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!