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How Greeks Prepare for the Biggest Event of the Year: Formals

Arrival of spring means arrival of fraternity and sorority formals. Throughout the coming weeks, many fraternities and sororities will be preparing and attending what they call their biggest functions of the year.
Hannah Hilton, a previous social chair, said there are a lot of factors that come into play when planning a successful formal.
“The first part is kind of figuring out when you want to have it and where you want to have it … so picking the venue, contacting the venue and seeing what dates they have available and what works best for your chapter,” Hilton said. “After that, you have to get your event approved by the university and meet with UPD to explain what will take place at the event.”
Once the technical side is taken care of by the social chair, then the details begin, such as setting a theme for the event, decorating and picking the catered food. Sorority members are not the only ones working toward finalizing their formal events. Social Chair Christian Groody said his fraternity brothers are looking forward to their formal as well.
“We started planning for [formal] in September, and it’s one of our biggest events of the year,” Groody said. “We really love doing this and all of the guys really enjoy going down to New Orleans. They have to get their money in by a certain date once [the venue] is selected, meet a GPA requirement, find their date, get a suit and everything to get ready for formal.”
After the planning period ends, the pampering period begins. For many girls, like senior Alex Thompson, getting dressed up is one of their favorite aspects of formal.
“Everyone’s having to prep for it, get a dress, shoes, do their nails, do their makeup and do their hair,” Thompson said. “People will typically rent a long dress for the event. They’ll do like ‘Rent the Runway’ or they’ll do it at Nordstrom or whatever place they want to do it.”
But after the glitz and glam, other traditions take over. For years now, girls have been painting extravagant coolers for their dates when asked to go to a fraternity’s formal. No one quite knows how the task began, but it is one that many take pride in.

Photo courtesy of Savannah Woods.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Shelves upon shelves in stores around Oxford empty where coolers used to be placed, paint and paintbrushes are no where to be found and don’t even try to get ahold of sandpaper or a sander … some even pay $200 or more for a professional painter to tackle their cooler for them. Carmen Heinly said this kind of cooler-painting prep takes weeks of work.
“It’s a lot more work than I intended, but really satisfying in the end when the cooler turns out really cool,” Heinly said. “My friends and I would work on it all day long at my house, and my living room would be covered in coolers and supplies. Though it was super time consuming, it was actually fun doing it with all my friends.”
Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Junior Sarah Cervantes has painted two coolers for spring formals since she has been in college. Cervantes said this year, she is taking a new approach and letting an artistic friend help paint it for her.
“This year, I left it up to my date to design what he wanted on the cooler,” Cervantes said. “I offered some suggestions, and we collaborated on some ideas for the design. I dropped the cooler off at my friend’s house, and she is taking care of the painting part. This is much easier and less intense from my past experience.”
Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Cervantes says she remembers what it was like freshman year to paint her very first cooler and all of the stress that came with trying to make it perfect for her date.
“I remember painting a cooler my freshman year and it being the most stressful thing I did all year,” Cervantes said. “I wanted each side to represent my date and him to like it enough to want to show it off. When planning what to paint on the cooler, I remember thinking about all his favorites and all of the things we had in common. Personally, I am not the most artistic so this was a challenging task but with the help of some friends and the nice attitude of my of date, it turned out to be a success.”

Savannah Woods is the head intern at hottytoddy.com. For questions or comments she can be reached at sswoods@go.olemiss.edu. Video courtesy of NewsWatch Ole Miss.

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