Breathe new life into your debut

For a new generation of young ladies, 2013 heralds a different kind of new year: their first as adult women!

On their 18th birthday, girls are often debuted to society in a splashy party which Filipinos call, well, a debut. This party is extravagant to the extreme, calling for a grand cotillion danced by her court of 18 pairs of boys and girls, 18 candles symbolizing wishes from the debutante’s female friends and relatives, 18 treasures or gifts to be presented to the birthday girl, 18 roses from the special men in her young life, a lavish dinner, a towering birthday cake, and big ball gowns for the debutante and her ladies-in-waiting.  

That’s the traditional way.

However, Marisyll, the mother of a recent debutante, says, “It’s different now. Girls are more practical [than before].” For instance, instead of the expected huge bash for her 18th, Marisyll’s daughter chose to celebrate with an after-dinner party at Fiamma.

Still, if you’re a traditional girl longing for a debut but modern enough to be mortified at the rites and the cost, you can have it both ways. Ade Singson, of event-planning company About Events (, can tell you how to throw a perfectly fab party without the clichés.

Singson says, “Kids nowadays are more creative. They want something unique and new, something their friends haven't done before. They usually incorporate into the theme of their debut either current trends or [the activities] they enjoy doing.”

Here are a few of Singson’s observations on how her young clients modernized their parties.

Throw a theme party.
Gone are the days of the fairy tale party. Singson says, “I’ve coordinated a debut wherein the debutante [wore] a colorful rocker-chick gown matched with her Chuck Taylors. Her guests wore the same thing: gowns with Chuck Taylors for girls and suits with Chuck Taylors for boys. Her theme was Rockmantic Chic.”

Margot’s theme was Vogue Fashionista: “I got 18 designer dresses for my debut last year!” She booked a photo shoot prior to her party, hired a stylist to create fashion editorials, then showed the photos at a dinner with her friends and cousins. “Everyone was amazed. They said I looked like a real model in a fashion magazine. It was so much fun!”

Wear what you want.

While there’s nothing wrong with a ball gown for your special day, Singson says that girls today prefer comfort over chiffon. She says, “Some girls would start off the night with princess-y gowns and change into more comfortable gowns later on. Others would opt for nice yet simple gowns which they can move freely in.”

Be creative with the 18 objects.                                                                                                Admit it: Most of the 18 guys you have on your list can’t do the waltz even if you pay for their dance lessons. Stop their torture and avoid embarrassing yourselves with the 18 roses dance.

Anyway, Singson says, “The 18 roses and 18 dances are not a hit anymore. The debutantes usually add twists to this traditional practice.”

For example, 18-year-old Joy asked her friends to do a hip-hop dance-off between the girls and boys. “That was the highlight of the party. And we had a cash prize for the winners so my guy friends really went all-out with their dance number.”

Singson adds another suggestion: “Others do [this segment of the debut] as 18 memories, or 18 special things which remind you of the debutante.”

Modernizing your debut can mean less cost, less awkward moments, and more special memories. And part of having a modern debut is personalizing it. Singson says the debutante, her family and friends enjoy the celebrant’s coming-out ritual more if infused with their personalities instead of the old rituals.                “Traditions are being replaced with other similar meaningful gestures,” she concludes. Remember, whether you celebrate with a cotillion or with a handful of your closest friends, what matters is that you have fun!