The last exams papers have been collected, school shirts duly signed, and yearbooks distributed. Now the celebrations can really begin! What was once a ‘school leavers ball’ in the gym has now become a much more involved and elaborate affair in this country, thanks to the Debutante’s Ball or annual Prom Stateside. Their beginning can be traced back to the late 1900’s when American universities held co-educational banquets for each year’s graduating class.
What’s the history behind The School Prom? How has it caught on so profusely in the UK? What do you need to know about hosting this culturally important event for teenagers and making the event memorable?
What’s a Prom?
For us reserved, less flamboyant Brits a prom is just ‘a paved public walkway by the sea.’ But travel across the Atlantic and they’ll show you a very different perspective. The somewhat bland definition of “ball or formal dance at a school or college especially at the end of an academic year” does not do justice to the stylish way our American counterparts arrange these evening extravaganzas. In the academic calendar they are ‘the event of the year’ with plans initiated years in advance, and that’s not just the organisers. For many teenagers this is the ‘biggest night of their lives’ and everything hinges upon being there and looking good!
Iconic movies such as Grease, High School Musical and Footloose feature youngsters discarding jeans and ‘sweat-pants’ and donning smart looking Tuxedo jackets and beautiful flowing gowns. Even the venues are top notch, decorated to the event’s theme from the eye-catching displays and atmospheric lighting down to table ornaments and entertainment. A formal three course sit down dinner is served complemented by an assortment of sparkling liquid refreshment. And, of course the main occupation of all those in attendance is to dance until you drop, preferably with someone else!
The Prom from across the Pond
“Prom” – short for ‘promenade’ - referring to the formal introductory parading of guests at a party – can be dated back to annals of 1894 when university students were gathered together to celebrate completion of academic training. The original purpose was to give these socially inexperienced youngsters a chance to develop their interpersonal skills and to experience formal dining. The US growing ‘teenage culture’ forced a younger and younger participant and by the 1940’s the school prom became the adolescent dance we see today. The post war economy growth made it possible for many high schools to swap the school hall or gym for more luxurious venues such as hotels and country clubs.
Meanwhile in the UK, it has only really been since the Millennium that school proms have really caught on. Prior to these there was never too much fuss made of leaving school, apart from the ‘leavers disco’ (15 & 16-year olds) or sixth form party (17 & 18-year olds). Today it is very much part of the youth culture spurred on by the regular flow of adolescent lifestyle movies and series coming from the US. It is thought that 85% of UK schools now hold a prom each year. (British Council Learn English Teens)
British school leavers adopt the same mindset about their prom with regard to choosing an impressive venue, hiring novel vehicles and focusing on their appearance although the whole affair is a little more egalitarian than across the pond.
Consequently, organising and arranging a prom has become big business for event venues, hospitality, entertainers, beauticians and the like. According to an article in the Telegraph in 2012 the prom business was making upward of £80m a year and there is no sign of this popularity changing anytime soon. Recent reports state expenditure on proms is more like £100m in recent years with an average cost of £244 per person. Guess who bears the brunt of this financial burden? As always, it’s the parents!
Planning the Prom
If you own or manage a venue suitable for a prom or would like to organise your own school prom what do you need to the think about?
These lavish parties are usually held in the four-week period from mid-June to mid-July to coincide with the end of exams and the academic year. It may be a little late to start your plans for this year, but you’re still in plenty of time to start the ball rolling for next season. As a starting point you may want to consider the following:
- Forming a committee or selecting your team to handle the event
- Choosing a date
- Setting a theme
- Booking the venue or making sure your venue is available
- Booking the caterers (inhouse or external) or making a list of food to buy in
- Booking a photographer
- Booking a DJ, the musicians and/or the entertainments
8)Setting the budget (and discussing fundraising if applicable)
Countdown to your prom – checklist
6 months to go
- Start promoting the prom announcing the date and theme.
- Commence fundraising if needed
5 months to go
- Design the tickets
- Confirm the performers, musicians, entertainers
- Check quotes from caterers, electricians and other suppliers
3 months to go
- Design posters to build anticipation and awareness
- Promote on your school or venue website
2 months to go
- Print the invitations
- Send out a newsletter to parents with details
- Start selling tickets
1 month to go
- Confirm the music selection with the DJ
- Agree the menu for dinner
Publicise on social media at regular intervals building a following for the event and announcing any sponsorship or charity involvement
How can we help?
Roller Banners UK can provide for all your design and printing needs for your prom, as well as assist in creating an impressive decorative set for your venue. There are many creative options for your theme, some of which are listed below:
*Carnival * Charleston * Fire & Ice * Moulin Rouge * Starry Night * Under the Sea * Masquerade * Enchanted Forest * Cityscapes * Tropical Rain Forest* Desert Island *
Take a look at our products page to discover a comprehensive range of display stands and accessories to add life to your theme. For instance have you thought about several wide roller banner displays for the themed backdrop; flags to line the walkway, pop up counters as ice cream parlours, mini bars or as a cloakroom counter; a gazebo tent for shelter in outdoor areas; desk top displays listing drinks or the dinner menu and maybe a Teno banner stand as a partition or screen?
Call today on 02380 700111 or chat online!