I was excited about going to the Marine Ball before we even joined the Foreign Service. I’d read about them in FS blogs, and loved the idea of celebrating such a significant occasion and having an excuse to get dressed up. Kind of like the Midwinter Dinner in Antarctica. Three years after joining, we finally got a chance to go.

Our first post was too small to have Marines, so there was obviously no Marine Ball. Last year, the ball was about a month after we arrived, we didn’t know anyone, had no babysitters, my hubby’s job hadn’t started yet, and we had spent most of our savings on home leave. Not to mention that the venue was out in Greenwich, which is like an hour away and real pain to get to, AND they were charging $250 USD PER PERSON. Not to mention the cost of said fancy clothes. So ya, we skipped it.

This year, on the other hand, they cut the ticket prices in half and held it at an amazing venue: the reconstructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which is gorgeous and historic (built in 1997 to look just like the one built nearby in 1599)…and was only 20 minutes away by taxi. So I guess it should’ve come as no surprise that the tickets literally sold out in five hours. Happily, I managed to wander on over at the right time and bought two of the last five tickets they had.

But as the event drew closer, my enthusiasm started to wane. For one thing: we weren’t able to get seats at the same table. So our romantic evening out would be spent separately. All we could do was hope that we knew some of the people at the tables where we were seated.

View of St. Paul's from south of the Thames.

View of St. Paul’s from south of the Thames.

Me in front of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Me in front of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Me and Shakespeare.

Me and Shakespeare.

And the clothing was becoming a problem. My hubby ordered a custom kilt for the event several months ahead of time. But his family’s clan is an old one and relatively rare. So it didn’t arrive in time. He had to go rent a different one instead.

And don’t get me started on the dress. Months before the ball, I ordered a lovely little dress from David’s Bridal. A month later, it still hadn’t arrived. I contacted them, and they had no record of the order. So I tried something locally, as time was running out. I found two lovely (and cheap!) purple dresses on eBayUK and ordered those. They arrived quickly and were beautiful! Technically they fit…but they looked AWFUL on me. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten to shop for my body type. So I decided that separates would be the way to go.

I ordered a black sequined skirt from another site that I thought was in the UK. Turns out it was actually in Los Angeles…and three weeks later, my order was still “pending fulfillment.” They didn’t respond to my attempts at contact, further internet research said they were a scam. So I had my bank reverse the charges.

By that time, I had pretty much given up on a glamorous night out and just wanted to wear something that wasn’t horrible. Finally, I ended up walking a couple blocks up the street to Marks and Spencer…and spent a mere £39.50 for a long black satin skirt. The night of the ball, I pulled a green blouse out of my closet from Dress Barn that I’d bought a while ago but never worn.

I still tried to make the event somewhat special though. I made a hair appointment and got some nice ‘40s waves. Then I let my four-year-old son pick out a nail polish color, and he actually picked one that matched better than the one I originally had. I put on the sparkly jewelry I had worn at our wedding, and voila! Time to party!!

Champagne!

Champagne!

One side of the room.

One side of the gorgeous room (yes, that’s a giant tree on the left…no, it wasn’t real).

Candelabra with drippy candles.

Candelabra with drippy candles.

Our sitter arrived on time and was pleasant and professional. Her mother was also one of the nurses at the embassy, so we figured our son would be in good hands. We had decided to take a taxi and save my feet walking to and from the tube station in heels (thank god!), but became slightly nervous when we read that half of the downtown bridges would be closed due to the Lord Mayor’s parade and Guy Fawkes Night celebrations. But it all worked out in the end. We directed the driver over the Westminster Bridge, and there was hardly any traffic.

We had only one more hurdle to overcome. We had accepted the fact that we wouldn’t be sitting together. But when my hubby got to the table where he’d been assigned (we’d double checked the seating chart on the way in)…the table was full, and there was no seat for him. So when the ceremony started he was the only one in the room…standing politely next to his table…waiting for the staff to sort it out. So instead of squeezing a 12th chair into his 10-top that had obviously been screwed up, we kidnapped him over to our table, the staff brought him a chair and a place setting, and the rest was history.

The decorations were beautiful, the champagne was flowing, and the food was great. We got to sit together after all and actually knew (and liked!) all of the people at my table. My hubby looked great in his rented kilt, and I got lots of compliments on my hair. We even got a few dances in and witnessed one Marine proposing to his girlfriend, which was super sweet, before we had to get home to the sitter. The party lasted until 2am, but we made it home around midnight since the poor girl had a 45-minute commute, and we knew our son would be up at the crack of dawn anyway.

The only really disappointing part of the evening was the fact that our table was placed behind a huge pillar…so I actually wasn’t able to see a single part of the Marine cake-cutting ceremony. But hopefully CLO will have some pictures up eventually and our professional portraits will arrive as well.

But I can honestly say that we truly enjoyed our very first Marine Ball! Happy 239th birthday, Marines!!

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