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Your guide to surviving a Cambridge May Ball

Quintessential tips and tricks


If you’ve never been to a may ball before and are wondering what to expect, never fear, your resident third-year is here!

Alternatively, if you went to one last year but thought you didn’t quite make the most of it, I’ve got plenty of wisdom to impart based on my experience of attending one (1) May Ball (it was Christ’s 2022 btw and it was very good).

As an incredibly high-maintenance control-freak, may I present all my tips and trick on how to have the best May Ball of your life.

Before the big day:

If you’ve still not got your dress, try Balldrobe!

A note on heels: unless you’re made of much hardier stuff than me, it’s best to bring flats to change into. The heels I wore last year were WAY too high (I’m a wimp) and I lasted maybe two hours in them. Kitten heels/wedges/chunky heels are the way to go.

Do you see the arch on these things? (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

Girls: Practice your makeup/hair beforehand- nothing would ruin my day more than my hair going wrong/ hating my makeup on the day.

Buy a film camera! Plan to use all of the photos at the ball: this way, you’re more likely to actually get pics inside the ball (it’s easier to forget than you think) since you’ve got a physical camera with you.

Pre-ball/ getting ready:

Eat a light and late lunch: there’s a precarious balance between not being full so you can get your money’s worth of food at the ball, and eating enough so that you don’t immediately chun with your first sip of Prosecco.

Get ready with friends! Especially if you’re a girl, getting ready together is soooo fun: get the tunes on, makeup out, Prosecco flowing.

Just girly things! (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

Another piece of advice specifically for the girls: bring a bag. How else are you going to carry your lipstick, perfume, flats, jewellery, phone, hair clips, camera, makeup, comb, compact mirror…. I don’t care if it makes me high maintenance! Better to be prepared!

This is my idea of the bare minimum (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

Another piece of advice specifically for the girls: bring a bag. How else are you going to carry your lipstick, perfume, flats, jewellery, phone, hair clips, camera, makeup, comb, compact mirror…. I don’t care if it makes me high maintenance! Better to be prepared!

This is my idea of the bare minimum (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

Get pictures before you enter the ball: the night can go by so quickly and you’ll forget to take them.

If the ball says it starts at 8pm, you will not get in until at least 9pm. Expect to be queueing for over an hour, and play many, many games of guess who.

During the ball:

Slow and steady wins the race: the goal is to maintain a heavy tipsy all night, verging into drunk in the wee hours. You have to make it to 6am, so if you’re mortal by midnight, you stand no chance.

(Photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

Don’t waste your night in queues: if feels important to get your money’s worth, but if all you remember is queueing then you might as well have stayed home.

When you first enter, don’t go to the first food stand you see, the queue will be miles long. Instead, go further into the ball and you’ll quickly find one with no queues.

Similarly, if you see a massive queue for a toilet, just find another one. Don’t waste your time!

Make sure you see the main act: everyone will be there and it’s very fun and good vibes. Also try and listen to some of their songs beforehand so you can sing along!

Believe this was taken during the ABBA tribute (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

Tributes can be the best part of the night.

Take off any loose jewellery before entering the ball pit (I learnt this the hard way).

Guilt a boy into giving you his jacket circa 2am.

Thank you to my bf for his lovely jacket (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

You can expect breakfast around 3/4am. Around this time you might crash, and you just have to power through. Make it to the survivors’ photo even if it kills you.

Captured: looking rough at 6am (photo credits: Kirsty Falconer)

After the ball:

If you’re not spending the next day with your friends in bed, deliriously hungover and debriefing the night before, like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then you’ve done something wrong.

This is how hungover you should expect to feel (photo credits: Sarah Walton-Smith)

Have fun!