The NOLA Formal Survival Guide: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


You found your dress on Nimble, you got a manicure, you sanded your cooler, you had to get a manicure again…now what’s going to go down this weekend? No worries, we’ll tell you.

PictureBut first: if you’re about to read this and you haven’t found your dress yet, you need to click here first.


845043_origOle Miss Senior Catherine Goshorn is the former president of Delta Gamma and a total #GirlBoss.


Everyone puts so much pressure on New Orleans Formals. I’ve had years in Nola and I’ve had Springs where I enjoyed every second in Oxford.

Experiencing a weekend with old and new friends in the most historic city in the South truly is an incredible experience. College doesn’t last forever. As a senior, I can only imagine I’ll be sitting at my desk next year, wishing I had rough fingers again from sanding that beloved cooler.

Congratulations: you’ve just been asked to a New Orleans formal. Or maybe you weren’t. Congrats to you as well; you don’t have to spend the next two weeks of your life dedicated to physical and emotional preparation.

Let’s be honest, we all know it’s on our bucket list. Some girls have strategies for getting asked, some get lucky, and others just go with their boyfriends. Whatever your case, we all find ourselves in a bit of a situation. We’ve always wanted to go, but now that it’s here, it’s time to  plan and prepare for “the best weekend of our lives.”

The question is though, is it even worth it? Let’s see…Here’s what you gotta know.

Please don't do a design like this.
Please don’t do a design like this.

I don’t know the history of cooler painting, but somehow, someway, it became a thing. I’d like to speak to the brilliant woman who painted the first Igloo to look like a Van Gough masterpiece. I would have some not-so-kind words to share with her.


I have good news for you though: there are shortcuts. It CAN be done. Will it be easy and pain-free? No. But it can be done.

How To Do It:
Get a mid-sized cooler (the big ones rarely fit on the bus and are way too heavy). From my research, guys want to be able to show off their coolers in The Grove, at baseball games, and on the beach.
First stage: Sanding is roughmiserable. Like really rough and actually  miserable.  I wanted to keep my plans a surprise, but once I realized how much time it would take, I showed my boyfriend so he could be part of the process.

Don’t get a manicure before you paint your cooler. Just don’t do it. But do plan your appointment the week before.

I was so scared to start painting that I got a tiny cooler to practice on. Glad I did, because I didn’t sand the top enough, and the paint bled through.

2. The Cost

Between the cooler ($50+),  your dress ($100),  a Saturday outfit ($50),  drinks ($75+),  and extra expenses. Your bank account will be drained if you aren’t smart about setting a budget.  We all know we want to have a good time, but not at the expense of our saving accounts.


BORROW a dress. You have so many things to spend money on, don’t let it be a dress you will only wear once. No worries, we got you covered at Nimble.  Eat at your Greek house the week before formal to save a few bucks.

3. The Bus Ride

I personally love bus rides, but you should be ready for a fraternity bus. Remember New Orleans is a marathon weekend. Do not drink liquor on the bus. Drink beer. Pace yourself. But don’t drink too much beer, the bathroom can be an unpleasant experience.

Get everything the Wednesday or Tuesday before. Don’t wait until Friday morning to get all you need for the bus ride. Ask your date if he wants snacks or just drinks. Bring water. Believe me, you’ll need it. Put ice in the cooler the night before to cool it down so the drinks will stay extra cool during the bus ride.

Word to the wise: don’t over do it on the bus ride. You don’t want to be that date that was super fun on the bus and then falls asleep once you arrive at your destination.

New Orleans is a marathon, not a sprint.

4. MAMA You Made It!

So you’ve finally made it. Through the hours of cooler painting, prep, and bus riding. Now you are in NOLA. Be Patient. Getting the room key, settling in and getting dressed takes a little while.

Bourbon is a ridiculous place. First timers: Beware the shot girls. They give you “free shots” that end up being like $8. If you are up-front and don’t accept them, they will leave you alone. Remember, they are people too. They deal with drunk people all day long. Be nice and they will do the same.

What happens at Formal doesn’t stay at formal if you Snapchat the whole thing.

As a previous sorority president, please be selective about your Snapchats. I know you want all of your friends to know how much fun you are having, but don’t post everything. Also, put your phone down and enjoy the event as it’s actually happening!

Throw your expectations out the window. It may be the best weekend of your life and you’ll make memories in Nola that you’ll talk about for years. Do what you can to plan and be prepared, but once you are there, have fun! Be smart, but have fun.

Wear comfortable shoes. Good grief! I know you want your legs to look killer, but it’s just not worth it. Everyone will be walking to Cafe Du Monde and you will be in excruciating pain because of your choice in footwear. The last thing you want to do it take them off and walk barefoot. Be smart and save your feet!

Look out for each other. If you don’t know your date well, meet a girl on the bus that you can text if you ever need a “Bourbon Buddy.” Also, make sure your phone is charged before you leave the hotel! You never want to be caught without your phone.

Now, go have fun in the BIG EASY

xoxo, Catherine