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What is the Marine Corps Ball? The Ultimate Guide

What is the Marine Corps Ball to Marine veterans like this one pictured here?


The U.S. Marine Corps is known for its intense training, discipline, and dedication to duty, but there's one event that has been bringing Marines and their families together for a century: the Marine Corps Ball. This annual celebration is a time-honored tradition that includes ceremony, dinner, dancing, and camaraderie.

In this blog post, we will explore the history of the Marine Corps Ball, what happens during the event, and what it means for Marines and their families. What is the Marine Corps Ball?

What is the Marine Corps Ball?

The Marine Corps Ball is an annual celebration held by the U.S. Marine Corps to commemorate their founding on November 10, 1775. The Marine Corps Ball is celebrated each year on the Corps’ birthday. The first organized Marine Corps birthday ball was held in Philadelphia in 1921. It was a formal affair, featuring a three-course meal, speeches, and music. The tradition quickly spread throughout the Corps, and by the 1950s, it had become an annual event for all Marines.

Today, the Marine Corps Ball is one of the most important events on the Marine Corps calendar. The event is typically held in November or December, and it is a chance for Marines and their families to come together and celebrate the Corps' history, traditions, and values. It's also an opportunity for Marines to honor those who have served before them and to reflect on their own service. If you are a young Marine or a new Marine family member and you find yourself asking, “What is the Marine Corps Ball?” then read on.

What is the Marine Corps Ball to Marines around the world?

What is the Marine Corps Ball attire?

The Marine Corps Ball is a formal event, and attendees are expected to dress accordingly. Marines wear the dress blue uniform. Women who are not Marines typically wear a long formal dress. Men who are not Marines normally wear a tuxedo or equally formal attire.

However, it is important to note that Marines around the world, even those in austere, forward deployed conditions, will often mark the Marine Corps birthday in some official manner, but sometimes those events are in the field, and therefore, Marines do not wear formal attire, but instead wear their duty uniforms.

What is the Marine Corps Ball List of Events?

The ball typically starts with a receiving line, where Marines and their guests are introduced to the commanding officer and other senior leaders. After the receiving line, there is a ceremony that includes a presentation of the colors, the Marine Corps Hymn, and a speech by a guest speaker. The dinner portion of the Marine Corps Ball is an elaborate affair, featuring multiple courses and plenty of toasts (not bread, but toasts made with glasses). It’s also a time to honor Marines who have previously served.

Notice we didn’t write “former Marines.” Marine veterans are referred to as “Marines.” Once a person earns the title of United States Marine, they are always considered and referred to as a Marine. The oldest and youngest Marines in attendance are recognized at the ball, as are Marines who have recently returned from combat. During the Global War on Terrorism, there were normally many Marines recognized during this portion of the ball.

One of the more popular events of the Marine Corps Ball is the ceremonial cake cutting. During the cake cutting the first slice of cake is traditionally given to the guest of honor, who then passes it to the oldest Marine present. This is one of the highlights of the Marine Corps Ball. The oldest and youngest Marines in attendance are usually chosen to participate in this special tradition, symbolizing the passing of knowledge and experience from one generation to the next. It’s a beautiful moment that truly captures the camaraderie and brotherhood/sisterhood of the Marine Corps.

What is the Marine Corps Ball for older Marine veterans shown here attending the ball in the mid 2000s.?

After dinner, the dancing begins. The DJ or band typically plays a mix of music, from slow ballads to upbeat pop songs. Marines and their guests are encouraged to dance and have a good time. There may also be a photobooth or other entertainment provided.

What is the Marine Corps Ball ultimately?

The Marine Corps Ball is much more than a formal event. It's a chance for Marines and their families to come together and celebrate everything that makes the Marine Corps great. Additionally, attending the Marine Corps Ball is not just reserved for active-duty Marines and their spouses. Retired Marines, Marine Reservists, Marine veterans, and even civilians can also attend as guests of service members.

The Marine Corps Ball is a great opportunity to connect with fellow Marines and their families, as well as show support for the Marine Corps. It is important to remember that the Marine Corps Ball is considered an extraordinarily important event to the U.S. Marine Corps. While attendance is important, it is also important to consider the cost of attending the Marine Corps Ball for those who are on a budget.

While most units try to keep ticket prices reasonable, there may be additional costs associated with attending the Marine Corps Ball. Purchasing formal attire, uniform items, transportation to and from the venue, and hotel rooms are some commonly overlooked expenses and it is always a good idea to budget and plan ahead for these expenses. Saving for the Marine Corps Ball ahead of time will prevent fiscal surprises and it will enable you to focus on enjoying an evening with the Marines.

Lastly, don't forget to have fun! The Marine Corps Ball is a celebration and a chance to let loose and enjoy the company of the most feared fighting force in the world, the U.S. Marines. Make sure to take plenty of photos, dance the night away, and create unforgettable memories. It's not just about honoring traditions but also creating new ones with your Marine family.

What is the Marine Corps Ball, for some it is recognizing service, no matter where they are.

Marine Corps Ball Quick Reference

• What is the Marine Corps Ball most common saying? Semper Fi!

• What is the Marine Corps Ball attire? Formal wear.

• What is the Marine Corps Ball? A celebration of the Marine Corps.

• What is the Marine Corps Ball location? Worldwide, wherever there are Marines.

USMC Awards & Medals: How They Should be Worn


How to wear U.S. Marine Corps awards is covered in Marine Corps Uniform Regulations MCO 1020.34H dated 1 May 2018. The regulation is pretty straightforward and guides Marines on how to wear USMC awards.

In fact, Chapter 5, page 1-108 is where any Marine should start reading if they want to learn about the wear of USMC awards and the Marine Corps awards order. But given the many uniforms the Marine Corps has, and the differences in uniforms between the genders, we will focus this post on the more popular uniforms that are worn by most Marines who have USMC awards.

USMC Awards
According to the Marine Corps uniform regulations, USMC awards, in particular, authorized insignia “will be worn on the left breast of all service and dress coats. It may be worn at the individual's option on khaki shirts worn as the outer garment (with or without ribbons), utility coats or the maternity work uniform coats. Miniature insignia, one-half regular size, will be worn on evening dress jackets. Breast insignia will not be worn on the cloak/cape, AWC, extreme cold weather parka, tanker jacket, field coat or sweater.

“Anodized breast insignia will be worn on all evening dress and dress uniforms. Either anodized or oxidized (also known as “antique” finish) breast insignia may be worn at the individual’s option on the service uniforms, but mixing of anodized and oxidized breast insignia is not authorized. Only anodized Marine Special Operator insignia will be worn on the dress and service uniforms. When breast insignia are worn on the utility uniform, anodized or oxidized breast insignia will be worn, with the exception that subdued brown or black breast insignia may be prescribed in a field environment in lieu of oxidized breast insignia. Only oxidized Marine Special Operator insignia will be worn on the utility uniform,” according to the USMC awards regulation section, Chapter 5 of the Marine Corps uniform regulations.

“When worn on the dress coat, service coat, khaki shirt, or maternity tunic, the insignia will be placed with wings horizontal and parallel to the top of the breast pockets (if any). On women's coats and combat utility uniform coats with slanted pockets, a horizontal line tangent to the highest point of the pocket (or top corner of the service tape in the case of the combat utility uniform coat) is considered the top of the pocket. When worn alone on the dress and service coats and shirts, the insignia will be worn in the same position a single ribbon would be worn. When worn with medals, ribbons, or marksmanship badges, the bottom of the insignia will be centered 1/8 inch above the top row of such awards. When successively decreasing rows of ribbon bars are worn (as in subparagraph 5301.5), and the top row of ribbons is such that centering the insignia presents an unsatisfactory appearance, the insignia may be centered between the outer edge of the coat lapel and the left edge of the vertically aligned ribbon rows,” according to the USMC awards regulation section, Chapter 5 of the Marine Corps uniform regulations.

USMC Awards and Awards from Other Branches
If you are a Marine who served in another branch of military service, you may be authorized to wear your previously earned awards with USMC awards. According to Marine Corps uniform regulations, “Marines who served in or were attached to another branch of the U.S. military services and received a decoration, unit award, or service award of comparable criteria to one issued by the naval service may wear the award on Marine Corps uniforms, unless otherwise prohibited by these regulations.”

The Marine Corps uniform regulations covering USMC awards continues: “Examples of other U.S. service awards which are not authorized include: marksmanship medals/ribbons (Navy/Coast Guard/Air Force), USAF Outstanding Airman of the Year, USAF Recognition Ribbon, USAF Longevity Service Award, NCO Professional Development/Education ribbons (Army/Air Force), Army Service/USAF training ribbons.

“The Combat Infantryman's Badge, Combat Medical Badge, and Combat Action Badge are not authorized for wear on the Marine Corps uniform. Upon submission of evidence to their commanding officer, personnel who are awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon. Since the eligibility criteria for the Combat Action Badge is not comparable to that of the Combat Action Ribbon, personnel who were awarded the Combat Action Badge are not authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon.”

USMC Awards on Civilian Attire
USMC awards on civilian attire are also covered in the Marine Corps uniform regulations. It says “Decorations, medals, appropriate ribbon bars, or lapel buttons may be worn on civilian clothes at the individual's discretion, per the guidance provided below. Individuals should ensure that the occasion and the manner of wearing will not reflect discredit on the award.

Miniature medals may be worn with civilian evening dress (see paragraph 5203). The Medal of Honor may be worn with civilian evening dress. It will be worn around the neck with the ribbon under the coat jacket and the medallion hanging one inch below the bow tie. Miniature replicas of ribbons made in the form of enameled lapel buttons, or ribbons made in rosette form, may be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes except civilian evening dress. Enameled lapel buttons should be worn with the long axis parallel to the ground.

“Honorable discharge, retirement, and FMCR buttons may be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes except civilian evening dress. Those buttons manufactured with prong and clutch fasteners may be worn as tie tacks.”

USMC Awards and Decorations
USMC awards, with the exception of those decorations worn pendent from the neck, will be arranged in a horizontal line in order of precedence from the wearer’s right when medals are worn. The bottom edge of all medallions will be aligned.

“Hamilton Wash large and miniature medals, also known as ‘anodized,’ may be worn at the individual's option. Marines who exercise this option will have their own medals anodized at their own expense. Anodized medals will not be worn together with non-anodized medals by the same individual (except when a specific medal is not available in anodized finish); however, Marines with anodized medals may wear them in formation with Marines who have standard non-anodized medals,” according to the Marine Corps uniform regulation covering USMC awards.

USMC awards, particularly, medals with suspension ribbons bonded to a plastic backing instead of a metal bar are approved for wear at the option of the individual. These medals lie flatter than the standard medals and may include magnetic fasteners in lieu of clutches for attaching to the uniform. These medals will bear Marine Corps approval identification.

“Marines will wear all large medals to which they are entitled on dress ‘A’ coats. Miniatures of all medals entitled are required for officers/SNCO's when evening dress uniforms are worn,” according to the Marine Corps uniform regulations governing USMC awards.

The Marine Corps uniform regulation is a very detailed publication that informs the reader with granular details about spacing between medals, how medals show lay, overlap, etc. If you want to ensure your USMC awards are squared away for something like the Marine Corps Ball, it might be a good idea to leave your rack construction to knowledgeable professionals, like the folks at USAMM, or carefully and painstakingly put your rack together using the regulation.

Marine Corps Gifts for the USMC Ball


If you haven’t already done so, it is probably a good idea to start shopping for the Marine Corps Ball especially if you are shopping for perfect Marine Corps gifts to share with your friends, family or loved ones. Online retailers like USAMM are a great place to start and we have a wide selection to help you pick Marine Corps gifts that will make the Marine Corps Ball that much better.

Marine Corps Gifts to Wear at the Ball
The Marine Corps Ball is a great opportunity to dress up and look sharp. If you are a Marine, treat yourself to a brand new, fresh, ribbon or medal rack for your uniform. This is one of the best Marine Corps gifts you can give yourself. As a leader, you will set a great example for other Marines, but if you’re not a leader, then think of it as an investment in yourself. If you want to give someone a medal or ribbon rack it is best to not to surprise them. They know what they’ve earned and likely have all the accompanying paperwork. Check with them first before springing a surprise on them that might not include all the Marine has earned. Racks and medals make great Marine Corps gifts. After all, the ball only happens once per year.

Marine Corps Gifts to Use at the Ball
Challenge coins are great Marine Corps gifts to give for the Marine Corps Ball. In many cases, most units have their own challenge coins that are distributed to unit members. However, if you’re new to the unit, haven’t received or earned one, do you want to take the chance and be the only Marine without a challenge coin? You do know what happens when you don’t have a coin, right? Don’t get flanked. If you’re a Marine Corps veteran, ensure you show up armed with a challenge coin because as they say, the best tasting beverages are the free ones. If you have a family member or friend who is a Marine, Marine Corps challenge coins are great Marine Corps gifts that they can take to the ball.

Marine Corps Gifts for the Home or Office
Not all Marine Corps gifts given for the Marine Corps Ball have to be worn or taken to the ball. The Marine Corps Ball is the celebration of the Marine Corps birthday, and therefore, it is a birthday celebration for every Marine. And as we know, birthdays mean presents. Shadowboxes, coin displays, plaques and drinkware are great Marine Corps gifts. Personalizing them by adding a custom name, rank, date makes it even more special.

Marine Corps Gifts for the Wing Man/Woman in Your Life
Do you have a friend who is as useful as your right hand? Well, you can show your appreciation to that man or woman who is your wing man/woman by getting them a customized wing tank. Whether you’re spiking the grog bowl or hitting the flask while in the head, customized flasks are great Marine Corps gifts for that battle buddy in your life.

Last Minute Marine Corps Gifts
If you thought about getting some great Marine Corps gifts, but time got away from you, then consider purchasing a gift card. Gift cards are great Marine Corps gifts that can help offset the costs of attending the Marine Corps Ball and they can also help the Marine you are shopping for purchase whatever they want. Maybe their uniforms are squared away and they do not need uniform items. A gift card enables them to buy whatever they want. Many gift recipients prefer and enjoy the flexibility of spending other people’s money on what they want.

Marine Corps Swords
Marine Corps swords are amazing Marine Corps gifts. Officers and NCOs must purchase their own, so presenting a Marine with a sword would definitely be a great gift. But beware. Marine Corps swords, like any military swords, are not cheap and there are other components, like the scabbard, that must be purchased and that will drive the price higher. Depending on the unit, Marines can wear their swords to the Marine Corps Ball. Much depends on unit directives.

The Marine Corps Ball is a wonderful opportunity to purchase great gifts for the Marine in your life or to treat yourself to some nice gifts to commemorate the Marine Corps birthday. Remember though, as the Marine Corps Ball gets closer, demand for items goes up, so whether you are shopping online or shopping at a brick-and-mortar retail location, make sure you strike first and strike fast because there are thousands of Marines out there preparing for the same event.

The Marine Corps Ball is about celebrating the honor, integrity and rich history of the U.S. Marine Corps. It is also about honoring the men and women who have earned the title of U.S. Marine. This year marks the 247th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Like any mission—plan, prepare, move out and execute. And remember, to have fun. Happy birthday, Marines!

Marine Corps Ball: 10 Etiquette Do's & Don'ts

Marine Corps Ball History
The Marine Corps Ball is an event Marines and their loved ones look forward to every year. Since 1921, the Corps has celebrated their birthday and honored the legacy of the U.S. Marine Corps at the Marine Corps Ball. November 10 is the official birthday of the Marine Corps and the date is marked with the celebration of the Marine Corps Ball.

Prior to 1921, the birthday was celebrated on another day, but it was Gen. John A. Lejeune who issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. In the order Lejeune summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Marine Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines each year on 10 November to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. 

Marines follow orders and not long after LeJeune’s order was issued, commands began to recognize and celebrate the birthday. In 1923 the Marine Barracks in Pennsylvania held a dance. Washington Navy Yard Marines arranged a mock battle on the parade ground and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played the Cuban team and won.

What to Expect at the Marine Corps Ball
Individuals who are new to the Marine Corps or Marine Corps culture should try to learn as much as they can about the Marine Corps Ball before the Marine Corps Ball. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test, but it helps to understand what is happening at the ball while it is happening.

The Marine Corps Ball is split into two parts. The first part of the Marine Corps Ball is the official ceremonial part. This is the part of the Marine Corps Ball where the official parties enter, the cake is cut, speeches are made, orders are read and the attendees learn about the legacy that is being celebrated. This part of the Marine Corps Ball last about an hour or so.

The second part of the Marine Corps Balls is the non-ceremonial part. This is when Marines and attendees get to eat, drink, dance and socialize. Some say that this is the “fun” part of the Marine Corps Ball, but the first part is so packed with history and tradition that it is hard to argue that the first part isn’t equally as appealing as the second.

Marine Corps Ball Do’s
Get Ready!
Not sure why this is, but it always seems like the Marine Corps Ball is a 1,000-meter target; something far away and not a threat. Then suddenly the Marine Corps Ball is just days away and a lack of preparedness sends people into a tailspin.

There are roughly 200,000 Marines in the active-duty force and in the reserve. Each year around the same time they all try to get their uniforms ready for the Marine Corps Ball so it is like a flock of locusts hitting a field of crops when it comes to uniform supplies. Clothing sales might be wiped out and lack what is needed to complete a uniform and other retailers might need ample time to assemble your order and ship it to you.

Do plan ahead and prepare for the Marine Corps Ball well in advance. This will not just save money and time it can help avoid stress and tension and not take the fun out of a really great event. Identify what ribbons or medals are needed for uniforms early on and buy locally or get it done professionally online with enough time so it can be produced and shipped with plenty of time.

Knowledge is Power
Marines will be instructed on uniform requirements for the Marine Corps Ball, but those who are guests of Marines might need help in preparing to attend the Marine Corps Ball.

Do offer your guest/date as much information as possible (like sharing this article) about the event. Help connect them with other men or women attending as guests who might have experience with what to wear and what to expect. Guests who know what to expect and prepare accordingly will be more comfortable and enjoy the event more.

Arrive on Time
Punctuality is paramount in the military and in the Marine Corps it is an expectation. Make arrangements to get to the Marine Corps Ball on time and take into account things like unexpected traffic and accidents. Some Marines choose to stay at hotels hosting the Marine Corps Ball to make arrival and departure easier, but a lot of money doesn’t need to be spent in order to make it to Marine Corps Ball on time.

Do be punctual.

Dress Accordingly
The Marine Corps Ball is a formal event. That means that women should be wearing full length gowns. Gown slits should be conservative. This isn’t an event for cocktail dresses and gown colors should complement the Marine’s uniform.

Men who are attending the Marine Corps Ball must wear tuxedos or a suit and tie. This isn’t a good place for business casual; collared shirt with a blazer, no tie. Save that for the tech company. This is a formal event.

Do wear formal attire to the Marine Corps Ball.

Show Respect
The Marine Corps Ball is all about recognizing and respecting the Marine Corps history, traditions and legacy. As previously mentioned, the first hour or so of the ball is dedicated to the ceremonial part of the ball. A guest of honor will likely speak and everyone is expected to pay attention and stay seated during the ceremonial portion of the ball.

At the table, be social and polite and avoid sitting there texting or posting on social media. There will be a time and place for that. Show respect for those at the table by interacting with them and become a part of the ball rather than focusing on capturing moments to share on social media.

Do show proper respect during the ceremonial part of the Marine Corps Ball and also show proper respect to other ball attendees. Use polite language like "please" and "thank you."

Marine Corps Ball Don’ts
After dinner and dessert, the dancing begins. Everyone loves to dance and when combined with a little liquid courage, things can get interesting quickly. Remember to keep the dancing clean.

Twerking, grinding, dry humping, butt-slapping and everything in between can be a lot of fun, but fun can still happen without it. Be respectful of the fact that unit leaders will be attending as well as a guest of honor. There might even be kids there.

This is a formal event and not some bonfire keg party or spring break trip to the coast. There is no need to learn ballroom dancing, and guests can dance to modern music, but keep it clean.

Don’t dance in ways that will raise eyebrows.

Alcohol is served at most Marine Corps Balls because guests are expected to behave like adults. That means drinking socially and responsibly and knowing when to stop drinking. That does not mean drinking to the point of intoxication; staggering with slurred speech.

If there is a toast, that does not mean chugging the contents of a glass until it is empty. It also does not mean sitting up at the bar doing shots. Drawing attention by drinking too much can be a bad thing.

Don’t drink too much.

Simply put, dump the tech toys. While it is important to capture some images from the Marine Corps Ball, it is even more important to experience it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a few pics at the event with your friends, date, leaders and guest of honor, but texting and posting on social media should be avoided. Posting, sharing, texting can always be done after the ball or the next day. It is better to live the experience than document it.

Don’t spend the majority of the time at the Marine Corps Ball facedown into a phone screen.

It is important to want to be a part of this event. Some people do not like formal events and they are uncomfortable attending them. Maybe they are socially awkward or simply do not like the formality of it all, but this event happens only once per year and it is important to show respect for the Corps and fellow Marines.

Attend the entire Marine Corps Ball and once the greenlight is given signaling to attendees that they can leave, then it is appropriate to say “goodnight” and depart. Avoid sneaking out. A few hours socializing is worth it.

Don’t leave until given a greenlight, which is normally once the dancing is underway. Ensure you announce your departure and make the rounds.

Discredit to the Corps
It is important to remember that the Marine Corps Ball is an event that honors the traditions and legacy of the Marine Corps. Marines are the stewards of the Corps reputation and brand.

Posting and circulating inappropriate pics or videos online via social media, or performing behavior that does not align with Marine Corps standards and values harms the Corps.

Don’t discredit the Corps.

The Marine Corps Ball is a wonderful event that occurs each year and that rededicates Marines to the Corps, but also embraces Marine Corps family members, friends and guests and shows them a glimpse of the loyalty and honor known to Marines.

Be proud to be a Marine. Be proud to have earned the title. Be proud of sharing this special event with those in attendance.

When Is The Marine Corps Ball? 9 Facts You Should Know

Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominiqu

On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress ordered the creation of two battalions of Marines. Samuel Nicholas was commissioned as a captain of the nascent force of Continental Marines and at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Nicholas mustered two battalions of Marines and thus began the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 1921, the 13th Commandant, General John A. Lejeune, issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. General Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines each year on 10 November to honor the founding of the Marine Corps.

Soon after, Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won with a score of 9 to 8, but this was only the beginning.

The founding of the Marine Corps has been celebrated with a birthday ball every year since 1925. The first formal birthday ball took place in Philadelphia in 1925. Guests included the commandant, the secretary of war (known today as the secretary of defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials.  Prior to the ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the Marine Corps. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel for an evening of celebration.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952, Commandant Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr. formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. Current Marine Corps policy mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present and passed to the youngest Marine representing the passing of tradition from generation to generation. The birthday cake is traditionally cut with the Mameluke sword. The first piece of cake is given to the guest of honor.

Traditionally, the second piece is given to the oldest Marine, then handing the third piece to the youngest Marine signifying the passing of experience and knowledge from the old to the young of the Corps. Among the many such mandates is the reading of the commandant’s birthday message to the Corps. Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual birthday ball has evolved from modest origins to the dignified function it is today. On 10 November, regardless of where Marines are stationed or deployed, they will always hear “Happy Birthday Marine.”


When is the Marine Corps Ball?
November 10 is the official Marine Corps birthday, and the Marine Corps ball is ordinarily held on that day. However, circumstances vary, and given that Marines are all over the world, celebration dates might vary.

When is the Marine Corps Ball Celebrated by Units?
When in doubt, a Marine’s chain of command is the best source to answer this question. Marine Corps units effectively spread the word about the Marine Corps Ball, so it should be known well in advance that the ball is coming.

FACT: Most Marines are given plenty of notice by their units to get themselves ready and presentable for the ball. Remember, if a ribbon or medal refresh is in order, order well enough in advance to ensure they arrive on time. Notifying your date or spouse of the event in advance will also help them find something to wear in plenty of time. The more lead time, the better.

Photo by USMC Cpl. Gabrielle Quire

When is the Marine Corps Ball for the Marine Corps Reserve?
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve units are similar to other Marine units except they are comprised of part-time Marines. Given many of the members have civilian job requirements and Marine Forces Reserve training requirements, Marine Corps Balls for the Marine Forces Reserve are held at the discretion of the unit.

FACT: This is a formal event, so guests/dates/spouses must wear formal, full length dresses for women, and tuxedos or suits for men. Marine Corps affiliated organizations recommend less cleavage and lower dress slits. Dresses should not be cocktail dresses. Men should wear suits or tuxedos. In both cases, the color and the outfit should complement the Marine’s uniform. Remember to keep it comfortable.

U.S. Embassy Guyana photo

When is the Marine Corps Ball if Stationed at a U.S. Embassy?
There are nine Marine Corps Embassy Security Regions around the world and believe it or not, the Marine Corps celebrates birthdays with a birthday ball at those remote locations. Ordinarily, the ambassador is the president of the ball, and the guest of honor is a dignitary from the host nation. The celebrations aren’t large, but they are still fun and meaningful.

FACT: Traditions are an important part of Marine Corps culture. It is important to adhere to those traditions and guests, newcomers or veterans to the Corps, must be respectful of tradition. The ceremony, which lasts about an hour, is the highlight of the evening. A cake will be cut, speeches will be delivered, and then there will be a reading of Gen. John A. Lejeune’s birthday message, and the birthday message from the current commandant. Nobody should standup during this time or leave their table for bathroom breaks.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert

When is the Marine Corps Ball if in training?
Marines in training will still celebrate, or at least pause to recognize, the Marine Corps birthday. Much is dependent on what training course the Marines are attending, but at the very least, a happy birthday greeting will be rendered.

FACT: The Marine Corps Ball is a social event, but don’t make it about social media. In many cases, there will be assigned seating which will require attendees to possibly speak to strangers or people they do not know. It’s okay to have another attendee take a photo but sitting at a table with a craned neck glued to a screen isn’t a good look. Be social, interact with other guests and take in the event. 

Photo by D. Myles Cullen

When is the Marine Corps Ball if I’m deployed?
As mentioned, most Marine Corps units do something to recognize the birthday. At Camp Fallujah in 2004, during combat operations, Marines were seen and heard singing Happy Birthday in the showers. Later, they congregated for a austerely baked cake and did a ceremony as best they could with what they had on hand.

FACT: While alcoholic beverages are a part of most birthday balls (unless restricted due to general order restrictions overseas), there is no need or requirement to drink. If a Marine and their date imbibe, keep it within reason. Understand that the point of the ball is to recognize and honor the traditions of the Corps. Getting drunk is not a good optic.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ryan Young

When is the Marine Corps Ball if A Marine is Afloat?
Much like the circumstances faced when a Marine is deployed, being afloat might cause a modification in the celebration. This is a great time to be Semper Gumby. Remember, if on a ship, Marines are doing the work they’ve always done. Any celebration will be meaningful.

FACT: Conversations over dinner should not include topics like politics, religion, controversial issues, or any shop talk. This is a great opportunity to ask questions about those at the table. Where they are from? How long have they been associated with the Corps? Ask questions about their families, etc.
When is the Marine Corps Ball if Home on Leave?
Marines home on leave can celebrate the Corps’ birthday on their own, or find a local unit and see if they can attend that birthday celebration.

FACT: Toasts are a part of military balls. If a Marine or the Marine’s date are not alcoholic beverage drinkers, they should not refuse the toast. Not toasting is poor taste. Marines and their guests should use beverages suitable to their values and raise those glasses for the toast. For those who do drink alcohol, take small sips when responding to toasts. Do not chug or drink the entire glass. This is in poor taste.

When is the Marine Corps Ball for Marine Veterans?
Everyone knows, there are no such things as former Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine. That said, Marine veterans if interested in attending a Marine birthday ball should reach out to local Marine units and inquire about attendance. If there are no local units or if Marine units restrict attendance to only unit members, then Marine veterans can explore veteran organizations nearby which likely will have an event recognizing the birthday.

FACT: The Nation until recently has been at war for more than 20 years. Without a doubt, the birthday ball will honor fallen Marines. Being ready for this emotional part of the night is important. Remember that this is a birthday celebration of Marines, past and present.

Marines know when the Marine Corps birthday ball is, so when they are heard asking “When is the Marine Corps Ball?” it is more an acknowledgment that they know it is approaching, that they need to prepare, and that they are ready to recognize the birth of their beloved Corps. Semper Fi.