Every Pretty Girl Deserves To Go To A Ball

*plus 100 awesome points if you can tell me what movie inspired this post's title

I've waited three years to write this post - three years since the last time Zach and I went to a Marine Corps ball.

Needless to say, this night was greatly anticipated: one grand night to celebrate four years of service, two duty stations, a combat deployment to Afghanistan, and the final ten days of life in the fleet. (We're in the single digits now, folks!) Plus, it's the only day of the year where I can get ready in less time than Zach. I'm talking dress, hair, nails, make-up, jewelry, etc. completely done... and he's still over there with his lint roller and shoe polish. Such a feat.

Although I initially had every intention of thoroughly documenting our final Marine Corps ball (I don't know why I thought I'd be so sentimental about this coming to an end - clearly not the case), I quickly realized that:

a) DSLRs were not designed to fit in a clutch (but seriously, it's 2012... someone should get on that), and
b) There's no discreetly classy way to snap photographs throughout an incredibly formal military ceremony.

Then again, I don't have purple hair, my chest stayed inside my dress the entire night (bonus points), and you couldn't see my multiple skull and crossbone tattoos through my pink lace-up corset dress... so I'm pretty sure I could have taken a million pictures while dancing on a table and still been one of the classier ladies in attendance. Oorah, Marine Corps. I'm really gonna miss you.

I did get a few pictures, though:

Since we've gotten engaged, I typically stand on Zach's left side when we take pictures together (so my left hand is free to be strategically posed in a way that shows my ring, obviously). However, Zach was really into making sure his medals were in every photo, so I got bumped to his right side for the evening. Hmph.

A few highlights from the evening:

• The Marine Corps has a tradition of cutting the birthday cake and presenting the first slices to the oldest and youngest Marine present. The majority of people gasped when they realized the oldest Marine in the room had been a Marine longer than they had even been alive (over 25 years). Everyone gasped when they announced the youngest Marine in the room was born in 1994. People born in 1994 should be in like, 7th grade right now. Weird.

• The Chaplain's prayer before the dinner included the phrase "zombie apocalypse." There's really nothing else to say about that.

• There is something innately hysterical about large groups of Marines in dress blues dancing. No, I didn't capture it on video - if there's a dance floor, I'm going to be on it. Search "Marine Corps Ball Gangnam" on YouTube if you want to get a glimpse of what I'm talking about. Except multiply any video you find by a lot... we had almost 700 people in attendance.

That's really the extent of the ball-related highlights. We mingled, listened to numerous speeches, ate really good food, bonded with the guys from the armory, danced, and watched one of the Marines standing at attention throughout the ceremony pass out while the guest speaker was talking. It's casual.

• • • • •

The rest of the highlights came after the ball ended. Of all the places in the world to have the final ball we'll ever attend, 1st Battalion 9th Marines conveniently chose Wilmington - the same city where my favorite TV show was filmed ;) The ball was actually held on the riverfront: walking distance from the "Naley table."

So naturally, we ventured that direction...

I was a little more excited than Zach about taking pictures here initially...

...but he warmed up to the idea.

My favorite part of both birthday balls we've attended?
The post-ball "find-a-random-mirror-and-take-insane-amounts-of-ridiculous-selfies" ritual.

Don't let Zach fool you...

...this is his favorite tradition as well :)

Had to document the ring's first Marine Corps Ball experience since the medals took over all night

I may have gone a little overboard with the mirror pics, but how often does a girl get to have her hair/nails done, put on make-up, wear a pretty dress, and feel like a princess for an entire evening? Oh wait... I get to do it all over again next month for the wedding, My bad ;)

The rest of the weekend included a trip to the Farmer's Market, Port City Java, a giant going-away party at Texas Roadhouse, the gloriousness of Camp Lejeune finally opening a Panda Express on base, my last trip to the barracks & PX, and lots of Just Dance 4 on the Kinect:

The Few, The Proud. Yes, all four dancers are Marines.
0311s (straight-up infantry) at that...
You're welcome.

And thus, our final Birthday Ball weekend came to an end. I'd probably be sad about it... if it didn't also mean that all field ops, duty shifts, ranges, trainings, deployments, [insert 99% of everything else associated with Marine Corps life], and weeks/months apart were coming to an end.

We're almost done.

Official 2012 Marine Corps Ball Photo

Not-Official-But-An-Entirely-More-Accurate-Depiction-Of-Us 2012 Marine Corps Ball Photo