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 Prom Etiquette
While your manners receive scrutiny every day, they will receive a good deal of attention from more people in the time leading up to and during prom. Your prom is an once-in-a-lifetime event. You will want to look your best and make a good impression on your date and your date’s parents. Etiquette isn’t what your mom fussed at you about when your grandmother came to visit. It is about using proper social skills. It doesn’t just consist of using the right fork at dinner or holding the door open for your date. Prom etiquette involves how to make and accept invitations, making proper financial commitments, choosing prom attire, and as mentioned above, how to treat your date’s parents.

Click below to link to the corresponding section.

>Getting to the Prom
>For Everyone
While traditional etiquette calls for the boy to ask the girl to the prom, as social mores have changed, it has also become acceptable for a girl to ask a boy to be her prom date. As you consider who to ask to the prom, remember it is a good idea to ask someone you have known for a while and who can carry on an intelligent conversation. If you like to dance, make sure you invite someone who likes to dance. Think ahead…you are going to be with that person for an entire evening. This is not the time to ask someone out that you don’t know very well and it is definitely not the time or place for a blind date.Your invitation to the date of your choice should be made in person. It should be made at least a month or more before the prom. This will allow your date plenty of time to reserve a tux or search for that special dress. When you say “yes” and accept an invitation to a prom, you are committed. We all know the story of the girl who kept waiting for the better invitation to the prom that was never made. It is incredibly rude and insensitive to cancel a prom date or turn down an invitation because you have “out-of-town plans on that date” and then show up to the prom with another date.Proms now allow participants do go solo or in groups, so getting a date is no longer the issue it once was. Lots of people attend their proms solo and organize a group of friends to go together and sit at the same table. This gives everyone a chance to attend their prom without the pressure of having a formal date.
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In the past, the individual making the invitation was responsible for paying the night’s expenses. However, today’s proms can be very expensive.  It is becoming more and more common for couples to share the costs of the evening. This is definitely something that should be discussed right after you decide to go to the prom. The couple should come to a mutual agreement of how expenses should be handled so both people can budget for the event. All of the evening’s costs should be split equally, including tickets, meals and transportation. On the evening of the prom, the gentleman of the couple usually should hold the money and pay for items as necessary. This will avoid the awkwardness of having two people digging through their wallet or purse to produce half of the funds required.
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Individual Costs – Who Pays for What
Remember that accepting an invitation to the prom also represents a personal financial commitment.  You are responsible for your grooming costs and purchasing or renting what you will be wearing to the prom.

Prom Wear
Before deciding what to wear, you’ll need some information. Find out is if your prom is going to be a formal, semi-formal, or special themed event and pick your attire accordingly. If your prom is to be a formal affair, your clothing has basically been chosen for you… tuxedos for the guys and long formal gowns for the girls. A prom that is to be semi-formal usually means sport coats and ties for the guys; short dresses for the girls are acceptable. For a themed prom, you may need to research the theme and make appropriate clothing selections.  For instance, with a prom theme of “The 50’s,” choosing letter jackets for the guys and poodle skirts for the girls may be the in thing.

Most boys rent their tuxedo. If your prom is formal, a black tux is the standard. Fashion tuxes come in many colors, but the basic black looks great on everyone and is usually the least expensive to rent. Remember a prom is not a time to make a comic statement. Your date and her parents will positively not be amused if you show up at their doorstep in a tuxedo t-shirt or formal black shorts. If you wish to be creative and stand out at the prom, consider adding a splash of color with a vest, cummerbund and/or tie that will match the color of your date’s dress or wear a top hat and carry a cane.

For the typical prom, girls will need to obtain a formal evening dress. Purchase price of a new prom dress can easily exceed $150.00. As your parents will probably contribute to your prom expenses, sit down with them and take a realistic look at what you are willing and able to spend for a prom dress. Alternatives are out there, such as resale shops and stores that rent dresses for proms.  You might consider borrowing a dress from an older sister or other family member. A number of organizations throughout the United States and Canada exist to provide prom clothing and accessories to girls who can’t afford them. A current directory of these organizations is available on the PromWorks website.
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BoysGentlemen, you will be responsible for purchasing a corsage for your date. Remember to ask your date in advance what color her prom dress is so the corsage flowers and ribbon colors don’t clash with her dress. If you don’t know what color might go with her dress you can't go wrong with white roses, baby's breath, freesia, stephanotis, or carnations. Also be sure to ask your date if she’d prefer a wrist corsage or a pin-on corsage. Her outfit will usually dictate which would be best. If you only have a certain amount to spend on flowers, talk with the florist. They can help you stay within your budget.Order the corsage at least one week ahead of time. You will need to pick up the corsage from the florist the afternoon of the prom, so allow time to do that. Put the corsage in the refrigerator at home until it is time to pick up your date. (A suggestion here… If you want to make a favorable impression on your date’s mother, consider ordering and bringing her a small bouquet of flowers.)To put on a wrist corsage, turn the inside of your date’s left arm up (if your date is left-handed, she’d probably prefer you put it on her right arm) and slip on the corsage. By doing this, gravity will keep the flowers hanging upside down and from being damaged.Pin-on corsages are placed on your date’s left side with the flowers pointing up and the stems down. Hand it to her and let her pin it on herself. If you see she is having problems, you may offer to help if you are comfortable doing so. Guys…if your date is thoughtful enough to provide you with a boutonniere, wear it. GirlsLadies are responsible for obtaining a boutonniere for their date. Traditionally,this is a carnation or rose. The boutonniere is pinned on the boy's coat lapel, making sure the pin is under the lapel. Like corsages, the boutonniere should be ordered from a florist at least a week in advance. You will need to pick up the boutonniere from the florist the afternoon of the prom, so allow time to do that. Put the boutonniere in the refrigerator at home until your date arrives to pick you up.
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A professional photographer typically shoots the photographs taken at proms.  These photos usually take place with you and your date in front of a flower arch or a portion of the prom decorations as a background. As a rule, these photographs are available as singles or as part of a package. Although this is one item that can be paid for by either the boy or the girl, discuss sharing the costs with your date since some of the photo packages can be very expensive.  If picture information is available ahead of time, the couple should decide what picture package they would like and each pay accordingly. This should be done ahead of time to avoid any awkwardness of difficult decision-making that evening at the photography order table. This reduces the chances of uneasiness or embarrassment for all concerned.
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Getting to the Prom
Never, ever, stay in your vehicle and honk your horn for your date. Always walk up to the door, knock or ring the doorbell and, if the parents don’t already know you, introduce yourself.  Be polite and respectful. Ladies, you should be the first person your date sees when he knocks on the door. Be on time. Don't keep your prom date waiting and don’t forget your date’s boutonniere. It is part of the prom experience to let both sets of parents take photos of the prom couple. The easiest way to do this is to pre-designate one of the couple’s homes for both sets of parents to meet and take photographs. This needs to be arranged well in advance so parents can prepare their home for guests and an area in which to take the photographs. Keep this as simple as possible to avoid any awkwardness and time delay. Also remember that although prom night is a special night, parents will need to establish a curfew that falls within the boundaries of their family rules.  It is recommended that both sets of parents talk to each other in advance of prom night and let each other know what their expectations are in regards to the prom time schedule and the events that their son and daughter will be attending. A short talk between the parents can go a long way in avoiding any misunderstandings or miscommunications on prom night.Additionally, both sets of parents should have the contact information for their son or daughter's dates, date's parents, friends, and friend's parents in case of an emergency.

Picking Up Your Date

If you drive your own car to the prom, please take the time to clean both the interior and exterior of your car as a matter of courtesy to your date. Remember, prom dresses can and will pick up dirt from anywhere in or on a car. Be sure to fill up your car with gas prior to the beginning of the evening. No parent will believe that you “ran out of gas.” And stopping on the way is simply in poor taste.

If you are thinking of renting a limousine for the evening, be aware this can easily be the most expensive item in your prom budget. You can reduce the cost by sharing your limousine with several other couples.Renting a limo can add much to the special atmosphere of prom night but will need to be reserved well in advance. The price of a rental will vary with type and size of limo as well as length of time you plan to keep your driver. Bear in mind some companies do not accept prom reservations. If you do rent a limousine, follow proper limousine manners:
  • No smoking and no drinking are allowed in most limousines.
  • A gentleman always allows the lady to enter the limousine first. He then gets out first and helps the lady out of the car.
  • You can expect the professional driver to open the limo door for you and your date. The driver will take you to the restaurant, to the prom and, if ok with the parents, to an after-prom party, and then back home.
  • Movies and videos are always showing people standing in the moon roof as the limousine cruises down the street. This is very dangerous and illegal. Check with your driver and he will gladly allow you to stand in the moon roof to take pictures when the limousine is legally parked.
Although tips are usually included in the cost of the limousine rental, it is common practice to tip the driver at the end of the evening. One hundred dollars is the current going rate for a nice tip for a limo drive.
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If your prom is not furnishing a dinner as part of the night’s activities, it is normally the gentleman’s responsibility to select an appropriate restaurant.  However, you should discuss where you would like to eat with your date and any other couples you may be traveling with that evening. The gentleman traditionally pays for the dinner and the tip.Things you should consider in choosing a restaurant are:
  • The cost of the meal.
  • The type of food served.
  • The distance of the restaurant from the prom location.
  • Whether the restaurant accepts reservations.
On prom night, it is particularly important you choose a restaurant that takes reservations.   A reservation at a restaurant will guarantee you a table at a certain time, rather than making you stand in line waiting for the next available table.  It is also very important for you to know that when you make reservations for 7:00 pm, you need to plan to be at the restaurant by 7:00 pm. Don’t be late! It is very easy to lose your table if you are more than a couple of minutes late.  Even restaurants that normally do not accept reservations will take them for parties of eight or larger.  So if you are with a group of couples, always ask.Dinner MannersRemember your best table manners.  Make your mother proud.Whether you take your date out to a restaurant prior to the prom, or dinner is part of the prom, do the following:
  • Gentlemen, seat your date prior to sitting down at the table. If you are with a group, a gentleman helps the woman to the right of him as she sits or rises from her chair.
  • Always place your napkin on your lap once you’ve been seated.  If you have to get up, place it in your chair -- not on the table. Don't put your napkin on the table until you are finished eating.
  • Ladies always order before the gentlemen.
  • Turn your cell phone off before entering a restaurant or having dinner. Never answer your cell phone or talk on it in a restaurant or while having dinner.
  • Wait until everyone is served before eating.
  • At the table, start with the fork on the outside and work your way inside; the salad fork on the outside is used first, then the dinner fork.
  • Turn your salad fork upside down on your salad plate when you are finished.
  • Turn your coffee cup upside down if you do not want any coffee.
  • Do not talk with your mouth full.
  • Do not crunch on ice cubes
If eating at a restaurant, don ’t forget to tip the wait staff.  Tipping would be 10 percent for moderate service, 15 percent for good service and 20 percent for excellent service. At the PromEven if you are a modern kind of guy and your date is a modern kind of girl and you would normally never think of opening doors for your date, remember this is a special occasion deserving of special attention to manners. Open the door for your date when entering and exiting the car, restaurant or prom location. Additionally, gentlemen should remember to seat their date first at tables at the dance, to get up when she gets up, to pull out the chair, and, just as important, don’t forget to tell your date how nice she looks. (And ladies, don’t forget to compliment your date, as well!) If the couple must walk along a sidewalk, it is customary and proper for the gentleman to walk on the side closest to the street.Turn off your cell phone for the duration of the prom. Your date should have your full attention on this special night. Unless both parties agree, skip dancing with others.
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For Everyone
Stay Safe. Enjoy the prom night experience. Don’t drink or do drugs on your prom night. Stay sober. And don’t get in a car with a driver or anyone else who has been drinking. (Better yet, take away their keys.) Have some cab money just in case. You want to remember this evening as a special night in your life, not a tragedy that could have been avoided.
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