I was lucky to attend my junior and senior proms (and even with the same boy, my high school sweetheart, J)
Now I’m living it from the “other” side as a parent. Woooooo boy. And things have changed since the early 80s, that’s for certain (besides big hair).
Here in our neck of the woods, boys still wear tuxedos and girls still wear floor length gowns… but that seems to be the extent of the similarities.
I went shopping for a dress both years, visited maybe 2 stores, and had a very strict (read: low) budget. Now it seems it’s an all-weekend event, with girls spending as much as what a wedding dress can cost. Yikes! And it’s not just at Z’s school, it’s all over.
Pictures are now a nearly professional affair, too, taking hours and are logistical nightmares.
So, these kids will have been in monkey suits and ties, fitted gowns and heels plus make up and hair since, say, 2pm? And they don’t even leave for prom until 5pm? And if the weather doesn’t cooperate?
Now, some things have changed for the better in my opinion: here, the kids meet at their school’s gym, and then board buses which take them to the prom venue, usually a very nice hotel with banquet facilities, or a unique place which can accommodate a couple of hundred people (one local high school held their prom at the aquarium last year!). These destinations include a nice dinner as well, and so precludes the necessity of trying to get reservations on the same night as everyone else. And because the cost is included in the prom tickets, there are no nasty surprises at the end of the meal since no bill comes.
No one is allowed entry to the prom unless they arrive on the bus. They also must all depart on the bus, and are returned to the school parking lot from whence they left. As a parent, I’m thrilled with this!
We didn’t have the busing option — some kids actually rented limousines — and dinner was on our own. All of that adds exponentially to the cost of the evening. These are high school kids! Even if they’ve had a part-time job for a year or two, that’s still a big chunk of change!
Tuxedos are crazy expensive to rent — especially if you want something other than the basic black. This year was relatively easy tux shopping since Z wanted the exact same tux as last year (with just a different color vest and tie to match his date’s dress).
A wrist corsage was all that was left to purchase, and Z was very practical in his approach without any prompting from me. He settled on orchids this year, still sticking to the concept of “simple, but elegant.”
Z’s date is also a very practical person, and proudly shared her shopping prowess: she went dress hunting only at places she knew were in her budget; she had coupons; and she was so excited to find exactly what she wanted for far less than she (and her mom) expected.
I’m not saying prom isn’t something special — it IS, I believe that with all my heart. But the idea behind prom is to celebrate the time together, as couples, as friends, as classmates. Going over the top isn’t necessary. I certainly don’t begrudge any family the option if they wish to go all out. But not everyone has the same access, nor even the same attitude, to discretionary funds in the family budget. And if the kids are paying for everything themselves, then it’s important for them to pay close attention to how — and why — they’re spending their money.
This is an excellent opportunity for both of them to see what buys this kind of evening, and allows them a chance to try it out and learn whether or not they like spending their money on a big date night like this with their friends; or maybe they’ll say “That was fun, but I’d rather do ________.”
High school is a time to learn new things before going out into the “real” world. Prom is part of the high school experience if they choose to make it so. I had a wonderful time both years, dancing the night away with my date and being with friends, all dressed up. It is special because prom is a once-a-year occasion. But honestly, if we had chosen not to go, and decided to go to a movie and get pizza afterwards, I would have had just as much fun. It ultimately comes down to the person/people you’re with. Tuxes go back to the store; dresses take up room in closets; meals are usually quickly forgotten. People make memories. And you don’t need a bow tie to do that.