involved.  I’m usually way more picky about who is the treasurer than any of the other volunteers.

Key Caller-  aka Point of Contact (POC)  Honestly, this is a pretty sweet gig and if you don’t know how you want to volunteer, I highly suggest you think about being a key caller.  Key callers are the unsung heroes of the FRG.  Key callers receive a block of FRG members, typically around 20.  They will contact the members at semi regular intervals (implemented by the FRG leader/commander) to verify their contact information.  This keeps the roster up to date.  It ensures that information is able to get to family members and it keeps the roster as up to date as possible for mission essential contact.  In the case of emergency, Key callers can be used to notify family members in a very rapid manner.  We have our key callers doing routine “call downs” every 3 months.  We give them a week to complete (more than enough time, I do my list in an hour).  During deployment it is monthly.  So overall, not a huge commitment.  We try to evenly distribute our key callers by platoon, so we have 2 key callers per platoon and they split the family members within it.  Key callers can be any member of the FRG, though we try to keep them as people within the area so that if anything crazy arises we can have quick access to them.

General FRG Volunteer-  These are the backbone of the FRG.  These are the people who make all the events possible.  This is also the easiest way to volunteer.  No long-term commitments and specific one time tasks.  Picking up pizza for an FRG meeting, manning a fundraiser table at the battalion cookout, taking Santa photos at the company christmas party, these are all ways that you can be a general FRG volunteer.  By volunteering to do these types of jobs you take such a weight off the FRG leader!! The FRG leader does a little bit of everything and these volunteers make their jobs so much easier.  Anyone can volunteer, the more the merrier!!

Depending on how large the FRG is as well as how involved and active it is will determine if there are even more official roles to volunteer in.  Some FRGs send out a monthly newsletter to members with articles and photos of what the unit has been up to.  This is a very involved task and there is usually a volunteer who manages and edits the publication.  At the battalion level there is also an auditor who keeps an eye on the books of the company treasurers.  This makes division level audits a breeze because everything is uniform and squared away.

Do you want to volunteer within your FRG but aren’t sure if you’re even a part of it?  Click Here!  Are you still not entirely sure what an FRG is?  Click Here!

How have you volunteered in the FRG?  Do you have any other questions about what the FRG?

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blog series, FRG, military traditions, milspouse

Joining the FRG

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Now that you know what the FRG is, I bet you’re wondering how you join! Guess what?  If your spouse or non-married child is in the military….. YOU ARE IN THE FRG! It’s that simple.  Every unit in the military has an FRG, though some are more active than others.

When your loved one signs into his/her unit, one of the many forms they will be filling out will be an FRG contact form.  On this form they will provide the name, address, phone number and email address of the person that they want included in the Family Readiness Group.  9 times out of 10, this is the next of kin.  In the modern military and the era of the modern family, I’m seeing more and more fiances and live in significant others included on the list.  How involved these non next of kin contacts are within the unit is typically at the discretion of the FRG advisor (more on them later this week).

The FRG leader maintains a roster of every soldier in the unit along with all his/her FRG contact information.  At the company level, this has the potential to include 150 or more names!  Ideally, as soon as the commander has new contact information it would be passed on the FRG leader.  As an FRG leader myself, I can honestly tell you that this almost NEVER happens.  My husband is the commander so I obviously have daily access to him… and it still doesn’t happen nearly as quickly as I would like.  In a perfect world, I find out about the new members of the FRG weekly and I reach out to them within 48 hours.  This is much easier said than done and many FRGs are not nearly as active or involved to commit to that type of time-table.

I’ve found over time that in the platoons, teams and squads within the company there is more likely to spring up friendships between current soldiers and newbies.  So now I include in my weekly emails a little blurb along the lines of “if you know a new spouse who I haven’t contacted please pass along their information so that I can reach out to them as soon as possible.”  In this way, I have skipped waiting to get updates from my husband and gone straight to the source.

Another way I learn about new spouses is through social media.  We maintain a private Facebook group for members of our FRG.  I highly suggest if you know the name of your soldier’s unit, you search for it on Facebook.  At the very least you will find an open Facebook page that you can follow to find out general (non OPSEC violating) information about the unit and functions.  Our Facebook group is private but searchable.  New family members can request membership after answering 3 simple questions.  When I get the requests I run them past my roster or my husband (if they aren’t on the roster).  Once they have been approved I send them a private message welcoming them to the unit and asking them to email me their contact information so that I can update the roster.

If you are at a unit and don’t know how to contact your FRG… SPEAK UP!!! I don’t know a single FRG leader that doesn’t care about members!  Ask your spouse or child for the FRG leaders contact information… at the very least their names!!  You can find almost anyone on Facebook these days!  If your spouse doesn’t know, ask another spouse in the unit!

You’ll be amazed by how much more connected you will feel to the military life once you feel included in the FRG!  If you’re still not sure about the basic functions of the FRG, click here!

blog series, FRG, military traditions, milspouse

Understanding, Participating, and ENJOYING the FRG

This week I’m starting a new blog series all about the Family Readiness Group (FRG).

For those of you that are totally new to the Army or Navy (other branches have the same programs but they are called Key Spouse program in the Air Force, the Family Readiness program in the Marine Corps and the Work-Life program in the Coast Guard) the FRG is a commander led program, typically at the company level, with the main purpose being to disseminate information to family members about soldiers and troop movement.

That is the most basic textbook definition of what the FRG is.  More often than not, the FRG does so much more.  FRGs plan social events, provide guidance and can even become support systems.

There is typically a key volunteer appointed by the commander who holds the title of FRG Leader.  In many units this is the spouse of the commander, though in the modern military this is happening less and less.  Either the spouses have a full-time job and don’t have the time, the commander doesn’t have a spouse, or the spouse is just not interested in volunteering on that level within the unit.  With these cases the FRG Leader is typically the spouse of a senior NCO or one of the other officer’s spouses.

Other volunteers that work within the FRG with “official” roles are key callers and the treasurer.  The treasurer is in charge of the informal fund account (more on that later in the blog series!).  The Key callers, also known as Point of Contacts, assist in disseminating information and roster call downs.

Non official volunteers do everything from participate in potlucks, man fundraiser tables, pick up pizzas… the list goes on and on.  Volunteers are the heart and soul of the FRG and without them, it really couldn’t work.

Make sure you check back often to get all the information you need on the FRG!

Uncategorized

First Resolution Checked Off the List!

And just like that… I’ve accomplished one of my New Year’s Resolutions!  I’ve been wanting to add another class to my weekly calendar of Zumba instruction.

This past Wednesday I had an audition at Austin Peay State University’s Foy Recreation Center.  This was the longest demo I have ever had to do.  Traditionally, a facility will bring you in to one of their current classes and have you lead 2-3 songs in the middle of the class.  This allows them to see how you lead an established class and also lets the current instructors get a feel for how you teach.  Not at APSU!  They put me on the schedule for my own class!  Granted it was during winter break and only 2 people attended, but still.  I liked it!  I wish I had been fully aware of how it was going to work.  I would have put my social media prowess to work and gotten some more people in attendance.  That way I could prove that I could not only lead a class, but drum up business also!  I love that I learn something new at every audition!

The two people in attendance were the group fitness athletic director and her assistant.  It’s a little more stressful when the person judging your technique is actually a participant.  They are going to feel whether or not i was good or not.  It wasn’t just about if it looks good.  Lucky for me, they were both super warm, inviting people and I was completely comfortable with them before class even started.

Then the beat dropped! And I just grooved my tush off!  I am by no means the best Zumba instructor.  Not even close!  But I think I get better everyday and I think that I am pretty darn good with people.  In a fitness format like Zumba, your ability to engage students is just as important as your ability to lead a class.

Long story short…. the audition went well and I got offered not one, but TWO weekly classes.  How’s that for crushing a goal?!  I’m so excited!!

 

FRG, independence, milspouse

Do You Buy in to New Year’s Resolutions?

I never have.  But I think 2018 is going to be different.  I never do a New Year’s Resolution and you know what?  I also end up having a lot of regrets.  This year all those fleeting thoughts I have about things that I want to do are becoming New Year’s Resolutions.

I can see where this is going to be dangerous.  I’ve decided to stack the deck by mixing difficult resolutions with easy ones.  This way I can have a sense of accomplishment and don’t get discouraged as easily.  Clearly, I am not great at keeping myself accountable for all my ideas and notions.  If i were I wouldn’t end up with all those regrets. So I am also putting myself on blast by telling all of you what my resolutions are.

  1. I will go to the gym 5 days a week.  This one isn’t that hard, I already do it… now I’m just not allowing myself to ever dip below 5 days.
  2. I will post on this blog at least 2x a week.  I’ve started blogs before and I always peter out… Not this time, my friend!
  3. I will plan biweekly FRG playdates/spouses coffees.  I’m the FRG leader for my husband’s company and I was really crushing it during last year’s deployment… Ever since they got home, not so much.  Gunna get back on that.
  4. I will add at least one more Zumba class to my weekly teaching schedule.  This one shouldn’t be that hard since I’ve got an audition on Wednesday.
  5. I will declutter my home and continue on my journey to becoming a wannabe minimalist.  This one is my mother load.  This is the one that I am going to find difficult to stick to.  This is also the one that I want the most.

Please check back with me to see where I am on my journey.  And see how my husband’s crazy schedule gets in my way.

Are you making resolutions?  Have you made any that you think are unattainable?  What about easy ones?

independence, milspouse

Is the New Year Bringing Big Changes for You?!

holiday party-2

“Cause, man…. Do we got some stuff coming down the pike….

I think that everyone has some sort of reaction to the end/beginning of a new year.  Personally, I think that it affects milspouses the most.

With how hectic and chaotic military life can get, a new calendar year can bring A LOT of change.  Even when changes are expected the change of year makes it all seem so REAL, ya know?  I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed this year.  Very recently my husband came home with flowers and sushi…. aka bomb dropping gifts.  I was under the impression that he would be changing out of command in the spring and that he would then begin an 18 month MBA program.  Not only was my husband getting to continue his education, as a family we would have solid, non deployable, family time.  But then…. the sushi… and now we are waiting until the end of January to find out if he got picked for a high-profile aide position.  Did I mention the job comes with a 9 month stint in Afghanistan?  So there’s that…

For us, this position has so many implications on our future.  We haven’t decided on the military as a 20 year commitment yet.  The MBA would kick that decision down the road a little.  Which works for us, we like this lifestyle but are still on the fence.  But this job is amazing and opens so many doors for my husband’s career that we would pretty much be making the commitment to 20+years.  It would be silly to take this job and not continue to compete at a higher level in order to maximize his time in the Army.  I’m honestly happy with either course of action.

The not knowing though!!!  Holy Cow!  We have had so much not knowing over the years, that the certainty that I had before was so refreshing.  Having it yanked away hasn’t been easy to deal with.

What crazy things is the military throwing at you in 2018?

military etiquette, military traditions, milspouse, unit functions

How to Survive the Unit Christmas Party

It’s that time of year again. Time for the dreaded company holiday party.  For many of you this is an event that you have not only been wrangled into attending but potentially even contributing to.  This adds another layer dread… Company christmas parties really don’t have to be that terrible.  Dare I say it?  It could even be fun!

I have seen unit christmas parties in a ton of different forms over the years.  The tried and true fall back typically includes some combination of Santa Claus, a bounce house, and pot luck dinner.  Honestly, these are the best ones.  The kids strip off their shoes and run to that bounce house.  It’s like a giant playpen (don’t judge me) and they are safe and contained.  Or as safe as they can be in a bounce house (I have a love hate relationship with those things).  You are then free to load up a plate and mingle with other spouses.  If you’ve listened to me about reaching out to other spouses in the unit to help survive training exercises, you now also have a friendship life raft to hop on in these situations. Now lets breakdown what I just said… you are now kid free, with a hot meal you only had to make a small portion of, sharing a meal with friends…. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

I know the potluck thing can be a bummer, but for most it’s not a huge commitment and your contribution does not need to be fancy nor do you have to make enough to feed the whole battalion or company!  The idea is that if everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot.  Usually a week or 2 before the event a section list will distributed by the FRG Leader with who is responsible for what.  At the Company level, usually each platoon has a different task.  So 1st platoon might have sides, 2nd Platoon desserts, 3rd platoon cups and plates etc.  It’s a pretty good system and usually works out that not only does everyone find something that they like, but with the different cultures mixed together in the unit, you get to try some traditional food that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.  We have one spouse in my husband’s unit that always makes a paella (you by no means have to be that ambitious!) and I gotta say, I’m always super jazzed when she rsvp’s to a potluck!

Sometimes the unit wants to do something “different”.  These are the holiday parties that I am a little more wary of.  They are always great concepts that theoretically should be a lot of fun.  And sometimes they are!!  But sometimes they really, really aren’t.  Usually, these are the ones that are planned by soldiers.  And they have the best intentions in mind.  Prime example: the bowling party.  Free bowling and Santa pictures… How could that go wrong?!  At the company level, most of the children are younger than 1st graders.  That means super short attention spans.  What could be a lot of fun becomes chaos with super human levels of patience required.  I’ve been the mom yelling from the other end of the bowling alley to not pick up the bowling ball, to not put your hand in the ball return, to not run down the lane… and the list goes on.  All while trying to nurse an infant and having no place to put him when he was done because I couldn’t bring the stroller inside. Oh, and they serve beer there.  Soldiers and beer… loud, annoying, and sometimes off-putting.  This sentiment also applies to laser tag and paintball.  So just keep that in mind if any of these types of holiday parties are in the works this year.  Have a game plan, have an infant carrier, have an Ergobaby.  Whatever you gotta do to survive!  Overall, these tend to be the parties that the single soldiers and the couples with no kids enjoy more.  That’s the magic of the military.  Nothing ever satisfies everyone…. but someone is always satisfied!

What was the best holiday party you went to?  What do you wish they did differently?

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military ball, military etiquette, milspouse

What to Remember When Planning for the Ball

Planning Military Ball

Military balls are the most extravagant function that a military unit will put on all year.  For a guest at the ball, it can turn into a logistical nightmare!  Check out the previous post in this blog series, My Best Military Ball Yet, to learn the basics about what a ball is and some of the things you have to think about as a guest.  Now that you’ve figured out exactly what you’re going to wear, let’s figure out how you’re going to get there and where you’re going to stay!

As soon as your spouse comes home and tells you there is a ball, get stoked!  It’s something that can be a lot of fun!!  The second thing you should do is ask what venue it’s at!  This is going to open up a gigantic can of worms that you’re going to have to sort through.  I have been to all sorts of locales.  Everything from the on post convention center to Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans NFL team.

Please keep in mind while reading this blog series that every person is different as is every military couple.  Some of you are hardcore partiers that are going to be shutting the dance floor down and keeping the party going long into the night at a local bar or club.  Others of you will be checking your program to see when the formal portion will be over and whether or not you will be able to sneak out without drawing any attention to yourselves.  These posts are meant to bring things to your attention that you may not have thought about.  By keeping in mind your own personal wants and needs, you’ll be able to take some of my ideas and make them work for you!

If your ball is being held at the on post convention center your life is pretty easy.  Chances are you live within 20 minutes of the venue.  You don’t need a hotel room unless you’re looking for a carefree big event experience.  Transportation is pretty simple.  Either you or your date is the designated driver or you can take a cab/Uber.  If you’ve got children you can get a local babysitter and you very well may already have a tried and true date night sitter on speed dial.  This goes for any venue local to your home.

When the venue is further out, things tend to get more difficult.  For us, this year’s ball was held at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.  At just over an hour from home, it was easy enough to plan but created a lot of questions that needed an answer.  I knew that we would be staying at the ball until the very end.  My husband is serving in a leadership role within the unit and not only played a significant role in the formal portion of the evening, but would be expected to spend time with donors, mingle with soldiers and just act as a major player overall.  Meaning that our ball wasn’t ending until 10 or 11 o’clock at night.  Knowing that my husband would definitely be drinking, I knew I wouldn’t want to drive home at midnight.  So a hotel was definitely necessary.

My mother-in-law came into town to watch our kids and I knew that we would have to do something to make her flight from New Mexico worth it.  I know she did it out of the kindness of her heart and she had a blast with the kids, but seriously…  I couldn’t not have a good weekend planned for her.  So my husband and I decided that we would get 2 hotel rooms for the whole weekend so that we could explore Nashville at Christmas time.  I did research on what activities were happening downtown that would be appropriate for both small children and AARP cardholders (haha).  Most of the activities I found were centered around The Opryland Hotel so I decided to just but the bullet and stay there.  It was well worth it, though it was on the other side of town from the ball venue and no one else was staying there.

The battalion had a block of rooms at a Marriott closer to the football stadium.  90% of the people we knew were staying there.  Part of me felt like we missed out on something by not staying there.  It was definitely the place to be for sharing Ubers, meeting up for a drink, or getting ready together. The hotel was being offered at a discounted rate which made the nightly rate more reasonable than all of the others in the area.  Keep in mind that often these hotels in downtown areas charge a daily rate for parking which can drive the price of the room up steeply!  I know a few people chose to split a room with another couple by upgrading to a 2 room suite.  While it may seem more expensive up front, when divided 2 ways it was even cheaper than getting a basic room!

My husband and I chose to take an Uber/cab.  I knew I wasn’t going to be drinking excessively (I don’t like to in front of his coworkers) but I still wanted the option of having a drink or 2 without feeling guilty.  It was also one less thing for us to think about.  We didn’t have to worry about finding parking at the venue, walking a few blocks in my heels, or finding parking when we got back to the hotel.  And, of course, there was the obvious safety issue.  I avoid any mingling of alcohol and cars at all costs!!  For those of you who are just going to sneak out after the formal portion or know that you are not a drinker, drive!!  It’s in and out without having to wait around for your ride to arrive.  This may also be your only option if your venue is far from home and you are choosing not to get a hotel.  Far cab rides get expensive very quickly!!  After one really expensive cab ride, my husband put his foot down.

What I can’t express enough is to shop around and explore all your options!  The ball can be so much fun but it can also be a massive financial burden.  From the cost of the tickets, a dress, accessories, hair and makeup, hotel, cabs, to the bar tab, it can really rack up.  Fast.  $500 can go by like water through your hand and I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that your ball cost you $1000 or more.  I hope this series gave you some food for thought and that you feel a little more prepared!! If you haven’t checked out the previous posts in the series learn what a military ball is, what some of the customs and traditions of a military ball are and figure out just what to wear!

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attire, military ball, military etiquette, military traditions, milspouse

Dress for Success: Military Ball Edition

thatcrazymilspouse Best Dressed Ball

Welcome to part 3 of My Best Military Ball Yet! Blog Series.  Since I know you’re all faithful readers, you’re up to date on what a military ball is and you’re familiar with the all the ceremonial traditions that take place at one!  If not, well… the links are right there!!  Get to clicking!!

Getting dressed for a military ball is both the most stressful and fun part for me.  I love looking for a gown, designing my over all look and seeing my husband’s face when he first lays eyes on me!

Before you go out shopping it is incredibly important to know what you’re looking for in a dress.  First of all, there is the dress code.  All military balls are formal affairs.  If you look up the regulations it states that it is a white tie event.  That’s as formal as it gets.  Your service member will be in their ASU’s (if they are in the Army) and if they are a field grade officer or higher they will be wearing dress mess.  That is that funny looking tuxedo like jacket with all the swirls and filigree.  Super formal.  So you should dress to match.  Floor length gowns are a must.  I’ve seen people try to do tea length and it just doesn’t work.  Cocktail dresses stick out like a sore thumb.  Those high-low dresses work as long as the long part is definitely floor length.  Floor length, floor length, floor length… Did I mention floor length?!

But what kind of floor length?  What colors?  The sky is the limit on how crazy you want to go!!  Silk, taffeta, embellishments, sequins are all fair game.  Yup, I said it… sequins.  You can wear whatever colors you want!!  I can’t tell you how often wives in my husband’s unit have asked me what the “right” color is.  There is no right color!!  The Army formal uniform is a brightly colored beast.  It’s pretty standard to want to pick a color that doesn’t clash.  There ends up being quite a few blue and red dresses at the ball.  Keep that in mind if you want to stand out!!  Though it is definitely the safe route if you don’t want to make any waves.  Really the only restricting parameter is dressing for your audience.  At the end of the day this is a work function for your spouse.  What impression do you want to give his (or her) boss and coworkers?  This is completely a personal decision, but keep it in mind.  That’s all I’m gunna say about that…

Now where to buy this dress that you now have in mind?  All of the major department stores have evening gown departments.  Another popular route seems to be the bridesmaids dress, so David’s Bridal and other wedding boutiques are worth a gander.  Unfortunately, gowns can tend to be expensive and often the best looking dresses are down right ludicrous!  That’s where my new favorite obsession comes in.  Rent the Runway has totally revolutionized how I dress shop  I have caviar tastes on a beer budget and there is no way that I could talk my husband into investing 500-1000 dollars every year on a dress.  And honestly, I have no business even thinking about it.  But with Rent the Runway, I can rent a beautiful gown usually worth over $600 for as low as $70!!  It’s amazing.  Plus, I don’t have to move a bunch of dresses every time we move because I’m never going to wear them again.  Another rental option is the on post rental service.  This is an extremely affordable option, typically as low as $20!  I know on Fort Campbell it is called the Backdoor Boutique but there is a version of it on every military post.  People donate their gowns to the ACS (Army Community Service) thrift shop and they organize them for rental.  The rental fee covers dry cleaning.  You can find some really great stuff in there.  I’ve personally donated Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Badgley Mischka gowns.  I’ve started my search there several times!!  I definitely recommend anything that helps keep the cost down as you may end up attending one of these events annually.  Or twice a year if you are in a unit that does battalion and brigade balls.  Add a random division ball in there and that is a ton of dresses!!

Next up accessories!!  I suggest investing in a pair of black shoes and a pair of silver shoes.  Make them simple, make them scrappy and have them be a reasonable heel.  Boom!  You now have shoes you can wear with every gown, at every ball, every year.  Same goes for evening clutches.  Every once in a while a dress is going to require a very specific type of purse.  Every other time a black or silver clutch will get the job done.  Once you make those initial investments you won’t have to buy shoes or a purse for a very long time!  As far as jewelry is concerned costume jewelry can go a long way!!  Statement jewelry has gotten so popular these days that its dang near impossible to go shopping anywhere without bumping into a display!  I’ve gotten stuff from Target, Claire’s (‘member that place?!) and even jewelry parties that other spouses have thrown like Lia Sophia and Stella & Dot!  Amazon is also another great option.  If you look around and don’t wait until the last minute I guarantee you can have your jewelry game on point no matter your budget!

Last but not least is hair and makeup.  You have two very obviously options: get a professional to do it or do it yourself.  If you can afford it, go the pro route!  It will add an extra little bit of special to your day.  Everyone likes a little bit of pampering.  It will also take the stress out of your day.  All you have to do is walk out of the salon and step into your gown.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that!!  If you are super confident in your ability to do your hair and makeup, then do it!!  Why spend the money if you know you can make yourself look like a million bucks!  Or maybe you’re just super picky and know that no one will do you up the way that you want it.  If you do decide to do everything yourself but you need some guidance, Pinterest is your friend!!  I’ve always done my own hair and makeup and I Pin the heck out of the looks I’m going after.  You can find amazing tutorials and inspiration on there.  Like everything else, don’t wait until the last minute.  You’ll end up frustrated and unhappy with your finished product.  Take your time, practice, prefect.  You’ll be happy that you did!!

As always, I hope I’ve helped!  Come back soon to learn how you can plan out hotels, transportation and childcare!!

What is the one “must” you learned from attending a military ball?  What else do you have questions about?  Let me know!!