A Night to Remember – The Debs

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As COVID-19 holds so many rituals and events to ransom, here at, we want to take the time to celebrate one of the classic rights-of-passage in a young person’s life – the Debs. 

Each year, sixth-year students bid farewell to school by dressing up in formal wear and asking someone unsuitable to accompany them to their Debs Ball. As much an Irish rite of passage as a trip to the Gaeltacht, the Debs allows you to shrug off the shackles of the Leaving Cert and make some memories that will sustain pub discussions for many years to come.

About The Debs

Making it Happen

One of the first things to do is get organised. Each class should nominate a representative and form a debs committee. The committee is responsible for canvassing opinion as to where to hold the event, ringing round hotels to check availability, organising the band/DJ, collecting money, giving out tickets and organising transport to and from the event. The class rep usually gets themselves a free pair of tickets for this work, so if you are short on cash, then perhaps you should consider applying for the position.

(Hotels and other venues are increasing wary of accepting applications for debs parties, especially if the students are not endorsed by the school. This is because of incidents where debs attendees got drunk and ended up damaging the property. If a venue does accept a debs application, then they may require a substantial deposit to guard against this.)

Doing the Asking

The next step is to find someone to bring. If you are in a relationship, then hopefully all you will have to do is ask, but if you aren’t, then things get harder. Often, people end up looking to their friends/circle of acquaintance for partners. Naturally, this is less traumatic than asking someone that you hardly know and you can usually get a friend to sound out your potential date beforehand to see what the answer will be.

However, if your circle of acquaintances is small or if everyone is taken, you might feel a little like Cinderella. Don’t worry too much – there are lots of options open to you. Consider of your mother’s offer to set you up with her friend’s son/daughter/mechanic – well, at least meet them. They may not be your soulmate but they might look lovely draped over your arm. There is also plenty of time to widen your social circle. For example, if you get a job or travel during the summer, then you are sure to meet more potential partners. The same is true of starting college in September.

If you can’t find anyone to take, then it’s not the worst thing that could happen. Partners usually end up dumped to the side while everyone dances anyway. Why not fly solo or go with some friends? That way, you won’t have to worry about meeting a strange set of parents and you will be free to flirt with a whole room full of girls/boys in formal wear.

The Clothes

Once you have decided on your date, then you have to get your clothes sorted. Boys have things relatively easy in this regard – all they have to do is get their hands on a tuxedo of some sort and they’re ready to go. The more adventurous might think about hiring a kilt or an Austin Powers suit, but the majority end up looking pretty similar.

Girls, however, are a different matter. Some serious debs contenders get something specially made by a dressmaker, a process that involves fabric selection, numerous fittings and much squealing from accompanying relatives. Others find their perfect dress in a high street store, or rent the whole shebang from a formal hire shop. Girls should also consider checking out some of the second hand shops that do formal wear. where you can either rent or buy something vintage that practically comes with a guarantee that no one else will be wearing the same thing.

The Big Night

Traditionally, the boy called to the girl’s house, endured some excruciating small talk with the family and posed for pictures by the living room curtains. This still happens to some extent, but students are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Groups that are going to the debs together often congregate in a nominated house and leave from there. This cuts out a lot of the pre-debs formalities, although you may face opposition from parents who really want an embarrassing photograph to adorn the wall.

Once you arrive at the venue, then the debs proper can begin. Remember, this is your chance to make the memories that will last a lifetime, so make sure you that you have at least some mature recollection of the night. If you chug too many flaming sambucas, chances are you will spend the night being inelegantly sick/chatting up your art teacher/unconscious in the service lift…

You probably won’t be at a party this posh for a while, so say goodbye to your schooldays in style. After all, you got all pretty…


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