Marine Corps Ball Etiquette

On 31 July, 2012, in Marine Corps Ball, by Administrator

The Marine Corps Ball, also known as the Birthday Ball, is the one of the biggest event for the Marine Corps.  Its the birthday celebration of the Marine Corps. The birth date of the United States Marine Corps is 10 November 1775.  Every year the Marine Corps celebrates it’s birthday with a Formal Ball.  Marine Corps birthday celebrations are not required on any specific day and are usually planned for a time when maximum participation is available.

Since this is a Formal Ball, a certain Etiquette is expected of all Marines and their guests. The Ball can be an exciting and stressful time for us ladies. Finding that right dress that isn’t too over the top and then isn’t too under dressed, and then of course making sure that we dont do anything that isn’t okay. Its a stressful time and we get slammed with tons of questions months in advanced of the Balls. Hopefully this section will help with some of your questions. Below we have some Marine Corps Ball Etiquette listed for you. This will give you an idea of how you need to dress and behave while at the Ball. Keep in mind, this is a Formal Ball and a big celebration for your Marine, chances are you are going to be around a lot of high ranking Marines.

Marine Corps Ball Etiquette
There are certain guidelines that should be observed in order to attend this prestigious event. The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is NOT open to the general public, it is by Invitation ONLY.

In order to attend a Marine Corps Ball you must be:

  1. a. Active duty Marine
  2. b. Marine Reservist
  3. c. Retired or separated Marine OR
  4. d. A guest of one of the above.

If you are a retired or separated Marine it is recommended that you make liaison with the respective Units Ball Coordinator to obtain authorization prior to purchasing your tickets. Failure to do so, can and may be construed as a donation on your behalf for the tickets purhased and refunds are optional. The Units respective Ball Coordinator has the final authority on who is able to attend.


Marines: Regardless of status (active or reserve) are required to where Dress Blues “Alpha” or “Bravo” (pending CO’s direction) or Service “Alpha” if the Dress Blue uniform is not owned. Most Commands require female Marines to wear the respective uniform through the Ceremony, at which point they may be allowed to change in to a formal gown for the remainder of the evening.
Retired Marines: Have the option of wearing the respective uniform or appropriate tuxedo.

Separated/Former Marines and Male Guest:Should wear an appropriate tuxedo or suit and tie.

Female Guests: Should wear a formal gown or appropriate dress that extends below the knee line. *We will have more information in this section regarding ball dresses*

-Buying Tickets-

The Ball Coordinator of the respective Unit has final authority on all personnel attending. In many cases this pretty much means you might have to really get on your Marine and remind him about getting tickets :)

-Social Hourt-

Traditionally there is a one hour period of time before the Ceremony portion of the event begins where attendees are able to socialize. This is a good time to introduce your guest(s) to the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Sergeant Major and Guest of Honor of the event. Drinks are normally available (just keep yourself in check) as well as the designated area for smoking.


If you are a smoker it is recommended you smoke in the designated areas only. DO NOT LIGHT UP until you know where it is. Each location has their own so make sure you find it, if needed. Smoking is generally acceptable before and after the ceremony but NOT DURING.


Seating is selected by each Registered User (RU) upon completing the transaction for purchase of tickets. RU’s will be able to view the ballroom layout and see who is sitting at the tables PRIOR to paying for tickets however, selection is only available AFTER payment has been made. RU’s may move their respective seats, to include their guests, to any available seat at any time prior to printing Invitation. If the Invitation has been printed and you need to be moved you must contact the BC.

If you are to be seated at a VIP table, select any table and notify the BC of the respective event for proper placement. The only person that may move selected seating is the BC of the event. RU’s will be notified via email if the seating selection has been modified.


There will be plenty of notice before the Ceremony begin but it is advised that you be seated at your table prior to the beginning of the ceremony. It is a common courtesy not to have conversations during the ceremony, have them before or after but not during. Photography during the ceremony may be acceptable providing you do not interrupt or block someone else’s view in the process. Check to ensure photography is acceptable.

-Commandant of the Marine Corps Message-

Immediately following the ceremony a video message is played from the current Commandant of the Marine Corps. Please observe the same common courtesies during this portion of the evening as for the Ceremony.


If the event is serving a dinner entree it is usually served immediately following the ceremony. Some Units may offer a choice of entree to accommodate most. However, if you have food allergies or will be bringing a guest who does you may contact the respective Units Ball Coordinator to inquire if they have alternatives.

It is also recommended you wait until everyone at the table has been served their meal before partaking. Be advised most units have Chaplain who says a prayer before the meal is served. Finally it is polite to wait until the highest ranking person at the table starts eating before you do.


Depending upon the unit, entertainment will vary from a live band or singer to a DJ. Early in the evening dancing, appropriate for a Ball, is acceptable however, as the evening progresses use your best judgment.


Again, be sure to keep on checking back here for more information and also more dress tips for the Marine Corps Ball. Hopefully, this information has helped you. If you do have any questions that were not answered or any comments you wish to make, feel free to do so below.