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What do you wear, when do you wear it? What gifts do you bring, when do you bring them? Where does the name tag go? With so many ceremonies and events in the military, these are questions everyone, no matter the rank, will ask at some point.

Our protocol and etiquette team (Ann, Ginger, Lynda and Michelle) has you covered with many years of experience and memories! 




 Putting together the military uniform is easily accomplished with years of repetition; however, the civilian side is trickier

Some casual dress codes like “aloha crisp,” “Carolina casual,” or “Texas casual” might need more clarification from the host to determine whether a muumuu, sundress, or jeans would be more appropriate than khakis and a collared shirt.

Don’t hesitate to ask! Ginger clarifies the attire by placing a suggestion for dress in parentheses (jeans, cowboy boots and bling) for “denim and diamonds.”

Remember, that like a memorial service, a wreath laying ceremony is a somber occasion with darker colored business or business casual attire. 

Below is a simple guide to understanding the officially recognized dress terms: (This slide can also be found at Black Tie Tactical website or in PDF form HERE)




Name tags and Unit Crests: 



 Michelle recalls the advice about placing the nametag on the right side so the name is within eyesight when shaking hands. Ginger remembers to place her unit crest on her left side to keep it close to her heart.

A magnetic nametag is a great way to avoid holes in your clothing which pins can create. Unit crests can be glued to the nametag to create an association between the name and the unit.

When both unit crest and nametag are combined, we suggest placing it on the right side.

Keep in mind sensitivity to an event as Lynda suggests, for example, a memorial versus a change of command. Bling-adorned unit crests or jewelry should be kept at a minimum for a memorial but bring out all your crests showing esprit de corps for unit events and balls! 




Whether a hostess gift or a meaningful gift for an incoming or outgoing command team, there is a level of gifting that exists within the military.

We offer a few important ideas to remember to help clarify the different types of gifts and when they are given.


A hostess gift is appropriate when invited to someone’s home for a smaller event like a brunch or dinner. However, hostess gifts are not gifted at coffees, NY’s receptions, hail and farewells.

Traditional hostess gifts include wine, flowers, chocolates, homemade items, candles, or tea towels. 

Welcome and farewell gifts are customary for spouses of commanders and command sergeants major and presented on behalf of the group. Traditionally, a welcome gift is a token of the unit or locale like a local coffee table book while the farewell gift is a bit larger and more personal.

A farewell gift is a meaningful reminder of friendship and sincere appreciation. Individuals should only consider a gift if there is a personal relationship.  A recollection from Ann’s “old school Army days” illustrates a thoughtful farewell gift for a corps commander’s wife of a silver punch bowl and cups engraved with each brigade and battalion’s unit name and designation.

With so many opportunities for gifting, it is important to remember there are guidelines established by the Joint Ethics Regulation (JER) on spending limits for the total value of gifts for a superior, and these guidelines can change frequently.

For clarification on gifting regulations for service members and spouses, please refer to DoD 5500.7-R, JER para 2-203a. Gift acceptance by commanders, as well as spouses, comes under close DA scrutiny. Gifts exceeding the set amount could result in negative consequences for the service member. 


Change is inevitable in the military.


In our collective experience, we’ve seen unit crests go from simple to bling, paper turned into digital invitations, printed calling cards become business cards, and hats and gloves no longer a requirement for events and ceremonies.

However, like a good first impression, some things remain unchanged — knowing what to wear, when it’s appropriate to give a gift, and on which side to wear the unit crest and nametag.

Most importantly, know when to ask for advice from a mentor who can help guide you through the nuances of this wonderful, military spouse lifestyle! 


Editor’s Note: The Command Team here at Mission:Milspouse would like congratulate Protocol and Etiquette Team Blogger, Lynda Smith, on her new website Black Tie Tactical. She continues to serve the Milspouse community with her creativity and dedication to Army traditions.


*For more posts like this, check out The Protocol and Etiquette Team Homepage.





  • Protocol and Etiquette Team

    Ann Crossley and Ginger Perkins are the authors of "The Army Spouse Handbook," the go-to guide for the 21st century Army spouse. The 440-page book describes situations that you may encounter as an Army spouse, irrespective of your spouse’s rank or assignment. The book is not meant to be read from cover-to-cover, but kept handy and used as a reference book when you need to know what to expect in social situations. Michelle Hodge, a seasoned spouse, has taught protocol and customs classes and continues to be an advocate for soldiers and family members. Lynda Smith, the newest member of the Traditions and Protocol team, enjoys finding new ways to bring old Army traditions to life with fun and humorous experiences, a little old-school vibe, and a modern twist.


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