Don't drink! It's not worth it tonight.

We have a great lifestyle in this country. We have a great climate, strong economy and a confident & positive sense of self. We know how to enjoy life and we generally don't take for granted how good we have it here.

Unfortunately, our layback, party lifestyle has also spawned one of the strongest alcohol-drinking cultures in the world. Australia is in the top 5 countries with an alarming social problem concerning the over-abuse of booze, and that culture is a hard one to shake.

It's especially hard for teenagers to weigh up the facts and make their own, independent decisions when it comes to drinking. Not only do we already have a drinking culture but add to that the pull of peer pressure, and a generation of parents who seem not only to approve of heavy drinking, but in many cases actually encourage, fund and almost force it.

It’s no wonder that there’s a huge expectation on formal night that everyone needs to get smashed. This is wrong, it’s destructive and it’s the quickest and surest way to ruin the one chance you have to create a lifetime memory of a great turning point in your life.

In most American states, the legal age for drinking is 21. It used to be the same here and there’s a sound medical and scientific reason for that. The human brain isn’t fully developed until age 20, and, during those formative teenage years, alcohol in large volumes can, and will, do permanent damage.

Being a teenager, you’ll have so many reasons to feel confident. You define yourself and your identity, gain some independence and physically, you’re approaching numerous peaks. This is the time in your life that you’ll feel the most indestructible. Nature’s installed that software on purpose. It’s totally normal to think that nothing bad will happen to you, and that you can handle any situation you find yourself in. It’s false bravado! You CAN get hurt, you CAN get into situations you can’t get out of and bad things CAN happen to you just as easily as anyone older or younger.

Alcohol WILL seriously diminish 2 major attributes that you need for survival, your ability to reason and judge things accurately, and your physical ability to perform normal tasks. At the same time, it increases your confidence beyond normal levels to unrealistic highs.

What that means is that when you’re drunk, you’ll be unable to see straight, walk straight, talk straight and think straight but you’ll THINK you can do all of these things better than everyone else in the room.

The formal is a ritzy affair where you spend all year planning, saving and choosing everything very carefully. The venue, the transport, the clothes, accessories, colours, fragrances, hair, makeup, partner, everything has to be perfect. Why would you go to so much trouble to get all of that so right and then risk throwing all of it away by being drunk?

This is a short list of the things that can go wrong for you if you drink on formal night…
  • You may have some sort of argument or emotional breakdown even before you get to the venue.
  • You may fall and ruin your outfit or hurt yourself.
  • You may get to the venue and security won’t let you in to your formal.
  • You may trip on your new heels and break a heel, an ankle or a smile.
  • You may make a complete fool of yourself in front of your friends, and that’s how they’ll remember you forever.
  • You may get into a fight and get hurt or even thrown out.
  • You may throw up on yourself.
  • Worst of all, you may not actually remember much of the night at all.
It’s not worth it! Trust me when I tell you, I know what you’re thinking. Let’s see if any of these thoughts just went through your mind…
  • Oh I drink all the time and I know my limits.
  • I can handle it – no problem.
  • My friends will watch out for me.
  • My parents say it’s a “right of passage”.
  • Nothing can possibly go wrong at MY formal.
  • This stuff only happens to idiots.
I’ve been running teen social events for 27 years and I’ve literally heard hundreds of thousands of teenagers just like you say all of those things, then wind up crying in the toilets, throwing up on themselves, getting thrown out of venues, getting taken to hospital, getting taken home by Police, getting taken to the lockup for the night, winding up in court, winding up in trouble with their parents, winding up pregnant, winding up with incurable diseases, winding up having corrective facial surgery – the list goes on. In all cases, ALL cases, alcohol was to blame.

So lets look at the 3 main methods of alcoholism that will ruin your night. They are… 
  1. The “Pre’s”. Alcohol you drink before heading off to the formal.
  2. Alcohol you smuggle in to the formal.
  3. Alcohol you buy at the formal.
The pre-formal drinks at someone’s home before the formal is an unfortunate tradition that has wedged itself in the formal experience. One glass of wine or champagne with your parents a couple of hours before the formal is OK, and quite legal for minors in most states. Leave it at that! Drinking excessively at the Pre’s or moving off to another drinking venue between the Pre’s and the formal is the path to a bad night. Turning up drunk to face security staff at the door, and trying to act straight gives you a 50/50 shot at going no further. Those are seriously bad odds when something as important as your whole formal experience is at stake.

Trying to smuggle alcohol into the formal is an even worse idea. Nowadays there is such sophisticated security equipment and procedures in use that there’s a less than 5% chance of success, and in the 95% that get caught, 80% of those will most likely be refused entry. Those are seriously worse odds than simply turning up smashed.

Getting drunk on alcohol you buy at the formal is a mixed scenario. More than 70% of the venues hosting formals are NOT going to have any alcohol available, and those that are will be very swift to act the moment you show the first sign of intoxication. That means they’ll be watching everyone very closely and don’t need any decent excuse to throw you out. A venue liquor license costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to get, and takes months and sometimes years to approve. When you lose one, you never ever get it back and it can mean the end of the venue if that happens. They won’t risk their license over you being drunk, believe me.

With all of this doom and gloom talk, I don’t want you to think that we’re just anti-alcohol. That’s not the message. You may drink daily if that’s your habit. You may be someone who needs a buzz to relax. Whatever the reason you may take a drink in NORMAL daily life, the message here is this. The formal comes once. ONCE! You may get married 2 or even 3 times but your formal is a one-time deal. If ever there was one single night when you should abstain from drinking, this is the one. No other night of your teen life will be more important and more fragile. Don’t blow it.

An Industry is Born

A sultry November afternoon begins to fade as the western sky takes on a tangerine fading to violet glow and a welcome breeze blows a hint of the ocean south from Sydney Harbour through the bustling city streets.

Suits and skirts atop comfortable running shoes clamber for space at bus stops and train platforms as the city empties itself of the army of daily business commuters. The city readies for the incoming nocturnal crowd.

The moon and stars now revealing themselves in the night sky mimic the twinkling lights of a neon city as Sydney takes on a dreamy and elegant ambience.

From all suburbs begin an inward bound cavalcade of white limousines and chartered busses, all turning into the driveways and grand entranceways of magnificent 5 - star luxury hotels and  posh function venues. Tunic adorned concierge opens the door and greets alighting couple after couple, then along the walkway, parading into the building like models on the catwalk or moviestars on the red carpet.

A plethora of camera flashes rain over these couples and reflect off the shiny sequins and “bling” as they strut forward to greet each other in mutual admiration of their glamorous appearances. The slinky satin and chiffon masterpieces flanked by pinstriped forms with occasional bursts of  bright colour. Hair teased up or swirled into ringlets and everywhere sparkles and immaculate  lines and curves embody a spectacle of immense fashion elegance. Hundreds of these dazzling visions of sophisticated charm stream through, one couple after another.

One would be forgiven for assuming that this may be the premier of a Hollywood blockbuster or major international entertainment awards night. Perhaps a society ball attended by visiting overseas dignitaries or a state dinner for the royal family. All of the essential elements seem to be present. 
For a few brief weeks spanning November and December each year there will be well over seven hundred such events taking place in Sydney and over one hundred & Forty thousand impeccably dressed and groomed guests will prance this entrance folly by invitation only.

So – who are they?

They are Sydney’s teens. Not merely the wealthy ones either. These are the same teenagers you see pack-hunting for clothes and music in our shopping malls, throwing pop-corn at our cinemas, crowding our bus stops in school uniform every morning and chatting to each other via the internet every night. They are the kid next door, the babysitter, weekend lawn mower, the one with the uncomfortable hat that asks if you’d “like fries with that sir”, the “L” plater that goes just a little slow or the “P” plater that goes just a little fast. These are the fresh-faced carefree images of youth that part of us wished we could revert back to, but another part that thanks heaven we don’t have to. The event is their high school formal, and to most, it’s the biggest night of their young lives to date.

What was once a novelty reserved for those society families with children in the most elite prep schools and colleges, where the parents also attended and the entire school faculty sat on a head table, is now an event not only accessible to, but often exclusively open to, all year 10, 11 and 12 high school graduates around the country. The High School Formal, although not yet being adopted as part of any official state school calendar, has secured its place as a major contributor to the social development of our youth. To many teenagers, the event is as emotionally important as the H.S.C.

The current strong state of the economy in recent years, coupled with an intense upswing in electronic media such as mobile phones, SMS, PXT, MP3 players, Internet, E-Mail & Subscription Television means that today’s teens not only have the financial means to become a very powerful consumer force but are being relentlessly bombarded with information relevant to their interests. In short, compared to their parents and grandparents, today’s teens have buckets of expendable dollars and are seriously savvy about the world and what they want from it. They are discerning buyers and command respect in the marketplace.
Between the Formal itself, and the peripheral expenses associated with the night, it is now estimated to be an industry with a total revenue potential of over $190 Million per annum in Sydney alone, and that equates to $3.3 Billion on a national scale. That’s well beyond  the annual revenue generated by many whole Aussie industries. It is difficult to fathom where that amount of money is being spent, but when you consider that the Formal, in many instances, includes more features than the average wedding, and a guest list that is up to 4 times as large, where everyone has to dress up in custom creations and arrive by limousine, not just the bridal party, it places a perspective on the event that makes economic sense as to what this can all be worth. 
In today’s Formal scene, a very small percentile of schools will have anything at all to do with the event. This is largely due to vivid memories of times past when something had gone wrong, and rightly so. Although today’s laws are very strict and very specific about what is legally permissible at these events, it not only took ages for the legislation to catch up to the reality of what was transpiring, but decades again after that past before such legislation was having any real influence over people’s actions. Even today, only a fraction of the events taking place are legal and safe. Most place liability for wrongdoing squarely at the feet of the individuals planning the events.
With the spawning of an entire industry from a shift in socio-economics, like the metamorphosis of the School Formal, there evolves a structure vacuum and hence the need for companies to provide specific and expert advice and services to facilitate what’s needed for that industry. For School Formals the requirement was simply a method or product that would provide all of the inclusions, both overt and covert, that are necessary to hold a successful Formal. The trick is doing so while walking the tightrope between what is legal, safe and economically viable while at the same time remaining fun, elegant and conducive to enjoyment by teenagers. This seems, at face value, to be a relatively simple task but ask anyone that has tried to achieve this even just once, and you’ll likely be retorted with anecdotes of stress, grief or plain failure.

It is interesting to note that out of the rubble of many failed commercial attempts, there was the emergence of a single firm that not only managed a decade of total success, but has grown into what is considered the absolute authority on what works and doesn’t work with High School Formals. Sydney based Prom Night Events, a subsidiary of a larger Event Management company, has carved out a niche position for itself, and hence controls a substantial market share of Formals in Sydney each year.
The success of teen products will be largely based the relevance to, and a rapport with, that market. One of the keys to that relationship will be to “pop up” in the places the market looks most often for answers.
One of the greatest strengths Prom Night Events has is the exclusive, strategic alliances it maintains with many of Sydney’s most prestige establishments” said Elliot Kleiner, Senior Partner of Prom Night Events.
At these venues (mostly 5-Star International Hotels), school students would normally have no access for Formals. In fact, today’s Formals are not permitted in these venues unless Prom Night Events is in complete control of the event from the planning stages right through to the execution of the Formal on the night” said Kleiner. This not only speaks volumes for the reputation of the company within function and event circles, but also their apparent prowess with marketing and logistics within the teen market. With a captive market that is uninfluenced by world events or local politics, and no longer the realm of only the higher social classes, the School Formal market has plenty of scope for expansion and Prom Night Events is not wasting any time meeting that challenge with the announcement of a 5 year plan to franchise the operation into every Australian Capital city, and overseas.
Prom Night Events offer a complete service that comprehensively includes everything a formal could need or want and does so within State Legislation and for market competitive rates. We’re not about to give too much away”, laughed Mr Kleiner. “The system we’ve developed is very complex and took years to streamline so I think of it as our secret formula. Just don’t be surprised to see copycats trying this on to catch a quick buck. There are plenty of so-called consultants and even venues out there selling all sorts of illegal and poorly researched Formal packages so you can get burned if you’re not careful”.

For this reason, Prom Night Events offers a free “Formal Check-Up” service, which enables a trained consultant to look over your formal plans and offer advice on any holes or potential problems.
Helen Pinkerton, Operations Manager for Prom Night Events said “Even if we’re not conducting
people’s Formals, this is our contribution to seeing them run safely and legally for the sake of the teenagers and schools. It may, in some small part, help clean up the

As the parade of fashion and youthful exuberance reaches the grand ballroom of their chosen establishment, the entry ticket is validated by the quick laser scan of a bar code as the soft candlelight dances just above the banquet table adorned with fine crystal and silverware. A popular tune from the stage sees a horde of excited teens dart towards the dance floor. The brightly coloured light from above accentuates the chrome-braced smiles that signify a coming of age. This is their first opportunity to be seen as adults and they’ll relish it their whole lives.  
One might ask, “Have we become too americanised in our culture?” In terms of the “Prom”, we’ve overtaken them and are now blazing the trail.

Security - The place you THINK you can't get ripped off!

Security is a serious and important issue for any Formal. Nobody would deny that it's an item on your checklist that's essential to cover but few realise that this one thing alone can be the weak link in your chain of items that can see your entire event fail if you aren't careful. The following is a reported interpretation of how the law is applied in the case of Formals and other "Minor's Functions" as we understand the relevant legislation.

At first glance, it's easy to draw an assumption that if there's at least one "bouncer" on the door of your Formal that you're covered for anything. If that's what you think, then you couldn't be more wrong.

Another assumption is that if the security you have is supported by either parents or teachers taking on a supervisory role at the Formal, you're even better covered. Wrong again!

So what's the truth? Well before making assumptions or self-assessing what YOU think security should be, it's better to start the process properly and research what the government says, then build from there.

We'll use NSW as the best example because NSW has the toughest and most comprehensive legislation in place concerning Formals and it's fair to say that if your event conforms to NSW standards, then you're in great shape no matter what state you're in. That being said, the other states have slightly different wordings of different acts but their all aiming for the same outcome.

Firstly, the venue must have the right licenses or permits in place before they're even allowed to advertise that they conduct Formals. I could fill up the whole page just with the various licenses and permits for each type of venue but for now let's just say that you need to ask your venue to produce documents verifying that they possess the right clearance. If they refuse, can't or don't seem to know what you mean, run! They probably don't have the permits and are therefore not allowed to be doing Formals at all. If you take on a package with such a venue, your event may be illegal and therefore have no valid insurance if anything goes wrong. This would mean that you, as the organiser, or even the school, could potentially be liable for damages in a law suit.

Next, provided the permits are OK, the law generally states that for every 100 guests (or part thereof) that attend the Formal, there has to be at least 1 Security Guard present for the whole event. Now that "part thereof" means that if you have 101 guests, there has to be at least 2 guards, 201 - 3 guards and so on.

Now that number of guards is the absolute bare minimum under the law. You really should, and the venue should assist you work this out, see just how many guards you actually need to secure the Formal properly. For instance, at a venue like the Four Points by Sheraton, a 250 guest Formal needs only 3 guards by law but really needs 4 guards to work properly. The same 250 guests at the Sheraton on the Park however really needs 8 guards. Both are Sheratons and the same number of guests but double the guards. This is because you have to take into account how many sets of stairs, fire exits. access points and common areas need to be patrolled or manned in order to keep the public out of your Formal space and also to make sure that your guests don't wander into areas they're not permitted. Each venue has its own specific layout and the number of guards actually needed depends greatly on that layout.

That covers the "number" of personnel needed. What about the qualification of those people? That's equally as critical.

In order to be a security guard at a Formal, that person needs to be licensed under the Security & Protection Industry Act (in NSW or equivalent in your state), and that license must cover approval to secure both "Property" and "Persons". Next they have to possess valid Senior First Aid certification, RSA Acreditation and Working With Children Check Clearance. Again all of these may be called something different in each state so research that in your own area. They need to be under the control of a licensed and bonded Security Company and carry $20 Million in Public Liability Insurance. Now if any person who undertakes any kind of security or supervisory role at a Formal who DOESN'T have all of those things, they're committing a crime and can be locked up, while at the same time making your Formal an illegal event.

This brings me to the next point. Parents & Teachers acting as supervisors. They simply can't do that. It's not legal. For a parent or teacher to attend a Formal, under the law, once they step onto licensed premises like a Formal venue, they automatically become no different to any other ticket-holding Formal guest. They have no greater powers, and can't assume any supervisory role whatsoever under the law. If they do, even something as simple as checking the toilets or telling someone to put out a cigarette, they're breaking the law.

Watch out for venues that emphasise parents or teachers in any way. This means that if you see a Formal package deal being offered where they say something like "Teachers Come for Free" or "Minimum 5 Parents or Teachers Required to attend" this is a red flag and such venues should be avoided. Not only is there absolutely no legal requirement for any adults, whether parents or teachers, to attend a Formal at all, there is absolutely no way they should be enticed or demanded by venues. When a venue tries to get you to bring teachers or parents, what they're really saying is that they aren't going to provide the necessary security team and want your own adults to take on that role for them. It's just not right and you shouldn't become a victim of that kind of sly and manipulative marketing.

The other thing is the cost of security. It's actually the legal responsibility of the venue to provide the right security for your Formal so therefore, that security component should be part of your ticket price. If your ticket price is stated at the top, but then in the fine print there's something about security costing extra, my opinion is that you're already being potentially ripped off before you start.

There are all sorts of additional points I could make about proper security. It's something that we're really proud of here at Prom Night Events. Our security procedures are the only ones that have been requested by both state and federal government departments because they're the most comprehensive and well accepted ever written for the Formal industry.

If you have questions or concerns about your level of security, and you can't get answers from either venues or government in your state, by all means get in touch with us and we'll gladly steer you in the right direction.

Why The School Won't Support the Formal

For years now I've heard this same cry. Either from the committee members who seek assistance to plan a Formal, or from the school administrators who are refusing that support.

There are some misconceptions and myths about Formals that schools tend to rely on when withholding their support and endorsement of Formals. I'll try to dissolve some of that here.

20 or 30 years ago, the School Formal was an out-of-control drunken free-for-all. There was little or no format, little or no security and little or no regulation. By the time a Principal has worked through the teaching system to gain that high position, their memory of Formals past is pretty much this sort of picture.

When they reach the top position, they have many issues to worry about, including the name and reputation of the school as well as the overall safety of the students. One of the most tender points is anything that exposes the school to any form of legal liability if something goes wrong. It's these concerns, coupled with their memory of what Formals used to be like, that creates such fear and anxiety when faced by a committee wanting the green-light to have a Formal.

Now that you understand the reasoning behind the refusal, it tends to make sense. However, there are some fairly significant holes in that position.

Firstly, the bad old days are long gone. Today School Formals are a bona-fide national industry turning over $3.1 Billion and every state has a deluge of legislation in place for the strict regulation of the industry. At the same time, the teen culture has changed quite significantly and people prefer to play the Formal as a "Straight-Edge" event. No longer is the Formal a mess to clean up, it's now a glamorous, well regulated, heavily secured cultural icon filled with serious fashion, top-class cuisine and prestige venues.

Our events for instance carry up to $60 Million worth of multi-tiered insurances and expert teams of licensed, trained and seriously professional experts to run, secure and control these events.

Secondly, the "Ostrich" mentality that Principals sometimes adopt (If I say no the formal and don't know anything about it, it can't hurt us) is completely false and ridiculous. Here's the fact that will shock and amaze school administrators. Even if the school has no involvement, even if they have no awareness of the Formal, if anything goes wrong at the Formal, the school automatically attracts an exposure to a potential legal liability. This one's even scarier, 86% of all student committees that are refused school support will go ahead and book a formal in the school's name anyway.

The best advice on offer is that if the school wants to minimise and control the liability exposure, the only way to do that effectively is to control the Formal. This way they can be sure that all the bases are covered and that they have professional help to arrange and execute the event according to the law. Everyone wins.

There is another minor misconception schools often have, and that's the one about having a "duty of care" and needing to send staff down to the Formal to supervise and run things. That's a big falsehood. It's actually not legal for school staff to act in any official capacity when on site at a Formal venue. That goes likewise for parents. To take on any supervisory or security role at a venue, you must have Security Industry licenses, Public Liability insurances, OH & S certification, first aid certification, RSA certification, WWC Clearance, Specialised training and be under contract for that role. Anyone else trying to do it without all of that can be locked up for offences to a variety of acts.

Interestingly, a student committee who is unsupported by the school can book a Formal without the school's permission. There's no law against that. I'm not saying that it's the best way to go, but it's an option.

My advice to both committees and administrators is the same. The best way to get the Formal over the line without anything going wrong that will leave anyone on either side holding the bag for legal liability is to get professional help from an agency like Prom Night Events. We can organise and run successful and fully covered Formals with or without school approval, with or without school involvement but in either case, the liability exposure is taken by us so the school is shielded whether they approve the Formal or not.

Choosing the right Venue

This video explains how to Watch Out for Budget Venues

When beginning the long and arduous task of planning an event as complex and involved as a Formal,
most often the selection of a venue in which to hold the event is the first, and arguably the most important, decision you’ll need to make.

There are several factors that need to be considered when choosing the right venue but we’ll start by looking at the most basic needs you’ll have. Let’s begin by thinking of your selection of venues like a trolley or cart. In order to push your Formal forward in a straight line, you’ll need 4 wheels on your cart. These will be…

>Geography - The location of your venue.
>Availability – Whether the venue has space for you at dates and times that suit you.
>Capacity – Whether the venue has sufficient space for the number of guests attending.
>Economy – What the venue will cost and what’s included in the package.
If any of the wheels on your cart fall off, you’ll either steer off course, or grind to a halt.
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Choosing a location should include things like whether the venue is centrally located for easy access for guests, what methods of public transport are nearby for people who may be coming and going using that method, whether main roads are nearby for easy flagging of taxis, parking for people who may be driving themselves, other establishments like clubs or entertainment for any activities guests may have planned after the formal is over, and whether the area or neighbourhood is a safe one as formal guests will be dressed in ways that attract attention.

This is critical because the dates and times the venue is available for you can either conflict
with other events, and may affect the price you pay and / or the exclusivity you have over the venue.

The peak-season dates for Formals are the 3 weeks immediately after the conclusion of the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate exams, which generally conclude around the same time in November. Because exam timetables aren’t published until April each year, booking your venue in the first week after exams is dangerous because you may end up paying a deposit on a date that ends up being in the middle of exam time and you’re in trouble. Clever people book for weeks 2 or 3 after exams to leave that buffer of time.
The other problem you may encounter with availability at that time is that it’s the beginning of summer and therefore the beginning of wedding season, which means that many of the best venues that are suitable for Formals are also popular for weddings and dates become scarce. Of course the other market you’d be competing with is the corporate sector for their office Christmas parties, which again, frequent the same venues. Both weddings and Christmas functions will have vastly higher budgets for spending than Formals so the venues will always give them preference over you and that can’t be helped.

Most Formal committees will automatically assume that the best night for their Formal will be a Saturday night, and that’s natural. The thing to remember is that venues will often charge more for weekends, and may require higher minimum guaranteed guest numbers also. The other thing to remember is that other features that people will need for their Formal experience such as hairdressing, beauticians, limousines, taxis, after-formal nightlife and so on will all be less available on weekends. For these reasons, it’s smarter for committees to host Formals on Monday to Thursday nights when everything is more available, and less expensive. After all – once you’ve finished school for the year, every night is Saturday night as far as you’re concerned so there are only advantages to doing this.

Each venue will have 2 magic numbers that set its “Capacity”. One is the minimum number of guests, paying a certain price for catering, that it needs in order to make a reasonable profit from hosting your event. The other is the maximum number of guests that it can hold comfortably with a Formal floor plan.
It’s vitally important that your venue has a capacity to suit your guest list. If you have too few guests to satisfy the minimum, the venue may cancel your booking, move you into a smaller room that wasn’t the one you originally chose, or end up charging way more money from you. If it goes the other way and your guest list exceeds the maximum, you’ll end up with cramped tables and a tiny dance floor, effectively not enough space to enjoy yourselves.
To work out whether a venue will suit your guest numbers, it’s most important to discover precisely what those numbers will be from the start. Making guesses or assumptions is a dangerous way to do it because you’ll rarely guess correctly. For those who want an accurate indication of guest numbers, we’ve provided a simulation grid on the “Prestige Venues” page of the Prom Night Events web site, which will give you a formula for working out fairly accurately what those numbers will be.

Once you’ve worked out your likely guest numbers, choosing a venue based on capacity is just like kicking a football between goal posts. If you kick the ball too close to either post, you run an increased risk of hitting the post or missing the goal. Kicking through the middle is the safest bet. For instance, if your guest list is likely to be 150 guests, then selecting a venue that has a minimum of 140 is dangerous, and so is selecting a venue with a maximum of 160. To kick that goal safely, you should choose a venue that has a range of say 100 minimum to 200 maximum. This way you can sell less or more tickets than you first anticipated, and still be safe with your venue choice.

This is by far the most complex and critical issue because it’s where most committees come
unstuck, mainly because either A: they don’t fully understand what they’re getting (and not getting) for their money or B: this is the place where disreputable venues often hide information in order to committees for greater profits.

There are really only 3 types of venues in the Formal market. These are…

A: Venues who don’t generally know anything about Formals but do them as a sideline to other functions they already cater for. These venues rarely have the necessary permits or licenses to conduct Formals (yes these exist under the law). They don’t follow any of the necessary protocols or legal requirements for the running of Formals and as a result, are not very good at it and Formals they conduct are illegal, leaving the organisers exposed to legal liability if anything goes wrong. These venues must be avoided at all cost. They’re dangerous.

B: Venues who aggressively pursue the Formal market and put on “All Inclusive Packages” for around $85 - $99 per guest. Although some of these are OK, if you don’t mind the standards and service associated with a “Budget” kind of venue & package. Be very aware though! Many of these packages state what’s on offer but not always what’s actually “included” so there can be lots of hidden charges like GST, service surcharge, charges for DJ’s & Security, Booking Fees and what starts out as an $85 package soon becomes a $120 package just for the basics.
C: Venues who operate through reputable Booking Agencies or Event Management Companies. Many of these will be venues that you can’t book unless their preferred booking agency handles the booking and all the legal issues are totally covered.
These venues are generally “Prestige” properties and have internationally recognised brandings or reputations. They cost a little more but you can be assured that they take care of everything perfectly every time and everything is included, with up-front disclosure on packages and costings. There’s nothing hidden or tricky and you always know exactly where you stand.

These are the venues I’d recommend as the best possible choice for an event as important as your Formal.

When comparing venues and packages, be sure you look out for the above factors.
Notice how there's nothing in there about "PRICE". Price isn't important. The difference between the cheapest and most expensive formals is only a few dollars so it's not worth making price a big factor in your decision.

If you want a more comprehensive checklist of questions to ask, take a look at our Security & Legal Compliance page of the Prom Night Events web site for clues.

Select your venue wisely, and you’ll have a solid foundation for planning the rest of your Formal. 

If you want some free advice and assistance, by all means get in touch!

Fancy-Dress Disasters

This issue comes up many times each year. Usually among Year 10 and 11 committees who are looking for something "semi" formal instead of the regular sit-down kind of formal.

It's certainly OK to be looking for something more casual to create a contract between that event and your Year 12 Formal however there are plenty of ways to achieve this without resorting to something as extreme as Fancy-Dress.

I want to give you some hints and tips about why the whole Fancy-Dress concept is a very VERY bad idea when it comes to your Formal. I've personally seen hundreds and hundreds of Formals over the last 16 years and out of all the Fancy-Dress Formals I've seen, NONE have gone well. They've all been disasters in one respect (or several).

Firstly - if you're thinking of having your Formal in a major prestige venue like a 5-star hotel, forget it! They won't permit Fancy-Dress for a start. They also know all the same issues I do and they're right.
There are several reasons why this is a bad idea. Firstly, from a behaviour standpoint, people behave very differently when they're in a costume. 

There's a psychological anonimity that comes into play. If you're dressed like a different identity, then your sub-conscious believes that your true identity is separate and therefore protected from any consequences resulting from your alter-ego's actions. In short, people do things in costume that they'd never do in normal clothes because their sub-conscious tells them they'll get away with it.

Costumes also make people very difficult to identify when they've done the wrong thing so from a secutity standpoint, all venues are covered by CCTV recording from cameras and if people behave badly, do damage to either people or property, the cameras are often the only way to make sure that the guilty person wears the cost and consequence. When people are impossible to identify, then it becomes the school, parents or organising committee members who will be next in line for the consequences.

Costumes also provide all sorts of ways for unwanted items to get into your Formal. Drugs, alcohol, weapons and all manner of contraband can often be hidden inside elaborate costumes or the props that accompany them. Now to many that may seem like some harmless teenage rebellion but how funny will it be when someone is sick or injured, or if the Police or Security come and shut down the Formal and throw everyone out as a result of contraband getting out of control?

Fancy-Dress is uncomfortable when sitting and eating and more so when trying to dance. 

Above all - it makes you look like an idiot and there'll be tons of photos to prove it. Is that the way you want to be remembered 20 years from now?

A Formal is exactly that - a "FORMAL", not a silly children's dress up party. Use this opportunity to dress elegantly and behave like an adult. You'll be surprised just how much you'll enjoy being treated as one.

Fancy-Dress doesn't work, unless what you're trying to achieve is greater cost, less venue options, physical discomfort, tears & tantrums and looking like a moron forever in your photos. If that's what you want - then by all means Fancy-Dress formals are just what you need. Otherwise my best advice is to avoid Fancy-Dress like the plague.

How late is too late to book?

There has always been loads of controversey aboutwhen is the right time to book your Formal, and when to book other aspects of your own personal Formal experience. Let's break these into 2 very distinct areas of concern...

1/ The Formal itself. This is the actual event and all the aspects of it that everyone will experience together as a group. This includes things like the venue, entertainment, dinner, photography, decorations and so on.

2/ Personal things. These are the parts of the Formal experience that each person keeps to themselves, such as clothing, hair, shoes, transport and so on.

The reason it's important to separate these things is that each of these separate categories needs to be decided upon and arranged at different times of the season.

The very first thing should be the Formal itself. The venue and date is the most critical thing, followed by the inclusions in your package. This is generally booked and finalised no less than 6-8 months before the proposed date of your Formal although booking 12-14 months ahead is also fairly common.

Booking season for venues runs in 2 stages. Stage 1 is from around September to December for the following year, that is to say that securing your venue and date can be done in the final quarter of say 2010 for a Formal that's happening in 2011. Stage 2 is from February to April of the year you want the Formal.

So it's fair to say that the early bird gets the worm on preferred dates and desired venues. If you haven't secured a prestige venue by May, you're pretty well running the risk of missing out altogether, or getting stuck with a budget venue on a date that doesn't really suit you. Lots of people assume that 2 to 3 months notice is fair for booking venues but these are usually the people who end up sitting at home with no Formal to attend.

Also be aware that some sneaky venues will take advantage of the desperation of people who left their booking too late and charge either higher than usual prices or secretly share space between your Formal and other functions. My best advice is that if you find yourself in a position of no secure booking and it's any time after May, get professional help or you may get ripped off.

For those of you reading this that have nothing secure yet and are panic-stricken, don't worry too much but call us right away because we have most of the preferred dates at the most desired venues already held and we have plenty of vacancies to book our clients into those spaces until as late as September. Smart agencies tend to secure venue space early in the season and hold it for clientele to buy later.

Once your venue is secure and the Formal itself is all booked and taken care of, you can turn your attention to the personal things, which generally become important in around June to August. Book transport first, then move on to clothing and appearance items after that.

The shortest answer to the question of how late is too late to book has to be this... The later you leave it, the harder it's going to be so leaving it late really means you need a professional to help get it right. You don't get a second chance for your Formal.

Photography or Fraud

The Formal is a milestone in your social development and a pretty important night that you’ll want to remember and look back on with fond memories. For that reason, I think it’s imperative to have the event photographed professionally. In that respect Formal photos are no less important than wedding photos and whom you choose to take care of that important task is a matter for serious consideration.

There are 4 ways that your event can be photographed…
  • Do It Yourself
  • Cheap & Nasty Professional
  • Uninvited Fraudster
  • Upmarket Professional
We’ll take a moment to look at all of these so I can explain the differences.

This is where you pretty much rely on people bringing their own cameras and using these, and mobile phones to capture all the various moments of your night.

Although this costs nothing the thing you need to remember is that these will be very non-creative images with poor light, focus and clarity. It’s also likely that many of the people taking these shots you may never see again so therefore never see the photos. Although people will all want to take their own shots anyway, you shouldn’t rely on this as your overall method of photography.

Cheap and Nasty
This is where a professional photographer will come along and snap posed shots, either at tables during dinner, or in front of a backdrop somewhere nearby and bring the photos back printed and stuck into little cardboard folders before the end of the night.

Although some of the shots may be nice the fact is that the photographer has to get back to a lab to process the prints, stick them in folders and get them back to the venue before the Formal ends. This process places enormous time pressure on the photographer, especially if it’s a big guest list, say more than 150 guests.

That time pressure means that…
  • He’ll be rushing to snap the shots and won’t have time to be creative with angles, lighting, backgrounds or second attempts.
  • He’ll be snapping as many shots as he can early in the night and disappearing early to process them, missing many of the significant portions of the Formal.
  • There will be a very limited number of shots taken so you’ll likely only appear in one shot.
The other issue here is that the prints will also need to be paid for so don’t be fooled by photographers who charge little or nothing to come to the Formal because the photos themselves may cost anywhere from $5 to $25 each to buy on the spot and that will annoy the guests.

One of the worst things about this method of service is that photos that are paid for often get lost or damaged between the venue and home for any variety of reasons and then you’re left with nothing.

Uninvited Fraudster
This one you need to be very careful and vigilant for. These are the guys who find out about your formal from other sources and although are not booked, invited or permitted to attend your Formal by either the organisers or the venue, somehow show up anyway.

What these guys do is take a whole series of photos, mostly outside the venue as people are arriving. The photos are very nice and creative however, these guys often disappear without even entering the venue, mainly because they know what they’re doing is not legal and the venue would question them if they go inside.

The photos will then mysteriously appear on a web site with your schools name on the gallery and the photos will be available for sale via on-line credit card purchase.

This is dodgy and illegal practice on so may levels I can’t even begin to detail them here. These guys must be avoided at all cost.

Upmarket Professional
This is the company you want at your Formal. These guys use high-quality digital equipment and the latest and greatest creative methods to capture everything.

They’ll be there from the start of the night when you arrive and stay to capture all major events during the night from entry, throughout dinner, entertainment, speeches & awards, cutting of the cake and some really awesome and artistic dance floor shots late in the evening.

They stay until late because…
  • Everything’s digital so there’s no film to process & print.
  • They can snap hundreds and hundreds of shots so nothing is missed.
  • They don’t need to bring prints back to the venue.
The reason they don’t need to bring prints back is because all their shots will be uploaded to a web gallery from which you can pick and choose the shots you want. You’ll probably end up in dozens of shots so you can download as many as you like.

In most cases, the photographers fee, and at least one download is part of your ticket price but additional shots are only a few dollars each on-line because there’s no processing involved, which keeps the overheads down.

There’s nothing to get lost or damaged, and you can keep going back to the web gallery months after the Formal.

This is the only kind of photography we use, and recommend.

Don’t leave this important aspect of your Formal in the hands of the rushed or the dodgy. Make certain only a total professional delivers the best you could wish for.

Limo 2 Go

Formals are glamorous events. To step out in style is the name of the game, and for many, it’s their first time doing it.

One of the first things that comes to mind, after where the Formal will be, who you’ll have as your date, and what you wear, is going to be how you get there and what you’ll look like arriving.

Limousines are the obvious choice in most cases. You should, however, think a little bit about a few different things before selecting your limo and the company that supplies it.

A little research will go a long way here and not just about cost, although that’s a factor too.

The first thing is to determine what kind of limo you want. It can be anything from a basic sedan right through stretches, to super-stretch, and all the way up to Hummers. There are also many and varied specialty cars in between like hot-rods, show cars and sports convertibles. Some can seat only 1 passenger (plus driver) but some can seat up to 16.

If you want the most popular limos, which are stretched (sedans or Hummers), you’ll be paying the top dollars. Find out how many people your chosen limo can seat (legally) and see if you can round up that many of your friends to all meet in one place for pick up. This will not only split and reduce costs dramatically but it will also make the journey a fun experience to share.

For specialty cars, you need to keep certain things in mind. If going for convertibles, or other roofless vehicles, remember to take into account the risks associated with poor weather and also keep in mind your hair and makeup, which can easily be ruined by exposure to wind & road grime. Also think about space and comfort so you don’t become cramped and crush up your outfit.

When checking out the various companies supplying these different modes of transport, make sure you check out a few details along your research.
  • That the company and drivers have the right government issued licenses to operate that service.
  • That the drivers have all cleared the necessary criminal checks (in NSW this is called the “Working with Children Check”).
  • That the cars have the necessary (and specially issued) registration and insurance. (In NSW vehicles must have either “HC” or “TV” number plates for instance),
  • That you can check references from other clients who have used the service before.

If any of these points are missing or suspicious, avoid booking the service.

Before you search for the longest and tallest machine you can find, it’s a good idea to research the venue to find out if…

A/ They have a driveway or entrance that can fit the vehicle.
B/ If not, how far from where you’d be dropped off would you have to walk?

Try to also make some kind of responsible plan for how you’ll leave safely at the end of the Formal too. You’ll be tired and it will be late so leaving this until then may find you without a plan, or a hope of a lift home, when you’re worst equipped to deal with that problem.