Sunset Cliffs – Marine Corps Ball Shoot {My Photography}

Last time I shot at Sunset Cliffs my models were actually going to the ball after, and with her 5″ stilettos she wasn’t too interested in doing any exploring or hiking. I decided I wanted to shoot there again, but with a couple that didn’t mind hiking down to the water. They decided to wear their formals, but since they agreed before hand to hike down to the water with me, I didn’t feel bad when they got a little wet lol.

Turns out they were not the easiest couple to shoot, very silly. I’m actually surprised I got so many good shot!

ImageImageI found the below composition on Pinterest and felt that Sunset Cliffs was the ideal location to replicate it. I love that it highlights the natural landscape.

ImageIMG_5347edit2My main reason for wanting to shoot at Sunset Cliffs again was to finally get to practice shooting sunset silhouettes. The sunset wasn’t as impressive as it had been for the last few weeks (of course, on the day I shoot it kinda sucks lol), but it was better than the sunset last time I was there. I need to work on it a little more to get the people in full silhouette, but I’m happy with how the composition turned out!


Pre-Ball Photo-shoot at Sunset Cliffs

I wanted to share some photos from the pre-ball shoot I did last weekend.

I was looking forward to this shoot for weeks! I checked out the location, research the poses I wanted to try, and the entire week leading up I would longingly stare at the sunsets, anticipating beautiful lighting for my session. Then on the night we were scheduled to shoot, it was cloudy! No stunning lighting, no sunset. Just clouds. Thankfully the couple was stunning enough to compensate for the lack of beauty in nature.

Location: Sunset Cliffs, San Diego

Photographer: Alison V. Photography


Picking the Perfect Ball Dress

Since the Marine Corps Ball is coming up in November and a lot of ladies are searching for dresses right now, I wanted to share my personal advice for buying a dress for military balls.

Although I am not the most seasoned wife out there, I have been to 3 Marine Corps balls; 2 with my husband and 1 with a friend in college who was in ROTC


When I went to my first ball with my friend who was in the Navy/Marine Corps ROTC, I had no idea what the ball was or what I should wear, and neither did he. I was told it was “formal”, which to me brought to mind a wedding or a cocktail party (like I had ever been to one of those at 18! lol). So I dug through my closet and put together an outfit (I’m the one in all black on the left).

When I got to the ball, I realized that I was very underdressed. The woman around me were in beautiful floor length gowns, more to the style of prom than a wedding. I felt uncomfortable, out of place and very awkward as I sat with my date at the ROTC table. So trust me, you don’t be that girl! Pick an appropriate dress.

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When Jeremy and I started dating and he invited me as his date to the ball, I had a much better idea of what I was supposed to wear because of my pervious experience the year before.. Jeremy was also very informative and he told me that the command dress code was for women to wear floor length gowns. (Some commands do have strict dress codes, be sure to ask your FRG  leader or FRO if you don’t know how formal the ball is. I’ve seen women kicked out for not being dressed appropriately!)

I’ve since been to one other ball with Jeremy, and at all of the balls I have been to the majority of women wore full length gowns. They key word here being majority. I know that everyone has different opinions and all balls are different, but what I will speak to in this post is what the majority of women wear to balls, and what is the average and appropriate attire.


The first thing to keep in mind is that the ball is a very formal event. The men (and women), wear their dress uniforms, which for the Marines are the blues. That is equivalent to a tuxedo, your dress should reflect that.

So let’s take about some main dress criteria:

#1: Length

Ball dresses should be floor length. It’s not prom, and just because it’s sold in the “formal dress” section of the store, doesn’t mean it’s okay. This is not appropriate:

I’ve heard some women says that a knee length dress can be appropriate, if it’s the right style/fabric/etc. For me personally, I always go with long. In my experience, 98% of women will be wearing floor length dresses, which to me is a clear signal that floor length is best. But, if you are going to go with a shorter dress, make it at least past the knee and make sure it’s very formal. If you would wear it to a wedding, it’s probably not formal enough. 

#2: Patterns

I have never really had much of an opinion on patterns or sparkles. I think if it is done tastefully then you can make it work. I also don’t feel that you have to match your man’s uniform exactly as far as color. Finding an appropriate dress for the ball doesn’t mean you can’t show off your personal style, but don’t go too over the top. This night is about your service member, not your own personal fashion show.

I would probably say “no” to these two, but patterns and embellishments isn’t a hard fast rule like length, in my opinion.

#3: Cutouts

I’ve heard this debated almost as much as the length issue. I love when women have the defense of “your just jealous of my nice body, if you were skinny enough to wear a dress with cutouts then you would”. Umm, actually no. I don’t see anything remotely classy or sexy about wearing a skirt and a bikini top held together by some sequins. The ball is a formal and CLASSY event, showing your stomach, back, thighs and boobs all at the same time will never be classy.

With that being said, cutouts by no means should automatically disqualified for a dress. Cutouts can be done in a classy way, as long as they are placed appropriately and not over the top. A low back or a small side cutout is fine, everything in moderation. Skin does not automatically equal sexy, there are plenty of dresses that cover all of your assets and are still very sexy. A little cleavage or an appropriate slit is fine, just remember that you are meeting your husband’s bosses, do you want to do that with your girl on display?

My final advice is that just because your man likes it doesn’t mean it automatically gets the stamp of approval. I know for a fact that my husband has absolutely no fashion sense when it comes to women’s clothing, if I let him dress me I would be a disaster, so why would I rely only on his opinion for the ball, where it is so important to be appropriately dressed? Most men do not know women’s fashion or what is appropriate, and that’s just the reality. Of course, you want your man to think you look good, but I just wouldn’t let him be your only guide when it comes to picking out a ball dress.

I think my favorite rule of thumb that I have heard this season is that if Mrs. Obama or Kate Middleton wouldn’t wear it, then it’s probably not appropriate. Think gown, think classy, think elegant.

You can’t go wrong with a full length gown with no/minimal cutouts

Basically the opposite of this lol:

All of these photos (other than my own personal ones) were take from Unique Vintage, there formal dresses start as low as $32! The ball doesn’t have to break the bank! The dress I wore to my first ball with Jeremy (the red one) was $30 from Ross!

TBT: My First Ball

I was hoping that this post would cooincide better with ball season, but it’s a few months early. Oh well, guess I will just have to write a stand alone “ball etiquette” post when it gets closer.

In all honesty, I’m running out of stories to share! Jeremy and I only dated for 6 months before we got engaged, and it was a fairly uneventful 6 months. I was actually sharing with another blogger that I am running out of throwback pictures as well lol.

This post bring us up to November 2008, less than a month before we got engaged.

Jeremy and I were definitly in a serious relationship. We had said “I love you” to each other, he had met my family and we were spending every free day together in blissful dating land planning our future marriage.

I’ve always heard of girls getting “asked” to the ball by their boyfriends, like being “asked to prom”. But when Jeremy told me about the ball, I just assumed I was going as his date. Who else was he going to take? His other girlfriend?! lol

So I went out and bought a dress ($30 at Ross!!!) and spent the evening getting all dolled up for my (second) Marine Corps Ball. (more about my first ball when I write the etiquette post, along with more about my dress choice).

Jeremy showed up at my door in his dress blues with a dozen red roses (awwww). It was my first time ever seeing him in his blues and he looked very good.

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He whisked me off in a carriage (jk, we too my car) to the Marriott Hotel in San Diego. I felt like a princess in my fancy dress. I had only been to my senior prom in High School (without a date), and already the ball felt much more exciting.

Jeremy had been promoted to an E-4 the month before, which was something to celebrate, except for the fact that it meant  that we couldn’t sit with any of his friends. In the Marine Corps, the jump to E-4 distinguishes NCO’s from….I’m actually not sure, whaterver E-3’s and below are called. So we got assigned a table with a buch of NCO’s…whom Jeremy did not know. All of his friends (E-3’s at the time), got to enjoy their own table togehter, major bummer.

There was the traditional ceremony and speeches. The one part I remember distincly was when they asked all the wives to stand up and Jeremy told me not to stand. Still to this day I remember that and I think that it is part of my feelings on the difference between wives and girlfriends. One is not better than the other, but I think that being a wife is a different level of distinction and one that should be acknowledged.

I don’t remember too much else about the night. There was food and cake, of course. I think we eventually moved over to the other table with our friends afer the meal was over. At the time, Jeremy and I had only been dating for 5 months, so I was very unfamiliar with the Marine Corps and the tradition that goes into the ball. I think a lot of it was lost on me at the time.

When I go to the ball now, as a spouse of almost 5 years, I have a different experience. The tradition, the stories, the ceremony, it impacts me on an emotional level now that I have experienced military life with my husband. I have experienced deployments and kown women who has lost their husbands. The ball isn’t just about getting dressed up (although that is a plus!), its about honoring the Marine Corps and all that our Marines do on a daily basis for this country.

I can’t wait till this years ball, November 16th! It will be my 3rd ball in 6 years! Jeremy always seems to be deployed or at school in November. We are probably going to be taking my parents with us as well, which I think will be a really exciting opportunity for them to experience the tradition and history of the Mairne Corps.

Stay tuned for my etiquette post around October. You don’t want to be “that girl”….trust me, I was!

Marine Corps Ball

It’s that time of year again, the Marine Corps Birthday! Which means it’s also time for the best part of being a Marine wife, the birthday ball! Unfortunately, with Jeremy deployed we will be missing it again this year, just like we did in 2010 when he was deployed in Afghanistan and 2009 when he was in school in Pensacola, FL. 5 years we’ve been together for ball season, and we’ve made it to 2 lol. But we have 3 more chances before his contract is up, so I’m hoping for at least 1 more!

Seeing all my fellow military wives dressed up for the ball made me reminisce about our first ball, 2008. We had been dating for 6 months and I was excited but also terrified to be going to such an important social function. Thankfully he told me what to wear and I wasn’t “that girlfriend” who shows up in an inappropriate dress lol.

I was at my apartment all dolled up and waiting for him to pick me up (we didn’t live together). When I opened the door he had a bouquet of red roses and I saw him in his dress blues for the first time. Wow. I’m pretty sure I was speechless for a few seconds.

I honestly think the Marines have the best dress uniform, and I’m not just saying that because my husband looks damn sexy in them 😉

I was incredibly nervous at the ball, seeing everyone in their uniforms was intimidating, I had no real idea what all the ranks were or what the medals meant. I probably didn’t appreciate the ball as much that first time. We were so young and I was inexperienced with the military lifestyle. I was excited to be with Jeremy, but all the ceremony and tradition was a little lost on me I think.

Now when I go to the ball, I feel a sense of pride. Pride in the tradition of the Marine Corps, Pride in my husband for his service, Pride in myself for supporting him through two deployments, Pride in my country and Pride for all those who have sacrificed for our freedom.

I love getting all dressed up, but the ball is about so much more than that. It’s not just Prom for adults. It’s about honoring the Marine Corps and all those who serve in it. It’s an honor to attend, and I feel honored to be on my husband arm when he wears those dress blues.

Marine Corps Ball 2011