Rising Costs of the Big Dance
Prom is a time-honored tradition and a rite of passage for teens. Originally inspired by graduation celebrations and debutante balls, prom today is now an extravagant, defining moment in a teenager’s life. Prom bears little resemblance to the promenades of the past, especially when it comes to cost.
Going to the prom can put a fairly large dent in one’s wallet. In fact, the average family with a teenager spends nearly a thousand dollars on the dance, according to a recent prom spending survey by Visa. Take a look at the budget breakdown below.
Just as significant as the dance itself, the new “promposal” trend is an elaborate and often a public way that teens ask someone to prom. Teens are spending about one third of their overall prom costs on it, totaling around $324, according to the Visa survey.
What are some popular promposal tactics? Spelling “prom” with pepperoni on pizza, airplane banner flyovers, giant duct tape posters and the jumbotron at a sporting event are just a few ways teens are “popping the question.”
When proms first became common, teens were encouraged to wear their “Sunday best” implying that they wear a nice dress or suit that they already owned. Not so anymore. For girls, going to prom is all about the dress, and finding the perfect one at the right price is no easy task. In 2012, girls surveyed by Seventeen magazine said they planned to spend $231 on average for a dress, $45 on shoes, $23 on a handbag, $32 on jewelry and $118 on hair, nails and makeup combined.
While guys typically spend less on prom clothing and accessories, they’re still shelling out heavy cash to arrive in style. Guys spent on average $127 for a tuxedo, $20 on a corsage for their dates, and $100 on other accessories, according to research from USA Today.
Cut Costs, Save for College
The steep cost of prom night is leading teens to look at alternatives to traditional prom practices. One way high schoolers are saving is by ditching typical outfits and making their own. One creative example is Duck Tape prom wear. The Duck brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest annually offers more than $50,000 in scholarship dollars to creative prom-goers who craft DIY prom fashions.
Over the last 15 years, the contest has attracted more than 7,000 entrants seeking the top prize of $10,000 each in college scholarships. So, in addition to recouping your prom investment the scholarship can help offset the skyrocketing cost of college, which has increased by 40 percent in the last decade! For more information about the contest, visit www.stuckatprom.com.
Carpooling with a big group, asking a family member to take pictures with a nice camera and creating DIY flowers (i.e. Duck Tape roses) are all ways to add a personal touch to prom, and they cost significantly less than the usual limos, professional photographers and flowers.
Setting a budget and looking for opportunities to save money can ensure prom is an amazing night that doesn’t break the bank.
More About Promposals
A promposal is an elaborate ask to the prom, a concept that first gained Web traction in 2011 and now is an institution alongside limo rentals and after-parties. Asking someone to the prom has been tradition for as long as there have been school dances. The concept of promposing took on new life in the digital era. Teens now plot grandiose events to gain the attention of not only their potential date, but everyone else on social media, in turn generating YouTube channels, Twitter and, of course, listicles.
Students lucky enough to experience a promposal are sometimes on the receiving end of an outrageous, and often complex, feat of planning. One promposal that went viral involved the purchase of Kanye West’s popular sneaker, the Boost. Another promposal, less expensive but much more difficult to pull off, involved Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz reading a promposal script on behalf of a teenager. For the rest, it can be expensive cosmetics, Beyonce tickets or even a puppy.
Predictably, brands have gotten in on the action, looking to further capitalize on the already expensive event. National Promposal Day, March 11, was registered this year by Men’s Wearhouse Inc., which rents tuxedos for the occasion. A branded social media campaign about the day reached over two million Facebook Inc. and Instagram Inc. users, and a promposal themed SnapChat Inc. filter, geo-fenced over 18,000 American high schools, was used almost a million times. It’s unclear how many teens ended up with dates that day, but Men’s Wearhouse is hoping it’ll lead to a boost in sales and rentals. Not to be outdone, prom dress retailers are latching onto the phenomenon in store and posting about promposals on company blogs. “We know our customers are receiving promposals and they like reading about them,” explained Devin VanderMaas, director of marketing for Faviana, a New York City-based special occasion dress retailer. “It’s also one of the more searched keywords right now. Girls who are most likely going to buy our dress are also Googling promposal stories. That’s another way for us to find new people and have them discover our brand.”
Golden Asp Inc., a prom dress retailer in Pennsylvania, also published several promposal themed blog posts, including the “Ultimate Promposal Guide.” Owner Jon Liney says he often hears tales of promposals from his staff and customers: “When you see a trend like this, that just adds to the significance of prom; it has to help sales.”
You know something has arrived in the teen consciousness when credit card companies take notice. Visa Inc., which tracks prom-related expenses in an annual nationwide survey, added promposal costs to the total prom bill for the first time last year. The company found the average American household with teenagers spent $324 on promposing. Promposal spending varies around the country, with New England families with teenagers coming in at a whopping $431 per promposal, compared to $342 in the West, $305 in the South and $218 in the Midwest. Promposals are so prolific that they’re becoming the most expensive part of the event. Total spending on the prom, which includes the cost of clothing, transportation, tickets, food, photographs and the after party, is down since 2013, when it was $1,139, according to Visa. In 2014, it fell to $978 and again last year by six percent, down to $919.
Despite the growing trend, not all teenagers are wooed by pricey promposals. “I’ve seen on Twitter where boyfriends buy their girlfriends hundreds of dollars worth of makeup to ask them, which I think is ridiculous,” said Meghan, 16, from Pueblo, Colo. “People buy their girlfriends fishes, and puppies, and clothes, all kinds of stuff. It’s crazy.” Meghan (a minor, identified only by her first name at the preference of her parents) was promposed to more simply. Her date purchased a Starbucks coffee and wrote ‘Prom?’ on the side and carried a poster reading ‘This is hard to espresso…but I’ll take a shot.’
-Polly Mosendz, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Whether you have an expensive promposal or a simple one, prom is a night that should be remembered for the rest of your life. Enjoy the music, dance the night away, and have a fun safe night with your friends.