When it comes to event planning there really are more events than you think that require attention. It was recently reported on People magazine’s web site (and countless others) that Tallulah Willis, the youngest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, was presented at Le Bal des Débutantes, a modern day debutante ball in Paris.
The original purpose of a debutante ball was to give the upper classes an opportunity to present their daughters to society; a coming of age affair signifying their availability on the marriage market.
So is a ritual that began in the mid 16th century still relevant more than 500 years later?
Event Planning Information – What the Heck is a Debutante Ball?
We have Queen Elizabeth I to thank for what many consider a sexist and elitist custom. But in all fairness, QE1’s reign occurred from 1558 to 1603, so things were a little different back then. When the custom of formally presenting eligible young women at court began, there weren’t a lot of choices for women. It was either marriage to a man or marriage to god. Unmarried woman were a rarity and usually viewed with suspicion (what’s wrong with her?). So for the upper classes, it was a welcome venue to present their unmarried daughters to acceptable society.
Fast forward three hundred years and Queen Victoria put her own spin on it, insisting that the girls be dressed in white gowns to signify their innocence. Society was pretty stringent back then and parents kept their daughters under a tight guard. Their “coming out” presented them to society and meant that courting could begin. It also meant that these girls could be seen in public with a man without everyone freaking out. It’s kind of amazing the kind of changes 150 years have wrought.
Although Queen Elizabeth II ended the formal court presentation of the debutante ball, the ritual has continued, both in the UK and around the world.
Event Planning Information – The Modern Day Debutante Ball
While early Americans had parties, both formal and informal, the debutante ball didn’t make its official debut until the mid 1700’s. Wealthy Americans traveling abroad had experienced it while in Europe and loved the custom. Post Civil War, with many fortunes lost, for a time it became less about family wealth and more of a symbol of social status and lineage.
Debutante balls, coming-out-parties, cotillions and debuts are still held across the country but are more prevalent in the south. Today, in addition to being a social event, it is often also a charity event. The modern debutante (deb) is expected to raise money through ticket sales and program advertising with the money going to a predetermined charity.
Event Planning Information – How to Plan a Debutante Ball
A formal, invitation only event, costing hundreds of dollars per ticket, a debutant ball isn’t thrown together in a week. They require several months of planning and there are a lot of things to take into consideration.
What – Sometimes a debutant ball is planned by committee for a group of debutantes (such as the Le Bal des Débutantes in Paris where Miss Willis was presented with 22 other young ladies) and sometimes parents choose to independently throw a coming out party for their daughter.
When – As with any major party, several months of planning is required. Pick a date at least six to eight months in advance. Traditionally debutante balls are held between November and January (when the eligible bachelors would be home for the holidays).
Where – Although debutante balls were once held at the family home (all the better show off your wealth), today the venues are varied. Country clubs and high end hotels are popular locations but interesting and different venues have also become more socially acceptable.
How – As mentioned above, sometimes the debutante ball is planned by committee, leaving parents with the easy task of paying for the privilege of having their daughter participate (as well as sell tickets). If planning one on your own, there are several event planners across the country that specialize in debutante balls. And of course, Google, Google, Google to ensure all the traditions have been included
Although originally intended to introduce young woman to society, the debutante ball is, for many, just another excuse to throw a great party. And while many may consider it to be an old fashioned ritual further exposing the divide between the classes, smart and savvy event planners see it as just another business opportunity.