|A May Ball, despite the name, is a ball held in June at a Cambridge college at the end of the academic year. They are traditionally formal affairs, requiring evening dress, with prices from around £75 to £160, with some colleges selling tickets only in pairs. The balls are held in the college gardens, lasting from around 9 p.m. until well after dawn, with some colleges offering rides in balloons when the ball ends, and even breakfast in Paris. "Survivors' photographs" are taken of those who last until morning.
Many colleges originally held the balls during the month of May, sometimes in the week preceding year-end exams. Today, they take place in May Week, which usually starts on the second Thursday of June following the end of exams, and which includes Suicide Sunday.
The First And Third Trinity Boat Club May Ball held by Trinity College is the most famous of the May Balls, always held on the first Monday of May Week, and its tickets are the most sought after. Others would argue St. John's May Ball to be the best May Ball: Time magazine once described it as the "7th greatest party in the world". There is a strict dress code at these, and all of the May Balls. They are all black tie with the exception of Peterhouse and Magdalene which insist on white tie. Other desirable balls are held by Clare, which has some of the most beautiful gardens in Cambridge, and Gonville and Caius, regarded by the Times newspaper as "the most beautiful College in Cambridge".
Trinity, Clare, and John's are situated directly on the River Cam, along the Backs, as are Queens' and Trinity Hall. As a result, when several balls are held on the same evening, the river is lit up in different colours from the lights and the fireworks, creating a memorable backdrop to the evening's festivities.Peterhouse and Magdalene hold biannual white tie balls (alternating years, most recently Magdalene in 2005 and Peterhouse in 2006).Other annual balls are held by Jesus, Robinson, Hughes Hall and St Edmund's, and has recently been resurrected as an annual event in Downing. Corpus Christi, Christ's, Gonville and Caius, Homerton, Queens' and Sidney Sussex hold May Balls every two years. Most balls are themed, though Trinity's and Peterhouse's are notable for their lack of a theme.