Having a ball at your high school formal

Years 10, 11 and 12 may be some of the hardest and stressful years at school – but, they come with rewards – a school formal/ball or social. It’s a night of celebration, glitz and glam, lots of photos and plenty of reminiscing, particularly for those finishing school. Read more

But when you have a food allergy, the stress of going to a school formal may involve more than just worrying about what to wear. There is almost always a meal involved. Forward planning will help the evening run smoothly.


Tips for attending a school formal or social

Treat it as you would any other time you eat out.

Disclose your food allergy. Speak to the event organiser – whether this be your school, or a specific organising committee – and remind them about your food allergy. Ask for the contact information of the venue so that you (or your parent) can speak to the catering team and discuss menu options that would be suitable for you. If the formal is being organised by your school, the staff should also liaise with the catering manager about food allergies.

On the night:

Make yourself known to the wait staff and verbally disclose your food allergy again. Run your eyes over the menu, and ask any questions if you’re unsure about a particular item. Remember, the formal venue is just like any other restaurant – they must provide you with information about food allergen content if you ask for it.

Depending on the venue, you may have a little card next to your table setting indicating that you have a dietary requirement. If you do, make sure that it is in view at all times. This will help the wait staff to find you and provide you with your specific meal. Check that the meal they place in front of you is free of your allergen.

Keep in mind:

It can be tempting to swap seats throughout the evening. It’s best not to do this as the staff may have worked on a process of serving those with dietary requirements. They will be expecting you to be in the same seat all night. This does not mean you can’t get up and have a dance between courses – just remember to return to your seat before each meal is served.

There may be a number of menu options for each course. In this instance, when meals are brought out to the table, wait staff will alternate dishes between guests. For example, one person gets beef and the next person gets chicken. You may find your friends may swap meals with the person next to them. It’s important you don’t do this. Make sure you eat the meal the staff have told you is yours.

Carry your adrenaline injectors (EpiPens® or Anapens®).

When hunting for the perfect outfit for the big night, consider how you’re going to carry your EpiPen’s® or Anapen’s®. We all know it can be difficult at times to carry emergency medication, but it’s important that you do. Clutch bags may need to be a little bit bigger that you’d like, but at least you’ll have your adrenaline on hand if you need it. If your friend offers to put your medication in their bag, make sure you know where it is when they aren’t carrying it and remember to get it back at the end of the night.

However you choose to carry your medication, tell your friends where they can find your EpiPen® or Anapen® in an emergency.

Be aware of security checks.

The formal venue may perform security checks upon entry. These may include bag checks, pat tests and even breathalysers! These shouldn’t be an issue, but be aware you may be asked about your adrenaline injectors. If so, simply state that you have a severe food allergy and that you are required to carry your emergency medication with you at all times.

If there are any issues (there shouldn’t be), ask a teacher to help clarify with security staff.

What if you’re taking a date?

If you have a date, tell them about your food allergy up-front (if they’re not already aware of it). If you think you may end up sharing a kiss during the evening, ask them to try to avoid eating the food you are allergic to that day. Keep in mind, it may not be possible for them to avoid the food you’re allergic to that day or even at dinner. If that’s the case, maybe save the kiss for another time(!)

School formals are a great night out. You shouldn’t miss yours just because of your food allergy. With just a few extra preparation steps, you too will have a great night of fun with your friends and a night to remember.