Prom Perfect

Prom Perfect

By Melissa Campeau

Challenge: Someone I don’t want to go to Prom with asked me out.
Solution: What you don’t want to do is lie. If you say you’ve already got a date and then show up solo—or say you’re skipping the Prom and then very obviously don’t skip the Prom—you’ll look like a jerk and he’ll feel pretty insulted. Instead, be as gentle and honest as possible. Tell your
admirer that you’re flattered, then explain the sitch. As in, “I’ve promised my friends that we’re all going together,” or “There’s someone else I was planning to ask.” You could even promise to save a dance for him.

Remember, you’ve made enough of an impression on this person that he has thought of you for the big night. How flattering! Be gracious and treat the guy respectfully—then you can avoid bruised egos and have one more admirer in the world (never a bad thing).

Challenge: The person I want to go to Prom with hasn’t asked me.
Solution: Well, what are you waiting for? Assuming it’s your Prom, ask him. (It might be a little too forward if it’s his Prom, though.) It’s not the ’50s anymore, no matter what your mom might try to tell you, and it’s perfectly cool for girls to ask guys out, even to something as traditional as a Prom. Besides, a lot of guys are too intimidated to ask out girls they really like. The worst thing that could happen is that the guy will say no. If that’s the case, you can still go to the Prom with your friends or another date and have a great time. At least you won’t be pining away, wondering “what if?” for the next 10 years. (Etiquette note: Traditionally, whoever does the inviting should be the one to buy the tickets to Prom. The rest of the expenses can be split or negotiated.)

Challenge: I think I’ll run into my ex at the Prom with a new girlfriend.
Solution: Be cool. It’s bound to happen. After all, you’re probably there with a date, too. Why shouldn’t your ex be allowed to move on as well? And on Prom night of all nights, there’s no need to spoil everyone’s good time with melodrama, no matter what the breakup was like. If you’re over your ex, you have no reason not to be polite and courteous. If you’re not over the relationship yet, you’ve got even more reason to be polite and courteous. If you’re still harboring dreams of reconciliation, being a class act will only help. And if you don’t want him back, at least you won’t give your ex any reason to regret having gone with you! Say hello (if you’re on speaking terms), be gracious, then move on.

Challenge: I’m having a really hard time finding a budget-friendly dress.
Solution: Perspective is such an easy thing to lose, so try to keep in mind that this is just one night of your life. Yes, you want to look gorgeous, but what you’ll remember most in years to come is how much fun you had with friends, not the designer label on your dress.

To save a few dollars, consider rocking a vintage look. Check out you mom’s closet (or even your grandmother’s) or visit a vintage consignment shop for a good deal. You might also want to trade gowns with a cousin or someone from another school to score something that’s free, fabulous and new-to-you. And of course there are endless deals on Prom dresses and accessories on eBay. Don’t rule out the idea of renting a dress from bridal and tux shops. Sure, you might have to wade through some nasty pastels and meringues, but you could find a gem in the racks as well. As far as accessories go, if you’re really not into dressy heels for the other 364 days of the year, hit discount shops or borrow a pair. Is anyone really going to be looking at your feet all that closely? Just remember, you don’t have to pay a fortune to look like a million bucks.

Challenge: arghh! I’m running out of money!
Solution: If you get carried away, you could easily spend thousands on Prom night. But there’s no need. Lots of cash doesn’t necessarily equal lots of fun. And if the spending is stressing you out, then that will definitely detract from the fun. When it comes to big expenses, the pre-Prom dinner is an easy fix (especially if your school’s Prom doesn’t include dinner). Avoid the pricey restaurant and have loads of appetizers at a friend’s house. (Who needs a big dinner when you’re going to be dancing all night, anyway?).

Or, for kitsch value, tote a fancy white tablecloth and linens to a McDonalds or other fast food restaurant and chow down with dressed up friends. Another option: plan on a big group breakfast the next morning. It could be at someone’s house or even at a restaurant, since breakfast is usually a lot more affordable than dinner.

Skip the pricey salon for hair and makeup. Instead, have a makeover party with your girlfriends a few weeks before The Big Day and practice some new techniques. When it comes to hair, it doesn’t have to be complicated to look gorgeous. If your hair is curly, try straightening it for a dramatic look, or vice versa. Add a fresh flower, a tasteful tiara or a rhinestone pin. And when it comes to makeup, if you and your friends pool all of your resources you’ll probably find you’ve got every colour palette imaginable. Consult fashion mags for inspiration and get a group opinion about what looks best on you.
Getting to and from the Prom can be a big drag on a budget. If it’s just you and a date, a limo might not be an economically sound option. How much room do you really need for the 10 minute drive, anyway? Instead, consider hiring a taxi, borrowing a parent’s car or making a deal with a brother or sister who’ll act as a chauffeur. If you’re going with a large group, a limo might not be too expensive when split eight ways. And if you’ve got a group of 15 to 30 people, you might even want to rent a bus or van at a discount rate from a local special events company.

Also consider passing on the professional photographer and let your parents snap the pics. It’ll a) make them happy, b) save you lots of money and c) give you more natural, relaxed pictures to have as keepsakes. Try both black-and-white and colour film in a few locations. And let your folks take candid shots, too—the best pictures are often the ones we’re not expecting at all.

If the Prom tickets themselves are usually expensive, consider joining the Prom committee. You might score a discounted ticket. Or you might be able to suggest some fundraising activities (auctions, car washes, bake sales) that the school can do to raise cash and, in turn, lower ticket prices.

Challenge: I know that I’m going to get pressure to drink or do drugs.
Solution: A bad Prom night is one you don’t remember or one you wish you could forget. Drugs and alcohol can go a long way toward making it that kind of night.

Despite peer pressure and popular culture suggesting that Prom night and drinking go hand in hand, this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s your Prom. You’re in charge of the kind of night you have. Drugs and alcohol can impair your judgment and hurt you or put you in dangerous situations. There’s also the fact that drugs are illegal and (depending on your home province) you haven’t reached the legal drinking age yet, and who wants to spend Prom night hanging with the police? It’s better to take a minute in advance and think about how you’ll avoid getting into unwanted situations. Know ahead of time what you plan to say if someone pressures you to do something you don’t want to do (something like, “No thanks. I’d like to remember this night). You’ll feel more confident and in control if you’re prepared.

Challenge: I don’t think my parents are going to budge on my curfew.
Solution: The key to negotiating anything is preparation. When it comes to curfews, part of your prep is to understand your parents’ position. Why do you think your parents want you home earlier than you want to be home? Believe it or not, they’re probably just worried about your safety, rather than trying to impose martial law. With that in mind, go into the negotiations with a plan to make them feel like you’ll be safe for the evening. Way before Prom, choose a night to sit them down and discuss your curfew. Give them all of the details about where you’ll be during the night, including addresses and phone numbers of the Prom location and after-party. Assure them you’ll take a fully charged cellphone and call them if you’re in any kind of trouble. Offer to call just to check in if it would make them feel better. Also assure your parents that you’ll pick up the phone if they call you. Let them know who you plan to be out with during the evening and if they haven’t met your date or some of your friends yet, arrange a casual meeting before Prom to put them at ease. Tell your folks you’ll carry enough money on you to catch a cab home if the party gets too crazy or your designated driver decides to drink. Tell them, given all of that information, what time you’d like to come home on Prom night, then let them state their position. While they talk, listen and don’t interrupt or get emotional. Try to address their concerns, if they still have any, in a calm, reasonable way. And finally, once the curfew is set show your respect and responsibility by sticking to it.

Challenge:  I’m really freaked about meeting my date’s parents.
Solution: Most parents really aren’t so bad. Some are even fun. They just want to make sure their son or daughter is happy. If they think you’re a decent person who genuinely likes their child, you’ll be a hit. But a few
simple tips can help seal the deal.

First of all, show up on time. Being late is disrespectful. If, despite your best efforts, you’re still running late, call and notify your date as soon as you can. Find out the names of the family members you’ll be meeting and suss out the best way to refer to them (ie: Sir, Mr. Smith, John).

If you can, bring a small gift. Maybe some flowers for mom or a box of chocolates. Just something small—it’s the thought that’ll count. Ask questions, if there’s time for chatting. The family will probably be full of questions for you, but try to steer the conver-sation back to them as much as possible. (But don’t be one of those annoying people that talks endlessly about themselves.) Also, avoid touchy subjects like religion and politics.

Finally, this should go without saying, but don’t grope your date in front of his parents. Show the folks you dig their son for more than his bod. Overall, try to chill and just be yourself. No one expects you to be perfect. If you’re polite and thoughtful, things will go just fine. 

Challenge: There are going to be so many forks at the dinner at the table!
Solution: Formal dinner tables, with their multiple plates and cutlery sets, can be bewildering and intimidating. To ease your worries, have a practice session at home before the Prom to figure out what goes where. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to knives, forks and spoons, you should start from the outside and work your way in with each course. If things look more complicated than that, remember that the smaller fork is for salad, the large one is for your main course. If they’re the same size, you’re home-free. Your bread plate is to the left of your dinner plate (so don’t steal anyone else’s). Liquids go on the right (again, avoid the stealing). A few other pointers: Before you have your first bite of food, put your napkin on your lap. If you’re going to have bread and butter, first put the piece of bread on your bread plate, then take a pat of butter from the main dish and add it to your plate. Then tear off a piece of bread and spread the butter on just the piece—not the whole slice. 

A word about holding a knife and fork: Put your index finger on top of your knife and fork when you’re using them and push down. Spear the food with your fork, cut the piece you want to eat, then—well, this is where it gets political. Old school North American types say you should then put your knife down, switch the fork to your dominant hand and eat. Europeans don’t do that and more and more mannerly types in North America are lightening up about this. It’s your call. Follow the flow of the table, or do what your parents have taught you.

Once you start eating, never put any utensils back down on the table—they should always be rested on a plate. If you’re putting your utensils down but you’re not yet done your meal, place your knife and fork inside your plate in the shape of an X. That way, the waiter will know not to take your plate away. When you’re done and you do want the dish removed, place your knife and fork side by side on your plate, with the pointy ends at 11 o’clock and the handle ends at 4 o’clock.

One last note—don’t put your napkin on the table until you’re done eating. If you have to leave the table during the meal, just place your napkin on the back of your chair.

Challenge: I’d like to do something after the Prom but there’s no party planned.
Solution: There are plenty of options to keep the party going, even after the DJ has played the last song. You could plan a karaoke party and host it in your house or even rent a local Rotary hall for a discounted fee. Or you and the gang can find a late night coffee house and hang there, reliving the night’s best moments. If you’ve got energy to burn, keep the dancing going at someone’s home or backyard. Turn the music up, take your shoes off and let your hair down. (And make sure you warn the neighbours ahead of time.)

Challenge: The whole corsage thing is really stressing me out.
Solution: If it’s stressing you out because you don’t think it’ll match your dress, be straight with your date and explain which colours will work best. If you don’t think flowers on your chest are going to enhance your fabulous frock, you can also suggest that a wrist corsage would work better. If you have any worries about getting him a boutonniere, find out what, if any, colour he’s wearing as an accent (tie and cummerbund) then find a colour that’ll go with his ensemble and still work as a complement to yours. Most florists can help you out with some tasteful suggestions. If, on the other hand, you don’t want the flowers at all, be honest and talk to your date (who might be thinking exactly the same thing). It’s become more and more common for couples to skip the whole corsage/boutonniere thing. 

Napoleon Dynamite image courtesy of Fox Home Entertainment; model image by Arash Moallemi