The Rudolfina Redoute is the oldest, most traditional ball organized by a student fraternity. The Rudolfina Redoute is the only masked ball that still survives today in Vienna. The ladies wear masks until midnight and can invite the men to dance until midnight when they are unmasked. Every year on Rose Monday the ball is held at the Hofburg Palace. The ball as it is today has been held since 1912 but in other forms since 1899! The ball is held in the Hofburg Palace, which was home to the Habsburg dynasty and is now the official residence of the President of Austria.
With all of this in mind, the preparation for the ball was a teeny bit stressful but standing in the middle of the dance floor in the main ball room, looking up at the beautifully painted ceiling after dancing the Viennese Waltz with the love of my life, it was worth every moment of time spent in dance class, practicing, shopping and planning. It was a perfect night. Although, I have to admit, planning and practicing the waltz in an empty room of our apartment part of the fun.
The day we arrived in Vienna, we went to breakfast with Kate and Brian, two of the friends we were meeting there. While sitting in a 100 year old coffee house (which hadn’t changed a bit, by the way) sipping our coffee, we watched the horse drawn carriage carry tourists through the tiny little alley on to the next sight on their tour. I jokingly said to Ryan, “I want to arrive at the ball in a horse drawn carriage, make that happen. Thanks!” Ryan responded with “sure.” Later that day, again in a cafe sipping coffee (are you sensing a theme here?) We looked out the window at the horses pulling the pretty carriage in front of the palace and we talked about the logistics of the ball. Arriving in a horse drawn carriage was still a joke but seeming more and more like a great idea. The next day while sitting in the cafe Demel sipping coffee with amaretto with our friends Shane and Si, who were the master minds behind the grand idea of attending a masked ball in Vienna, we pitched our idea of hiring a horse drawn carriage for the ball. A few emails and phone calls later, it was set. My amazing husband is spoiling me!
On the day of the ball, four of the seven girls gathered in Kate’s room to do hair and make up and for some much needed pre-ball girl time. The men got into their tuxes, helped each other with their bow ties and met for cocktails in the lobby while the girls finished up. One moment of the night that is burned into my mind is seeing Ryan, Shane, Brian, and Aaron stand up when the girls walked into the lobby. They were standing next to the white piano in the glow of the light from a dozen white pillar candles on top of the piano. They all looked dashing in their perfect black and white tuxedos. We took a few quick pictures… very quick and hurried into the hotel restaurant for dinner. Dinner was much better than we expected and just as we finished off the wine, our carriages arrived. It was time for the moment we had all waited, planned, primped, prepared, and practiced.
The carriages were a perfect last minute addition. The four couples climbed into the carriages and snuggled in under the soft blankets. Along the way to the palace, we stopped at a red light and the driver of another carriage ran over to our carriage. When he reached the side of the carriage, he was smiling. He gave our driver a rose. It was such a cute romantic moment that I find myself smiling even as I type this.
When we arrived at the palace, I didn’t want to get out of the carriage. It was so perfect, so surreal. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Not only had Ryan set this up, he did it for me without a second thought. Eventually, I did get climb down but only after taking a deep breath to take in the moment.
As we walked inside the women began to put on their masks. There were so many different types of makes. There were simple, elegant makes, larger colorful masks and even larger masks with feathers reaching a more then 12 inches into the air. I found myself mesmerized by all of the different dresses and masks. Some women wore traditional Viennese hairstyles that looked amazing and other simple, softer up-dos that looked equally amazing. The variety of dresses made us feel like spectators at a red carpet event… wait, I guess this was a red carpet event! We all pointed out the stunning dresses that we loved as well as the ones that would make Mr. Blackwell’s worst dressed list. Our table was in a perfect position for people watching, which was really half of the fun.
Soon after we arrived, the opening ceremony began. There were some announcements and introductions in German of which, I only understood a little. Next, a beautiful opera and ballet performance. From our vantage point, we were unable to see much of the ballet so I had to borrow the picture below but what we could see was lovely.
After more introductions and traditional dances performed by the men of the Rudolfina fraternity and their dance partners. The orchestra began playing a Viennese waltz and everyone quickly moved to the floor to dance the first waltz of the night.
We took a little break at our table, which was in a perfect place for easy access to each of the ball rooms and people watching, to chat with friends about all of the amazing dresses and masks. Then Ryan and I were off to explore the other ball rooms. When we walked into the room in the picture (left) they were playing Michael Buble’s “Save the Last Dance,” which was the last dance at our wedding reception. This was our first full waltz and it was perfect!
We walked from ballroom to ballroom enjoying the different music. Each room was sort of themed. In one room there was even a band playing American country music. Another room was filled with old school jazz and of course there was plenty of classical music. Did you know you can waltz to Achy Breaky Heart? Between dances we sat at the table with everyone enjoying wine and chocolate covered fruit. There were so many people in the enormous palace that we were all seeing different things and having a somewhat different experience. It was fun to share the stories.
Later in the night, around 1am the band in the main ball room began to play more Viennese waltz music. We decided to give the main ballroom another try but dancing here was almost dangerous. Here in the largest ball room a couple could dance at a slightly slower pace if they stayed in the middle but you ventured out to the outer ring, which we called the autobahn of dancing. We had to move quickly or risk being run over. We were pretty proud of ourselves for making it around the full length of the dance floor without major incident. Of course there are the usual bumps and bruises that we learned accompany the Viennese waltz but a few bruises were worth it. It was interesting to step back and watch other couples too. It was obvious that some had been dancing together for years and were very good. Others looked to be on their first and were quite cute!
At the end of the night, we stood in the middle of the dance floor looking up at the palatial ceiling and chandeliers, listening to the music and just taking in the moment. We had just spent the night ballroom dancing in a real palace in Vienna. This was real life! We were snapped out of our daze of happiness when we realized that everyone around us had lined up to participate in a Viennese version of a ballroom/line-dance hybrid dance. We practically ran to the side of the room to get out of the way and watched for a bit.
This is definitely a night we will always treasure.
You can see more pictures of the ball at this link: