Prom Etiquette

By Sharon Naylor

March 5, 2010 5 min read

Avoid those friendship-wrecking dramas that can arise during prom season by keeping manners in mind. You might think that etiquette is only a subject for weddings, tea parties and job interviews, but etiquette applies to teens, too. Prom time calls for some smart etiquette strategies so that you and your friends can enjoy the big day together, without any conflicts, hurt feelings or lightning-fast gossip about your bad prom protocol.

At the center of any etiquette rule is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Simply put: Be nice and considerate. To everyone.

Here are prom etiquette musts to follow:

*Say a gracious 'no.' If someone you're not interested in asks you to be his or her date for the prom, it can be nerve-racking to turn the person down. You don't want to hurt the asker's feelings, so keep it simple and short, with no excuses. For example, you could say, "I'm so flattered that you're asking, but I have to say no, thank you." Don't give in to the temptation to make something up, such as "I'm not sure whether I'm going," because anything less than an unmistakable "no" can launch that optimistic guy or girl into trying to persuade you to say "yes." Telling your classmate you're waiting for a different person to ask you may be honest, but it's likely to cause hurt feelings. So just keep it to "no, thank you," and encourage the person to ask someone else.

*Be a good member of the group. If your circle of friends would like to make the prom a group event -- attending a pre-party together, sharing a limousine, etc. -- share your ideas, and invite everyone's input on where to pre-party and which limo company to hire. It's better to let everyone participate than it is to be the boss and tell everyone how it's going to be.

*Suggest less expensive ideas the right way. In any group, some people have more money than others, and it can be a challenge to get everyone to agree to a plan.

"The best way for a teen to suggest money-saving ideas to the group is to do so with plenty of time to spare. This isn't something you want to spring on the group at the last minute," says Leah Ingram, certified etiquette consultant and author of "Suddenly Frugal: How To Live Happier & Healthier for Less." "Everyone should be splitting the cost of transportation equally, and that split should be fair for everyone's budget."

It's great etiquette to "have some ideas" instead of just saying someone's plan is too pricey. Ingram says: "Do any of the kids in the group have a friend or family member with a cool car? Maybe one girl has an uncle with a 1950s baby blue Cadillac, and they can pay him a nominal amount to drive them to and from the prom. Or can one of the parents get a great deal on a fun rental car?" Don't be embarrassed about being the one who needs the low-cost option. Even your friends with the big allowances or paychecks will be happy that you brought up the subject.

*Pay for your date. Unless you specifically have arranged to split all costs, it's good manners to pay for your date's dinner and limo share if you did the asking.

*Don't try to be the only one in that dress. If you find out that someone else has bought the exact same prom dress that you bought, just laugh it off with a comment that both of you have great taste in fashion. Remind your friend that accessories and hairstyles change the look of a dress enough, so neither of you needs to return your dress.

*Be a good tipper. If you'll have hair and beauty pros create your glam hairstyle and fabulous makeup, be sure to tip them well, at least 15 percent, according to industry standards, plus a few dollars for the shampoo person. (Tips may be included in your limousine contract, so check that out before you tip extra.) If your group plans to go out to dinner, bring plenty of cash to pay for your share and a good tip for your server.

*Be respectful at parties. If you attend any pre- or post-prom parties in a friend's home, be respectful of your host's home and parents. Say hello when you arrive; offer to help set up and clean up; honor the family's rules about no drinking or no smoking on their property; and keep the noise level down.

*Say thank you. Good etiquette is always about the thank you, so be sure to thank everyone who plays a part in your prom: your date, parents who drive or take photos, the friend who put your plans together, your stylists, your driver, everyone. There's no need for a printed thank you note, but a text or an e-mail the next day is pure class -- and great etiquette.

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