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Swindon Prom Time! 

40 TOP TIPS FOR A PERFECT PROM

How to make sure the big day is one to remember

Swindon Prom Season 2011
Sometimes, the thought of organising an individual’s attendance at a prom ball can be scary. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that everybody should make the most of an enjoy. So we’ve attempted to take the sting out of the whole business by offering our top tips for the perfect prom in Swindon.

1 Respect the school’s wishes
 
Proms can be a nightmare for schools, and after all they’ve put up with all year, trying to get kids through their exams, trouble is the last thing they deserve – especially as staff will probably have put in a lot of hard work in organising the prom ball. Don’t plan anything for your prom without consulting the school first and checking venue and logistics, including dress codes, suitable vehicles to arrive in and anything else you think may be controversial, embarrassing or difficult for them to handle. The prom should be a day that is remembered for all the right reasons.

2 Respect the prom-goers’ wishes
 
Proms can feel pretty pressurised and even daunting for teenagers who may not be used to being thrown into such a big spotlight. Parents need to understand this and tailor their plans to their children’s expectations, not their own. So if your daughter really doesn’t want that pink dress with the giant bows, don’t push it! As proms mark a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, it provides parents with an ideal opportunity for demonstrating trust and respect – first by involving the prom-goers in the decision-making process and then listening objectively to what they want from the big day. And even if you’re thinking that proms are an unnecessary expense and you don’t like subscribing to ‘traditions’ that started on the other side of the Atlantic, it will probably be helping nobody to keep saying it!

3 Respect parents’ wishes

Just because it’s their big day, it doesn’t mean that prom-goers can ignore the wishes of their parents – and not just because they’re paying for it! They not only have a right to be involved, but probably deserve to be, so their input into the planning of the prom is essential. But most important is that everybody must understand the financial restraints that some families may be under, especially in the wake of the recession, and be prepared to make allowances. It is absolutely essential that parents are not put in an awkward situation where financial considerations have been put beyond their control – for example by committing them to expensive elements in which they feel obliged to match the financial input of your friends.

4 Remember it’s all about impact

A prom is like no other social event – because all that effort, expense and focus are all concentrated on just one activity, which will probably last less than an hour: the pick-up from home and the arrival at the prom venue. Think of it like the Oscars ceremony, where the press outside are only interested in one thing: the stars’ arrivals. Unlike a wedding, where everything is spread over the whole day and its overall success is measured accordingly, the success of a prom depends on getting this one short sequence of events right – making the biggest impact when you leave the house and turn up at the venue. Once inside, with onlookers excluded, the lights down and people seated, the razzmatazz of the first hour of the event quickly fades. It therefore boils down to being about two things: how you arrive and how you are dressed when you arrive.

5 Shop around for prom dresses

It’s probably the most important element in a girl’s prom and certainly the most expensive – so get it right. There are lots of professionals offering dresses for sale and/or hire – and they all offer good advice, backed up with experience. Specialists in bridalwear have also embraced the prom market, which is good news because they provide more choice and more opportunities to compare prices. Here are some of the more local firms offering professional service:
 
> Belle Bridal Studio (who guarantee they will not sell two identical dresses to the same school)
 
 
6 Consider making the dress yourself

It’s worth a go. Not only are potential savings huge, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing it yourself – and, best of all, it makes the dress really special for the wearer if it has been made by mum or granny or anybody else she knows. Sewcraft will not only provide you with all the materials you need, but also the expertise and even the moral support. Attempt it early and you’ll still have time to buy a replacement dress if it doesn’t work out.
 
> Sewcraft

7 Get your dress early, but not too early

You don’t want to leave it until the last minute, but it’s best to wait a little before committing yourself to the dress. Many outlets have new stock in, in the spring, so unless you have a very definite idea of what you want, don’t jump the gun, only to be disappointed later. Another consideration is weather. It may not be easy to decide what you want on a grey and cold winter’s day, when the day of the prom is likely to be warm, bright and dry. You should also factor in some growing space as some girls will do a lot of growing up in the months between now and the big day.

8 Keep an open mind about the dress

Even if you are fairly sure that you know what you want, things can change pretty quickly when you start to try dresses on. For many girls, this is the first time they will have worn such a flamboyant dress, so you should take extra care to get it right. For example, your height will have a big bearing on the shape of dress you can carry off. Remember that a dress that looks great on a model or even on the hanger just may not be you, but the reverse is often true, too. Retailers are full of stories of girls who try dresses on as a last resort – only to find that the perfect one was there waiting, all along. Prom dresses are all about being yourself – especially now that the regimentation of school uniforms is over – so open your mind to all the possibilities.

9 Dare to be different with that dress

There are no rules when it comes to prom dresses. It really doesn’t have to be the archetypal fairytale gown, so consider more inventive themes. You could choose a retro style; monochrome or very muted colours; designs based on national dress and styles; romantic designs or – within limits – the outrageous. If you’re really not the kind of person who will feel comfortable in a classic prom dress, don’t be afraid to ask your designer or retailer about the more off-beat options they can offer.

10 Get a second, third or even a fourth opinion on that dress

Take the advice of friends and family before choosing, and make sure that a female friend of your own age also has a say, but…

11 Let her decide

We’re all for parents joining in the fun of proms, but there is one golden rule: just as with a wedding dress, a prom dress is ultimately the wearer’s choice – and hers alone. Mum, auntie, sis, friends and even granny can offer advice (in fact, we recommend it – see above), but they should respect and support the wearer’s decision, regardless of how much it differs from the dream dress they had in mind.

12 Involve Dad in the dress choosing process

We’re serious! His advice may well turn out to be complete rubbish, but there isn’t a single dad on the planet who wouldn’t appreciate being asked his opinion on his daughter’s prom dress, whether or not he’ll ever admit it! You don’t have to take any notice of what he says, but it’s your duty to ask.

13 Don’t be too proud to buy a secondhand dress

You might save yourself a fortune – and nobody need know that you are not the first person to wear it. It also means that you will be able to get that extra-special (and probably unique) dress, because the savings will bring the dress into your price range. Check out online resources such as Trade-It and especially eBay, who always have thousands of secondhand prom dresses to choose from. Bearing in mind the costs involved with new dresses and the potential savings on the price of the dress, it should be economical to collect a dress bought in an online auction, but because dresses are relatively light, postage may also be economical, even though it may be necessary to build in the cost of pressing after transport. Just one word of warning if you are buying a secondhand dress: be aware that prom dresses are also subject to fashion, so last year’s style may not be so cool this year, and it’s therefore worth checking out current trends before buying secondhand.
 
> Ebay

14 Boys who don’t own a suit should think about hiring one
 
All kinds of formal wear for boys is available for hire, which is probably just as well as not every 16-year-old would be prom-goer owns a smart suit that fits. Hiring not only potentially saves you money but also provides a lot more options than the straightforward work-style suit. It can also provide your group with the opportunity to all dress in the same style, which creates a real impression when you all turn up together. Locally, try Suits By Garry Andrew
 
> Suits by Garry Andrew 

15 Think twice about a tuxedo or dinner jacket if you’ll feel uncomfortable

They can look dashing on some people, but – assuming that no specific dress code has been laid down - it’s perfectly acceptable for boys to wear almost anything to a prom, as long as it’s formal and presentable. So any smart suit – but preferably dark – will do, and it’s not necessary to go to the extra cost of hiring something different if you don’t want to. Besides, the chances of a spillage and therefore being surcharged for cleaning a tuxedo or DJ are always going to be high at a prom, no matter how careful you are.

16 Shop around for stretched limos

Stretched limos have become the preferred method of transport to the prom, and whereas they were once a highly specialised business, these days there are lots of local firms offering them –which is why you should shop around. Visit premises, check out the vehicles and compare prices among the following firms:
 
> West One Limousines

17 Hire a professional photographer

Sometimes it’s better to stop looking at your life from behind a camera and pay a professional to record the highlights. If the school hasn’t already arranged for a photographer to be there, get together with other parents and invite one. Local professionals with experience of proms and other social events are a good choice, including those in our guide to wedding photographers.
 
 
But…

18 Don’t forget your camera

If there is an ‘official’ photographer there, he’ll probably be at the ball venue, but there are plenty of priceless pictures to be had elsewhere – especially at the pick-up point. And spare some time to take some nice, quiet pictures at home, before it all starts, including some featuring all the family.

19 Leave hair and beauty to the experts

For your money you get peace of mind, expert advice and – should it be needed – moral support. Remember that this may be the first time that girls have been subjected to such an intensive hair and beauty treatment, so make it an enjoyable experience, not a pressurised one. Check out our extensive guides to the top local hairdressers
 
> Hairdressers in Swindon 

20 Who needs a date anyway?

Unlike American proms, which are an important part of the dating process and have more social significance, proms in the UK are much less pressurised when it comes to finding a date. If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend you’re your school year already, it’s OK to arrive together, although your other friends will be disappointed if you don’t then mix with them for the rest of the evening. If you don’t have a date, don’t worry. There is absolutely no stigma involved in a group of boys or a group of girls arriving together – or even as a mixed group. Don’t feel pressurised into seeking a date to go with and don’t be put off by thinking that you will feel out of place without one. You won’t.

21 Sort out transport early

Now, even. The prom season is very short and there are lots of people trying to get what they want in a short space of time. The longer you leave it, the less choice you’ll have.

22 Ask the family before hiring transport

If you don’t fancy a limo or want to save money, think of members of the family – or friends and neighbours - who may have a suitable vehicle for you to go to the prom in. It doesn’t have to be anything glamorous. If you know somebody with a classic car, for example, that will have just as much impact – and probably more – than the shiny posh cars people are expecting to see. If there’s anybody you know who has something suitable, don’t be shy about asking. You’ll be surprised how honoured and proud they will feel to be asked to be your chaffeur! If you offer to give the car a really good clean in ‘payment’, they’ll be doubly chuffed. Check out our other ideas for off-beat transport, below.

23 Don’t book a limo until you’ve seen it

There are some unscrupulous companies out there who might operate with just a mobile phone and an email address. So make sure you visit the premises of the people you are dealing and view the actual car that you will be hiring. This is only one reason why it makes sense to choose a local firm – and the more local the better.

24 Check your limo hire firm’s schedule

Be aware that some limo hire firms use the same car twice, for the same prom, hopefully leaving a sufficient gap between the bookings. Others (including Limo Hire Swindon) guarantee they will only take one booking per prom – which can be important if you’re worried about timings, want peace of mind or want to ensure that nobody else turns up in the same car.
 
> Limo Hire Swindon

25 Don’t forget your return ticket

Limo hire doesn’t usually include rides home again, at the end of the evening, but if you want to be driven home in the same car, you’ll often find they’ll do it for less than half the price of the big arrival. Think carefully about whether this is necessary as there won’t be many people around to see it, but if you don’t choose to hire the limo, remember that you’ll need to arrange alternative transport instead.

26 Make sure you are taken for a ride!

Although limo bookings usually include only pick-up and drop-off at the venue, many prom-goers also like to be driven around town for a little while, so they can show off to friends, relations and neighbours – and shout at passers-by. And why not? This usually lasts for between 30 minutes and an hour. Many people – especially boys - will tell you this was the best bit of the whole evening. It will often be the first thing they tell you about it, and the thing they always remember about the prom. So ask your hire company to include this if this isn’t already built into the package – and negotiate on the price if it is considered an extra.

27 Club together

The bigger your carriage, the cheaper it will be - because you can spread the cost. Most people like to arrive with their friends anyway, so the more the merrier. Although turning up in a little sports car has a real wow factor, make sure you think it through and don’t end up regretting missing out on the fun of being together.

28 Sort out your pick-ups

Limo hire companies often make a flat charge and then make additional charges for each pick-up point, so you can save money by arranging for all of your group to be picked up from one location. Indeed, one of the party may live in a more suitable location for the pick-up because it is more photogenic or simply because access is easier for a large vehicle. There is another reason why being picked up from one location is better and fairer than the limo making lots of house calls: you’ll want to enjoy the whole experience together, and the last person on a chain of pick-ups misses out on most of the fun. Meeting at one location also means you can also arrange a pre-prom get-together (see below) to add to the fun.

29 Get commitment to transport plans

If one of your group lets you down by backing out of the agreement to share transport, it will not only cost you all money, but it will also create lots of bad feeling – which is the last thing you want on your big day. You would be surprised by how often this happens, with an amazing tendency for plans to change many times before the day arrives. So get a solid commitment from everybody who might be sharing the cost of transport to the prom. Ideally, this would mean getting all the money upfront – not just the deposit - with the understanding that anybody who changes their mind either loses their money or has to find someone to take their place. Not only is this a guarantee against disappointment, but it will serve to focus your plans and make them much less liable to change. You could easily bank the money, ready to pay the bill nearer the day, but there may also be a way to save some extra money. If you book and pay your bill early, you should be able to negotiate a small discount in the cost.

30 Think unstretched!

Not all limousines are stretched. If your group is too small to fill one, if you just want something a little more stylish or they’re all booked up, check out the more traditional limousines, which will create at least as good an impression and possibly have even more impact. Many also have people carrier-style vehicles, which may not sound so attractive, but they are luxurious and can come complete with a uniformed chaffeur. Swindon-based firms with suitable vehicles include:
 
> Any Occasion

31 Arrive in a piece of history

The Atwell-Wilson Museum at Calne has a dazzling array of historic cars that are available for hire, from a 1924 Model ‘T’ Ford and various American classics, to Rolls-Royces. Their usual business is wedding hire and prices reflect this, but ask for a quote for prom hire. Corsham Classics also have an impressive collection of old limousines, and, as their name suggests, Vintage Classics have a range of stylish cars. Airs n Graces have a superb 1927 Hudson, and South Marston-based Roger Sansum has a vintage Rolls-Royce.
 
> Roger Sansum

32 Don’t forget parents on the day!

Not only have they probably paid for it all, but they want and deserve a day to remember too, so plan them into your day! You’ll even hear plenty of stories about parents being banned from attending the big arrival because prom-goers don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their parents, but that’s just not fair. A good way to make them feel a part of it is to plan a pre-prom get-together (see below) and then give them plenty of time to get to the venue before the official transport arrives there.

33 Be wise to alcohol

Although the temptation is for prom-goers to feature some kind of alcohol in the event, the potential for it to spoil the proceedings is huge, so do your best to control or at least limit the alcohol, without taking the role of killjoy. You will be doing them a favour, and bear in mind that inexperienced 16-year-olds cannot possibly have the skills necessary to manage alcohol intake, especially if they feel pressurised by peers, let alone have the constitution to withstand a sudden and large intake. The most important thing is to be realistic and accept that they will want to add the supposed bravado of drinking alcohol to the fun, so maybe the best way to control it is to pre-empt it. But how?...

34 Organise a pre-prom get-together

Parents should join forces with other prom-goers’ parents to lay on a kind of pre-prom get-together. This will limit opportunities for them to get hold of alcohol and may even head off a pre-prom party they might have planned, where alcohol would have been likely to be an element. Not only will your get-together give friends and family the chance to share the occasion, but you may also be able to head off temptation by actually providing them with a small amount of alcohol before they leave – in the form of Champagne or sparkling wine. The main attraction of alcohol is it makes youngsters feel grown-up, and a glass of Champagne will fulfil that need in them, but in a controlled environment. A small amount will do no harm, especially if you are careful to choose a brand with a lower alcohol content (in Champagne, alcohol content varies between 8% and 14%). You can also be careful to ration how much each person is allowed. You will be amazed how the simple device of handing out alcohol in small glasses (which you can hire very cheaply) makes people drink less. Make sure the parents of all the people involved are aware of your plan and get their agreement to you allowing them to drink Champagne or sparkling wine. Another benefit of organising a celebratory glass of bubbly is it makes memorable pictures, including the popping of the cork and everybody toasting the prom-goers. There is a drawback, though: whatever you do, make sure there are no spillages to ruin expensive dresses (so red wine should be avoided at all costs).

35 Start saving now

Proms can be expensive, and it’s best to start putting money aside now, to spread the cost. You will almost certainly need to put a deposit down on transport, anyway, as well as the dress.

36 Don’t be first to arrive at the prom

You don’t want everybody to miss your big entrance. Try to find out what time the ball is due to start, so you organise your transport accordingly.

37 Find out what other people are wearing, before the day

No girl wants to turn up and discover somebody else is wearing the same dress, so check as much as possible beforehand to avoid this nightmare scenario. And if you are going as a couple, check what he or she is wearing, so you can match colours – a small touch that can make a big impact.

38 Invest in some jewellery

Buying the right jewellery is always important, but when it is high-profile ‘dress jewellery’ for big occasions, you want to be even more sure that you’re getting it right. For example, you might want to buy something that will go well with other outfits and could be used for future big occasions, such as weddings. Take advice from experts such as Deacons.
 

39 Get a tiara

One of the most striking accessories for your prom outfit is a tiara – and a tiara is for life, not just the prom! You may well end up re-using it as a bridesmaid or even on your wedding day. Swindon-based Tiara Belles are the local experts.
 
> Tiara Belles 

40 Now for something completely different

Making an impression when you arrive at a prom is not always about glamour. Sometimes you can steal the show by arriving in something completely off-the-wall. Boys can be especially keen to do something unconventional. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something locally, but there are plenty of choices if you are prepared for the extra cost of hiring something that’s based further afield. The following are just a few ideas, but feel free to let your imagination run riot:

 
Star Car Hire’s website has links to all kinds of film and TV-inspired vehicles that are available around the country, while LimoNET can put you in touch with firms offering all kinds of unusual vehicles for hire – even the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.
 
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