Prom. It’s a rite of passage for the American teen. For some, it’s a magical night filled with starry-eyed dreams of the future. For others, it’s all the angst and awkwardness of high school wrapped up in a rented bow tie. Either way, it’s a night most of us will never forget (I’m still trying to get images of gold lamé out of my head.)

So for all you soon-to-be-grads, we’ve compiled a list of 2012 prom tips to make sure you know what you need (and don’t need) to make your night special.

Prom essentials

  • Righteous wheels. Getting to prom in style is key. If you can afford a limo, more power to you. It’s a reliable and classy way to get around on the big night. More important, it could help keep you safe. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study (PDF) found that the risk of fatality for teen drivers quadruples when they have multiple passengers under the age of 21 in their car. So leave the driving responsibility to a professional if you can.If you’re allowance doesn’t cover such extravagances, do your best to limit driving distractions like loud music, rowdy friends, texting, and getting dressed behind the wheel. And to class things up, try giving mom’s minivan a makeover. A few small touches, like flowers or tulle, will do the trick. But if nothing else at least get a carwash.
  • A memorable soundtrack. The days of mix tapes may be long gone, but making a prom playlist is essential to set the mood. Think about the songs that mean the most to you, your date, and your friends and play them on the ride to and from the prom.
  • A plan. Let’s rephrase that: a solid plan. Don’t just assume your buddy is going to pick you up on his way to the dance. Have clear arrangements for getting to and from the prom before the big night arrives. If you’re going to an after-party make sure you have a reliable ride home or the number of a cab company.
  • Pictures. You’ll appreciate them later.
  • Comfy shoes. This one’s more for the ladies. If you’re going to be dancing all night, bring along a pair of flats, or even socks, to relieve your feet from the pain of high heels.

Prom nonessentials

  • A date. Believe it or not, you can have a lot of fun going stag. Especially if your friends are going stag too. You’ll save money (corsages/boutonnières aren’t cheap), and with no date to impress, you can spend more time scoping out the hotties and showing off your swagger.
  • Drama. Your best friend is going with the person you wanted to go with. Your date was late. Your frenemy is (gasp!) wearing the same dress as you. You can spend all night seething or let it go and enjoy yourself. Your choice.
  • Breaking the bank. Sure, you want to impress your date with all the amenities. But you’re young. You shouldn’t be expected to spend all your money on one night. Thought and creativity can go a long way. A handmade corsage/boutonnière, a decked out minivan, or a homemade dinner or picnic will tell your date you put time and thought into the evening (and will save you some cash).
  • Booze (and drugs). You’re too young to drink, but we’ve all seen the after-school specials. The cool kid sneaks booze into the prom. You’re caught between your morals and the desire to fit in. What do you do? We say, avoid it like the plague. For starters, most schools have a zero tolerance policy, so if you’re caught with alcohol you could end up in some serious trouble (and right before graduation). Not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law (and your parents).Plus, it’s probably no coincidence that May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month. Statistics show that one-third of alcohol-related teenage driving deaths occur in April, May, and June — very possibly due to the parties and excitement surrounding prom and graduation.

Don’t be a statistic. Take care of yourself and stay safe. But, of course, most of all have fun!

Sweet ride or eyesore — what kind of car are you taking (or did you take) to prom? Tell us!

Related link

6 safety tips for teen drivers

Safe and smart


about Jessica

During her time as senior copywriter at Esurance, Jessica wrote about everything from automotive trends to insurance tips to driving dogs (it’s a thing!). In her free time, you can find Jessica hiking with her dog (who cannot drive), devouring a good mystery, or very slowly learning Spanish.