Prom: A New Spin on Old Traditions

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The Hadza People of Tanzania, a hunter-gatherer society in Africa, dance for all major celebrations and have for generations. Americans celebrate major events, such as weddings, anniversaries, and other milestones with dances. One major milestone celebration of most teens in the United States is prom. America has changed the hunter-gatherer traditions and along with it the traditions of prom. If your teen is gearing up for this big event, here is an update on prom etiquette to help them have a night they will always remember.

The “Big” Decision

The biggest decision for your teen to make will be to go to the prom or not. Proms are still primarily for juniors and seniors. Underclassmen may attend if asked by a junior or senior. If your teen is a senior and hasn’t been to a prom, encourage him to ask someone or get together with a group of friends and go. According to Senior High junior class sponsor, Shaundel Krumheuer’s, teens don’t have to go as couples anymore. Groups of teens going to the prom are more popular than ever. Going to the prom with friends is a way for teens to have a great time without the pressure of going with someone. Or if your teen wants to take someone, the sooner they ask the better. This way, they can begin to pull together the details of a great night.

It’s All About the Dress

Budget conscious girls shop for a dress soon after the last prom, enabling them to buy an otherwise expensive dress on sale. Most proms are formal, meaning the dress should be floor length and elegant, though shorter dresses are increasingly finding a home in this category. If it is semi-formal, a shorter dress works well. Dresses range in price from $20 (found at discount chains) to well over $200.00. Make sure your teen buys a dress that is going to stand up to all the dancing. Boys can decide if they are going with a full-out tux, which can be rented, or more semi-formal slacks and a dress shirt, which can be dressed up with a tie or vest. Your teen should consider comfort while shoe shopping because of the hours spent dancing. If the outfit calls for high heels, be forewarned that your teen will be barefoot as the night wears on.

What are the Costs?

Traditionally, boys picked up the prom tab. This tradition has gone out the door, especially in this economy. Prom can be expensive; costs may include a limo, flowers, dinner, and tickets to the dance. Here are new traditions that can help cut costs tremendously:

Borrow Mom’s Suburban and carpool with a big group, with each teen chipping in a few dollars for gas.

Pull together a potluck and pick a house to hold a dinner gathering before prom.

Shop early for flowers and pick carnations or other flowers that are less expensive but still look nice.

Shop sales for prom dresses and outfits.

Shoot photos at home instead of paying for the prom photos taken at the school.

Your teen will enjoy the prom more if they aren’t worried about the cost.

The Dance Itself

Teens will need to remember to bring tickets and a student ID to the dance. The biggest challenge at the dance is to make sure your teen has fun. Proms in town are high school functions, so teachers and staff members supervise. This helps to provide a safe environment for your teen to let loose and enjoy themselves. Dennis Holmes, Principal of Senior High School, explained that working with and carefully choosing a good DJ can set the tempo of the dance. A good DJ will have music appropriate for a school sponsored activity and teens will still have music they enjoy dancing to. New dancing etiquette mandates that everyone gets out on the dance floor. Your teen no longer has to stand on the sidelines waiting for someone to ask them.

After the Dance

Make sure to give your teen an appropriate curfew. Find out what time the dance is over and then set curfew from there. Don’t believe in the Hollywood version of proms where the kids get hotel rooms and party afterwards. Some parents allow their teens to go to a restaurant to eat breakfast after prom. It is up to you to set the boundaries with your teen. Remember their impulse centers are running on overdrive while their reasoning centers are diminished!

Open that box of memories from your prom. Show your teen the pictures and dried flowers and let them know how much fun you had. Encourage them to go through the tradition and rite of passage of prom. Encourage your teen to rejoice as the Hazda People do; by dancing to celebrate accomplishments from the last 4 years of high school, and in anticipation for what the future holds.

Deanna Grubbs lives in Billings, is a mother to two teenagers and is a school librarian.