1. The major portions of the evening are the assembly, dinner, and social activities
periods. Each of these periods is subdivided into appropriate parts.
2. During the assembly period cocktails are served, the receiving line formed, and unit
ceremonies take place. Such ceremonies may include the mixing of a special punch or
the installation of a unit trophy, insignia, or emblem in a place of honor.
3. The dinner includes the serving of the meal, the toasts, and after-dinner remarks
scheduled by Mr. Vice. Its beginning and ending are marked by the invocation and
benediction, as well as the posting and retirement of the unit colors.
4. The social activities period is limited to after-dinner drinks, guest speaker
comments and the departure of the commander.
I. COCKTAIL PERIOD
• The seating chart for the event will usually be posted at this point if the event is not open seating. Look for the chart in the foyer of the center to locate your seating so that when the ball room opens, you can quickly proceed to your table. Coordinators will do their best to seat units together however, sometimes this is not practicable. If you find you would prefer to sit elsewhere, you must make arrangements first; do not simply take their seat or move place cards without prior coordination
• The cocktail period last for 30 to 45 minutes only so, conversation should be light and of short duration. When a signal is given for dinner by the presiding member or the president of the mess, the members and their spouses enter the dining room and stand behind their chairs. Please do remember to sit in your chair from the right and rise to the left. Drinks and cigarettes are left in the lounge. Also, once you arrived at your table, do not sit right away, wait for instruction from the emcee and when in doubt take your cues from the head table.
• Some organization prepares a special punch at a ceremony with an elaborate mixture and tasting procedure in front of the assembled mess. The cocktail period is the ideal time to schedule this ceremony.
II. RECEIVING LINE
Receiving lines are located at the entrance. The aide or adjutant is in charge of announcing the names of the guests. They do not shake hands or carry conversation. Their role is to introduce the arriving guest to the next person in line which usually the host or the commander. Then, second to his/her spouse; Followed by the most important guest of honor and then his or her spouse. Receiving line consists of no more than five people. For the military member and the spouse, when entering the receiving lines, the lady should be in front of the military member even the couples are both militaries (except at White House function). The military member will introduce his spouse to the first person in the receiving line. Then, the name of the military member and the spouse will be passed down up to the last person of the line. Be sure to reintroduce yourself if the other person is having problem pronouncing or remembering your name. Also, do remember to free your hands from any objects to shake hands with the people at the receiving lines. A simple and cordial greeting is appropriate. If you happen to be in the receiving line, try to keep names in mind. Address the person in the same way he or she was announced. If you did not hear the name or may have trouble remembering or pronouncing the name, it is appropriate to ask the person to repeat their name. And if perhaps you know someone in the line, and they want to talk to you while going through. Remember that part of your job is to keep the line going, so politely stop the conversation by saying “Hey, it is so great seeing you here, I want to talk more lately, after dinner”.
III. MILITARY BALL SEATING PROTOCOL
Each military installation has an official protocol office that governs the proper customs, courtesies and behavior in any formal military function. Proper seating at a military ball is mandatory as it ensures that every service member is afforded the proper customs, and courtesies he has earned.
From the head table, the speaker will address the crowd and the toastmaster will call the traditional toasts. The head table at a military ball must contain seven and 14 seats. It is placed at the front of the room, opposite to the entry doors. The ball host, usually a battalion, battery, brigade or division commander, sits in the center of the head table. The guest of honor sits to his immediate right, followed by the third and fourth-highest ranking guest. The second ranking guest, toastmaster and first ranking guest are seated to the host’s left. If spouses or significant others are present, each is seated to the immediate left of her own service member.
The tables for high-ranking and distinguished guest are arranged to accommodate four, six or eight guests. The highest-ranking service member (ranking below those at the head table) and their spouses or significant others are seated close to the head table. Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war, distinguished retirees, and those with physical needs due to combat injuries are seated near the head table, regardless of rank. Males are seated next to females whenever possible, alternating sexes at both round and rectangular tables. Spouses sit to the immediate left of each service member if they are present.
Groups of similarly ranking service members should be seated together whenever possible. Officers generally sit with other officers, and enlisted members usually sit with other enlisted members. Mixing high-ranking enlisted members with officers is permissible. Tables are arranged four, six, or eight guests. Males alternate seats with females whether the table is rectangular or round. Spouses and significant others are seated to the immediate left of their escort, regardless of sex. For instance, a female service member’s husband or boyfriend will sit to her left, right next to a male service member.
Fallen Service Member Table
The tables of the fallen service members are placed at the front and center of the head table. Placards of the name of the deceased service members are placed at each setting to serve as a solemn reminder of those unable to attend because of the sacrifices they’ve made for the country. The plates and glasses remain empty, and the toastmaster generally calls for a moment of silence to honor the fallen, shortly after all guests are seated.
IV. POSTING AND RETIRING OF THE COLORS
Once everybody is introduced, they go to their tables to wait for the entrance of the colors. Individuals in uniform remain at attention and face the colors at all times during the presentation. Civilians should stand quietly and follow the colors as they are being posted and retired. Males should remove their head gear and should remain silent. The same is true during the playing of the National Anthem except that everyone is encouraged to sing the lyrics. Once colors are posted, the male will seat her date and stand behind her chair until everyone at the table are seated. After closing remarks the colors will be retired, same rules apply.
V. WELCOMING REMARKS
After posting of the colors, the president of the mess seats the mess and proceeds with welcoming remarks which set the tone for the formal part of the ceremony. There will be at least one speaker at the ball. Make sure your phone is silent or turned off during the speech. Go to the restroom before or after the speaker deliver his speech. It is not appropriate to go out or get up from where you are seated during his presentation. The presiding officer of the mess remains standing while speaking and upon conclusion directs that dinner be served.
VI. OFFERING OF CEREMONIAL TOAST
Toast may be done to honor specific member present. There may also be a silent toast to honor the missing in action and the prison of war. Before toasting, to the ladies, all ladies will be instructed to sit. Once the toast is proposed, all ladies should sit quietly while the gentlemen respond and drink to the toast. It is not proper protocol to drink a toast to one self. When a toast is proposed, there is generally a standard response to the proposal. The response may differ from or be a shortened version of the actual proposal. Responses are usually found printed in the program for the event. Additional toasting protocol: if a civilian female is toasted, for example, she may either stand and acknowledge the toast or remain seated and raise her glass in acknowledgement. When prisoners-of-war are toasted, they should only be toasted with water -- never alcohol. All attendees at a military ball should acknowledge a toast in some manner, even those who are not drinking alcohol or those who have an empty glass. Mandatory toasts, including those for POWs and those killed in action, have specific responses that must be uttered.
The toastmaster, generally the host of the ball, must toast the president, distinguished guests, the host of the ball and the service members as required by military regulations. Also required are toasts to prisoners-of-war, those killed or missing in action, and fallen service members, even if none are from the unit. Required toasts are given before any toasts of goodwill or spontaneous toasts may be called.
Toast of Goodwill
Toasts of Goodwill are congratulating service members on successful deployments, or troops whose spouses recently gave birth and spouses who are being recognized for volunteer efforts that have helped the unit.
Spontaneous Toast and Anecdotes
Spontaneous toasts, like toasts of goodwill, should also be short and concise. Any service member may initiate a spontaneous toast after dinner, when wine or champagne has been served. Using proper military customs and courtesies, it is appropriate for a service member to toast the unit commander or other soldiers by saying, "To the commander" or "To Command Sergeant Major Jones." Generally, short anecdotes that are appropriate for the entire audience can precede a toast. Never share stories of combat unless they tout the valor of the person being toasted and will not refer to missing or deceased service members, and never use profanity in an anecdote.
Each time the mess is adjourned and reassembled, members allow the person at the head table to be seated and depart before them. The formal portion of the military ball should be just that, strictly formal. However, there is wide latitude for the conduct of informal activities. Events or games which give evidence of irresponsibility and lack of self-discipline should be discouraged. It is not necessary to be destructive or to have fun at the expense of others for the affair to be a success. A wide-range of games and activities are available, being limited by common sense, good judgment, and imagination.
VIII. GUEST SPEAKER DELIVER SPEECH
The military ball is not for use as testimonial dinner. However, the guest of honor is normally requested to deliver a few interesting remarks on a subject entertaining to all. The presentation is normally delivered as the last formal item of the mess, as it is the highlight of the evening. The only thing to remember here is to be respectful of the guest by being quiet during the speech.
IX. DEPARTING THE MESS
During the evening each member attempts to pay his or her respects to the guest of honor. After the mess is adjourned, members should remain until the guest of honor and the president of the mess have departed. If there is to be an extensive delay in their leaving, the president of the mess may allow members to leave at his or her discretion. Mr. Vice should be the last member to leave.