Military Ball Etiquette
An Army ball is fun, and quite the experience if it is your first time. While it is fun, this event should also
include etiquette and dignity. The way you behave and carry yourself will make an impression on your
commanders, leaders and school.
The Dress:
The dress code for an Army ball is formal, unless otherwise stated. Formal means ball gown, preferably ankle
length, but is not mandatory. A dress that hits the knee is acceptable for the SMA Ball. You can look
fashionable, but in a decent manner. Make sure your dress fits-not too tight and not too short. Senior Male
Cadets should wear the Class A uniform. All other male cadets will wear Class B uniform with long Black Tie.
Females not wearing a dress will wear the Class B/A uniform appropriate for their grade level.
The Receiving Line:
Before going to your table (usually assigned per company within the battalion and seats assigned with your
name), you have the opportunity to go through the receiving line and meet the commander, his wife, guests
and guest speaker. Entering the receiving line comes with etiquette guidelines and goes as follows:
When entering the receiving line, ladies stand in front of the gentlemen. You cannot have your cell phone or
purse on you, drink or chew gum. Sometimes, there is a table where someone watches the purses, you can
leave it there and pick it up after you have gone through the receiving line.
The first person in line is the “Adjutant” (in most cases). He or she will ask your rank and your guest’s name.
The adjutant then introduces you as such, “This is (Rank) and Miss or Mr. (Last Name).
You do not have to shake hands with the Adjutant or strike a conversation.
You then shake hands with the next person, gentlemen should introduce the lady first and then there name.
“This is my date Miss Jones and I’m (Rank) Name.” Do not start a conversation with a person in the receiving
line, they like to keep it moving, but if asked a question answer it. Just stay polite and courteous.
Posting the Colors:
When you return to your table and everyone is asked to find their places, this is followed by the entry of the
Color Guard. In the military of the United States and other militaries, the color guard carries the National
Color and other flags appropriate to its position in the chain of command. Typically theses include a unit flag
and departmental flag (Army, Marines, Navy, or Coast Guard). In addition to the flag bearers, who are
positioned in the center of the color guard, there are two individuals who carry rifles. Appropriate is to face
the direction the color guard is moving, as you follow the American flag. During the National Anthem, it is
courtesy, as a civilian, to hold your right hand over your heart. Military cadets in uniform are to salute during
the National Anthem.
Remembering Our Fallen and Missing Service Members:
During a ball, you might be able to spot a single table set. No one sits at this table but is a memory to our
fallen comrades and those missing in action.
Before dinner starts, it is tradition to toast. You will have a water glass and a toasting glass filled with
sparkling grape juice. You stand behind your seat and an assigned cadet proposes a toast, that toast will be
repeated by the rest of the room. A salute or toast goes as follows:
Assigned Person: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose a toast to the President of the United States of America”
Answer: “To the Chief”
This will continue until the last toast, which ends the toast.
Assigned Person: “Gentlemen, seat your ladies (Which sometimes is then followed by some good old fun
“Hooahs” and whistling)
The men then take their seats, which usually is followed up by a prayer from the Chaplain (if used) and then
dinner. During dinner, you follow proper dinner etiquette.
Table Etiquette:
When taking your seat you will notice the table is set formally. Usually, there are multiple forks and glasses,
and possibly spoons, knives and plates. While at a formal dinner, it is good manners to eat according to
proper dining etiquette. This not only makes a good impression to others around you, but shows you
knowledge of formal dining etiquette.
First, do not start eating until everyone has been served. Before you start eating, unfold your napkin and
place it across your lap. However, be sure not to spread it out completely-just unfolded. When you pick up
your silverware to utilize for eating, you start with the silverware that is the furthest away from your plate and
then you work way in throughout the courses. If there is a spoon and/or fork directly set at the top of the
plate(s), those are for dessert.
If you need to cut something, do so with your knife and fork and then place the knife across the top portion of
your plate until necessary to use again. Two hands or arms on the table at the same time, any elbow on the
table, talking with your mouth full, playing with your utensils and pointing silverware are all bad manners.
When not in use rest your utensils on the side of your plate or in your bowl, as dirty utensils must not touch
the table cloth after being used. When completely finished, place dirty utensils at the right end of plate (12
o’clock – 6 o’clock position) this signals the wait staff that you are done and they can remove the dirty dishes.
Dinner is followed by a guest speaker. The guest speaker usually is an important, honored or sometimes
famous person, somewhat directly affiliated with the U.S. Army. During the guest speakers speech you are to
be silent.
After dinner the Colors will be retired, and the ball is followed by a dance. And while the courtesies and
official parts of the event were quite the experience, let the fun begin!
But remember, you represent your school, your family and yourself. The dance should be respectful to the
ladies and appropriate public behavior.