The Marine Corps Ball

  1. What is the Marine Corps Ball?
    • The Marine Corps Ball is a celebration of the founding of the Marine Corps.

  2. When is the Marine Corps Ball?
    • The birth date of the Marine Corps is 10 November 1775. The birthday ball is generally celebrated the week-end before the actual birthday. Some commands and units will have the formal celebration the week end after -BUT- in all units there will be some type of formation or other observance on the actual birthday.

  3. Why ON the birthday?
    • The 13th commandant, General John A. LeJeune directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps, and therefore, in compliance, with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921 HIS message is always read.

  4. Why is it called "Ball"?
    • The term comes from the romantic days of Cinderella. The Ball is a glamorous event. It is the one "official" military event where the wives can participate fully.

  5. What does one wear to the "Ball"?
    • The "Ball" is a formal evening that follows a rigid set of events. The evening's events are as much a part of the tradition as the "Ball" itself. The proper military attire for the evening is Winter Service "A", Dress Blue Service "A" (with large Medals), or Mess Dress Service "A" (with small Medals). The Marine's spouse is expected to be in formal evening wear. The formal evening wear should be appropriate and allow for the spouse to gracefully socialize.

  6. What is the evening's formal agenda?
    • The evening's agenda is scripted and has been passed from Marine to Marine by directive. The evening's formal military events will progress as follows:
      1. Adjutant's Call
      2. Honor Escort Enters
      3. March on the Colors
      4. National Anthem
      5. Marines Hymn
      6. Publish the Order
      7. Cake Cutting Ceremony
      8. Benediction
      9. Remarks by the Commanding Officer
      10. Remarks by the Guest of Honor

  7. What is the evening's informal agenda?
    • The evening's informal agenda will often be a presentation of the following:
      1. No Host Bar / Cocktail hour
      2. Seating for Dinner
      3. (The formal agenda)
      4. Dancing and general merry making.

With this information out of the way… let's approach the other events of the evening.

  1. What other events?
    • Contrary to popular belief the Marine -IS- on display. He is being observed not only by his/her peers but also their sub-ordinates, as well as their superiors. The individual Marine is being evaluated even if it on the subconscious level.

      This is often the only time that a Marine Private can dine and socialize with a Sergeant Major, or the Sergeant can with a Lieutenant Colonel. Although it is extremely unlikely that the evening's events would ever be used to consciously mark a Marine it is possible. The Marine's performance in a social setting is important to their future growth in the Marine Corps.

  2. Where do I sit?
    • The seating arrangement is often pre-determined before you even arrive. Weeks, even months have gone into the planning of this one evening's event. There should be a seating chart prominently displayed at the entrance to the dining room.

  3. What fork do I use?
    • Dependent upon the type of dinner being served - always start on the outside of the silver layout. The layout almost always works in accordance with what is being served. Outside to inside, when the silver is gone the meal is complete and the dishes will be removed.

  4. What about after dinner?
    • The evening's meal will conclude without a dessert. The Birthday Cake - yes the one from the ceremony - is the dessert. It will be cut into appropriate size portions, placed onto plates, with new silver provided to utilize.

  5. What will happen during the ceremony?
    1. The ceremony will begin with the unit's Adjutant, taking charge and announcing "Sound Adjutant's Call". This will signal the start of the actual ceremony.
    2. After adjutant's call has sounded the honor escorts will assemble as rehearsed on either side of the presentation area in preparation of the entry of the National Ensign and the Unit's Battle Colors (Marine Corps flag). The term Battle Colors comes from the streamers that are placed onto the "pole" or standard used to carry the Colors. The streamers are enlarged "ribbons" that carry the same markings as those worn by the Marines themselves. The streamer(s) are awards to the unit, ribbon(s) are awarded to the Marine.
    3. Once the escort is in place the adjutant will give the order "March on the Colors". The Color Guard will enter the room, - IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU RENDER THE APPROPRIATE HONORS - .
    4. After the Colors are properly "trooped", the National Ensign will be presented - to the playing of the National Anthem. After the National Ensign presentation, the Marine Colors will be presented to the playing of the Marine Corps hymn.
    5. Once the flags have been presented and the honors presented, the adjutant will "Publish the Order". This is simply the reading of General John A. LeJuene's proclamation. It is read every year and it something that most Marines will readily recognize.
    6. The next event of the evening will be the reporting of the Youngest Marine in the command to the Commanding Officer as well as the Oldest Marine in the command. The Marine Corps birthday cake will then be escorted into place. The oldest Marine will be presented with a sword and will cut two pieces of cake with the sword. The first piece of cake will be placed at a predetermined place setting. This setting will likely have escaped your attention. The setting will have a piece of cake served to it as if there was in fact a person there. In reality there is a "person" there. The setting is for those Marines lost by or from the command and should there not be any losses it represents those Marines throughout the Marine Corps that been lost. The second piece of cake will be present to the youngest Marine by the oldest Marine symbolic of the passing of the torch. This ceremony has taken place for over 200 years and God willing will last another 200.
    7. With the cake cut, the torch passed the chaplain will issue the benediction. After the benediction the Commanding Officer will offer his remarks to the command, introduce and present the Guest of Honor.
    8. The Guest of Honor will then make their presentation. This presentation can be short or long and it depends entirely upon the guest. I have seen it as short as 15 minutes and as long as one hour and 25 minutes. When the Guest of Honor has concluded their remarks, the evenings festivities will begin earnest, the smoking lamp will be lit, and the liquor and music will flow freely. It is IMPROPER and bad etiquette to leave during the ceremony. You should plan this portion of the evening accordingly and utilize the facilities, get comfortable and be prepared to enjoy yourself.

  6. Will I be a participant?
    • The only participation that you as a guest will have is to render the appropriate honors to the National Ensign, standing during the playing the National Anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn. Beyond those renderings the entire performance is scripted and requires nothing from you.

  7. When can I smoke?
    • The smoking lamp is considered "out" in the main presentation room and dining room until after the ceremony is concluded. If you must smoke please refrain from doing so in those areas. Take your smoking outside or into the bar until after the ceremony.

  8. When can I drink?
    • Most commands will have a no host cocktail hour before the dinner and you may freely drink before, during and after the dinner. CAUTION: do not drink so much that you become a drunkard and are disrespectful during the ceremony. You will be duly reprimanded by those individuals senior to you, or as a civilian you could be asked to leave the festivities.