Organising a Matric Dance: How to plan the event of the season

Are you co-ordinating a Matric dance? Planning a dance is a big job! And organising such an important event requires excellent planning and foresight…

It helps to work with a passionate, dedicated and competent team. If you have a Matric Dance committee, get together to assign portfolios and organise who will be in charge of what. Delegate and share tasks to make the planning and execution as efficient, fun and successful as possible. As the saying goes, many hands make light work!

Many amateur event organisers have questions about how to do things properly. Here are a few frequently asked questions (with answers) to help you along your way…

When should we send out the invitations?

Schools often plan their Matric Dance dates during their annual school year planning, so you should know well in advance which date has been set aside for the dance. Most of the matrics will be aware of this too. Send out the invitations 8-12 weeks in advance to give students ample time to prepare and RSVP.

What venue should we use?

What is your school’s policy on Matric Dance venues? Is the dance hosted in the school hall, a nearby hotel, or does the venue change from year to year? Bear in mind that whatever venue you choose has attached costs and impacts how far you can go in decorating.

School hall venue

Some schools host the Matric Dance on their properties. This may be for many reasons including security and cost-saving. If this is the case, meet with the relevant teachers and school officials to discuss the dance. Cover every aspect of the event to make certain everybody is on the same page and the same team! Talk through dates, times, budget, the theme, preparation, entertainment, food, drinks, security, access, parking, photography, etc. This will help you with your planning.

Hire venue

If you plan to hire a venue, scout different locations to find the best fit for your theme and budget. Be transparent with the venue representatives about your plans for the evening. Explain what kind of event you plan to host, who will be chaperoning, etc. Work with the events co-ordinator to plan for food, drinks, décor, entertainment, security, photography, and any other relevant details. Working together will make both of your jobs easier and will help you to cover all of your bases. Decide on and book your venue as soon as a date for the dance has been set – you don’t want to find out too late that the venue is booked and start from scratch.

What should we do for the venue layout?

Your venue layout will have a lot to do with your theme. Here you need to think of the big picture:

  • Arrival (space for vehicles to drive and park)
  • Entrance way (red carpet)
  • Pathways or spaces within the “ballroom” for people to walk, move, and get from place to place
  • Areas for socialising
  • Stations for food and drinks
  • A well-lit space for photography
  • Dancing or entertainment
  • Tables and chairs/cocktail tables/lounge area.

Think through any other spaces you need and don’t forget to plan for easy movement between tables, food and drinks stations, the entertainment and photo areas and the bathrooms, etc. An open plan layout is a good idea so you can monitor what’s happening at all times and for security purposes.

What type of food should be served?

If possible and appropriate, you’ll probably want to match the food to the theme. Here you need to consider what type of Matric Dance you’re hosting and how the catering will work. Do you plan to have a sit-down three-course meal or a cocktail party with platters of gourmet finger snacks?

The food you serve will be determined by factors like the proximity of the kitchen to the eating area. For example, if the kitchen adjoins the eating area, you can serve a hot meal. If the kitchen is a distance from the eating area, hot foods will get cold while servers carry them between locations, so it would be best to serve a room- temperature or cold meal. Remember also the vegetarian, vegan, kosher, and halaal guests. A buffet is a great solution to both the hot/cold meal and diet requirement problems if you can afford it.

What drinks should be available?

If you’re having a theme like the Roaring Twenties, it’s great to offer theme-related drinks, for example a Shirley Temple mocktail. It’s best not to serve alcohol for numerous reasons, among them the fact that a lot of the guests will be under the legal drinking age!

A good idea is to put pitchers of iced water with mint and fruit slices and jugs of juice on each table. Stock your drinks station with soft drinks and fruit juices.

Is security necessary?

In this day and age security is mandatory for any event. Organise security for the entire area being used for the dance, including the entrance and parking area (students often hire expensive specialty vehicles and transport for Matric dances).

If you’re hosting the dance at your school, make arrangements with the school to engage additional security for the evening. If you’re hosting the dance at a hotel, arrange with the events co-ordinator to organise all necessary security for the dance.

What kind of entertainment should be provided?

Think about the theme and the matrics. If your theme is the Oscars and your matrics want to spend the night dancing, hire a great DJ who will play the latest hits. If you attend a private music and arts school and your theme is My Fair Lady, your matrics may prefer to be entertained by a symphony, performance or concert and dance to jazz music later in the evening. Tailor the entertainment to your specific set of circumstances.

How do we find a photographer?

As soon as you have your matric dance date established, you should book your photographer. Spend some time researching local photographers. Look through portfolios of suitable candidates and choose someone whose work is of consistently high quality and who has a good reputation.

Meet with the photographer to plan and go through details of the dance including date, time, hours he or she will be there, how the photography will work during the evening, costs, and the post-dance photo ordering process (make sure to get prices of photos). Check whether the photographer will be bringing an assistant, if he or she will need props (such as a sofa or chairs) and if they require meals or drinks during the night.

Bonus tip: Check in the photography contract that the photographer makes provision for if they’re unavailable on the date, for example due to illness or personal emergency.

What can we give as party favours?

It’s a nice gesture to give each matric a favour to remind them of their special evening. Your imagination is the limit here. Some popular ideas:

  • Engraved or sandblasted champagne flutes
  • Wooden, glass or silicone drinks coasters
  • Custom made serviette rings
  • Keepsake “mint” tins or boxes
  • Personalised keyrings.

All of these can be customised with the details of your dance.

Do we need legal advice?

Find a parent or school representative who is proficient in legal knowledge to help you with the various contracts for venue hire, catering, entertainment, photography, security, etc. Read, understand and clarify all contracts before you sign anything and pay your deposits.

Do you have any matric dance planning advice? Share it with us in the comments!