Prom: Annual high school dance big on tradition
When many teenagers hear the word "tradition," Thanksgiving at Grandma's or history class comes to mind, not prom. However, the one-night dance party has a surprisingly cultural past.
Originating in the early 19th century, prom was a form of a debutante ball. Wealthy families would host extravagant parties for their young as a way of introducing them to society, a coming of age of sorts. Guests would arrive by carriage, dressed in their finest apparel, eager to partake in the buzzing atmosphere of the social gathering.
Two hundred plus years later, our version of prom -- although it has transformed into quite the spectacle -- has maintained the same basic purpose as its ancestral origin. But one wonders will folks still be able to say this 100 years from now? Will prom activities be blown out of proportion?
To make an accurate prediction as to what will become of prom, let's take a look at the common traditions practiced today.
Daydreams of the dramatic entryways, romantic staircases and spacious ballrooms of seemingly ancient times have become reality to many of the area's high school prom committees.
Schools like Morgan and Layton host the dance outside of their communities at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center and Weber State Ballroom respectively.
"I liked having prom at the Eccles Conference Center because it sets prom apart from the other dances," said Haley Gibb, a Morgan High senior.
But MaKenzie Moore, a junior at Morgan, says, "I didn't like it. The prices were ridiculous compared to other (locations). However, I did like having it outside the community ... it was a good change and I think a lot of (students) appreciated that part of it."
With more space to work with at outside venues, themes have become more elaborate than ever. "Masquerade," "Under the Sea," "A Knight for a Princess," "Arabian Nights," the list goes on and on.
"Having prom as a masquerade allowed those going to become more involved. It was fun to make your own mask and to see everyone else's," says Whitney Morgan, a junior at Morgan High .
To some, however, it's not about the theme.
"I'm not really sure what the theme was," says Karessa Tilelli, a senior at Box Elder High, who adds, "(but) I had a great time because I went with my friends and we had a blast!"
Sawyer Brooks, a senior at Morgan, adds, "I liked the big castle (referring to the theme "A Knight for a Princess"), but I don't think it's as important for prom to have a theme because no matter what the theme is everybody wears fancy clothes and dances."
Every girl longs for the day that she can twirl, spin and sway in a beautiful gown. For some, the process of selecting one is a breeze, while others are not so fortunate.
"Shopping was interesting," Morgan says. "I went to a couple of stores, then while I was in Logan for a basketball game my mom found this little dress store and took me in. After hours of trying on dresses I found one I liked."
Gibb was one of the more unfortunate shoppers, with a slightly amusing/tragic story. She couldn't find a dress within her budget and ended up asking her mom to make one.
"I picked out the colors I wanted and being the wonderful mom that she is, she got right to work," she says. "She made a slip and even hand-beaded the top! The dress was exactly how I wanted it! Everything was going great until it was time to zip up the dress. For some reason the zipper got stuck and broke! So while my little sister entertained my date for an extra 45 minutes, my mom was downstairs sewing me into my dress."
On the tuxedo trail
For the male gender, the search isn't quite as intensive. It usually involves a visit to Men's Wearhouse, selecting a variation of a black or white tux, and hanging out until the big day. At least, that's what it was like for Andy Sheehan.
"I got my tux, planned with my group for the stuff we did, and just kind of relaxed," says the Layton sophomore.
The search for a tux didn't even require Brooks, at Morgan High, to leave his house: "I already had a tux from choir so I only needed the vest and bow tie so it was really easy."
Prome-what? This is a common response from those who may not attend smaller schools like Box Elder or Morgan where there is a promenade, or formal parade, of those participating in the dance.
After getting all gussied up, couples arrive at, most often, the high school auditorium where they proudly show off the latest prom fashion and pose five million times for pictures.
"It's fun for everyone (in the community) to see all the work that goes into prom and to see all the students dressed up," says Morgan.
From a guy's point of view, promenade isn't always all it's cracked up to be.
"I didn't like it because you stood in line forever and then took pictures for hours," says Brooks, but he also recognizes there's a reason for all this madness.
"You do it because the girls need to show off how dang attractive they are," he says.
Formal locations, fun themes, elegant clothing and unique practices make up our prom traditions today. Only time will tell if they stick around, or if, like the 19th century version of prom, they are set aside to reminisce on later down the road.
As 2011 prom season nears its end, those who attended are left with fond memories that will last forever. Perhaps Tilleli sums it up best, saying, "It was a magical time."
Chelsea Fairbourn is a senior at Morgan High School. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.