Prom is an end-of-year tradition in North American schools, and a rite of passage for teenagers. It has spread across the Atlantic. Most British schools now organise some kind of end-of-school, prom-style dance.
Proms started out as banquets for graduating university classes in the 19th century. Prom is short for "promenade", the formal arrival of guests at a dance. By the 1940s, proms had started becoming commonplace in high schools. These days even middle schools often have some form of prom.
Anyone who has ever watched an American film or TV series set in a school will have a good idea of some of the traditions. Girls wear long dresses and the boys tuxedos. Traditionally a boy gives his date a corsage – flowers to pin on her dress or wear around her wrist. Boys traditionally also picked up their dates from their homes and went through the cringe-worthy ritual of "meeting the parents". These days, couples may share a hired limousine with other couples to arrive at the prom. Once there, they will of course have lots of photos taken. The dancing will be started by the Prom King and Queen, chosen by their peers.
In the past, proms were generally held in the school gymnasium but now they are often in hotels or other events venues. The price tag is consequently higher and between tickets, clothes, limousines and other expenses, American families often pay more than $600 for their children's prom experience.
The All-Important Date
Getting a date for the Prom can preoccupy students for the whole year. And the way you ask someone to be your date is getting more and more sophisticated, whether it's sending a message iced onto a cupcake, getting a group of friends to sing your proposal in harmony, or unfurling a giant banner at a school sports match. These elaborate proposals even have a name: "promposals".
This year, one promposal went viral on the Internet. 17-year old Jacob Staudenmaier from Arizona set his sights high: he decided to ask La La Land star Emma Stone to be his date. He hopes to study filmmaking, so he made a video inspired by the opening scene of La La Land, a musical number set in a traffic jam.
Emma Stone responded with a very gracious email: “Jacob, thanks for making the greatest proposal I have ever received. I can’t tell you what an honor that was and how much I smiled through that entire beautifully orchestrated video. I’m in London working, but I hope you have the best time at prom, and I’m grateful you thought of me. Thank you. Love, Emma.”
It didn't get Staudenmaier a date, but hopefully the video and the attendant publicity helped his chances of getting into film school!
Main image © biker3/Adobe Stock
Dance © bst2012/Adobe Stock