Feb 28, 2024

What Makes a Good Society Ball?

Saskia McDonogh Mooney dissects the tradition and current standing of society balls at Trinity

Saskia McDonogh MooneyContributing Writer

Trinity’s prestige stems from a variety of different factors: its academics, its history, its renowned societies and the pride voiced by so many of its students, staff and alumni. The balls that are hosted by the various societies speak to that legacy with their extravagant themes and traditions. The word, ‘ball’, still has a strong sense of romance and rules, despite the fact that the balls of today are more casual, even with the fancy dress. They are now a chance for students to participate in one of Trinity’s many traditions, but also to celebrate the societies they love and enjoy an evening of fun.

“I loved how everyone seemed excited and involved, everyone was dressed up and mingling. It was really nice to meet new people and especially other students, not only in first year,” said Ila Raso, a first-year student at Trinity about the 2023 Politics Ball. 

Balls have always been a place to socialise and celebrate, but the atmosphere that this happens within is really important. Raso explained that the Politics Ball was very well organised and that the “venue of Farrier and Draper was lovely, very sophisticated and fun.”


This stands in stark contrast to the Literary Society’s (LitSoc) 2023 Ball, Raso said the “event was really hindered by their last-minute change of venue. The venue it was held at was just too small for everyone, it was uncomfortable and too packed…the vibe of a traditional ball was kind of lost I think, but it was great to see everyone’s regency era outfits”.

Another first year at Trinity, Rian Gallagher, who attended the 2024 Law Ball also mentioned the venue: “It would have been nice to have had the ball at a venue that was closer as the bus back at such a late hour was a bit of an inconvenience, however all in all I had a wonderful experience at the law ball.”

So, the venue is critical for a good experience at a ball, as well as the band. Both Raso and Gallagher referenced the music being good as a major benefit. The latter noted with enthusiasm: “The band were great and played into the early hours of the morning.” 

Then, of course, all societies must remember that cost is always on the minds of students, who are ever frugal and talking about how broke they are. Essentially, for balls, people want a good bang for their buck. Speaking about the Law Ball, Gallagher admitted, “the only thing I would complain about really are the price of the bar and the fact that the meal was quite disappointing given that we had paid €65 for tickets.”

Finding the balance between venue, music, food and cost all are crucial ingredients for a beautiful blend at any ball. Yet while all of these things are essential, so are the people you go with. 

An anecdote from Joseph O’Conner’s book The Secret World of the Irish Male in which his date dumps him and displays general disgust towards him at Trinity Ball, says it all: “I do not think I will ever forget the full horror of that night. The map of Trinity College Dublin is burned into my soul, and bits of gravel are probably still embedded in my right foot.”

At the crown jewel of all balls hosted in Trinity, his disastrous experience can serve as a reminder for the importance of choosing one’s dance partner wisely. While people can’t really help the venue’s proximity or how thematically relevant it is, or the cost and the band, what is in the hands of the attendees is who they attend with – because, as in most parts of life, people are what matter most. People are what make a bad venue and spending a lot of money worthwhile, because you forget your surroundings and you forget how much money you spent. So really, societies can, and must, do their best to host the most fabulous dance they possibly can, but in the end, the success of the ball is in the hands of the people.

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