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Glitz and Glam: A Guide to the True Costs of Prom

Senior Prom. The night of nights. It’s an event some people spend years dreaming of, building up what the night will look like when it eventually arrives for them. They dream about the perfect dress, the perfect shoes, the perfect date, even—but when the time comes to turn those dreams into a reality, they cringe as they realize:


Oh. That’s a lot of money.


This year’s Senior Prom will take place on Thursday, June 6, 2024 at The Grove in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Doors are expected to open at 6:30 PM; students will not be allowed to leave the premises until at least 10:00 PM. A night of food, dancing, and socialization is anticipated; there’s no doubt about that—but no one ever truly anticipates the expenses associated with Prom until they’re already preparing themselves for it, and these costs are felt by both the class and the individual students themselves.


The graduating class is supposed to handle all expenses dealing with the event itself, and these expenses are nothing short of hefty. “We have a multitude of factors that go into it,” said Class of 2024 advisor Kevin Reilly. “The largest bill that we need to pay is to the venue itself. The Grove costs roughly $48,000. That includes all of our seating, our dining, and reserving the venue for the five hour evening. On top of that, we have a DJ, a photobooth, school chaperones, and that rounds out our cost to roughly $52,000.”


The school has a contract with The Grove guaranteeing that at least 400 plates will be paid for by the class. However, the Class of 2024 consists of 268 students. Even with the school’s administration team, security officers, 14 staff chaperones, and additional guests, this cost is still to be evenly divided amongst the class itself.  


If the total $52,000 were to be evenly divided amongst this year’s graduating class—which is notably smaller compared to previous and future classes, as typical classes consist of well over 300 students—each student would have to pay about $194 for their Prom tickets. Miraculously, the Class of 2024 managed to pull through and lower this cost from $194 to $65. 


“We have, in the past, had grade levels pay anywhere from $70 to $85 per ticket,” Reilly said. “So, the fact that [the Seniors] were able to get this down to $65 a ticket is a major compliment to the hard work [they] and [the] class officers put into our fundraising events.”


The Class of 2024’s freshman year—the 2021-2021 school year—was conducted mostly through Google Meets and the forgotten G and H rotation schedule. As a result, this year’s graduating class lost about a whole year of fundraising towards the event; but, it was not a total loss. The class held apparel sales and, at one point in that specific year, a Chipotle fundraiser. 


“Without the benefit of being in school, we weren’t able to do things like sell candy grams or Valentine’s roses,” Reilly added. “It was limited in who was able to find access to our advertised links for these sales, so once we came back to being in person, things like the car wash and just a greater distribution of the knowledge of our fundraisers was able to take place.”


Despite the fundraising limitations, the ’24 Class persevered. Much of the Class’ overall funding came from fundraisers such as apparel sales, running the concession stand at football games, and car washes; the Senior Fashion Show, Reilly noted, was a major contributor, with the event raising roughly $11,000 towards the cause.


Of course, student Prom costs do not end at the mere $65 ticket price. As grand of a night Prom is expected to be, it’s no surprise that students also go above and beyond to make the night feel as grand as it is. Senior Rebecca Caporaso is one of these students.


“For girls, [Prom expenses] include the costs of hair, makeup, a dress, shoes, and accessories,” Caporaso said. “People don’t realize that jewelry and shoes add up on top of the cost, too, because a lot of times, a lot of girls don’t always have a shoe that matches or a shoe they want to wear. . . That cost adds up.”


The cost, on average, can vary depending on region, but most people can spend anywhere from $150 to over $2,000 on Prom alone. This is because a Prom dress can cost roughly between $85 to $700, a tuxedo (rental or new) between $60 to $130, shoes between $30 to $150, and jewelry and accessories between $45 to $200—not to mention the costs of a corsage or boutonniere, hair and makeup, limousine rentals, or an “after-Prom” event.


Caporaso’s expenses fell within this range. Her Prom dress itself cost around $180; alterations pushed this price to total at approximately $300. She plans to have her hair styled at Sandra’s Salon, estimated to be less than $100, and her makeup done at The Makeup Studio for about $45. What really brings her total cost up are the festivities she is hosting before and after Prom, which includes a $2,700 party bus for transportation (of which the cost was evenly divided amongst herself and 23 other people, creating an added expense of $117.40 for bus-goers in the group), pre-Prom pictures, and food. 


“In total, that means, with a $2,700 bus, plus the expenses of decorations, food, my dress, the corsage, the boutonniere, the ticket itself, hair, and makeup, I made my way past $3,000,” Caporaso said.


Though Senior Kaya Guven’s expenses were not as extreme as Caporaso’s, his expenses, too, fell within averages: “My tuxedo, which is a rental, is over a hundred dollars, which I think is kind of ridiculous for an outfit that you’re only gonna wear for a day, but it’s whatever. I’m gonna handle it. . . There’s also the predicament of getting to Prom, where some people can just drive, while others want to make it an event . . . Some people cheaped out, some people didn't, but my cost, with shoes, too, has come to around $300–$350.”


This is not to say that Prom costs are the same for every person. Some people may opt to thrift their clothing choices for Prom; others may wear hand-me-downs, or items they already had on-hand, like senior Lucas Guimary, whose planned Prom ensemble consists of items he previously owned and had thrifted. 


Guimary’s Prom costs appear to have fallen lower than that of the average. Discounting the cost of the ticket, he estimated, “Two of the pieces were free and from my siblings, so I spent probably, like, $15? Including jewelry, probably $20. . . I don’t really get opportunities to dress up like that, so I get to wear something really nice that I already had.”


Yet, for most seniors, as Caporaso says, “Prom is expensive.”


Even still, seniors only get one Prom. Regardless of how much you end up spending on the night, don’t be afraid to make it a night you know you won’t regret. After all, it’s a night of memories—a night of fun and dancing meant to be shared with those who helped make your high school experience memorable.