Senior year students dressed up for their prom - 2011
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 near the end of the senior year. It figures greatly in popular culture and is a major event among high school students. High school juniors attending the prom may call it Junior Prom while high school seniors may call it Senior Prom. In practice this may be a combined junior/senior dance. At prom, a Prom Queen and Prom King may be revealed. These are honorary titles awarded to students chosen in a school-wide vote prior to the prom, and are usually given to seniors.[1] Juniors may also be honored, but would be called "Prom Prince" or "Prom Princess". Other students may be honored with inclusion in a "Prom Court". The selection method for Prom Court is similar to that of Homecoming Queen, King, and Court. Inclusion in a Prom Court is a reflection of popularity of those chosen and their level of participation in school activities, such as clubs or sports.

The British synonym for the North American event would be Leavers' Ball, Leavers' Dinner, Formal or, informally, Leavers' Do. 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, But the term "Prom" is becoming more frequent in the UK due to US TV shows. In Ireland, the event is also known as the Debs, which is derived from Debutante.


Prom attire

Girl in formal prom attire, USA, 1950s

Boys usually dress in black or white formal wear, regardless of the time of the event, sometimes paired with brightly colored ties or bow-ties with vests, in some cases in colors matching their date's dress. Most are rented from stores that specialize in formal wear rentals.

Girls wear traditional ladies dresses or gowns. 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.

Prom logistics and traditions

Prom attendees may be limited by their schools to be Juniors or Seniors and if guests, under age 21.[2] Before Prom, girls will typically get their hair styled, often in groups as a social activity at a salon. Prom dates will then gather at a park, garden, or their own and their date's houses for photographs. Prom attendees may rent limousines to transport groups of friends from their homes to the Prom venue: a banquet hall or school gymnasium. Some schools host their proms at hotel ballrooms or other venues where weddings typically take place. At Prom, a meal may be served. The dance itself may have a band or DJ. After Prom, a school or community may host a "Post Prom" at a restaurant or at school.

Related social gatherings


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

In South Africa, the equivalent of the 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 Kenya most private Schools with Expatriates have proms or "End of year socials"


In India and Nepal, 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 superlatives are given awards.

In Israel, the proms are similar to American proms with dress code, prom dates, limousines, prom kings or queens.

In Lebanon, proms are held after the graduation ceremony at night. They are usually held at hotel with a formal dress code, prom dates, rented cars and occasionally, proms kings and queens.

In Malaysia, proms are gaining more popularity, 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 girl is appointed "Lady of the Evening" and one boy is appointed "Gentleman of the Evening."

In the Philippines proms are 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. Junior Proms are normally called "Winter Formals". The Associated Student Body generally organizes the event. Usually a Prom King and Queen are chosen. The basis for the King and Queen judgment is the beauty and the fashion of the nominee, not the popularity.

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 Vietnam, the equivalent to the prom is called liên hoan cuối năm.


In Austria, as well as in Czech Republic, the last year in Gymnasium is celebrated with a ball called in German Maturaball and in Czech Maturitní ples (Graduation ball). This dance takes place before exams are taken, usually in January or February, the traditional season for balls during the Fasching. (i.e. List of balls in Vienna) Normally, balls are formal. The students often invite their parents and other relatives to come to the ball with them. Sometimes several schools organize a joint event. The income is often used to finance a collective voyage of the students after the exams.

In Belgium, as well as in some parts of the Netherlands, senior students celebrate their last 100 days of high school with a special day called 'Chrysostomos' or '100-dagen feest' (100-days party). Tradition states that on this winter day, seniors are allowed to pull pranks on their teachers and fellow students. Some schools handle a theme as dresscode, while others go for the traditional outfit: blue jeans, a black cotton jacket, a black hat (with a red or blue ribbon) and a whistle around the neck. Some even paint their faces and some seniors also carry a spray can (shaving cream or other fluids) to 'attack' the non-seniors with. A noisy march through town is also part of the gig. Later during the day, students perform an act at school, usually a silly show involving school or a parody. In the evening, students head to a rented club to party. This involves dancing, singing and lots of beer to get a taste of fraternity life. Sometimes even teachers join the party to show that they too have a wild side.

In Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia, matursko veče (also maturalna večer and maturska vecer), 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 Croatia it is sometimes held in January or February, as in Austria.

In Denmark, the prom is called "galla" and takes place before the exams begin. The word "galla" refers to the dresscode which is long dresses for the woman and suits for the men.

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 10–15 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 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 usually wear suits and ball gowns. The event often follows a certain 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 the equivalent is known as "i cento giorni", an unofficial party organised by students themselves in a location of their choice 100 days before the final exams before high school graduation. Usually the party is not held with all graduating students, rather every class organizes a separated party to celebrate with classmates. The tradition of "i cento giorni" comes from Piedmontese military schools in the late 1800, where days remaining to graduation were counted starting from the 100th with the locution "Mak Π 100", from Piedmontese language "mac pì 100", translating as "just more 100 (days remaining)".

In Lithuania, the 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 "Nyttårsballet" 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 Portugal, proms are held before the end of the year, in May or June and are called 'Baile de Finalistas' ( Finalists ball). The students wear formal suits and dresses. In some schools is chosen the king and the queen of the prom. It is organised by a student association, elected in the beginning of the school year by the students to organise school events.

In Romania distinct proms are held each year in high schools and college for both the graduating students as well as the newly enrolled ones. They are called graduation balls and freshmen ("boboci", meaning "hatchlings" in Romanian) balls, respectivelly. They are usually not black tie (informal). The venue is chosen by the teaching staff and can be any place, including the school gym or auditorium, a club, restaurant etc. It is common to charge students an admission tax in order to offset the cost. One or more bands or singers are usually hired to provide entertainment. Often the event is sponsored by local businesses. Access is usually controlled and limited to students of that particular high school or university, but exceptions can be made for relatives and it is not uncommon for students from other institutions to try to crash a particular prom. Freshmen proms usually include a popularity contest of some sort, which designates 3 girls and 3 boys as places I, II and III "most popular" as chosen by student vote; the candidates have to undergo various entertaining challenges, which usually include pair dancing. Generally speaking, freshmen proms are the more popular, with college freshmen proms often being publicized as club events and promoted by radio stations, who take the opportunity to introduce bands and singers. Whereas graduation proms are more subdued and often not a public or even a school-wide event, many graduating classes choosing to restrict attendance just to the actual graduates and their teachers.

In Russia and Belarus, proms are called 'Vipusknoy vecher', which literally means 'evening of graduation'. They take place from the 18th to the 20th or the 23rd to the 25th of June, after all state exams are completed. Proms are never held on the 21st/22nd because they took place on June 21 in 1941, but 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. Proms may be held in a Discothèque, 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, the Ribbon Ball). The principal and the class teacher are given big green ribbons as well. Many of the students wear this ribbon on their jackets or shirts until graduation. Stužková typically includes a banquet, skits and songs prepared by students, and, of course, dancing. Men wear formal suits and women formal dresses. One week before Stužková is a ceremony of Pečatenie triednej knihy (Sealing of the Class-register) so that teachers will not give bad marks to students before Stužková. It is connected with some story and recorded by cameraman and then put on a Dvd of Stužková. It usually starts at 6 p.m. and ends in the early hours of the next morning (4a.m.).

In Slovenia, the equivalent is Maturantski ples. It is held before the final exams between January and May, depending 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.[3] Literally translated, this is a 'Spring Ball'. At some schools in the German speaking part, its called "Maturaball". This is not always organized by the schools, but sometimes by a student's committee. It takes mostly part before the final exams.

In the United Kingdom many senior schools had school dances or balls, which from the 1970s were most often called a "school disco". School discos were semi-formal events held at various times of the year, often in the Christmas period. Many schools had a summer ball to celebrate the end of term, but this did not have any of the cultural or social significance of the US prom. School proms were unheard of until the 2000s, but have now become common due to the influence of US TV shows.[4] Schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland traditionally hold their prom, or "school formal", at the end of compulsory secondary education in Year 11 (ages 15/16) and the end of Sixth Form (aged 18), for those who have continued school.

In Scotland it is held only at the end of S6 (ages 17/18) because all high schools in Scotland have a 'Sixth Form' (but called S5 and S6) whereas elsewhere many students have to go to college to sit their A-Levels. Therefore, fewer people actually leave high school in Scotland at ages 15/16 than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. At Scottish proms, boys usually wear kilts (kilts are also often seen in the other Celtic regions).

North America

In Canada, most schools have similar traditions to schools in the United States, except that the prom is held only for the graduating class (hence the commonly used synonyms for prom, "grad" and "grad formal"). There is no prom held for Grade 11 (except in the province of Quebec, where grade 11 is the last year). It is strictly a ceremony celebrating students' graduation from high school.

In the United States, some high schools only allow the graduating class (Seniors) to have a prom. Some schools also allow grade 11 (Juniors) to hold a prom, and select high schools even hold proms for Freshmen and Sophomores. In other cases there is a combined Junior/Senior prom. Some American high schools and colleges that do not allow school-sponsored dances will host a Junior/Senior prom as a banquet instead of a dance. Typically, students still dress in formal attire and attend as couples. More and more colleges are hosting proms in recent years, usually as fundraisers for campus organizations such as Ballroom Dance groups, fraternities/sororities, or other organizations.


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 or Debutante Ball but can still be called a School Formal or Formal. In Australia they also have a Valedictory Dinner, which is like the formal but has students, parents and teachers instead of students and dates. The Formal celebrates completing the School Certificate at the end of Year 10, or Higher School Certificate at the end of Year 12 and includes a dinner and dance. In year 11, students often organise a 'semi-formal' at the end of the school year, which is a more casual version of a formal. The Valedictory Dinner (or Val as it is colloquially called) is an event that only occurs in Year 12, about the same time as the Formal and also celebrates completing the Higher School Certificate. In New Zealand, most state school balls are held in the winter months, between June and August.

In American Samoa the typical Junior/Senior prom is held in most of the schools. And exception would be one of the private schools, which lets even 8th graders, freshmen, and sophomores participate in prom.

Central and South America and the Caribbean

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 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 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 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 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 Trinidad and Tobago and most Caribbean countries, it is traditional for schools to hold a dance at the end of the CXC/GCE Advanced Level examination period. This is thrown simultaneously for fifth form and upper sixth form students during the months of June or July after the school's official graduation ceremony. It is colloquially referred to as "grad" or "gradz". Most "gradz" are held in popular clubs, hotels, halls or simply on the school's grounds. Most schools allow students to bring dates, and a formal dress code is usually in effect.

In Uruguay, graduation parties are usually held after graduation itself. They may or may be not organised by the school, but by the students itself. Usually a place is rent, and formal parties are held. Students are allowed to take one guest, as a friend or as a partner.

Homeschool proms

The concept of extending prom to homeschool students has been realized in recent years. In many cases, homeschool students are able to attend the prom in the school district where they reside. However, many homeschool groups also organize their own prom. Some states, such as Michigan, also host Homeschool Prom, which any homeschool student in that state is welcome to attend.

Proms that are specifically geared toward homeschool students can often be significantly different from traditional high school proms. It is not uncommon for a homeschool student to attend a homeschool prom solo, for example, rather than taking a date. In some cases, parents may also attend with their sons or daughters.

Adult proms, prom re-creations and prom simulations

It has become increasingly common, especially 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 the latter is The Awesome 80s Prom,[5] 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. Some people who disagree with their school's prom policies might create private (unofficial) proms that are not under the control of the school; see anti-prom for more information.

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.[6]

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.[7] Despite a 1980 court decision that public schools must allow same-sex dates, many gay and lesbian high school students still feel uncomfortable taking a same-sex date to prom.

In 2007, Drew Barrymore hosted a prom-themed birthday party for a friend who missed her senior prom.[8]

In 2010, Missouri high schooler Ron Blalock made national news when he took his 90-year-old great-grandmother, Hasselteen Rumba, to her first prom.[9]


Over the course of history, proms have been the source of many controversies, many of which involve LGBT rights.

  • In 2002, gay teenager Marc Hall was prohibited from taking his male date to his high school's dance; Hall sued and won.[10]
  • In 2009, Tyler Frost was suspended for attending his girlfriend's prom, because his Christian high school disallowed dancing.[11] Although the principal at Frost's school signed a paper allowing Frost to attend the prom, he said Frost would be suspended if he went, but Frost did so anyway.
  • In 2010, lesbian high school senior Constance McMillen requested to take her girlfriend to the prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School, where they were both students. The principal denied her request and prohibited her from wearing a tuxedo. When McMillen challenged the school's policy, the prom was canceled, leading McMillen to sue the school.[12] Following a court decision forcing the school to hold the prom, local parents organized a second prom in secret, leaving Constance, her girlfriend and only 5 other students at the "official" prom.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Carlos, Amanda (2010-04-29). "Carlos Commentary: Summit students enjoy a successful prom". Fontana Herald News. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  2. ^ "District 155 Guidelines". 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  3. ^ "Swiss Teens Celebrate Spring With ‘Bal de Printemps’". Ypulse. 2009-04-28. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  4. ^ Pyke, Nicholas; Bloomfield, Steve (2004-07-11). "The high school prom arrives in UK (via stretch limo, naturally)". The Independent (London). 
  5. ^ "The Awesome 80s Prom New York : Broadway Tickets : Editorial Review". Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  6. ^ "Girl gets second chance to attend prom". 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  7. ^ 9:41 a.m. ET (2009-03-07). ""Gays, lesbians recreate prom at weekend fete"". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  8. ^ By Editors. "Drew Barrymore's prom party". Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  9. ^ "90-Year-Old Ready For Prom". Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "CBC News – Gay teen wins fight over Catholic prom". 2002-05-22. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  11. ^ 3:45 p.m. ET (2009-05-11). "Teen suspended for going to girlfriend's prom". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  12. ^ Joyner, Chris (2010-03-22). "Lesbian gets day in court over nixed prom". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  13. ^ "McMillen: I Was Sent to Fake Prom". Advocate.Com. 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2010-04-06. 

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