Army 101

Stay away from jazz and liquor

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.

Rakkasan Ball

Perfect sparkling Badgley Mischka gown leased from Rent the Runway. Jonathan’s dress blues leased from our closet, where they take up a lot of room but I won’t complain about it.

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.

Gaylord Opryland Resort

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.

Military ball prep

End result: worth it. Though that’s my opinion again.

Once we were all dressed up, it was time to catch up on that hour of drinking we missed.

Ball alcohol

During the banquet portion of the evening, I learned that the masters of ceremony fill a “grog” bowl with various liquors that represent the geographical places the regiment has been throughout its history. Then they mix it all together and dare you to drink it without vomiting. Highlights include sake for Japan and bourbon for Kentucky. At some point somebody shotgunned a can of Budweiser then dumped a second can in the bowl. My kind of party. UNFORTUNATELY the grog was gone by the time I was peer pressured into tasting it. DARN. MAYBE NEXT TIME.

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.

Dress Blues

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, so Jonathan should be fine.

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.

The Library at Opryland

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.

26 thoughts on “Stay away from jazz and liquor

  1. That is one beautiful gown, made even more beautiful by the lovely lady who is wearing it.

    Considering my track record with formal events, I am in no way qualified to give any advice. The last fancy non-wedding event I attended was a film festival opening, which I biked to wearing a red satin dress and black stiletto heels. Luckily in Toronto, it isn’t the strangest mix of classy and casual we see.

  2. So Gorgeous!! I love the way your dress sort of complimented your hair color 😀 Not sure if that was intentional, but even though the dress was glitzy, it served to highlight your natural beauty.

    Hmm.. tips tips tips… Uh, probably doesn’t apply, but Monistat makes an anti-chaffing/chaffing relieve gel that’s basically baby powder in a tube. It keeps your thighs and other areas nice and dry and silky smooth so that you have no fear of heat rash.

    Plus, my google search just now shows you can use it as a make-up primer in place of Smashbox Photo-ready primer 😉 It’s win-win.

  3. Beautiful dress – gorgeous couple! Sounds like you had a good time. Living near NYC gives me a good reason to pull out those sexy shoes once in awhile. My feet don’t appreciate it, but flats on the train there and back always helps. 😉

    • A while back I saw an advertisement for these little ballet flats that fold up in a bag for you to keep in your purse. I wanted these so badly during my D.C. days.

  4. Love your dress! I’m terrible at curling my hair so I’ve learned that even if a party is at 6 pm, I usually need to curl it whenever I have the most time to swear and stay calm (even if that is 9 am). Thank goodness for hairspray!

  5. LOVE THIS DRESS. Another thing I love here: Putting the uniform together with the tiny ruler and obscenities – been there, don’t help, love it (also, I have one of those assembly photos as well). My lesson learned goes along with your hair section: get an early check-in! Some places make you pay a little more, but I’ve found that if I threaten Nick with being late that pretty much assures that we can go early. I think military balls are so fun! I’m bummed I can’t go this year, but I’m considering leasing some other Marine for the night so that I can. It looks like you had a BALL. It’s soo great that you could go, and you both look ab fab. I’m glad it was worth the wait! 🙂

  6. My hubs does the same thing every time he has to wear his formals. He even takes a small ruler with him in a pocket to make sure nothing gets out of place throughout the night. The only time he his meticulous about what he wears…
    And that was my first ball too at Opryland!

    • Hah! I wonder if they all walk around the ball searching for misaligned ribbons on everybody else’s uniforms. One day I want to see somebody whip out a ruler, place it on some guy’s chest and be like, “YOU’RE OFF BY 1/16TH OF AN INCH. 50 PUSH-UPS. GO.”

  7. Have to comment, because we were at the SAME BALL last week! xo Welcome to the Army Wife Life; it takes a special breed! 🙂

  8. Pingback: That's the way the Army ball bounces | Army Pants And Flip Flops

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