Time was, the prom meant a new dress (or a sister’s hand-me-down) and your date, who wore a suit and brought a corsage, picked you up in his own (or parents’) car and you went to the dance and then home. Any teen-ager today would laugh at such an idea.
When my own kids were teens, prom meant evening gowns, tuxedoes, limousines and dinner at a fancy (or at least nice) restaurant. There was an after-party that charged a fee, too. In all, it cost a fortune.
Today’s teens still want the works – dress, shoes, hair and nails for the girls, tuxes for the boys. Limo and dinner. Tickets to the prom and the after party. Pictures taken at the prom by a professional photographer.
“It can easily cost $400 to $500 and more,” says one young friend, headed to her own senior prom. Your Prom magazine found that across the country the average cost couples spend on prom preparation and attendance is $1,000.
Is there really any way to cut corners and still be cool?
The dress: Prom dresses can cost hundreds of dollars. But you don’t have to pay that. Check consignment shops for barely worn apparel – sometimes even designer duds – that originally cost 10 times what you’ll pay for them. A lot of stores have a prom dress sales, One online site, PromGirl has lots of totally awesome short frocks for less than $100.
If this is a second prom (some schools have them for both juniors and seniors), consider doing a dress swap. The same dress can look completely different on a different girl, and nobody knows except you (and your swap-friend). So don’t tell.
As for shoes, don’t spend a bundle on them; get them at a cheapie shoe store and toss them after a hard night of dancing if they don’t hold up well. You’ll probably end up barefoot halfway through the evening anyway, because new shoes, no matter how expensive, always hurt.
Hair, nails, makeup: A fun pre-prom activity might be to do a girls’-day-out nail party, where you and a few friends do each other’s nails. Hair might be tougher – you don’t want a disaster in the making on prom night. But consider a beauty school for your hair-do – way cheaper than a top salon. Most girls can do their own makeup, or help each other. Don’t go over the top. You’ll want to look like you in the pictures.
Tuxes: Did you know that you can buy a used tux for about the same price as a rental at some tux shops? Ask to see their inventory. Or check out tuxes at a consignment shop or even a thrift store. You might be pleasantly surprised. And you might be able to return it afterward and lost a few bucks – but still be cheaper than renting a new one for a night.
Flowers: A simple boutonniere or wrist corsage doesn’t have to be super-expensive – and check out discount flower shops for them. Choose flowers in season, not something ridiculously exotic. They’ll be dead tomorrow, anyway.
Limo: If you and your friends carpool, the limo can be a lot more affordable. And more fun. Most can accommodate up to 8 or 10 people, so get a group together. The cost will be a fraction of what you would pay for one couple. Also check out the prices on town cars, which might be less expensive than a limousine. Some rental places even have party buses for groups. They’re cheaper still.
Dinner: How fun would it be to take a limo through the drive-through of your favorite fast-food franchise? A sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant also cuts into your evening of dancing and frivolity. Or get a pizza delivered to your limo. Check first to make sure the company allows food in the car.
Photos: They’re going to hit you up to pose for the professional photographer at the prom. Unless you really want a posed picture, just say no. Everyone has cameras on their cell phones these days (and Mom surely snapped some before you left for the evening). The spontaneous images you get from your friends may be far more meaningful than a formal portrait.
Other: You can’t do anything about the cost of the prom tickets or after-party tickets, but you can make your own after-party if what you really want to do is be with your own group of friends. One group of teens poured into a Denny’s at midnight and filled three tables (pushed together). The place was otherwise empty so the manager and waitress were delighted. Or organize a small after-party at somebody’s house (with parental permission, of course). Everyone brings a sleeping bag, just in case.
No, these suggestions aren’t the kind to make an elegant evening of it, but they are the kind that can create great memories, and stories, and not cost that aforementioned fortune.