Tips and suggestions to help you prepare for a formal date or dance or dinner

If you’re doing a formal dance and you haven’t answered these vital questions, you could be sorry.

It’s formal time. Do you care?

If you don’t care, that’s your deal. Go read another story.

Formal DanceBut if you do care, are you ready? You might think you are, but if you haven’t answered some very basic questions, you could find yourself in sad shape at The Big Ball.

It doesn’t matter whether the formal is school-sponsored or thrown by a frat or sorority. And it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Both guys and girls have their own separate questions to answer and a few that are shared by both.

Are We Traditional, Liberated or Dutch?
The first problem may arise as soon as an upcoming formal is announced: who pays for the tickets? If it is a formal put on by a department within the college, both the guy and the girl may feel obliged to pay.

“When residential life sponsored our Winter Ball in February, the tickets were $50 per couple,” Heather Ogalli, a sophomore at Monmouth University said. “My date and I felt that was a lot of money for one person to pay, so we split the cost. After all, we are college students on a budget and it’s not as if we go to different schools and have two formals to attend,” she added.

Splitting the cost of the tickets may be the best way to go if you and your date go to the same school and you want to be fair. However, when your date goes to another college, going Dutch may not be such an easy solution.

“When talk of the Winter Ball came around, I really wanted to go with my boyfriend. We had never been before and this was the last year I could go,” Christi Montgomery, a senior at Monmouth University, said. “But my boyfriend goes to Rutgers University and isn’t big on the whole formal scene. I decided that since it was my formal and I really wanted to go, I would pay for the cost of our tickets. It was only fair to him.”

Powder Blue Tux, Anyone?

Which blast from the past should be revived?
   Rosette hip dress
   Ruffled tux shirt
   Ruffled strap dress
   Super-sized lapel tux
   Who cares?

The same situation can apply to fraternity or sorority formals.

“If it is your Greek organization sponsoring the event, it should be your responsibility to pay for the ticket,” Mark Holden, junior at Elmira College, in Elmira, NY, said. “After all, you are the one who wants to go, you are the one who needs a date, why should you make your date pay? When the talk of formals comes around, if a girl should ask me to go to her sorority formal, I assume that she is going to pay the way. Even though I feel obligated as guy to pay for it. The same is true when a formal comes up that I want to go to. I wouldn’t expect my date to pay,” he explained. “To make up for her paying, usually I’ll buy her flowers,” Holden added.

Are We Doing It Prom-Style?
Buying boutonnieres and corsages is another problem that arises when formal season comes around. Usually this is a guy’s problem. Formals at college are not necessarily like high school proms. Boutonnieres and corsages are pretty much a guarantee at the prom. But what about at college formals? Will other guys get flowers for their dates?

Justin Bac, a sophomore at Monmouth University, assumed he would need a corsage for his date. However, she was one of the only women at the formal to wear one.

“All I had been to before were proms, where there was always a contest among the girls about who had the prettiest and the best corsage. So I went all out when it came time for the Winter Ball. No one clued me in that in college, most people didn’t bother with the added expense. My date was one of the only ones at the ball to be wearing a corsage on her wrist,” Bach explained.

If you’re not sure whether to fork it over for the flowers, your best bet is to ask people who have attended formals at your college before. They can tell you whether flowers are the way to go.

Are We Formal or Only Semi-Formal?
Asking previous formal attendees is also the way to find out how formal your formal will be. Some semi-formals, where ties aren’t needed and skirts will do, are billed as formals. But others are prom formals where tuxes and fancy dresses are a must. Then there are the “borderline formals” where guys can get away with wearing a shirt and tie and women won’t be snubbed for wearing cocktail dresses ranging from short to long.

“Dress shopping is almost as bad as bathing suit shopping,” Siena College junior Beth Camnella said. “Not only do you have to keep in mind how dressy your formal is going to be, you have to figure out how much you can afford to spend, what the latest styles are and whether or not someone else is going to show up in the exact same dress,” she explained.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to wear that dress you wore for your senior prom, while other times you may need to hit the stores. If you know far enough in advance that you will be going to a formal and how dressy you need to be, the best time to shop for a dress is at the end of the previous season. If you’re attending a winter formal, shop after Christmas. Dresses from the holiday season will be marked down and new arrivals may be included in pre-season sales. If it’s a spring formal, again, shop after Christmas for the pre-season sales. Or you may even want to do your shopping the summer before. Your dress may not be the latest style that comes out right before the actual formal, but you will get a bargain on last year’s style that no one else will be wearing.

“Even though it was an old style from the year before, my dress was unique at my formal and everyone loved it,” Camnella said. “The best part was, I only got it for twenty bucks when girls there had identical dresses they spent a fortune on.”

Are We Fred and Ginger or George and Gracie?
So now that you’ve decided whether flowers are necessary, the formal is paid for and outfits are all picked out, the rest is a breeze, right? Wrong. There may be one unforeseen problem that no one considers until it’s too late: what if your date doesn’t dance?

It may seem like a trivial problem, but it’s one that could cause some problems on the dance floor. Formals pretty much consist of dancing. If your date doesn’t dance, he or she may get bored, leading to the disaster of: what if they leave early?

“I knew my girlfriend wasn’t a dancer before we even went to my formal,” said Ed Kowski, a senior at Montclair State University. “She would slow dance, but fast dances were out of the question. I wanted her to have a good time so a week before the formal, I took her to some swing lessons. It’s one of the more popular styles of dance these days and I knew it wouldn’t be too hard for her to pick up. She learned fast, mostly because she knew it would make me happy if she would dance and we ended up having a blast.”

If lessons are out of the question and your date truly has two left feet, the only thing you can hope for is another non-dancer to keep your date company. Not everyone likes to dance, and socializing with others can be just as fun. Just spend as much time with your date as you do on the dance floor and everything should go smoothly. If your date starts to get jealous of the rug you’re cutting, things could get ugly. And after all, formals are supposed to be fun.

In general, if you plan out how much money you can spend for the formal, find out what’s necessary from people who have attended previous formals at your school and keep an open line of communication with your date, the formal preparation should be a breeze. Fail to do any of these things, and you run the risk of spending all that money for a crappy time.