“It was a junior/senior year prom, and you could go both years, if you could find a date,” Gregg Colschen recalled about his prom in the 1970’s. He is now the principal of The Woodlands High, and this year his students will have a very different experience. “The prom was in the gym,” he told KTRH. “The junior class decorated for the senior class. We didn’t pick anybody up in limousines. Everybody pretty much asked their parents if they could borrow the car that night, and then they’d go pick up their date, maybe go to dinner, and then to the prom.” He paused and his voice lifted. “We did have a live band though!”
A bit of background on how we got here. The term prom comes from “promenade”, a throwback to the days of debutante balls when young ladies were promenaded for all to see in their first social appearance. Historians place the origin of proms in the Depression era 1930’s and 40’s, before the post-WWII boom brought more elaborate celebrations of budding adulthood. Each decade, defined by their music, has taken the elegance, and expense, a step further.
Elegance is generally defined by the girls. Tuxedoes remain standard fare for the boys, though individual expression may dictate a stylish twist of their own. Style for the dress, and speak of it with reverence, “is broad,” Mamie of Camille La Vie says. They know designer prom dresses. Their Ombre Beaded Strapless Long Dress can set you back $269.99, and is ravishing. “Parents are spending over the top to make sure they have the right dress,” Mamie told KTRH, “that they’re seen doing the right thing: limo, hair, nails, dressing their children from A-Z.” Mamie says young girls “are looking for that very sexy back. They want to make an entrance and they want to make an exit. They want something bright, preferably print. They want to stand out, the more bling the better. They’re into very beautiful, sweeping trains, or ballroom gowns like Cinderella. So the spectrum is very wide.”
When it comes to flowers, for girls a wrist corsage remains most desirable, according to Deanna Rhodes of Clear Lake Flowers, who have been bringing prom dreams to life since the 70’s. Girls also might like a floral necklace, Deanna told KTRH, or a piece to wear on her ankle or her arm. And for boys boutonnieres remain standard, though some chose “pocket squares”, elongated boutonnieres that go into the pocket.
And there’s the limo, or better yet, the bus. It’s all the rage, according to Soleil Boudesecque of Action Limousines in Houston. A 20-passenger bus on a Saturday prom night calls for an 8-hour minimum and $1,680, including gratuity. The 30-passenger, same Saturday requirements, is $2,406.25. Divided 30-ways, a little over $80 each for transportation. Limousines are of enduring and traditional popularity. A 10-passenger stretch on a Friday night has a 6-hour minimum requirement and with gratuities included will set you back only $600.
KTRH checked with VISA, who does an annual survey of regional prom spending. Jason Alderman calls it, “social arms-race spending.” The 2013 figures aren’t out yet, but based on last year, in the south the average family will spend $1,047.00. Expect about a 30% increase this year. Kids will pay 39% of the expense, mom and dad the rest. Pre-prom dinner runs anywhere from $25 to $250 per person. Photo’s range between $30 and $125 per person. Most interesting, the lower a household income, the more the family is likely to spend on a child’s prom. A family earning more than $76k a year will spend an average of $842. A family earning less than $30k will spend $2,635. To help budget, VISA has an app for that. Plan-It-Prom. They’ve also created a website to help students manage to balance their dreams with reality. PracticalMoneySkills.com.
So why do we parents do it? Why do we spend the money, put in the hours of shopping? Stress? The Woodlands High Principal Gregg Colschen described for KTRH the night in store for his students. “It will be at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott. The hotel provides food. We have a DJ. We decorate the ballroom pretty extensively. This year’s theme is ‘An Evening In Paris’, and there will be an Eiffel Tower, and there will be several special things to make it look and feel like Paris.”
For one magical night, we can give them a night they’ll never forget. Though we can remember every detail from our own prom, we want theirs to be just a little more special.
Here are the prom dates for a couple of area school districts:
Prom Dates for Fort Bend ISD
AUSTIN May 18 Royal Sonesta Hotel
BUSH May 18 Museum Of Natural Science
CLEMENTS May 11 J.W. Marriott-Galleria
DULLES May 17 Hotel ZaZa
ELKINS May 4 Hilton Post Oak
HighTower May 11 Hilton Post Oak
KEMPNER May 11 Sugar Land Skeeters Field
MARSHALL May 18 D’Town Aquarium
RIDGE POINT May 4 Bell Power
TRAVIS May 11 Westin Galleria
WILLOWRIDGE May 4 Renaissance
Prom Dates for CFISD High Schools:
Cy-Fair HS April 26
Cypress Creek May 18
Cypress Falls May 10
Cypress Lakes May 17
Cypress Ranch May 24
Cypress Ridge May 4
Cypress Springs May 31
Cypress Woods May 24
Jersey Village May 17
Langham Creek May 3