Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Military Ball Etiquette



Receiving lines are located at the entrance. Some people tend to avoid the receiving lines, this is a "discourteous action".
The first person in the line will be in charge of announcing the names of the guests (usually the commander of the hosting event).
They do not shake hands or carry conversations, their job is just to introduce the arriving guest to the next person in line.


Once everybody has been introduced, they go to their tables to wait for the entrance of the colors. Individuals in uniform should remain at attention and face the colors at all times during the presentation. The colorguard posts the colors once indicated by the commander.


This is a very solemn ceremony conducted to honor those (men and women) who remain missing in action or as prisoners of war. A table is set in the middle for all to see and remember them.


Before dinner, the toasts are done to honor the military personnel, leaders and guests. Also a silent toast is performed to honor the prisoners and missing in action.


No special rules here, only proper dining etiquette.


On each ball a distinguished guest is asked to address the assembly of military personnel, This person usually has some connection with the armed forces.


Following the dinner, the colors are retired and the Ball Dance begins. This is when the good times start.


Speak first to the senior or elder person and tell them you’d like to introduce someone to them.

Always introduce military member by rank or title. This gives both parties information on how to properly address one another. Address older spouses by “Mr. or Mrs.” Unless it is established that you are welcome to use first name.

Always introduce junior to senior member, non-official to official, colleague to customer, and younger to older. If there is a family with children, introduce the children before the adults.

Be prepared to introduce your self if your spouse is occupied with others or behind the scene participating in the event. You may find yourself with someone new or someone you have not met before, have confidence to introduce your self.

We sometimes meet people in a short span of time and may tend to remember their faces but forget their names, it is proper to introduce your self so the other person prompts to do the same. If they do not, do not hesitate to ask for their names.

If you see your spouse struggling to remember the other person’s name, help each other out by stepping in and introducing your self. The other party will almost always offer their name in return.


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 manner to eat according to proper dining etiquette. This not only makes a good impression to others around you, but shows your knowledge of formal dining etiquette.

One should always sit in an erect position; never loll or lounge or prop elbows on the table. When not occupied, hands should rest on the lap. Elbows are kept close to the side at all times. Body should approximately distant from the table by six inches.

Drawing designs on the table cloth with knife and fork, crumbling of bread, beating a tattoo on the table with the silverware, playing with wine glasses, and etc. are bad taste. Gentle manner and quietness when eating is a mark of a well bred person.

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 unfold. After the meal the napkin is not folded but placed carelessly on the table.

Never trade food at the mess table. And if something is placed in front of you that you do not like, do not refuse, and just leave it there. If you do not like it, do not eat it.

When you pick up your silverware to utilize for eating, you start out with the silverware that is the furthest away from your plate and then you work your 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.

The well bred person is careful not to speak with food in his mouth or while his mouth is full, or gesticulate with the utensil in his hand. Unpleasant and controversial topics should be avoided.

A well-bred guest never asks anything that is not offered like butter, vinegar, or catsup. Food should not at anytime be piled on the fork. Lumps of sugar should not be taken from the bowl with hands if tongs are not provided, use spoon.

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. You do not have to eat all that is on your plate, so leaving a little food is allowed. 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, always rests 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 (slightly diagonal)-this signal to the wait staff that you are done with your plate and it can be removed.

A tea or coffee cup should not be suspended in the air, but raised to the lips; short sips are taken and replaced back on its saucer. Do not use teaspoon to taste the tea or coffee but use the teaspoon to stir it.


• Soup is always taken from the side of the spoon. The motion of the spoon is from front to back of the plate. Never tip the plate to get the last drop, or blow the soup to cool it.

• If a bouillon is served in a double handled cup, a teaspoon or bouillon spoon is used first. After part of the bouillon is consumed, it is already permissible to lift the cup to the lips with the right hand.

• A knife is held in the right hand, cutting edge down with index finger extended along the back of the blade. Never cut rolls with a knife, break it with your fingers.

• The fork is held in the left hand, prongs down. Vegetables may be eaten by hold the fork in the right hand, prongs up or in the left hand, prongs down. In the latter case, the knife is used to help place food on the food.


-- No diners may smoke during the meal, even if held in a facility which allows smoking.

-- Never commence a meal before the President of Mess Committee, who will likely pause until the head table is served.

-- Never discuss political or other controversial subjects.

-- Never act in a boisterous manner.

-- No diner may propose a toast.

-- Talk after the President of Mess Committee summons until he has finished speaking.

-- Do not leave the table during the meal unless permitted to do so by the President of Mess Committee.

-- After the conclusion of the meal, all china, silverware, placemats, flowers and glasses with the exception of the port glass, will be removed from the table. If you failed to finish something because the discourse over dinner was so engaging, surrender it to the wait staff with grace.

-- When the table is cleared, the port decanters are placed on the table in front of the President of Mess Committee. If large numbers of diners are in attendance, decanters will also be placed in from of the Vice President of Mess Committee and at the end of each wing table on the left-hand side. When they are in place, the PMC and VPMC unstopper the decanters, charge their glasses, and pass the decanters to the left. Other members having had decanters placed in front of them, will also fill their glasses and pass the decanters to their left. And most importantly, no one should touch their port until the loyal toast has been proposed. If someone does not drink alcohol for medical condition or for other reasons, they may drink the loyal toast with water.


In a military ball, wearing gloves is optional. But there are things you need to keep in mind if you choose to wear gloves, these are:

• The shorter the sleeves on the dress, the longer the gloves should be. Opera-style gloves measures approximately 23 inches in length. For dresses with cap sleeves, 19 inch glove is appropriate. Three-quarter length sleeves are commonly paired with 15-inch gloves. Long-sleeves evening wear is worn with wrist-length gloves.

• When in a receiving line, remove your right glove to shake hands (not preferred for opera gloves)

• Remove your gloves when eating or drinking.

• And make sure gloves are not loose or tight fitting.

• White, ivory, beige, and taupe are appropriate to any occasion where opera gloves are worn. Black gloves should not be worn with white or light-colored dresses, but can be worn with black, dark-colored or bright-colored dresses. Gloves of other color should be worn in coordination with the color scheme of the dress you are wearing.


-- Stand, place your hand over your heart just before a Color Guard carrying the American Flag passes (ball caps and civilian hats should be removed).

-- When National Anthem is played or sang, hold your hand over your heart until the last note.

-- Service member will stand for their service song or that of another service out of respect. Family members or others may stand as well.


When the informal part of the military ball begins, dances start off with few ballroom dances such as foxtrot, waltzes and slow ballroom music. Here are simple guide to still maintain decorum even in the dance floor:

• On the Dance Floor

Swing is a stationary dance. However, dances like foxtrot and waltz are traveling dances. These traveling dances move on the dance floor in a counter–clockwise direction. These are called line of dance. Sometimes some couples will dance the traveling dance and other couples choose the stationery dance. In this case, the traveling dancers should move along the periphery of the dance floor, while the stationery dancers stay near at the center. It is the responsibility of the couples to stay out of the away from the other couples who are already dancing.

• At the End of the Dance

After the dance is finished and before parting, thank your partner. When thanked, do not reply “You’re welcome”; instead respond by saying “Thank you”, too. The point of thanking back is not due to favor but of politeness. If you enjoyed the dance, let your partner know. Compliment his or her dancing, even if your partner is not the best of dancers. And be specific about it.

• Leaving the Floor

When a song comes to an end, leave the dance floor as quickly as it is gracefully possible. Tradition requires that the gentleman gives his arm to the lady and take her back to her seat at the end of the dance. If there are more number of women attendees than men, women may ask men to dance.

• Sharing the Floor

Avoid getting to close to other couples, especially the less experienced ones. Be prepared to change directions of your patterns to avoid congested area. This requires thinking ahead and matching your pattern to the free areas on the floor.

• Declining a Dance

Declining a dance means sitting out the whole song. It is inconsiderate and outright rude to dance the song with anyone after you decline to dance with someone else. When declining a dance, one should ask a later dance instead. However, it is improper to book many dances ahead, or too often. Dance etiquette requires that one should refrain from declining a dance under all circumstances. It is also not proper to decline a dance on the basis of preferring to dance with someone else.


-- Walk on your husband’s left side so he can salute others.
-- Refer to your spouse by his first name or nickname, or as “my husband”. Do not refer to your husband “Capt. Smith” or by his rank.
-- Stand at public function or ceremony when a senior member is announced. This applies to everyone in attendance.
-- Don’t show public display of affection like kissing and holding of hands, except at homecoming and goodbyes.
-- Don’t offer your military spouse a piece of gum or smoke while in uniform.
-- Don’t refer to others by “Sir” or “Ma’am unless you are in the military yourself. You may refer to them by their rank/title and last name.


-- For ceremonies and formal programs Flag Officers and often Captains as well as guests of honor may be announced before they enter the room after everyone else is seated. A band may play “Ruffles and Flourishes” for Flag officers.

-- At dinner functions military may seat their spouse, but will stand by their chairs for the ranking officer at the table to arrive, waiting to be seated at their cue.

-- At a ceremony, service members will be called to Attention to Orders or Attention to Award. During the reading or the orders or citation service members will stand, civilians may remain seated unless asked to stand.

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