Unless the army tells you otherwise. In which case that probably means it’s military ball time.
When I was first introduced to the concept of a military ball, I was extremely excited; fancy hotels, fancy outfits, fancy liquors, and an after party you don’t need a lecture on peer pressure before attending? Sounds like prom for grown-ups. And I use the term “grown-up” pretty loosely, thanks to all the fancy liquor.
But as these things generally go with the military, the stars never aligned for Jonathan and me to attend a ball; either he was TDY or the ball was on a Thursday when I couldn’t afford a plane ticket or the vacation time from work. See? The army practically forced me to quit my job and get married. Thanks a lot, Obama.*
Now that I’m nice and unemployed, however, the heavenly bodies agreed it was our time to shine. Which I took literally when choosing my gown.
After several years of long-distance dating, Jonathan and I are no strangers to hotels. We are, however, relative strangers to nice hotels, which made our stay at the Gaylor Opryland Resort for the ball particularly sweet.
Lessons learned: Do your hair at home; not at the hotel. If the hotel check-in is at 3:00, and the bar for the ball opens at 4:00, everybody and their grandma will be waiting in a Disneyland-style line to check in at 3:00. Which means by the time your curling iron heats up in your swanky room, your hair is all sweaty and frizzy, and you’ve already missed an hour of drinking. On the plus side, it’s hard to complain about waiting in line too much when your view is a sunny atrium filled with spitting fountains and floating calla lilies. And when your military man is carrying your giraffe-print duffel bag so you can continuously flatten your hair with both hands. Life is good.
This was also my first experience with watching Jonathan meticulously prepare all the badges and pins on his uniform. By which I mean he sat in the corner with a fancy ruler, muttering curse words under his breath, while I watched TV and didn’t help. It went well, in my opinion.
Once we were all dressed up, it was time to catch up on that hour of drinking we missed.
Lessons learned, continued: Bring a purse big enough to carry a flask or two. Luckily we anticipated this lesson ahead of time. It was also lucky that Jonathan has two flasks and only insisted on one being filled with whiskey. By which I mean he initially insisted on both being filled with whiskey until he got too annoyed with my complaining and I swiftly grabbed some vodka. We are set for marriage.
Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was meandering through the ballroom to get a look at all the beautiful gowns. But as much as I love to secretly take pictures of beautiful women (or at least their cleavage), this was my first ball, so I kept my camera phone dutifully next to the vodka in my bag, and only took it out when appropriate.
By the time dinner ended, my feet were screaming. Lessons learned: get better at wearing heels. I remedied the situation by changing out of my gown and into a new outfit that included five-inch heels instead of the three-inch heels that had already been torturing me. Because I hate myself. But I love shoes.
Lessons learned: Pack flats.
We winded down the night at a little bar close to our room (my feet were thankful for this) that was situated in one of the hotel’s many atrium. Because if you’re going to start the night with jazz and liquor, it’s only appropriate to end it that way too.
Have you ever been to a military ball or a similar black-tie event? What are your tips and tricks to help the night run smoothly?
*I’m not actually blaming Obama for my unemployment. The military has been around far too long for me to blame the current president for this. I would blame George Washington, but I love him too much, so I’ll go ahead and blame somebody like Warren G. Harding who nobody ever really liked anyway.