The U.S. Marine Corps Birthday celebrates the history, memory of those who served before and rekindles the bond that unites all generations of Marines. It is a celebration of the profound respect for the Marine Corps traditions and reverence of the heritage that distinguishes the Corps of Marines.- Military Benefits
Each year, generally in October, the “Ermahgerd, I need a dress” crunch-time fest begins. As a proud and seasoned Marine wife, I totally get it. It’s only the biggest night of celebration of the entire year in our marine family lifestyle, right? It’s like prom to the infinite capacity of all adulting powers. Seriously, it’s not prom but it is a hardcore adult celebration.
Well, here’s a few things that I have learned and seen not go well over the years and a few duty stations. As well as there are a few things that I honestly don’t understand after all this time, why anyone cares or complains yet there have been a few moments that have made my head spin.
Let’s get down to it:
Alcohol- Drink responsibly.
No spouse, nor any marine should show up to the ball severely intoxicated and you should also refrain from leaving that way. Get dressed at the hotel nearby and decide to have a cocktail or two before heading over? Totally fine, if you are walking over, otherwise call Uber, Lyft or phone a sober buddy. If you are attempting to leave a venue to travel home, don’t forget to use your “Arrive Alive Card,” they’re there for a reason. I wouldn’t recommend it driving for obvious reasons of the law. I say this because in Greenville for example, there’s a hotel attached to the convention center and you can walk over. I always recommend staying as close to the venue as possible to be able to walk safely to and from if you plan to take this route of cocktails before cocktail hour. I understand this because let’s be super honest here, it is more fiscally responsible (cheaper) to consume responsibly the adult beverages of your choice at your hotel room than to purchase by the drink from the bar at the ball.
Another point to make here is, don’t blow your whole paycheck on the ball and spouses that includes you. Don’t overspend trying to impress other marines, spouses/girlfriends or superiors. The ball is one night and you will have to eat next week, put in gas, and if you have kids- their field trip, lunch money is still due, daycare fees and that grocery bill won’t pay itself. Don’t dig a financial hole right before the holiday’s to celebrate the biggest USMC holiday of them all. Be responsible financially and consumption of alcohol wise. I’ve witnessed younger marines show up pretty intoxicated, as well as spouses and completely wasted by the end of the ceremony because the quick and heavy consumption caught up to them. Your command will not be pleased and if you are one who is already on thin ice, this definitely is the time to be on your best representation of the corps.
Does the dress matter?
Oh you can bet your first born and a vital organ it does! Please, for the love of God, 7lb-4oz-21in long baby Jesus, and the peace of Buddha please do dress according to your spouses uniform requirements in any military function. Don’t show up to the birthday ball in arm with your marine in dress blues and you are in a club dress fit for a rump shaking contest, a sundress fit for a pig pickin’ and a pie baking contest, don’t wear your Sunday’s best- I know it’s modest and you only had the whole year to find a dress suitable for the one night a year your husband’s career of service is celebrated on earth and in heaven. (Sigh in sarcasm) Seriously, go get a floor length formal dress, it is the standard to accompany the dress blues uniform. It can be bridesmaid style, something inexpensive from Ross or TJMaxx, honestly, they have some really great finds and won’t rob the bank. Focus more on accessories to enhance a simple solid dress if you feel it isn’t “formal” enough. Male guest standard is to wear a suit and tie or a tuxedo.
Example of a simple and acceptable dress with nicely placed accessories is shown, a similar dress can be purchased on Amazon for an affordable price with two-day shipping for Prime members. Can’t afford a new dress, ask around to see if anyone has one you can borrow or rent from them and please do the right thing and return the dress in the condition you received it. You can also add a simple belt with rhinestones or a satin band to a plain dress like this and make it appeal more to your taste.
Can I wear a formal that has patterns/print on it?
Well sure you can, but the question is to gauge off of is how would you feel if your photo in it ended up circulating the internet for weeks after the ball and years to come as to what not to wear? Does it compliment your marines dress blues? Seriously, the great photos don’t go viral, only the bad ones in a drama-filled society. Honestly, I’ve seen chevron satin and sequined, floor length gowns. I wore a Jovani zebra print gown one year myself but my husband approved and actually selected the dress. I would advise against some extreme prints and especially text printed. I know how much many of us Americans absolutely adore and love our 45th President Donald J. Trump but please don’t wear exhibit A to the lower left for example. Believe me, people will talk to you, maybe even take some instagood “usies” for Instagram and all the perks but you will be talked about, likely not in a positive way.
What would be in line of the standard with print in mind?
I know, kind of hard coming from the woman who just admitted to wearing zebra print to a birthday ball? Well it shouldn’t be. I will share that photo in this piece before it’s over.
Here’s an example of a gorgeous, A-line, print that accents the dress blues and wait for it, $99.00 on PromGirl.com
Now, I know, I know, we don’t all have the body type for that dress and it might not be available in your size. But the point is, we have placed so much stigma on the ball dress, whose wife did what, what marine made a pass at who and who got in trouble, I believe many have forgotten what it is about to begin with. This is a celebration of the establishment of the USMC in 1775, it is an honor, it is respect, a time of reflection on those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, a time of building unity and comradery. These are not only sought amongst marines themselves, but in our community in general over the last 244-years of service amongst the most admired and revered branch in the world, the US Marine Corps. Lest we forget, it is a privilege to be a part of these events as well as this lifestyle, though we may not always realize it.
Amazon has this pretty floral print as well with great reviews, always read reviews.
Mean Girls aka Stepford Wives, this part is for you.
Instead of standing around with your noses turned up in the, “investment dress” you wear every 3rd year or the one you ordered from Rent the Runway to look snazzy for more money than you could have just bought a dress at a consignment shop that has also already been worn while you judge “Jr. Spouses” for showing a little leg or an exposed collarbone. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely nothing wrong with Rent the Runway, it’s the attitude described that is an issue. Someone call the paddy wagon if one of these uptight, self-righteous, scrutinizing Spanx lines showing or gawking in questioning is that a roll or is she pregnant, miserable trolls gone wild if they see a tattoo exposed women start with you. (Hope you got a chuckle, seriously, it isn’t this bad- it’s honestly a dying breed.) Moving on here, everyone has a different personality, everyone has their own style of fashion and it’s okay to show that through what you wear to the birthday ball. You do not have to be forced into a dress that is equivalent to someone’s mother-of-the-bride-dress. You can be sexy, feel confident and look respectful. Now grant it, no we don’t want any of your body parts escaping or anatomy questioned as it creeps out. Honestly, the bend test usually solves everything. If you can bend over and your entire bosom is visible, plops right out, that dress is probably not a wise selection. In short, if you bend over and your breasts or dairy air come out, stay home if you cannot find another dress. There’s no other way to put that nicely because mini-dresses are not birthday ball acceptable. Use common sense.
You don’t need to cover your tattoos, it’s a part of you now. However, if it is something offensive that would go against USMC standards of conduct, I would suggest covering it. Of course if you would just like to, there’s a waterproof concealer on Amazon (Prime) for $24.99 that is great for covering scars and tattoos. As far as scars go, I believe they are proof something attacked and didn’t win so I wear my few scars proudly. If it is something that would make you more confident by covering, go for it. This event is about feeling your best and being your best.
The ceremony is the most important part of the ball, it is an intimate ceremony (I don’t mean time to make out with your marine) and unless you cannot stand at all, you stand for any portion instructed to stand, sit when told to be seated and remain quiet. This is not the time for laughing with your sister wife (spouse friend), fix each others dress straps or to fix each others hair. Wait until the ceremony is over and then go to the restroom. This usually lasts around an hour, the cake is cut, the reading of Gen. John A. Lejeune’s birthday message, speeches and the current Commandant’s birthday message over a large screen. You should be seated prior to the start of the ceremony, silence your phone, refrain from texting and please don’t scroll social media during the ceremony. Photography is permitted at some events but please check to make sure it is acceptable at your event this year. Just because it was okay last year, doesn’t mean it is this year. Then there’s dinner served, most times your marine picks your meals in advance, so you already know what you are having and is usually a three-course meal. Following dinner, the dancefloor is opened to get down. Once everyone has had their fill in uniform and fancy dresses, it’s time to change clothes and find a nearby establishment for the after-party if you wish or head home.
You don’t have to fake it to make it at the ball. There are spouses/significant others just like you there and there will be those who are polar opposite and that is okay. Remember when your spouse introduces you to people to say, good evening sir/ma’am as a reflection of respect to command. If the zebra print or floral print dress is you, go for it. Just remember, you are always a reflection of your marine and if he/she is happy with your dress, you should be too. Shoes wise, if you can wear high heels, wear them, if you cannot, don’t. Wear nice, clean dress shoes that will complement your attire, stiletto’s are not required. When we look good, we feel good and so do our marines. Want to find the best dress for your body type? I got ‘cha covered.
No need in spending hundreds of dollars on hair coloring, styling, clip-in or bonded extensions if it is not something you already do or have planned to do. Most spouses like their hair and make-up to look nice but trust me, you can do it yourself with a good YouTube tutorial if you aren’t very skilled or call up your friend who is and go for it. Not confident in your YouTube University skill set? No worries. An alternative to salon costs is Miller-Motte College’s Cosmetology Clinic, you can get a full head of highlights for $35 if you want color, acrylic nails for $20 and brow tinting for $5. There are several options for makeup around town if you just want to go that route. (Several MUA’s recommended on Camp Lejeune Spouses FB group.)
Steer from dying your hair hot pink before the ball to stand out or jumping into a rainbow mohawk for the cause. Colored hair can be done tastefully and I personally am a big fan but save it for after the ball if it is something like this mohawk below. I think you can catch my drift here.
Bring on the beautiful plums, shades of reds, auburns, bold blondes, colored highlights to accent tastefully to your liking. Most of all ladies and gentlemen, remember, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” -Coco Chanel. Even with all of these “standards,” you can still be yourself.
As long as you feel confident, your husband approves and he gives you that eye in the dress– you know the hanky-panky eye, wear the dress and be one of the many reasons he is proud on this joyous occasion. In case no one has told you yet, “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.” – Marines Hymn. That verse alone is reason to be your best self.
For more information, I suggest taking on one of the L.I.N.K.S classes that can help better understand the standards and how to navigate through this lifestyle more easily visit MCCS New River LINKS.
Oh, and about that Jovani Zebra Print dress, check it out below. I gave the dress away 3-years-ago. Speaking of which, I have a number of gowns to get rid of ranging size 6-14 and if interested in seeing them, send an email or comment on one of the social media posts, they’ll be free, paying it forward so please do the same.
Editor’s Note: My marine is approaching 20-years of active duty service and this is our last birthday celebration with him in active service. It is a bittersweet time in our lives, the USMC has taught us both as well as our children so much through travels, learning resiliency through deployments, and being open to building in communities we wouldn’t be in long enough to unpack all the boxes. We have made friends who are around the globe and we have memories to last infinite lifetimes. I pray that the stigma and negative attitudes amongst spouses continues to cease and the future communities here and abroad learn to embrace each other just as we are. We are all uniquely, individually made just as God intended us to be. Trust me, if your marine (God-forbid) is called off to serve in war suddenly, you won’t care what the next spouse has on as those buses pull away and your children are screaming in tears for daddy, while you wipe your own tears or hold them back. In those moments, you will only care about who can help you maintain life, you will unite and you will understand what this community truly is about. So I hope in some way, this opinion piece helps you in some way, if nothing but a laugh or two. I am a former MCBH LINKS Mentor, FRA and MOPS teacher. I am thankful for those “Seasoned Spouses” who embraced me on our first round at Camp Lejeune and changed my prior perspective on military wives. Heather, Danielle 1 & 2 (D1 & D2), and Paula, you were inspiration for me to be the spouse I have matured into and the spouse I am today though now I have retired early as a FRA but volunteering nonetheless in the community. Hea, thanks for being there since the day we met and never being “that officers wife”, you were always approachable, accessible and a darn good hurricane shelter even after 10-years. Blessed to have you as a friend forever. Lady Phantoms what was that? My tribe, the women that completed my soul in this journey. From First Friday’s to garages after (love you April), to being lost on hikes in the native lands of Oahu with failing limbs to zip lining fearlessly hundreds of feet in the air, having each other’s backs on and off the field. We were a life team and K-Bay’s 1st sweethearts, never forget it! Ju-Not a Jew, Ash-sweets, Nelly, Jen, Hutch, DQ, Kell, Reesa, Britt, Jos’… you all know who you are, even unnamed. Here’s to 20 in 2020, it’s not the end, just a new chapter beginning. Take care of the Corps and it will take care of you. Lastly, to my husband, thank you for inviting me on this journey of life and service .-M. Oakley, Reporter & Blogger
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