Anton and I did a lot of memorable things while in New Orleans, but by far the most glamorous, and exclusive, was attending the Rex Ball.
The Rex Ball is held on Shrove Tuesday (so on actual Mardi Gras) and marks the end of the city’s celebrations. The Rex Organization was founded in 1872, and most of Mardi Gras’ images, songs and colors (purple, green and gold) can be traced to the group.
The Rex Ball is invitation only. Each year there’s a new invitation design, and receiving one is so prestigious that people have been known to frame them!
The dress code of the evening is “costume de rigeur.” Despite what it sounds like, this doesn’t mean wear a costume! Instead, you should come in white tie attire, which is the strictest dress code there is. Ladies must wear floor-length dresses with white opera-length leather gloves. Gentlemen must be in a tuxedo with tails, white gloves, and a pique tie and vest.
Oh and you can’t wear gold! Gold is reserved for the evening’s king (Rex) and Queen.
So I wore this stunning navy Monique Lhuillier gown.
It was fun seeing everyone dressed up in their finest!
Even though the evening is referred to as a “ball,” it’s technically more of a show. The front row is reserved, and a few rows back the unreserved seats begin, followed by riser seats. I recommend getting there early, and getting a seat in the front row of the risers. This way you will be able to see better than we could sitting on the floor level. Or at least, better than I could. Anton is tall, so he could see fine!
The New Orleans Marine Corps Band kicks off the evening at precisely 8pm. At this time the doors are shut, so make sure that you’re not late!
For part of the band’s program, they perform the official hymn of each of the military branches. The audience is invited to stand during their respective hymns if they serve or have served, or if they are the family members of a deployed service person.
As you know, my brother Josh is in the Navy, but he’s not deployed at the moment so I didn’t get to stand. Thanks a lot Josh! That could have been my moment!
Next, there’s much fanfare announcing the arrival of Rex, his Queen, and their entourage. A lot of krewes choose kings, but Rex is the true King of Carnival.
You’re not allowed to use cell phones or cameras in the ballroom, which is hard for a blogger like me! But the positive is that you can really enjoy the experience, and not have to crane your neck to look around raised iPhones.
Rex and the Queen then promenade around the ballroom, while we all clap and admire them. They have such a tough job, don’t they?!
After being sufficiently admired, Rex and the Queen sit down on their throne.
This season’s debutantes are presented, and you can tell it’s a big moment for the ladies.
Then, the Fifty-Year Queen is recognized. This one had a lot of spirit, but you couldn’t help but wonder… what do they do if the Queen doesn’t make it fifty years? This then led to my next question: was there supposed to be a Fifty-Year King?! I never did get the answers!
The next part of the evening has the members of Rex approach Rex and the Queen to bow and curtsey. The correct procedure is to partially approach, and wait for Rex and the Queen to welcome you. When they extend their arms, you can get a little closer to bow and curtsey. But you absolutely should not step up onto the throne area!
Afterwards, all of the guests are invited to join the procession. Anton and I approached, and had the best bow and curtsey in the room. Thank you Quadrille!
After everyone bows and curtseys, the program lists “general dancing.” However, no one dances! Instead, they mill around, talking to each other. We were disappointed that we couldn’t show off our dance moves!
An important thing to know, in case you don’t want to stand around during this time, is that there is an open bar right outside the ballroom. However, it’s only open from 9:00-9:30pm and 10:00-10:30pm. So be sure to plan your drinking accordingly!
And 9:40pm, the Captain of the Comus (another ball happening that evening) arrives to invite Rex and his Court to visit the Comus Ball for the meeting of the courts.
Will Rex and the Queen accept the invitation?
Yes! No one saw that coming!
There is one final procession of the Court, and the evening ends at precisely 10pm when they leave the ballroom.
The Rex Court then travels on a red carpet across Canal Street to meet the Comus Ball Court in the hotel directly opposite.
People line the red carpet to take pictures of the Court. They’re the night’s celebrities!
For the last act of the evening, Rex and the Queen are greeted by Comus and his Queen. There is a grand procession of the two Courts, and this signals the end of the year’s Mardi Gras celebrations.
Back in the ballroom, we were finishing up our Mardi Gras with a photo shoot. Even though you can’t use cameras during the ball, definitely still bring one! Because after the Court leaves, you’re free to take pictures!
I’m not sure if you’re technically supposed to sit on their throne, but we’ve never been rule followers!
Think we have a good shot at being the 2017 Rex and Queen?
Now that Mardi Gras was officially over, it was time to go home and recover. Anton and I headed out in a ride that was slightly better than a taxi!
To read more about the Rex Ball’s traditions and history, click here.
Cheers to a fabulous, unforgettable Mardi Gras!
For all of my New Orleans travel posts, click here.