Time was, going to the prom meant you got a new dress (or a sister’s hand-me-down). Your date, who wore a suit and brought a corsage, picked you up in his own (or his parents’) car. You went to the dance and then he took you home. Any teenager today would laugh at such an idea.
When my own kids were teens, prom meant evening gowns, tuxedoes, limousines and dinner at a fancy 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 and boutonnieres for the boys. Limo and dinner. Tickets to the prom and the after party. Pictures taken 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 prep 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 prom dress sales, including David’s Bridal, which has lovely long dresses starting at $99, both online and in stores. Short dresses cost even less and are better for dancing. PromGirl has lots of totally awesome short dresses 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; 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 hairdo – 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. It’ll still cost you a few bucks – but will be cheaper than renting a new one for a night.
Flowers: A simple boutonniere or wrist corsage doesn’t have to be super-expensive. Check out discount flower shops for them. Choose flowers in season, not ones that are 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 limousines can accommodate up to 8 to 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: A sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant cuts into your evening of dancing and frivolity. How fun would it be to take a limo through the drive-through of your favorite fast-food franchise? 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 cellphones these days (and Mom surely snapped some shots 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 prom tickets or after-party tickets — though some schools offer discounts if you buy them early — but you can create 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, you can organize a small after-party at somebody’s house (with parental permission, of course). Everyone brings a sleeping bag, just in case.
These suggestions can create great memories, and save you that aforementioned fortune. Have any other prom-on-the-cheap suggestions? Please share them in the comments.
Photo by Rosen Georgiev, freedigitalphotos.net.
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