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!!