marine corps ball birthday cake

You Just Got Invited to the Marine Corps Ball…Now What?

Being invited to the Marine Corps Ball is a pretty huge deal, especially if you’ve never been. What do I wear? What’s going to happen? Is there alcohol? Food? Dancing? Will I cry? To answer those questions, something nice, a whole lot, probably, yes, yes, and yes.

Your first Marine Corps Ball can be nerve wracking, exhausting, exciting, but so worth it by the end of the night. You’ll dance until your feet hurt, meet our nation’s heroes, and maybe (probably) cry at least a little.

All of the Marines will be in their Evening Dress “B” or Blue Dress “A” and will be decked out in shiny medals, new gloves, and sharp dress shoes. The Ball is a monumental celebration of the dedication, pride, and sacrifices of the Marine Corps and its members. It seems like a lot of pressure to be “perfect” when meeting your significant others higher ups, friends, and other distinguished Marines.

Don’t worry! Medals of America will have you prepared, confident, and ready for Ball season.

What To Wear:

As a Marine:

You will be in your Evening Dress “B” or your Blue Dress “A”. Make sure your medals and awards are up to date and don’t wait until the last minute to avoid. Order your medals the day after you reserve your ticket. Remember your cloth ranks and badges need to be up to date. Your webbed belt, parade gloves, a good pair of socks, and shoes are probably missing or not suitable to wear.

As a Date:

The Marine Corps Ball isn’t prom, a sorority formal, or a club party. It’s a black tie event that holds hundreds of years of traditions and honors the active duty, the fallen, and the veterans that have served. Ladies, leave the body-con dress at home and opt for a floor length gown and men, rent or buy a tux.


Ladies, when dress shopping keep in mind that this is a black tie event. Try to think of what your grandmother will love: no plunging necklines, neon colors, slits up the thigh, sequins and glitter, or a trumpet dress that shoots out at your knees and is impossible to walk in. You want to be comfortable the whole night, and there is nothing worse than adjusting a dress all night and feeling uncomfortable and self conscious.

Bring a small purse (leave your Mary Poppins bag that can carry your entire life at home) and bring the essentials like travel size makeup palettes for touch-ups and your phone, and whatever you need for the night. Most Balls have a bar, bring some cash just in case it’s not complementary or it’s cash-only and tip the bartender!


Accompanying your date to the Ball can be daunting. You’re going to be up against a lot of men and women in uniforms. Don’t stand out like a sore thumb, rent a tux and make sure it’s navy blue or black, keep the color accents to a minimum and if you do, we suggest matching the gold and scarlet of the Marine Corps.

What To Expect:

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is an annual tradition that celebrates the birthday of the Marines and this year it is the 243rd birthday. In those 243 years, a lot of traditions have been celebrated, honored, and made. The Ball will have very somber moments as well as ones rich with tradition like the cake cutting ceremony and speeches from guests of honor, and the presentation of the colors.

Some Balls have complimentary drinks, others you have to pay. Find out beforehand so you know what to expect. Our advice to you, limit yourself to what you know you can handle and don’t get crazy. Remember that you aren’t in college anymore and no one will be impressed with how many Jack and Cokes you can chug.

Now that you’ve had one or two drinks, the ceremonies will start. The Ball is filled with tradition, and there are going to be ceremonies that embrace the rich history of the Marines. Marines will present the colors and the national anthem will be played. There will more than likely be some guests of honor that will make a speech and play a birthday video.

If you’ve been to any other branch’s Birthday Ball, or this isn’t your first rodeo, you’re already excited and waiting for the cake. The Marines love a good tradition, and this one is my personal favorite: the cake cutting.

The cake cutting ceremony takes place at every ball, and the oldest and youngest Marines in attendance cut the cake together (sometimes with the saber if you’re lucky) and share the piece. The cake is large enough to feed everyone in attendance and will be delicious.

A lot of balls, if not all, will honor fallen Marines. Prepare for a moment of silence, speech, or a table completely set, but will remain empty. It will get pretty emotional all around the room, so be prepared.

And finally, the do’s and don’ts:

Listen, we at Medals of America have a wide range of experiences at any Military Ball and here is what we have learned about a Marine Corps Ball. We don’t want you to be a hot mess, nervous wreck, or unprepared! Here’s our list of do’s and don’ts!


  • Arrange transportation plans beforehand, get a designated driver, take an Uber, do what you have to do. Get home safely and in one piece.
  • Make sure your Marine has tickets reserved in advanced, it’s never fun to stress about getting tickets or hotel arrangements last-minute.
  • See if a menu is available, and make arrangements if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions. Being the only vegetarian at the Ball and awkwardly eating all the bread at the table is never fun.
  • Talk to people. Make new friends and share stories. You never know how much you have in common with the other people at your table.
  • Don’t fret! Other dates that have never been are just as nervous as you.
  • Have fun!


  • Bring a stripper (trust us on this one).
  • Get smashed before you get there (again, trust us). Also, the cleaning fee for Uber isn’t cheap…
  • Be disrespectful or talk about how you “almost” enlisted. Thank the Marine for their service and move on.
  • Make a statement, stand for the anthem, and put your hand over your heart.
  • Dress shop or rent a tux last minute. Chances are your size is sold out, nothing will fit like you thought, or the only dresses at your local mall are not appropriate.
  • Put everything on your Snapchat or Instagram stories. Put the phone down and enjoy the night. But of course take selfies and group pictures.