The Versailles Masquerade Ball - A Guide
For: Mom, Breton, Joseph, Cameron, Lori, Darren, Andrea, Angie, Laura, Dan, Jennifer, Kirk, and Heather - merci, merci, merci... What joy to share this dream come true with you!
Ok, P'Nichers, Cinder-Ellas, Cinder-Fellas, and all you royals-in-waiting - we are heading to the ball! Oui - the Annual Grand Masked Ball at Versailles...
And now - it's time to party. This is it, P'Nichers - this is what we've been training for!
To start - what is the Grand Masked Ball?
Simply stated, since 2011, this annual masquerade offers approximately 2,500 ticket holders (this will be important later) the chance to enjoy a night of rave-like revelry in the Château de Versailles Orangerie and its surrounding gardens. Period costume (and mask) required...
Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1779!
Where exactly is the Orangerie?
Basically - it's Versailles' external building and garden area. This masterpiece, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and regally constructed between the years 1683 and 1685, contains a central 156 meter (510 foot) long gallery, a stunning barrel vault ceiling, some dazzling royal statuary - and, oh yes, orange trees in the wintertime...
And, it's our playground for the ball - yay!
Here's how we did it - a mini guide / description of events for planning a night for 14 of P'Niche's family and friends at the ball...
First, we set aside some time for proper Paris planning.
Recalling that the annual ball is typically the third Saturday evening in June, we were able to construct our entire trip around this massive event. When you plan, make sure you don't get this event mixed up with the annual Fêtes Galantes - which is typically held each May.
When planning with friends and family, it is quite important to line up on what each person is able to reasonably afford to enter and enjoy the event (this is before your costume cost).
Each tier ticket allows for different levels of service and/or food and beverages.
Tickets typically go on sale in November. As tickets tend to sell out rather quickly, your advance planning is going to help your endeavors to enjoy this magical evening.
With the 2023 prices reflected above, do note that Entrée Simple allows you entry - and all of your food and beverages are at an additional cost. (Beverages were approximately $10-$15 each). No outside food or beverage was permitted in, but we did see people manage to slip some past security. Move along, nothing to see here...?
The VIP Level Ticket allows access to the VIP area with a special buffet and two complimentary glasses of champagne.
Extravagant Ticket holders are offered access to the "Extravagant Area" with a specially reserved buffet table, unlimited champagne, parking access and the priority coat check room.
The top tier Fantastic Ticket offers access to the best seating in the Extravagant Area (stage front), ongoing buffet, unlimited champagne all night, parking access, separate rest rooms, and the priority coat check room. You can also reserve seating for your group ahead of time (via email) in this level ticket.
If you plan to attend with more than 10 people, make sure you call (reservation by telephone only at +33 (0)1 30 83 74 44) for a reduced group rate. We suggest doing this immediately upon release of tickets as they sell out very quickly.
When planning our special event, we knew that this was likely a "once in a lifetime" fête, so splurged on the "Billet Fantastique." Buy once, cry once, right?! We figured we'd spend as much on food and beverage inside anyway, so why not take advantage of the higher price ticket to avoid long lines and price hikes.
It is worth mentioning here that your ticket, no matter what level, also allows you early entry to the gardens to the enjoy the fountain water show. Regular Versailles guests were still lingering and enjoying - it was fun to see the juxtaposition of the baroque period pieces we were wearing and the modern day outfits of the tourists (who asked for photos with us in our costumes!) It was great fun...
Next up in planning was dreaming, designing, and deciding on our costumes. Baroque period costumes are required for entry, and a mask is a necessity (you simply cannot get in without one). There were even "official costume checkers" at the doors to ensure that everyone was appropriately attired.
There are various schools of thoughts to costumes. Many people do decide to rent. And most people that I spoke with rented from Sommier in Paris. (You would need to contact them months in advance to pre-order your costume and rental, so please do add this to your prep timeline if you go the rental route.) Also allot the necessary time to pick up your costume as many people will likely be arriving to do so at the same time as you!
Some in our group were able to design, craft, sew, and make their creations truly spectacular. The Sun King himself might have been jealous of their work. Gentle P'Nicher, I cannot sew, so sought out and found my (non-sponsored) dream digital lavender dress on Amazon. In fact, all of my costume pieces, from underpinnings to head feather came from Amazon. I did get some additional stars from Etsy to add to my headpiece (Thanks, Mom!)
My nieces and nephew (Coucou Breton, Joes, and Cam!) also shopped at Amazon - a simple "Baroque Cosplay" search helped us well along our way to Versailles costume glory, with assistance by mom.
You can see that Breton got in on the summer yellow and white stripe trend, while Cameron went full Outlander. I was in traditional Versailles pastel tones, and Joseph pulled off his best "Lafayette-Chic."
The girls opted to wear yoga pants with pockets underneath our dresses and petticoats. No only was it a great place to store a spare copy of our ticket, it served to keep us warm. Yes, it's summer, but temps drop during the night, and knowing we'd be outside, we were glad to be layered up.
A very important note about your footwear. Please, please wear your old, comfortable, broken in shoes.
We all wore our oldest, comfiest sneakers (decorated and bedazzled) and hardly visible beneath the long dresses and petticoats.
As this venue has extremely limited seating, we knew we'd be on our feet for nearly 14 hours and prepared as such.
A further note - wear flat shoes. You will be walking along outdoor terrain, full of cobblestones, gravel, earth, etc. You will want to make sure you are steady on your feet as you raise your champagne toasts!
Unless you go out of your way, very few people will even notice your footwear, so you will thank yourself later for putting comfort first now.
One last note for your feet, you might want to toss a few band-aids into your bag or pockets if possible.
Not only did we, ourselves, require a few, but we made friends giving away some extras. Foot protection is very important at the ball!
Signage could be improved at the ball if we are being honest. When in a group - you might want to wear something "stand out" to find each other in the masses. We saw LED light fans, shoes, etc.
In fact, one friend, the delightful Angie, wore LED threads on her headpiece. It was fantastically stunning and quite useful!
You can't see the LED threads so well here, but do rest assured that after (approximately) 35 - okay, 40 - glasses of champagne, it was much easier to locate her smiling face and join the rest of the group for more champagne - uhm, dancing!
As we decided on dates to arrive to Paris, we planned to arrive the day before the ball to allow for any travel delays and to use jet lag to our advantage.
We spent our first jet-lagged day in town wandering the streets as flâneurs (sipping Monacos, rosé wine, and some blonde beers beers at Pinky Bloom - post to follow soon) and steaming our costumes for the big event.
As we prepped for the trip and organized our costumes, we realized packing was going to be a unique challenge for this trip.
Knowing there are various camps on whether to check a bag or go carry on only, we decided that we simply had to check a bag, due to the bulk of the costumes, accessories, and our own clothes when packing.
We opted to put the entirety of our costumes into our carry on bags in case of delayed/lost luggage etc.
We didn't want to be nervous at the luggage carrousels about our bags not arriving as we needed to be in costume to get into the ball. Better safe than sorry!
One more thing about packing - before you leave home - make sure that you print out your Versailles Ball Ticket!
You must present a hard copy at the gate to get in, so ensure that this goes into your travel packet that you keep with you at all times.
As noted above, we printed a second copy each and slipped them into our pockets underneath our costumes - just in case!
Next up in our planning was deciding how to get to and from the Ball (from Paris city center). Most people coming from Paris took the standard route of the métro and connecting to the RER C Line.
We opted for a car from the G7 app. For just a few euros more than our combined train fare, we were able to pre-time our journey and know we'd arrive in style (and get home the next morning in comfort).
We knew we wanted to arrive in time for the magical water fountains and music show (which is technically before the ball, but included in the ticket price) at 9pm.
While you will still be mingling with the daily visitors, one of my bucket list items was watching the sun set over the Versailles Grand Canal. P'Nichers, it was well worth the hype.
One tip from Angie which we wish we had thought of earlier (royal face palm!)...
Something to consider is buying the last timed ticket to be able to enter inside the palace in costume.
Oh, what photos those would have been! P'Niche is filing this idea for the future.
Time for the fireworks display over the Grand Canal...
It was an eye popping (ten minute long) display of pyrotechnics and was the most suitable way to kick off the party.
Timed perfectly to music, the crowds of baroque dressed party attendees were ready to begin to dance the night (and early morning) away!
Ok, now it was time to enter the ball. This year's theme was Space Versailles. Lots of stars, moons, and intergalactic goodness were to be seen. P'Niche emphasizes again - you need your hard copy tickets to be granted admission. No ticket, no questions - no entry (no matter the face value of your ticket!)
P'Niche PSA - it is trickier than you'd imagine to find your designated area upon entry, so stick together...
As we now ushered ourselves down the main staircase, we were entertained by a myriad of space age performers, and all I could think of was "Marie Antoinette used these stairs too!" It was all so ethereal and enchanting, I had to pinch myself through my dreamy "silk" dress. Le sigh!
Throughout the evening, there was no end to the various spectacular (and rotating) entertainment. In keeping with this year's "Space Versailles" theme, each unique performance began with a rocket ship launch type countdown, so that you knew when to line up to watch.
From space age cowboys, Queen compilations, out of this galaxy pole dancing, acrobatic moves, and a never ending tumble of glittery confetti, DJ Barbara Butch kept us up and dancing all night - all night.
We only stopped for little nibbles of food and more champagne.
But where to catch one's royal breath?
Seating is very limited at the ball - especially for the lower tiered tickets. This is definitely something to consider in your personal planning process.
In the VIP areas, they did set up some group tables, which you could reserve ahead of time. P'Niche PSA - if you organize a table for friends, make sure you arrive first to that private area as the Versailles team will only seat your party once the named organizer arrives.
Further down the lane in the VIP access area were a few circular "beds" where you could kick back, relax, steal a smooch, and maybe even catch a few zzz's.
Definitely no pea under this mattress!
Walking about the festivities, it is really important to pace yourself. Think of this as a royal marathon - not a sprint. This means managing your sobriety and water hydration so that you can go the distance. P'Niche saw many guests have to leave around 2am as they could not continue their evening.
We've spent all of this money and time prepping - you will want to make sure you can party all night - remember the event officially ends after breakfast the next morning!
As for us - we danced all night and then some! Were were surprised by the amount of American and British pop played, but were delighted to be able to sing along and bop to the familiar tunes.
As we walked the sublime gardens, it was hard to not wear out the camera battery with pix and videos.
P'Niche PSA - pack several extra phone charger batteries. I went through all three of my extra chargers and was in danger of losing all power much earlier than I would have wished!
That said, as you take photos of all of the people and their magnificent creations, some guests preferred to be asked in advance for photos, rather than just snapping candid shots.
Just make sure you are aware of your social boundaries here, to not step on anyone's royal toes (or dress)!
Unbelievably, at 6am, we were all still awake; walking, talking, and reasonably functioning.
Now that the sun was jussssssssssst starting to break, it was time for "breakfast" in the atrium area. For breakfast, you can expect hot coffee, warm croissants, and grassy seating in the royal garden.
As much fun as we had during the night, this was a proper highlight. We also wanted to reenact the Marie Antoinette sunrise scene from the famous Sophia Coppola film, so were able to do so - dreams come true...
Just after 7am, we were shown the royal gates. Versailles was getting ready for daily visitors. Were we done yet? Le Nope!
We strolled across the way to an empty meadow with other party revelers, meeting lovely people from all over the globe who flew in for this very special event.
Exhausted, but on an absolute natural high, the party was at its end. We had to make an aristocratic race/dash to meet our ride home to Paris proper.
We were able to locate our driver and royally collapse into the modern day transportation back to town. Wisely, we made no plans for that Sunday - only to have a good old fashioned lie-in, where we could rest and recount all of the fun we had. This was definitely a once in a lifetime event. Or was it?!
How truly and incredibly lucky P'Niche feels to have been able to share this special night with dear friends and family. Certainly, this event has been on my vision board for years and to be able to share it with this special group makes me feel overwhelmingly grateful.
That said, if you plan to head to the ball solo, I applaud you. You might consider the Official Ball Facebook Group to meet / connect with others ahead of time to plan and to share these moments.
In this post, we were only able to share a few of our many photos here. Do join us over at the P'Niche Facebook Group for many more pix, videos, stories, and fun!
What do you say, P'Nicher? Are you adding the Versailles Masked Ball to your own bucket list or have stories of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!
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