home d.tech life 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Planning School Dances

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Planning School Dances

By Julia Wang

The 2016 formal. Photo by Kay Phan.

d.tech is not your traditional high school, there’s no doubt about that. We don’t have a football team, we don’t have normal classrooms (or walls), and we haven’t had a graduating class… yet. However, we do try to incorporate one important component of the high school experience: school dances. Here are nine things you may or may not have known about school dance planning at d.tech.


1. We do respond to feedback…

d.Leadership’s goal is to plan events for STUDENTS. In every survey we send out, and in every concern or complaint we hear, we use that feedback to improve and iterate for the next event.

Unfortunately, we can’t please everyone. There is always going to be someone who won’t eat the food, someone who doesn’t vibe with the music, or someone who thinks that tickets are too overpriced for a school dance. However, we will always aim to address the needs and wants of all d.tech students with the resources we have available.


2. Dances are completely student-run.

We have parent and teacher chaperones, and the administration approves the event. But everything else is student coordinated. Before we’re able to advertise the event, we make a pitch to Dr. Montgomery, Ms. Krummel, and Melissa Mizel, to get the event approved. Montgomery says, “Our approval is based on whether the students have thought it through and planned out all the details.” From there, we contact the vendors directly and coordinate everything else.


3. Tacky themes are essential to the high school experience.

Cliché themes are a trademark of high school dances. What’s a high school dance, if it doesn’t have a cheesy theme like, “Starry Night” or, “A Night to Remember”? However, if you do have ideas for themes that are not tacky, we are definitely open to new theme ideas!

The 2016 formal. Photo by Kay Phan.

4. Many DJs suck.

For prom this year, we booked with Commodore Cruises and Events. We went with their school prom package: dinner and drinks, tables and chairs, the decorations, and the DJ were all included. This allowed us to work with a single vendor, which made the planning process simpler. Unfortunately, the DJ that came with the boat was not the biggest hit. It’s hard to dance when a song is played for 30 seconds, then transitioned/cut off to a different one.


It may be that d.Leadership just isn’t the best at finding good DJs. From the deafening music at our first formal, to the awkward transitions at our most recent formal, we are aware that there is much room for improvement. The unfortunate thing is that DJs aren’t cheap, either. There’s nothing more frustrating than paying $650 for a DJ, and having them completely disregard all the song requests that were made. We are continuing our search for the perfect DJ, so if you have any connections, hit us up.  


5. Venues are hard to find.

There are countless factors that we need to consider when finding a venue. Is the date we want available? Will the space fit this many students? Does the place fit our budget? As a new school, we don’t have many established connections with companies, or a database of suitable event spaces. The majority of schools secure venues months, even years, in advance.  When looking for prom venues, Hornblower Cruise Lines, a popular cruise line among Bay Area schools, didn’t have any availabilities until May of 2018. We tried to secure a date with the Presidio Log Cabin, however someone else had gotten hold of the Saturday we wanted before us. While it’s a unique and beautiful venue, Firehouse 8 would not have been able to fit 120 students. It’s a long search process to secure a venue for dances.


6. Venues are also expensive.

There are various reasons why we choose the venues that we do. There is direct correlation between the price and the opulence of the venue. For example, the Foster City Recreation Center’s Lagoon Room is about $800 to rent for three hours. Sparky’s Hot Rod Garage in San Carlos, the venue for the winter formal this year, was $3,500, with access to the full space and the popcorn machine. Although the d.tech hangar seems to be an unappealing dance venue to students, it’s a d.Leadership favorite for its unbelievably low price.

When searching for a formal venue freshman year, I contacted various different hotels around the area. After contacting the Hyatt San Francisco Airport, Event Sales Manager, Betty Leong, stated that she could “offer the space with waived room rental and $12,000+ food and beverage minimum.” That is $12,000+ for dinner and a ballroom…I think it’s obvious as to why we didn’t end up having our first formal at the Hyatt.


7. We’re not trying to scam you.

“All the money that goes towards dances comes from profit from tickets and from fundraising events around the year,” says Ella Rook, treasurer of d.Leadership, “We try to charge the least amount of money possible, only to cover expenses.” Our goal is to make school events as accessible as possible to all students. The school is generously able to loan d.Leadership to pay initial deposits, however the majority of the funds used for dances come directly from your ticket sales and all the funds d.leadership has collected and saved throughout the last three years. This is money that we raise from bake sales, movie nights, candy grams, and other fundraising events and activities.


8. But no matter what happens, it’s worth it.

d.Leadership Events team member, Courtney Sullivan Wu reflects, “While planning the dance itself can be a serious pain, there is no better feeling than seeing the event you have been working hard on for weeks become a reality… There’s nothing better than making someone’s evening special through your hard work.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. While it is stressful and sometimes a little chaotic to plan, everything is worthwhile in the end.

Featured image courtesy of Emily Hom

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