The Eighth Army 2018, 242nd Army Birthday Ball

Military Balls: Pros and Cons

So, you’re a military spouse and thinking about going to a military ball. It can be daunting not to know where to start or how to get information. Below, I’ll give you a list of pros and cons and what to expect if you decide to go.

First, I will say that the word “ball” is kind of a misnomer. There is very little dancing at these events and it’s usually at the end of the night with the bass booming from a DJ’s speakers. I was surprised when my husband told me about our first ball because he hates dancing. I held my tongue thinking that the poor, unsuspecting fool would have to dance with me because everyone else would be dancing with their spouses. Not so. The military ball is more of an elaborate awards ceremony. There are toasts, speeches, reminiscing and congratulations. The whole process takes several hours and you are usually provided a catered dinner.

An event this elaborate has lots of ups and downs and, as promised, here are my thoughts for when you are deciding if you want to attend one of these balls:


  • You get to meet your spouse’s colleagues. We National Guard wives are quite removed from “normal” military life most of the time. My husband only does drill on the weekends and for annual training, so we don’t live on base and he is home most of the time. I know one of his colleagues well but that is because they are good friends and neighbors. The rest of them I hear about but rarely get to meet. The ball allows me to put names with faces.
  • You get to have a night away from the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my kids, but it is nice not to be constantly worrying about where they ran off to or who is taking too big of a bite of their quesadilla.
  • You get to pretend to be fancy. I am a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal on most days, but on ball night I get to wear a formal dress, get my hair done, and really glam it up. There is no such thing as over-dressed for these events. In short, I get my princess night once a year and I love it.


  • Having to sort out childcare. If you are not near family and funds are tight, you might have to pay more than you want to for a babysitter. You may not believe me when I say this, but it is worth it. We are lucky to live in the same state as family and they take the kids overnight so we can enjoy ourselves and stay at the hotel where the ball is being held. Not everyone has that luxury and you might have to trust your kids with strangers, but maybe find a good sitter and try them out before so that you can relax that night.
  • The cost. This is by far the biggest con. I have four dresses that I rotate through for these balls, and I have known people who rent their dress or get it secondhand. So, while dress shopping can be intimidating, there are frugal ways to do it. There is usually a cost associated with the meal, but a lot of units will have financial assistance available for E4 and below so make sure to ask. Not everyone stays in the hotel, and you can skip this step if it’s too expensive.
  • Being uncomfortable. You may not know anyone there or you may be unfamiliar with the military customs, but I can guarantee you will find people to talk to. I have made lifelong friends while sitting at the dinner table during a ball. Your spouse should be able to help you out with customs. My husband’s unit has a color so most of the women wear red dresses. There is a specific set-up to the events, but hopefully you will be provided with a program in order to follow along.

Hopefully with this advice you can make an informed decision on attending a military ball. I would recommend trying it at least once. If you hate it, then you don’t have to go again If you do decide to go, just be cognizant of the fact that this is your husband’s professional life. This is a chance to have fun and meet new people, so enjoy the moment.

Lee-Anne Castro
Written By Lee-Anne Castro
Army National Guard Spouse

Lee-Anne is an Army National Guard spouse of 13 years. She works full time, has two kids and thinks she is much funnier than she really is.

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