What to expect at a military ball

Our daring duo of etiquette and best advice on how to deal with a myriad of private life and public service situations talk protocols.  

In time for the formal military ball, Pam and Shaun Collins respond to this question originally posed by a Guidon reader. 

Questions you might have

Questions you might have

My first military ball is coming up quickly. I recently had a friend give me tips on what will happen. I’ve never been to one, so I have no idea what to expect. I was told about the receiving line and how not to greet the first person in line, etc. Seriously, what should I expect from this? My husband is not worried about it, but I am! I have a full back tattoo and ankle tattoos — can they be exposed? Can you guys give me a run through?

Military Ball Neophyte          ……and now….to the answers…

Shaun Collins

Shaun M. Collins

HE SAID:  I can understand your angst, but you shouldn’t be so worried. I could give you the protocol references and help you to know all the rules, but I think that would be counter productive.

Balls are intended to be fun — so embrace the fun. As far as the protocol stuff, just watch the people in front of you in line, or next to you … after a couple of these they will be old hat.

I have seen a lot of full back tattoos at balls, which personally, I would have preferred were not so prominently displayed at a formal military function, but I wasn’t the one wearing their gown. Just be dignified during the formal portion of the night and enjoy the dancing after — don’t fret the small things in life.

SHE SAID: Wow, I’m having flashbacks. I have been to a number of formal events. Military balls are a lot more forgiving than dining ins; however, the one area where you need to be extra cautious is the dress.
Pam Collins, writer of the He Said She Said column

Pam Collins

From a woman’s perspective, I will tell you that there is a lot of discussion about what other women are wearing or, in some cases, what they are trying to “pull off.”

My recommendation is for you to wear something attractive but not overly revealing and follow your spouse’s lead. There is a program available for the formal portion of the evening and you will be given instruction on what to do throughout.
It would be difficult to screw up.
Finally, your friend is right about not shaking the first person’s hand. He is the general’s aide and his job is to simply introduce you and your spouse to the members of the official party, whom you will meet via the receiving line.
He or she will not extend their hand so you’ll know but many people have tried to shake their hand and none of them were shot where they stood.
Enjoy yourself, have fun.
My only other piece of advice is not to overdo the alcohol.  You want to remain coherent…. and someone has to be able to drive home safely.

Pam and Shaun will take questions for future columns. Just drop your note right below in the COMMENTS section or mail it securely to them via our Contact page.

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