military formal ball

My Experience with Army Balls and Formals

Most units have a ball at least once every other year and many have them annually. I have only attended Ranger Balls.

This was my experience with them and while your unit’s ball may be similar, it may not be exactly the same.

The Basics of the Ball

The balls for my husband’s unit were held at the local convention center. The location is very nice and convenient for going out to River Street after the ball concludes.

Tickets were sold and were pretty inexpensive at $15-$25 each, depending on the year. The dress for the ball was formal with the guys in Class A’s or dress blues and the females in formal dresses.

Formal Dress

Of course, everyone’s idea of “formal” is different for a female. I’ve seen from one extreme to the other at balls.

Based on her dress, it was always pretty easy to identify which Rangers picked up his date at a bar the night before. Sorry if that offends, but it’s very true!

Most were in floor-length dresses though I’ve also seen cocktail-length dresses that were equally appropriate. Just remember that you are representing your soldier at the ball.

While you can wear a dress that makes you feel sexy, there is a fine line between sexy and trashy.

People will talk, and you don’t want to be the subject of the “Did you see what she was wearing…” conversations in the following weeks.

The Night’s Events

His unit balls generally started at 5pm or 6pm with a cocktail hour. All of his balls provided beer free of charge and had a minimal charge for mixed drinks. Businesses in the area were always very generous in sponsoring his unit.

A photographer was also on hand during the cocktail hour for formal pictures. We had these taken at the first ball we attended and never did again. Not really sure why! The guys from S-5 also had tables set up selling Ranger-related merchandise.

At the conclusion of the cocktail hour, we entered the ballroom where we had assigned seating. The guys usually have some input on this before the ball so we were always sitting with people who we associated with regularly.

A dinner of several courses was served and then followed by ceremonial activities such as presenting the colors, playing the national anthem, and reciting the Ranger creed. Speeches were then given by the commander and a guest speaker.

During this time, toasts were made to the President and other high-ranking officials. There was also usually a slideshow presentation showing what they had recently accomplished overseas and honoring those killed in action.

The making of the Ranger punch followed this. During this time, Rangers would walk onto the stage and add something to the Ranger punch. This was always fascinating to me.

The added ingredient represented a conflict that Rangers were involved in, ranging from swamp water to sand. After the concoction was complete, a Ranger from each table would fill the table’s pitcher with the drink.

Every Ranger would have a drink and any guests who wanted to participate. I tried it and it wasn’t near as bad as I expected it to be.

At the conclusion of the dinner portion, there was a DJ in a different area and a dance floor was set up. The bars would be open again and we always had desserts and other snacks available in the dance floor area.

We usually didn’t stay around very long for this portion and opted to head downtown instead. This was one of the few times that Rangers were allowed to be in public with their uniforms so I always enjoyed watching and hearing other people’s reactions to a group of Rangers walking by.

Is your ball different than what I have described? If so, feel free to send me an email about it and I’ll post about your experience as well.

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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8 Comments

  1. Hello. I am getting married in Ocotober of this year and my fiance is planning on joining the army once we are married. We are trying to weigh the pro’s and con’s of it all but it can be a hard decision to make. I was wondering if you could spare some advice to make this choice easier. I think the army life would be exciting but yet hard at the same time. We also have a 3 year old daughter and I would like to have another child next year. Any advice would be helpful,
    Thanks!!

  2. This was very helpful seeing that the next ball is in less than a month. I will be there 🙂 I’m excited!

  3. I’m so glad I found your post! My boyfriend informed me that there is a Ranger Ball this year, and we’re going! It will be our first. He’s the first Ranger in his family and it seems quite different than “the big army.” I feel more at ease having an idea of what to expect for this ball–thank you!

  4. My boyfriend is an army ranger and I was wondering if you had to be a certain age to attend the ranger ball?

  5. Kind of glad I found this. Even though he’s not a ranger he is airborne so it will probably be kind of the same. Was kind of worried. Thanks For this.

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