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You’re Invited: Q & A with the Protocol & Etiquette Team

Military life can come with a lot of questions: what to wear, how to respond to invitations, when to send a thank-you note, and so much more. Below are some common questions the Protocol and Etiquette team is asked.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): “It’s better to be thoughtful to others than to be socially correct.” —Ann Crossley 

What military events can I take my children to?

Many homes are not baby-proofed. Traditionally, babies six months and younger (non-crawling) may accompany the parent to a coffee (if agreed upon by the host), but not formal balls, receptions, a hail and farewells, or private dinners. Memorials and some changes of command/changes of responsibilities are also generally adult-only events. Children should not attend social functions unless the invitation specifically states that children are welcome. If you are the host/hostess, you may need to state on the invitation that it is an “Adults Only Function.” Invitees can call the hostess to ask about children if the invitation is ambiguous regarding children. This gives the host an opportunity to assess the situation and perhaps share why it might not be appropriate or what accommodations could be made. Parades and Soldier and Family Readiness Group organization days are perfect times to bring children! These events could also be a time for school-aged children to learn some of the Army traditions and etiquette associated with military life. 

What about drinking alcohol?  

Military events are not a time for overindulgence. Take care of your fellow teammates. Never drink and drive. If your event includes the punch bowl ceremony, consider having a non-alcoholic version as well.

If I can’t go to an event that I signed up for, do I still have to pay?

If you have responded affirmatively to a pay-at-the-door event and you are unable to attend, it is nevertheless your responsibility to pay your share for the event. This may be a spouse community club luncheon or a welcome/farewell event. Arrangements have been made and obligations need to be met; please honor these. 

How do we keep the same great traditions during COVID-19?

We can draw upon all services for ideas.

The 19th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Troy Black, shared that during combat operations in Iraq, he was reminded what the most important things are about: being with Marines, accomplishing the mission, and staying true to the Marine’s customs and courtesies, even in the midst of shared adversity. No matter the restrictions, they ensured to mark the occasion of the birth of the Corps by doing three things: recognition of the oldest and youngest Marine, cutting of the traditional cake, and reading General Lejeune’s birthday message. They had a small formation with each platoon in their remote positions, they cut an MRE pound cake, they presented a piece to the oldest and youngest Marine in the platoon, and they read General Lejeune’s birthday message, all by flashlight! It’s about going back to basics, being creative, and staying true to the traditions.

Many Army units are having “drive-by spouse welcomes,” including congratulatory notes, unit pins, and welcome baskets. Units are hosting “Zoom” ceremonies, and spouses are hosting “Zoom” coffees—a way to touch base and check on their battle buddies. It is wonderful to hear about command teams welcoming and farewelling with outdoor BBQs or dinners, COVID compliant!  

Which books should I collect for my Army Spouse Reference Library?

Today, there are a number of reference books available for you to read and consider keeping in your personal library. Having them handy will help you when a question arises about appropriate protocol and etiquette for an upcoming event. Two books that have been around a long time, but have some limitations, are Service Etiquette (originally focused on naval midshipmen, but updated and still worth the read), and Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official, and Social Usage (a bit above the needs of most Army spouses, but useful when moving in diplomatic circles). Of course, we think The Army Spouse Handbook is your best option, especially when you start out building your library.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou


If you would like to ask the Protocol and Etiquette Team a question, leave one in the comments below!


  • 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.

1 Comment

  1. Dyan merola

    I found this to be a interesting read in general! Thank you for this section and all that you do!


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