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A typical gathering, with boys in tuxedos, and girls in dresses with corsages on their wrists.
A crowded dance-floor at a prom.
Decorating for prom, students and student advisers put finishing touches on a ballroom at a banquet hall.

In the United States and Canada, a prom, short for promenade, is a formal (black tie) dance, or gathering of high school students. It is typically held at the end of junior and/or senior year. It figures greatly in popular culture and is a major event among high school students.

The British synonym for the North American event would be Leavers' Ball, Leavers' Dinner, Formal or, informally, Leavers' Do. This is closer to the Australian description, although in the UK, some schools have called the above events proms. In Canada, Ireland, and Australia the terms Grad or Formal are most commonly used and the event is usually held for those graduating high school or middle school. In Ireland, the event is also known as the Debs, which is derived from Debutante.



The Junior and Senior classes may participate in fund raisers throughout the school year to reduce the cost of prom. Approximately 8 million girls attend prom in the United States each year.[1]

Prom tickets are sold at school and are traditionally purchased by boys for the couple. They can also be bought individually. It is not unusual for people attending prom as friends to purchase a "couple's ticket." The cost of half of one couple's ticket is generally less than that of one for an individual[citation needed].

Pre-prom activities will typically include a visit to friends' homes for group photographs.

A group of friends may rent a limousine to transport large groups to prom.

Common prom activities include (but are not limited to) dining, dancing, the crowning of a prom "king" and "queen," and socializing. A prom Queen is voted for by all of the students.

For high school proms in the United States, some communities hold "after-prom,"[2] an activity run by parents, teachers, and community leaders for prom attendees after the formal events. Post-prom may be held at a different location and might include raffles, games or a late night meals. Post-proms are organized to discourage after prom activities such as under-aged drinking and sexual activity. "Post-post prom" activities such as trips to local parks or amusement parks often extending well into the next day after the prom evening.

Some universities and colleges have proms as well, depending on the size of the graduating class in a faculty or department. In most cases, college and university proms are hosted by departments, fraternities/sororities, or clubs. Ballroom dance clubs at colleges/universities have been known to host a "prom night" as a fundraiser.

Also, in some cases, a college or university serves as the venue for high school proms. For example, The University of Toledo's Savage Arena serves as the venue for several Toledo-area junior and senior proms.

Prom Attire

Boys usually dress in tuxedos, sometimes paired with brightly colored ties.

Girls wear traditional dresses. They may purchase their prom dresses from specialized shops, boutiques,or internet retailers. There are many specialty labels selling prom dresses that release new collections each prom season.

Traditionally girls will also wear a corsage, given to them by their dates, and girls give boys matching boutonnières to be worn on their lapel.

Related social gatherings


In Argentina there are also proms or "fiestas de egresados" for students finishing their last year of high school. There are big parties for teenagers in local discos and graduates usually wear costumes to be identified from others. They usually hold formal dinners with parents too, but students dress formally.

In Brazil, bailes de formatura are usual at the end of high school and at college graduation. There is no crowning of a "king" or a "queen," but evening gowns and suits are required. Family may or may not be included, and there may be a live band or DJ hired to command the music.

In Canada, most schools have the same traditions as those in the United States, except Prom is only held for the graduating class. There is no prom held for Grade 11 (except in the province of Quebec, where grade 11 is the last year. [3]) It is strictly a ceremony celebrating students' graduation from high school.

In Chile, proms, or "fiestas de graduación" (graduation parties), are usually held at convention centers or hotels after the "licenciatura," or graduation from High School. They can also be held after taking the PSU (Chilean University Entrance Exam) in December. Students are expected to dress formally. They are allowed to go with dates, friends, or relatives. They usually start with people dancing a waltz and then dinner. After the dinner, the parents leave, and the dance continues through the night into the next day. Food and alcoholic drinks are available during the party.

In Colombia many private schools usually have prom balls as well, usually consisting of a dinner, dancing, live music, and contests. They are usually held at hotels or clubs.

In Honduras, they are called "Cena de Graduacion", they are held in luxury hotels, also familiars of the graduating students are invited to the event. The act consists on a formal graduation and deliver of their diplomas, after that, a dinner is held between the graduating students and their familiars or friends in the same room which later will become in a dance floor for everyone. After the Prom, the students rent a limo and take a ride all over their city to make them known as formal graduated students.

In Costa Rica, like many other American countries, the "Baile de graduación" is celebrated after finishing High School, where grade 11 is also the last year. It usually takes place before graduation to celebrate the end of school. It's normally held in hotels or saloons with a dance-floor, music and dinner. It starts with the students walking through the dance-floor and dancing a waltz. The dinner comes after, and the rest of the night consists of dancing and celebration.

In Peru, proms—"Fiesta de Promocion"—are usually held at hotels, convention centers, or big residences. The dress code is formal. Some parents and teachers are often invited, but they don't stay the whole night. Dinner is served as well as alcoholic drinks and delicatessen. Breakfast is often served the next day, at around 6-7 am. There is a growing tradition to hold a "Pre-Prom" for the students in the class below the graduating class, and even a "Pre-pre-Prom" for the students in the class below that.

In the United States, some American high schools and colleges that do not allow school-sponsored dances will host a Junior/Senior prom. Rather than the event being a dance, a banquet is held instead. Typically, students still dress in formal attire and even bring dates.


In Austria, as well as in Czech Republic, the last year in Gymnasium is celebrated with a ball (called "Maturaball") usually in January or February. This dance takes place before exams are taken. Normally, balls are formal. The students often invite their parents and other relatives to come to the ball with them.

In Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, matursko veče, as graduation night, is the event held at the end of the senior year. It is similar to prom night in the United States.

In Finland the equivalent of the prom is called Vanhojen tanssit. The event is in February when high school students in their third year stop going to school in order to prepare for their abitur exams, and second grade students become the oldest in the school. Students learn 10-30 dances for the event. Earlier the habit was to wear old clothes and look old. Nowadays clothes are very much the same kind as in US proms.

In France, some engineering schools, or universities, hold "galas," which are held as social events each year. School traditions, graduation dates, and other information influences when the events will be held. Galas are largely similar to prom, but different in that the attendants are not necessarily students. Faculties and company executives may be welcome. Depending of the size of the organization, the type of event may change from just dance to dinner, dance, casino, fashion show, etc. The gala could be organized by the school or by a student organization, depending of the school's tradition.

In Germany students celebrate their graduation from High School, or Gymnasium, with an Abifeier (from the graduation certificate or Abitur). The events are informal, apart from the "Abi-Ball," where students have to wear tuxedos and ball gowns.[citation needed] The event often follows a very rigid running order with a welcome, introductions, an award ceremony for students, and then a series of student-organized activities that tend to make fun of teachers, usually with an extended hagiography about the favorite teacher. This is followed by the school's own band, other bands, or an extended demonstration of all of the artistic outpourings of the students and staff. The event normally ends with a DJ playing music. Alcohol is available at these events since the legal drinking age in Germany is 16 (for beer and wine) and most graduating students are 18 or older.

In Hungary students receive a blue ribbon to mark the beginning of the preparation for their graduation. Students receive this ribbon at a ball called "Szalagavató", meaning the "inauguration of ribbons". This prom-like evening dance is traditionally held in the ball season of January-February, but recently sometimes also before Christmas. At the beginning of the ball, each graduating class performs a choreographed dance they learned during the months leading up to the event. After the school organised ball of the evening, students usually go out at night to drink to bars and discos, even if some of them are below drinking age (18 in Hungary).

In Ireland, this formal dance is called the Débutantes' Ball. This is referred to as the "Grad," or, informally, Debs in eastern Ireland. This is a formal dance for students who have just graduated from secondary school (high school) and is traditionally held between September and October, after the students have finished exams. In rural areas it often takes place in July or August. The same formal dance is also occasionally known as the "Grad" among students in all-male schools. "Grads" can also refer to an informal dance mid-way through the school year. Some all-boys schools have their Debs in January, February, or March of their final year. This is a tradition followed by all boys schools in Limerick. Students who did an optional "transition" year from junior to senior cycle often get to attend the debs going into their final year and leaving their final year. Alcohol is available at these events.

In Italian military schools the equivalent is known as "Mak Π 100" because it takes place 100 days before the students' graduation from high school. In civil schools, a party (only rarely given that or any other name) is usually held every year, sometimes in place of one of the final school days. It is not a formal event, and the students will often perform cabaret shows in which they make a parody of their teachers.

In Lithuania prom is held after final exams, usually the same day when high school diplomas are presented. The event is called išleistuvės. The equivalent of prom is called Šimtadienis, which happens around 100 days before final exams. It is held for people who are just about to graduate and is organized by junior classes.

In Norway, this event varies from school to school. It is usually held during the winter months, and is often called "Nytt års ballet" which means "the new years ball." The students are not allowed to bring people from outside the school. A king and queen, whom the students have voted for, are crowned at the ball. Prom tickets are sold at school, and as it is unusual to date in Norway, all students have to buy their own tickets.

In Poland proms taking place before final exams (bal maturalny) are still very popular each year. Almost every school organises it about 100 days before matura exams, that's why the prom is commonly known as 'studniówka' ('100 days thing'). The prom begins with students' performance of polonaise, a traditional Polish dance.

In Russia proms are called 'Vipusknoy vecher', which literally means 'evening of graduation'. They take place on the 20th of June, after all state exams are completed. Proms took place on June 21st in 1941, however, on the 22nd all graduates were drafted to fight the German invasion during World War II.

First, all graduates receive their atestats (or diplomas). Students with higher marks receive them first.

Afterward, the prom continues as a school ball, traditionally with classic dances. Students may choose restaurants, cafes, or ships rather than school grounds to hold the events. Prom may held in a Discotheque, but it must start with the school waltz.

At the conclusion of the prom evening, it is tradition to walk the whole night and watch sunrise in the morning (on a hill, if applicable, in Moscow - Sparrow Hills).

In Slovakia, the closest thing to a prom is Stužková, an occasion when the seniors get together with their parents, partners and teachers to celebrate their upcoming graduation. It takes place in November or December. Each of the students receives a green ribbon with their name on it (thus the name Stužková, i.e. the Ribbon Ball). Principal, Classteacher are given big green ribbons as well. Many of the students wear this ribbon on their jackets or shirts for the rest of the year. Stužková typically includes a banquet, skits and songs prepared by students, and, of course, dancing. It's formal, men wear suits and women dresses. One week before Stužková is a ceremony of Pečatenie triednej knihy (Sealing of the Class-register) so that teachers won't give bad marks to students before Stužková. It's connected with some story and recorded by cameraman and then puted on a Dvd of Stužková. It usually starts at 6pm and ends in the early hours next morning (4am).

In Slovenia, the equivalent is Maturantski ples. It is held before the final exams between January and May, dependimg on the region and school. Students can bring dates and/or close family to the ball. It is a custom that each student dances the last dance of the first sequence, a Vienna Walzer, with his mother/her father. There is also a dinner and live music.

In Sweden, this kind of event is usually known as Studentbalen. The word "Studentbalen" is a proper noun meaning "The Student Ball," while the word studentbal is a common noun that can refer to any formal dinner and dance at a Swedish university. Studentbalen is usually held during the final weeks before graduating and can be formal.

The Swiss equivalent of a prom is the bal de printemps.[4]

In the United Kingdom, a School Prom was unheard of until the late 1990s. It is believed to have start in Cambridge, where every school in the area had a special "School ball." As the idea proliferated throughout the UK, the name changed to a "School Prom." Schools in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland traditionally hold their prom at the end of High School (aged 16) and the end of Sixth Form (aged 18), as opposed to just Senior Year in the United States. This is different to Scotland where Prom held only at the end of high school and men have the option to wear Kilts.

Australasia, Asia and Africa

In Australia and New Zealand if the event is not relegated solely to the final year, it may be described as a Ball, School Formal, or simply Formal. If the event is in the final year of high school, it is sometimes called a Dinner-dance, Leavers' Dinner, Debutante Ball, or Valedictory Dinner, but can still be called a School Formal or Formal. The Formal celebrates completing the Higher School Certificate and includes a dinner and dance. In New Zealand, most state school balls are held in the winter months, between June and August.

In Egypt, most private schools have proms similar to ones held in the USA but with slight differences.

In India, the equivalent is a farewell party or farewell gathering. The outgoing students are given a warm send-off by the junior students and staff. All the seniors are felicitated with souvenirs and soperlatives are given awards.

In Israel, the proms are very similar to American proms. Proms are not sponsored by the government and there are groups of students who take care of organizing the proms.

In Malaysia, proms are gaining more popularity. They are held by more and more schools, especially in the bigger cities. However, these gatherings are usually organized by students, and the school administration is not involved.

In Pakistan, the equivalent to the American prom is a farewell dinner or farewell function that takes place at the end of the college academic year. In farewell function one lady is appointed "Lady of the Evening" and one guy is appointed "Gentleman of the Evening."

In Turkey, the equivalent is called "Graduation Ball." The type of event and the rules applied are created by the student governments and school boards.It is a tradition of graduation for seniors.

In the Philippines prom is popular in high schools. Prom usually takes place in the junior and senior years of high school. Proms are commonly known as "JS Prom," or, Junior-Senior prom.

In South Africa, the equivalent to American prom is the Matric Dance, taking place during the matriculation (i.e. final) year of high school (12th grade). It takes place towards the end of the third quarter, shortly before the spring break, after which the Matriculation Examinations commence. It usually takes the form of a formal dinner and dance. In most schools the 11th grade class is responsible for arranging the event. Sometimes teachers and parents also attend.

In Sri Lanka, the equivalent to the American prom is the graduation after-party, or batch party. Some girls schools might call it the 'Sari party' as the girls are now grown up enough to wear saris.

In Vietnam, the equivalent to the prom is called lien hoan cuoi nam.

Adult Proms, Prom Re-creations, and Prom Simulations

It has become increasingly common in the United States to create events that closely resemble high school proms, usually as fundraisers for charities, or even for profit. An example of this is The Awesome 80's Prom, in which an audience participation theatrical play, set in an actual dance hall, is held every Saturday in New York City.

Re-creating proms for individuals who missed their original prom, and/or creating parties that simulate proms for charitable causes, has become a viable source of revenue for event planners in recent years.

In some cases, friends, family members, or other individuals re-create a prom for a person who missed his/her original senior prom, usually because of illness requiring hospitalization, or another event which prevents one from attending his/her prom. In 2009, friends, family members, and hospital workers in Atlanta, Georgia re-created a prom for then-senior Raven Johnson, who was in a coma at the time of her original senior prom. [5]

Adult proms for gay and lesbian adults who couldn't attend their prom with a date of the same sex are popular in some cities[6]. Despite a 1980 court decision that public schools must allow same-sex dates, many gay and lesbian high school students still feel uncomfortable bringing a same-sex date to prom.

In 2007, Drew Barrymore hosted a prom-themed birthday party for a friend who missed her senior prom. [7]

See also


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