A Young Man’s Guide to Prom

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 2, 2012 · 79 comments

in Dating, Relationships & Family

It’s prom season here in the United States. Millions of high school students will be taking part in this springtime ritual that got its start in the 1890s in the Northeast. Since then, every April young people have been donning tuxedos and dresses to eat, dance, and have a good time. Some of my best memories from high school are from my prom nights (prom was for both juniors and seniors at my high school).

When it comes to prom, there are generally two groups of people: those that think “Prom is awesome! I’m really excited to go,” and those that grouse, “Prom is sooo lame. What a waste of time.”

Really, both groups are right. Prom can be a fun and memorable night, or it can be a big letdown. The difference doesn’t come from prom itself, but what you make of it. Special nights don’t just happen–you create them.

AoM has a surprising (and heartening) number of high school-age readers, so to help them plan and carry out a successful and memorable prom night, we’ve created this comprehensive guide.

Ask the Girl

Probably the most important step in this entire process…and the one most fraught with pitfalls. Your enjoyment at prom will depend heavily on the person you take–choose the wrong gal and you and your friends will still be laughing about it 10 years later. If you’re dating somebody, your choice is easy. Just take your girlfriend. If you’re not dating somebody, you can always take a girl that’s a friend. I did that for one of my proms and had a great time. Took away some of the romantic pressure that a lot of young people experience at prom. We were just interested in having a good time.

You can also ask a girl you’ve had your eye on for awhile, but never had the nerve to ask on a date. Be warned. There’s some risk in doing this. First, if you don’t know the girl too well you might end up having a bum time because she’s a bum date–just because sitting behind her in algebra class and smelling her apple-scented hair gives you butterflies, doesn’t mean you’ll connect once you have to, you know, actually have a conversation. Second, girls can imbue a lot of meaning into an invite to prom from a guy. Some might think that it’s the first step into a serious relationship. If going steady (or whatever they call it these days) isn’t in your plans, you’ll have to navigate an emotional minefield when you let the gal know you’re just looking for a prom date. Finally, she could say no. Being turned down by a gal you’re interested in is always hard, but keep your chin up and find somebody else.

Whomever you ask to prom, make sure you do it about two months before the big shindig. Picking out a prom dress is a big deal for a girl and they’ll want plenty of time to make the right choice. Asking two to one and a half months beforehand gives her time to prepare.

How should you ask a girl to prom? I usually just pulled the girl aside during school and asked her straight up, “Would you like to go to prom with me?” Simple and got the job done. Some guys did some elaborate and creative invitations that rivaled wedding proposals. Chalk writing on driveways, creating poster boards using candy bars to create a message, treasure hunts, serenading Elvises…Kate tells me the ladies love this, so if that’s your style, then go for it.

After you’ve secured a date, you’ll need to buy tickets to get into prom. Purchase them as soon as they go on sale.

Find a Group

In my experience, attending prom with a group of friends is the way to go. It just makes the night more enjoyable and removes a lot of the pressure a young couple might feel if they were to go by themselves. The tricky part is figuring out who to group up with. While you might want to experience prom with your best buddy, your date might want to go with a different group. I never had a problem with this, but I can see it happening and causing all sorts of high school drama. My advice: be flexible and play it cool no matter what group you end up with. Even if you don’t have dinner with your buds, you can still see them at the dance, and at after prom festivities.

Get Fitted for and Rent a Tux

Some 1950s bros in double-breasted white tuxedos. Your best bet is to go with a simple black, single-button, peak lapel tux.

In most places in the U.S. prom is a black tie affair, so that means you’ll need a tuxedo. For most men these days, whether young or old, life gives you very few chances to wear a tux–so enjoy it! Our resident style man, Antonio Centeno, did an excellent video explaining exactly what a young man should wear to prom for his own site, Real Men, Real Style, that should answer a lot of your questions about what to wear:

Basically, Antonio suggests keeping it classic and simple. You can’t go wrong with a single-button, peak lapel coat, a waist coat, and traditional tuxedo trousers. You want something where you can look back at pictures twenty years later and think, “Man, I looked dapper. And look how much hair I had!”

Of course, you could have some fun as well. You’re young. There probably won’t be another time in your life that you can get away with wearing a zoot suit or a powder blue 1970s tuxedo to a formal affair, so if that’s your thing and your date’s okay with it, go for it. Just stay away from the duct tape tuxedos and neon-colored pimp hats. (Note: The zoot suit and powder blue tux bit is solely the responsibility of Brett McKay and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mr. Antonio Centeno…who is probably shaking his head right now in disbelief.)

Rent your tux, don’t buy. It doesn’t make sense for a person your age who’s still growing and probably isn’t attending a lot of black tie events to buy a tuxedo. Because you’re renting, you’re not going to get a tuxedo that fits like a custom suit, but try to get something as close as possible to it. If your tuxedo jacket fits well in the shoulders and in the chest, you’re golden. Also, make sure the pants are as close to your size as possible.

Visit a rental place as soon as you can to ensure you have the greatest possible selection to choose from. You’ll have to decide on what jacket style and shirt collar type you want, whether you’re going bow tie or neck tie, and whether or not you’ll be wearing a waist coat or cummerbund. You can also rent shoes there if you need them. After you’ve been fitted and have placed your order, the rental place will let you know when you can pick up your tux.

Keep track of all the stuff that comes in your rental bag, especially the small stuff like the tie and cufflinks. Make sure to return the tuxedo to the rental place as soon as possible. Don’t worry about laundering. They take care of that.

Buy the Corsage

A corsage is a small arrangement of flowers that is usually worn on a woman’s wrist  or pinned to her dress. Traditionally, the guy is responsible for buying the corsage for the girl, and the girl is responsible for buying a boutonniere for the guy.

The corsage needs to compliment the color of your date’s dress, so you’ll need to ask your date what color her dress will be.  You can also ask if she has a favorite flower. Make sure to ask if her dress will be sleeveless or strapless too, as this will determine whether you should get a wrist or pinned corsage. When you get the information, head over to a florist, and relay the information to them. They’ll offer suggestions on flower types and color, as well as what sort of greenery to include in the corsage. Roses are a popular pick. Keep it small and simple.

Florists get slammed at prom time, so don’t wait until the last minute to order it. Two weeks before prom is plenty of time. Also, don’t  dump this job off on your mom because you think it’s “girly” to go into a flower shop. I knew a lot of guys in high school who did this. Total Dim move.

Make Reservations for Dinner

Some schools offer dinners at the prom itself. If that’s your situation, you can skip this section. If your school’s prom doesn’t offer dinner, you’ll need to find a place to eat before you head over to the dance. While you may be going to prom in a large group, take the initiative in finding a place for the group to eat. In my experience, everyone in the group expects someone else will take on the responsibility. Might as well be you.

Picking a place to eat for a large group can be tricky. Everyone has different tastes that you’ll need to accommodate. Stay away from exotic and ethnic restaurants. Everyone might not share your passion for Indian food. Steakhouses and bistro-type places are a safe bet. They offer traditional fare that will likely please most palates. Just make sure the place offers vegetarian dishes as well.

Choose a restaurant that’s local and has a nice ambiance. Prom night is supposed to be special. Don’t spend it at the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or P.F. Chang’s where you’ll have some dude wearing cargo shorts, a visor, and bright orange Crocs sitting next to you. And ideally, you’ll want to go someplace that’s relatively close to the prom.

Make your dinner reservations early. Places fill up quickly near prom time. Play it safe by locking down reso’s a month to three weeks in advance. Tell the restaurant how many you plan to have in your party. If they can’t accommodate your group, you’ll need to look somewhere else.

Get a Straight Razor Shave and a Haircut

Girls usually treat themselves to a pedicure, manicure, and a trip to the hairstylist before prom. Who says the guys can’t pamper themselves a bit before the big night, too? The dude equivalent to girls’ pre-prom ritual is a straight razor shave and a haircut at a barber shop. Call around the shops in your town, or check out our Barber Shop Locator to find a shop that offers straight razor shaves. Go with your buddies.

Get Ready

Start getting ready an hour or so before prom. Shower up, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and put on your tuxedo. Gather everything you’ll need for the evening–corsage, prom tickets, after-prom party tickets, cash, and mints. Put the tickets, cash, and mints in your inside jacket pockets and the corsage in the car. Throw an umbrella in the car too–if it rains, your date will be none too happy if her carefully crafted up-do gets ruined. Now give yourself a look in the mirror and point at your reflection like the Fonz. Tonight’s going to be a great night.

Skip the Stretch Limo

Despite what you’ve seen in movies and television shows, stretch limousines aren’t fun. I can’t recall a single experience in a stretch limo where I was like, “Man, I feel like a balla’!” Instead I was like, “Man, I’m feeling cramped. And what’s that funky smell coming from the seat?” With so many people in the car, you’ll be cramped and hot, and you’ll pay some guy a lot of money to feel cramped and hot. In my opinion, it’s just not worth it.

Just use your own car and carpool with your friends. You’ll save money and you’ll ride in comfort.

Pick Up Your Date

Many of the guidelines that we laid out on picking up your date in Road Map to the Perfect First Date apply for picking up your date for prom too. Make sure your car is clean, arrive on time, and come to the door with your corsage. Warmly greet her parents with a smile and firm handshake. Chances are your date is still doing some last minute gussying up. Make some small talk with her parents–compliment their house. Tell them about the restaurant you’re going to. Also let them know your plans for after prom and when they should expect their daughter will be home.

When your date enters the room, give her a big smile, walk over and give her a hug, and immediately compliment how she looks. She probably spent all day getting ready for tonight. Suggested compliments: “You look stunning!” or “That dress looks amazing on you.”

You and your date will now exchange corsages and boutonnieres. Traditionally, your date is supposed to pin the boutonniere on you and you’re supposed to place the corsage on your date. Placing a wrist corsage on your date isn’t hard; pinning a corsage on her dress is trickier. In my experience, moms usually get involved with the pinning part when they see the guy stick himself with the pin five times. Let them help.

Her parents will probably want to snap some photos. When that’s done, head towards the car and open the door for your date.

Pre-Prom Pictures

Be like grandpa. No hover hands.

Parents will want to take pictures before you and your date head over to prom. It seems the girls were really into it and the guys just tolerated it. At my high school, the pre-prom photo session was a big event. Our prom night group would gather at someone’s house, dozens of parents (usually the moms) would show up with cameras, and the hosting family would have hors d’oeuvres for people to eat. Mom’s would gush over how pretty the girls looked, while the dads that showed up generally stood by the food table munching on cheese and crackers.

Whether your pre-prom picture event is just you and your date at her house or a big event, be cooperative and smile. It will make the experience better for everyone. Also, NO HOVER HANDS! In pictures of just you and your date, proper arm placement is behind the small of the girl’s back with your hand resting on her waist. Capice?

Dinner

After pictures, head over to the restaurant. Make sure you get there at the time of your reservation. If you and your group are running late, call the restaurant and let them know. When you get to the table, and if it’s convenient, pull out your date’s chair and help her in her seat.

Remember your basic table manners. Napkin in laps, cell phones off, elbows off the table. When your food arrives, don’t start eating until everyone has been served. Break the stereotype that many waiters have about high schoolers being loud, rude, and poor tippers.  Be on your best behavior; the pre-prom meal sets the tone for a special and classy evening. Treat your server with respect and tip them generously after your meal.

Prom

Finally. It’s time for the big event. When I attended prom, I always planned to arrive about 45 minutes to an hour after it started. That will allow enough time for things to get going. When you enter, you’ll need to give your tickets to the ticket person. The first thing you’ll want to do is take your picture while you and your date are still looking fresh. Usually there’s some kinda-cheesy background based on your prom’s theme. Take your picture and then go stake out a table.

Make sure to get out on the dance floor as much as possible. That’s what you’re there to do, right? Feel free to take off your tuxedo coat and place it somewhere safe. It’s completely acceptable. You don’t want to become a sweaty mess.

Don’t be the guy who’s too cool or too shy to dance. Get out there and let loose. You’re 18 years old, you’re with your best friends, and life is good. Have fun! However, it should be noted that grinding your twigs and berries on your date’s backside does not rise to the definition of “dancing.”

When you slow dance with your date, you can take a couple of approaches. You can go with the middle school-style, hands on your date’s waist and her hands draped around your neck while you sway side-to-side in the same place. Personally, I liked to mix things up a bit with turns and swirls and dips and whatnot, so I usually assumed a more traditional dance position with my right arm around my date’s waist and left hand holding her right hand. While you probably won’t have room (or the music) to do a waltz, this position offers more possibilities besides simply swaying awkwardly.

Even if your date has turned out to be a dud, or you paired off through some less than ideal circumstances and you weren’t excited to go with her in the first place, don’t ditch your date at the dance. No matter what happens, you’re her escort, and you should stay by her side for most of the evening. If you want to go your separate ways after the dance and enjoy the rest of the night separately, so be it.

After-Prom Festivities

The official prom is over. A king and queen have been crowned, you danced, and lots of pictures were taken. But prom still isn’t over. We’re now entering the stage of the prom night ritual that’s fraught with parental worry and hand-wringing: the after-prom party. Movies and TV have created a powerful narrative that after-prom is the time for young high schoolers to get plastered at a giant party and finally lose their virginity at some seedy motel.

You don’t need to do that.

By all means have fun, but do so without the alcohol, drugs, and sex. Make prom night something you’ll remember fondly 20 years from now and not something that will make you cringe whenever you’re reminded of it. Also, keep in mind that as a prom goer in the 21st century, you have to deal with something that high schoolers just ten years ago didn’t have to think about: smartphone cameras and Facebook. What you do on prom night will probably be cataloged by friends on their cameras and they’ll probably share it on their Facebook profiles. Don’t engage in any behavior that you wouldn’t want shared publicly. That picture of you doing keg stands in your tux might come back and haunt you.

I was fortunate enough to live in a school district where the parents put on a big after-prom party for the three high schools in the area. They’d rent a local amusement park for the entire night and give the kids free rein on the park. It was a blast and offered some of the best memories of my prom nights.

If your school doesn’t offer some sort of after-prom party, you can make up your own after prom activities. Kate and her friends followed prom with a bonfire, some hot tubbing, and an early breakfast back at her place prepared by her parents. And everyone had a blast.

The Door

Make sure to get your date back at the time you told her parents you would. Get out of the car and walk her to the door. Thank her for the great time. If it seems right, by all means go in for the kiss. While generally a kiss on the first date can be iffy, everyone is primed and kind of hoping for something romantic or at least memorable and out of the ordinary to happen on prom night. So go for it and then see her into her house. Walk back to your car, go home, and go to sleep. You just made some great memories, my friend.

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Saudade April 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I’m SO sorry… but I’ve just read “A young’s man guide to PRON” !!

BTW, nice guide.

2 Kevin April 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Great tips. I particularly like the advice about arriving 45 minutes after the actual prom has started. This is one of those rare times when being fashionably late is a very good thing.

My 2 cents = bring the mother of your date flowers. I did it and it went over amazingly well. I even brought the dad some chocolates, though this is not as vital as the flowers for mom. Winning the parents over is always a good idea.

3 Jon Mortensen April 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Excellent article Brett and Kate, I will share this with all my Prom novice friends.

4 Curtis April 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm

As a High School-er, I concure.
Lots of good points in here, like avoiding big chains, and discouraging procrastination.

5 Justin April 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

great article!

i may not have gone the ‘dapper’ route for my prom, but i sure did have a great time in my red tux with black shawl lapels!

A great resource for prom tuxedo rental styles: MyTuxedoCatalog.com. It’ll help you find a great tux, and a local shop in your area. Happy Promming!

6 Antonio Centeno April 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Brett & Kate – I am shaking my head in disbelief :)

Haha – great post and thanks for linking to my video. I’ll add this article to my rec list underneath the vid!

- Antonio

7 PJ April 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm

@Saudade: that’s what I thought at first too! Hadn’t checked in here in a few days, so I assumed it was an April Fools’ post.

8 David April 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Great article. However, I found that a limo was essential to my Prom experience. It is much better to arrive at Prom in a limo than in your parent’s old minivan. Additionally, the limo simplifies finding directions to pre-Prom festivities,dinner, Prom, and then the after-party, allowing you to pay attention to your date. Finally, a limo allows you and your friends to travel together

9 Matt April 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I’m not sure that I live on the same planet that you went to prom on. I confess that I never actually attended my high school’s proms, but the horror stories made it sound more like walking into a wretched hive of scum and villainy instead of anything formal or decent enough to remember with fondness. Neither my girl nor I think too highly of what passes for dancing nowadays, nor do we enjoy being in the company of the baked.

10 Liam April 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Thanks

11 TD April 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Great article. Thanks for the guide!

12 Tim Erlane April 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Great article! As a high school junior who will be attending prom for the first time in about 3 weeks, I can say that this was an incredibly useful article. Oh and by the way, I’m going to have to agree with antonio on the powder blue tux thing.

13 Bill April 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I had the powder blue tux (don’t hate me, Antonio, it was 1977).

Good memories. Never even kissed the girl, though. Sigh.

14 Christopher April 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

My school is a bit off, so we already had prom. I actually prefer to get to the dance early, as my date and I are the first ones on the dance floor. Actually dancing, rather than grinding the old twig and berries.

15 R.J. April 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Aw, yeah!

I give my thanks to you two! I really had no idea how to plan this until now.

I better get started!

16 Reid Calhoun April 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I have my grandfather’s old cummerbund and matching bowtie and I am so excited to wear it in his memory. Luckily these days parents do all of the organizing.

17 Josh Martin April 2, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Great article. I go to a small Christian school, and we have a “banquet” instead of prom. It’s basically the same thing but without the dancing. Many of my peers are stressing out about it saying “I’ll just go stag” rather than ask a girl or “I just wont go; it’s too much stress.” I’m going to print this off and give it to them to read.

18 Nate April 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Thanks so much for this guide. Prom is just around the corner and this really helped.

P.S this is my new favorite website.

19 Josh April 2, 2012 at 9:31 pm

What does it say about me that I too thought this said “porn”. And what else does it say that I became totally uninterested in the article when I realized it didn’t.

20 CoachT April 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I went to the prom in one of those 70′s powder blue tuxedos. Bad decision in hindsight – should have done traditional black tie, it’s timeless and always perfect.

Then again, it WAS the 70′s at the time and… ‘nuf said. Looking at the old photos – we sure looked goofy in those big ties.

21 Chase Christy April 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm

1. Be noble. Be strong. Be awesome to the girl you take to prom and her family. It’s an important night in her life – one she will always remember. Don’t be the scumbag in her memories.

2. My senior year of high school, my parents made me pay for my own tux…not cheap. The rental place strongly encouraged picking up the tux at a specific time when you could try it on. If anything wasn’t right they could catch it and alter it for you. I had a track meet that night, was tired afterwards, and skipped the try-on pick up time.

When I picked it up the day of prom, the tux shirt was several sizes too big. I couldn’t wear it. I had to wear an old choir uniform…so embarrassing. Plus, there were no returns. I wasted all that cash.

22 Ryan April 3, 2012 at 12:01 am

My rule regarding tuxedos is to think James Bond and not James Brown.
Go watch Casino Royale before you go rent a tux.

23 Blake April 3, 2012 at 12:23 am

Great article! I actually wrote one similar to this one on my blog last year while I was teaching in high school….and after hearing all the hideous ideas the guys had for what to wear. You can check it out here, if you like:

http://21stcenturygent.blogspot.com/2011/04/bless-me-prom-for-i-have-sinned.html

24 Sal April 3, 2012 at 1:07 am

Oh thank god for this! I honestly cant wait for prom. But I cant decide whether to go with a girl or with my friends. Oh well, Its still gonna be a blast!

25 Andrew April 3, 2012 at 1:41 am

Prom was certainly an amazing night for me. My “date” was one of my best friends – a guy – because the two of us didn’t think to find dates in time. We didn’t really realize everyone was being asked until it was too late. I drove myself and 5 other friends to our prom, in my parents black minivan. Of course though, we found a way to make it fun, using car markers to draw some hilarious things all over. In all honesty, the prom event itself wasn’t even close to the best part, it was all the events surrounding it. Pictures at an old inn, driving around picking everyone up, seeing people, doing all those little errands before. And of course, meeting at a friend’s to draw on the van. What sticks in my mind though is the drive to and from the event. On the way there, it was all about the drawings on the van, and the reactions of other people (some of the things on my van probably shouldn’t have been out in public). The way back, we stuffed an extra 3 people in the van, friends were drunk, two were on drugs, and we passed by a burning bus. Then we stopped by a car wash to get the drawings off before my parents saw, i dropped everyone off, dropped the car off at home, and got a ride over to the after party.

I only actually have one real regret from that night: not asking the girl that would become a great girlfriend to prom with me. About 2-3 months before, I had started to get involved with a girl from a different school, but things weren’t serious enough ask her; she hadn’t met any of my friends, and didn’t know anyone from my school attending my prom, so I didn’t think it would be a fun time for her to come. Then when we actually did start dating, there was a month before prom, but tickets weren’t being sold anymore. A couple of tickets came up for sale 2 weeks before, but I didn’t think she’d be able to find a dress, so I still didn’t ask her. I still feel like I missed out on an opportunity to turn that night from an amazingly fun event to something incredible.

Don’t make my mistake, and certainly listen to this article; dress well, act well, be well, AND ASK THE DAMN GIRL.

26 honeybee April 3, 2012 at 3:06 am

You write: “Some guys did some elaborate and creative invitations that rivaled wedding proposals. Chalk writing on driveways, creating poster boards using candy bars to create a message, treasure hunts, serenading Elvises…Kate tells me the ladies love this, so if that’s your style, then go for it.”

I”m a lady and I can assure you that not all ladies love this kind of thing. For me, this would be horrific!

I submit that it’s really not about your style of asking as much as it is about the preferred style of the person you are asking out.

27 Paul Hakel April 3, 2012 at 7:23 am

I give a major thumbs down to proms – waste of time, dog and pony show. I went to the skatepark my prom night and I don’t regret it for a second. This guide is pretty good for the person who wants to uphold the status quo and also be extra classy – though I think maybe we should grow past the prom to a better future, more meaningful events. This always felt like mindless consumption and loveless nonsense to me.

28 John April 3, 2012 at 7:41 am

I went to proper my junior year and decided the next night that I wasn’t going again. I had a good time and all, but I certainly don’t regret not being there as a senior. Don’t let anybody convince you that you have to go to prom if you don’t want to go. But don’t knock it if you’ve never been either.

29 Jim April 3, 2012 at 8:08 am

None of my best friends went to prom, and neither did the girl I was interested in. I didn’t see much point in going after that, besides I knew everyone in school (small town), and I knew the music was going to be awful. There was a picture of the people in my class who went. I’d say it has about 16 people in it at most.

The girl ended up marrying someone else right out of high school. But I never lost contact with my friends, and they’re still some of the best people I know.

30 Seth April 3, 2012 at 8:58 am

Just want to say a big thanks from one of your (I’m sure) many high school age followers.

31 Josh April 3, 2012 at 9:02 am

I actually spent the night of junior prom studying, and the night of senior prom carving a hiking staff.
Don’t regret either of those decisions.

But there’s some useful advice in this article anyway.

32 Ilana April 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

Great article! I agree with almost everything. My one point of disagreement: You don’t have to skip the limo. I went to prom all four years of high school, and two of those years we got a limo. It didn’t make or break the experience, but we did have a lot of fun in the limo the years we had it!

33 Mike April 3, 2012 at 9:43 am

My friends and I did a party bus as opposed to the limo thing…. it was AWESOME. Plenty of room, great music, and it ended up actually being cheaper then a cramped, stuffy limo because we could fit more people. It was a blessing for the post-prom ride, as well. We had enough room to keep the dancing going until we got to our post-prom destination.

Post prom in my high school was a big deal. About 150 or so kids from my class coordinated together and rented 18 cottages around a lake at an off-season ski resort for the weekend. Probably the coolest 3 days of any of our high school lives, and it only cost about $80 a head for the weekend.

Good times.

34 Aaron April 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

Nice article Brett! Just one thing, though. Prom itself was okay, but not great (more on that in a bit). The limo ride there and back was my favorite part of the night. Great friends, great shenanigans, loud music, what more could a guy ask for?

My main regret about prom was not taking a date. My high school sweetheart broke up with me not too long before prom, so by the time I recovered and went hunting for a date, I literally knew no female who wasn’t already going. So I shrugged, donned my white tux (over the top, I know, but I DID look pretty good if I say so myself), went out, and enjoyed the experience anyway.

[Note: don't plan to "mingle with the singles." Including me and my dateless friend, I could count the number of people without dates on one hand.]

35 Martin April 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

I get that this website is pretty traditional and tries to go against all the GQ sex, drugs, and rock and roll nonsense. I’m a huge fan and appreciate that, but I can’t get fully behind “By all means have fun, but do so without the alcohol, drugs, and sex.”

If you never kissed a girl, taken a hit of marijuana, or had a drink then, yes, do not suddenly go off the cliff on prom. BUT, if you have a girlfriend that you care about and have been looking for the “right” night to take it the next level for the first time, have been curious about marijuana, or just want to try a drink or two, by all means I think you should go for it! Just be responsible about it. DO NOT take advantage of a girl, try a drug with people you don’t trust/know well, or drink and drive (get a DD!!!).

The secret to life is moderation. Cut loose a little, but know your limits. “It goes to eleven!!!” Just don’t take it to 15 or 20. You’ll blow your speakers.

36 Ian April 3, 2012 at 10:45 am

I had a biology teacher who told us how he and a friend took a fishing trip instead of going to prom. I wish I had listened to him and done that instead. I found prom to be largely the product of hype.

37 Thom April 3, 2012 at 11:27 am

Where I grew up it was expected to ask a girl out in the most elaborate way possible. One year I turned the girls front porch into a flower garden, another year I covered her bed with squashes i think it was with a note cut into one of them, so she had 20 squash that she had to open up. I’ve been asked by notes in balloons, i had a cow tongue left on my door step, a friend had a 50gallon barrel filled with mud, and the asking note in the bottom.
It was also tradition to have a day date, hiking in the hills, or cooking breakfast by a lake. this part would generally be over by noon, so the girls could get ready.

38 Trevor April 3, 2012 at 11:35 am

I’ve gotta go with the White Tux. Thanks for the article Brett!

39 DAN April 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

AHAHAHAHA! I also read PORN! ahahahahahahahahhaaaaa

40 Alexander April 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Went to prom with a girl I actually liked a lot and mostly had a good time…drinking in the limo, spending $$$ at dinner, etc. The ‘dance’ itself was more a form of post-modern Bacchanalia than what you’re describing Brett/Kate. Not criticism…just an observation.

41 Chris April 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Awesome article! Some great information in here, already shared it with all my buds. Going to my prom the end of May, then to Her prom in June and have just started looking into what I should wear.

42 George April 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Ah fond memories of days gone by. I started dating my girlfriend, now wife, in the sixth grade and we have many great memories of the proms we attended. These are all very good tips that I wish I had when I was planning at the time. They would have came in very handy.

43 Greg April 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I love that the article stresses that you don’t need alcohol or drugs to have fun. After my senior prom, a group of friends and I took a limo into a comedy club in NYC. No drinking, no drugs, and we had a great time!

44 Moeregaard April 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

33 years after high school and I just found out we had a prom. I guess not having any photos of me in a light-blue tux lying around more than compensates for any lack of a social life back then….

45 Jeff April 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Kind of off-topic, but you know how your brain forms words by just ther first and last letters, not by reading the whole word? Well some fonts make an ‘m’ look strikingly similar to and r and n combined. And when I saw this post in my inbox, I thought “wow, that’s an adventurous topic.”

And then I laughed as my brain actually read the right word.

46 Jon April 4, 2012 at 3:26 am

I went to Senior prom stag and had a blast. Its a great way to go let loose and even dance with a few young ladies that catch your eye. Best part of prom though was the day of. My male classmates started a golf tournament that year for Seniors who didn’t have a date called the Loser Invitational haha. There about 10 of us who played the afternoon before prom at one of the nicest courses in the area. Unfortunately I finished last but it remains a great memory.

47 Kevin April 4, 2012 at 9:57 am

I have to emphasize something from the article: WAISTCOAT! If you suffer from even the slightest case of done-lap disease, a cummerbund will fold over and look like a really goofy belt.

Like Brett says, have fun. When I was being fitted for my tux, there was another young man who was picking his styles. He picked a jacket, shirt, and pants. When the attendant asked ‘vest or cummerbund?’, he said ‘I have a vest at home.’ When she asked about shoes, he pointed at the green plaid Chucks he was wearing and said ‘they match my vest.’ He was probably the most comfortable guy at the soiree.

48 Jules April 5, 2012 at 2:54 am

Yeah – guess you read what you want to see – i came here (in a hurry) for the porn guide too :-(

49 Hal April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I know there are guys that enjoyed prom, but I didn’t find it to be an overly memorable or enjoyable experience. I put attending dances in the same category as weddings: it is something guys don’t care about but that we tolerate because girls care.

50 anon April 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Haha this is a really great guide. I just wish my prom had turned out this nicely. I ended up punching a guy in the face and breaking up with my girlfriend

51 Ricardo April 7, 2012 at 3:54 am

What if i dont drive?…….

52 Justin April 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Unfortunately, the DJ at my prom decided the bump and grind was a mood better suited for the event than something you could respectably dance to. The things I saw that night continue to haunt me. Those poor rented suits…

53 Johnny April 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I wore my zoout suit (custom tailored. Purchase, not rental) to a few formal dances in high school. There were no slow songs played at all, which was a huge bummer. My date and I spent the entire time drinking coffee and making fun of the horrible music and the “dancing” (read: “clothed sex”). It was one of my best memories of high school. And so far, I’ve worn my zoot suit to five black tie occasions.

54 Zach April 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I myself am a junior, and won’t be attending prom for another year, but I’ll use this helpful article as a guide for next year. And I’ve also picked up some general rules of thumb on asking a girl to any other dance (homecoming, spring formal, etc.) So… I thank you for making some aspects of my last year or so a lot easier.

55 JDOG April 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm

IM A SOPHOMORE AND I AM GOING WITH A JUNOIR AND I AM SUPER NERVOUS ABOUT EVERYTHING I HAVE NEVER REALLY DANCED AND WE ARE GOING IN A GROUP AND I ONLY KNOW HER IN THE GROUP…YOUR ADVICE HAS HELPED CALM MY NERVES ALITTLE..BUT IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN HELP ME WITH? I THINK I AM MOST NERVOUS ABOUT THE DANCING AND THE GROUP

56 Leo April 11, 2012 at 2:44 am

Yeah, at first glance I thought it said “a young mans guide to porn” too. Not a bad idea for a future post though eh?

57 Amber April 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

“However, it should be noted that grinding your twigs and berries on your date’s backside does not rise to the definition of dancing.” HAhahaha!! I think I laughed for five minutes at this. Thanks for the clarification, B & K — some guys are definitely unclear about that. I can’t count the number of times a guy asked me to “dance” only to find out what they meant was “poke my johnson into you from every angle.” No, thanks. I WISH proms were still this classy — hopefully more young men will read posts like this. Love your stuff.

58 Amber April 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm

oh, and ps. here’s your “Young Man’s Guide to Porn:” Don’t.

59 AnonymousDog April 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Re: “white tuxes”
Aren’t the white coats the guys in your picture are wearing actually called “Dinner Jackets”?

60 julian April 14, 2012 at 4:57 am

I love this website, and live by a lot of the things that I read on here, but Prom is a night to cut loose. If drinking or smoking isn’t your thing, then don’t start then, but after my prom, we all went to my buddy’s lake house and a rave ensued. It was liquor and people hooked up. You should never take advantage of a girl. but be a little venturesome guys!

61 Go Heels, Go America April 19, 2012 at 1:41 am

Although the merit of dressing conservatively for the sake of the photos down the road can not be understated, there is a much more important reason today. When you get to college and meet a girl, she WILL look at every photo on your Facebook all the way back to high school. Although in high school it might be funny to be the guy who wore the ridiculous tuxedo, it will make it tough to be taken seriously when you need a date for a fraternity function.

62 joshau April 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

excellent article. helped allot. Thank you

63 Astrid April 22, 2012 at 11:49 pm

This is a great article—even though it’s a bit late for me to be reading this, as my prom was yesterday–and a good overall guide to having smooth, easy prom experience. I didn’t go with a date–I didn’t ask anyone, and no one asked me–and I don’t believe that having one is essential to a good prom experience. My prom day was a mix of both good and bad: my pedicure smeared and had to be redone; my hair and makeup turned out perfectly; my little brother went to a movie that same day and never called us back, so we spent an hour looking for him and I missed my chance to get ready with friends; I changed into my dress in the bathroom of the restaurant my group was eating in. The event itself was a blast: I danced 90% of the time and came home sweaty, exhausted, and with feet that were beyond aching. I had fun, but would like to add that planning, above all, is the key to having a wonderful prom.

64 Grant April 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I love advise like this because my prom is coming up soon but I have one little problem I’m not asking a girl to prom im asking another guy and am not sure if I should use the same things here but just make them fit my situation or should I do other things that I could find else where. Any help would be appreciated thanks

65 Josh April 30, 2012 at 2:30 am

This page helped a lot. Because of it my prom was one of the best nights of my life. And kudos to the guy who said to bring the mom a bouqet of flowers. Best idea ever!

66 HD May 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Good article! Except the part about asking out the girl in elaborate/creative ways. Unless you know the girl would really love something like that (and is very likely to say yes), I’d keep it simple and private. Nothing worse than a huge, over-the-top invitation that gets turned down.

67 Bicycle Bill February 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

A humorous yet poignant take on prom can be found in Jean Shepherd’s short story “Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories”.

-”BB”-

68 Lazy Blonde March 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I love this! I’m a girl, but my prom date is a bit clueless, I’m definitely going to show him this site! I found it when I was researching what style of tux my date should rent. Oh and guys, piece of advice: Dance with your date!!! There is nothing worse than having a date that is “too cool” or too shy to dance. Good luck!

69 Mike March 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I am a Junior and this is my first time going to Prom. I am going with my best friend, and she is a blast. It should be a great time, Thanks to this article. Too bad I just told my other best friend (Her Ex) that I was taking her. That didn’t turn out so well haha. But Thanks again, BIG HELP!!

70 Jason April 4, 2013 at 10:42 am

You said there’s two types of people the people that like prom and the people that don’t well I’m the 3rd kind of person…. I like prom and everything about it, just the price is making me not go… and I could be having a good bonfire night too…

71 Kyle April 6, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Thanks for the post it really helped I’m a high school age readers and I do appreciate articles like this that are geared towards people my age

72 Danny April 10, 2013 at 12:23 am

Thanks alot! I am one of the regular high schoolers of this site. This is a great guide and calms my nerves about prom. I am a senior and this is my first prom experience. I am still freaking out about potentially messing up my date’s prom experience and making it not perfect.

73 Ed Gruberman April 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

When renting a tux, go to a small tux shop. Bigger places will rent your tux to a last-minute wedding party, even though you paid in full in cash 3 months in advance. Then try to dump a 3rd-rate suit on you. And they overcharge, anyway.
A small local place rented me one for 2 weekends for the price of one. Hey, 2 girls, 2 proms. Got lucky, they both wore pink gowns!

74 Kev April 21, 2013 at 12:00 am

Prom is coming up next weekend for me. My group and I haven’t been good with organizing or coordinating at all. We skipped the limo and I volunteered to take the beemer instead.

Also, I bought a navy blue suit from H&M instead of the traditional tuxedo rental. Other than being around the same cost as a rental, Prom isn’t really too much of a black tie event anymore in my opinion. Sure, tuxedos are awesome and brilliant, but the average teenager won’t notice a difference between a suit and tuxedo. The suit was wonderfully fitting off the rack, minor alterations were made and now I think that my well-fitting suit looks miles better than an ill-fitting tuxedo.

Lots of negative opinions going on about Prom here. I think what makes the night isn’t the actual dance, rather, the people that you surround yourself with. Thinking back to Homecoming, I had a terrible time actually at the dance, but the dinner was amazing and fun.

75 Graham Leupp April 21, 2013 at 2:59 am

As someone whose in the family business of running a small tux business, I can say that most of what’s in this post is correct. You’l want to reserve your tux early for sure, or you run the risk of them not having the vest color you need, or coat you want. However, I WILL add a few things in:
Go to a locally-owned business, not a tuxedo mega-chain. One, it will most likely be less expensive because at a mega-chain, you’l likely be paying the cost to ship your outfit in from out of state, since most mega-chains keep all their outfits in only one city. Second, You’l want to see what your outfit will actually look like, not just pick it out from a catalog. Third, with a local small business, if something isn’t right with the fit, they’l be able to fit the mistake before your prom, whereas from a mega-chain, who usually ships their outfits in from out-of-state, your out of luck. Fourth, with a small business you get the care of individual attention. I’ve watched my dad individually clean vests, press pants carefully, make sure the coats look nice…he puts a large amount of effort into making sure his customers look nice, as opposed to your outfit being factory-pressed and processed. Choose the human touch.
Limit the amount of people you bring with you, and think about who you bring. Too many people can result in there being ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ with everyone trying to steer you toward what they want you to wear, even if it’s something you don’t like. Mom or dad (preferably dad, I’ve seen this turn into a great father-son experience for lots of kids,) your date, or someone you trust not to criticize your choices is fine.
Also, I’ve seen a disturbing trend lately, which is the date not letting you see the dress until the prom. One, it’s a prom….not your wedding. Two, this makes it very difficult for you to match your vest color with her dress. Don’t rely too much on pictures of the dress, as the lighting can make the color seem darker or lighter than it really is. A swatch, or the dress itself is the best option, especially if it’s a hard to match color, like ‘turquoise,’ which there are over a hundred different kinds and shades of.
When picking your coat keep in mind some will be more ‘fitted’ than others, and that the more fitted looks are typically a bit more expensive…its worth it though if you like the fitted look, considering you’l be seeing pictures from this event for the rest of your life. A tuxedo coat will never give you the range of movement a t shirt would, but it also shouldn’t feel too restrictive.
Lastly, when it comes to tuxedos you get what you pay for. If a low price is the only thing a tuxedo business has to offer you, then it’s usually because their merchandise is very old and worn out. Businesses who get fresh outfits in regularly charge a bit more, but it makes all the difference.

76 Sam May 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Awesome article! Thanks!
One part you didn’t mention: my date (and all of the girls in the group we’re with) told me and their own dates that they’ll be wearing garters… Any manly advice for this? I sorta know what it is, but what is the general protocol? Thanks!

77 kyle March 12, 2014 at 11:30 pm

that gave me lots of advice, but it could have had a little bit more detail, Thanks!

78 Andrew March 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I just had my prom last night, and these tips were so helpful! I went with a friend of mine in a group with two other couples, and we had a great time!

79 Ben April 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

Ok, so I have a date for prom, but she wanted to drive, I had a challenger ligned up for me from a dealership that’s owner I am friends with, however she wanted to drive, told her dad, now she I’s supposed to drive her dad’s charger.
Should I be offended,
Should I drop her
Or should I just go with her.
I don’t want to loose my man card.
But she is very pretty.

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