Going to the Prom

Parent Q&A

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  • Small School Prom

    (1 reply)

    Does your teen go to a small high school? Do you have a prom or not and are the students enthusiastic about it? Who chooses the venue and does the planning? Looking for ideas to figure out if we can interest our teens in a prom.

    Sorry for the late reply. My teen graduated this year from a small private high school. They opened up prom to all grades at the high school, and had a good turnout both years that I observed. The kids organized it with the help from a few enthusiastic teachers. It was $100 per kid. They did a Hornblower cruise one year, and then other years rented a hall and DJ and brought in buffet food.  I think the key to success at my kid's school was getting the "influencer" kids involved in prom planning. Word traveled, and peer pressure ensued. 

  • high school prom corsages

    (2 replies)

    Hi, I came to the US as an adult, so my knowledge of local high school customs is based on TV and books.  It seems like it's important for a girl to get a corsage when she goes to prom. Is that right?  And if so, what kind of corsage does one expect?  I see some with real flowers, and also lots on Amazon, all with great ratings.

    And, there are wristlets and the ones that go on the dress (no idea how that would work!).

    My son is clueless, and his date isn't sure what she wants either.  Any ideas?

    My daughter is not yet to prom age, so I'm not up on what is currently done. But I think that fake flowers would be tacky and would go with no corsage before I went with artificial flowers. You can get a corsage (and a boutonniere for your son) from any florist (call ahead with timing and to request flowers/colors). Pin-on corsages are little more than a few blossoms and leaves attached together with floral tape. They are usually pinned onto the dress with one or more large straight pins. Whether to do a wrist corsage or a pinned-on one depends on the girl's dress. If she's wearing something that is sleeveless or has very delicate fabric, I'd lean toward the wrist corsage. Basically, if you aren't sure where or how you would pin a corsage to the dress, the wrist corsage is probably the best choice.

    I have a high school senior boy and we are doing this right now. Florists already know about "prom corsages" so you can go to any florist and get one.  You should order it a few days ahead of time to be picked up on prom day.  We live in Berkeley and we are using Ashby Flowers because it's three blocks away.  They have a website https://www.ashbyflowers.com/ and they even deliver. There is a special page just for prom flowers:  https://www.ashbyflowers.com/prom/cat1100003  It looks like all the corsages are $54. But the one we got in person was less than that. 

    Now, in terms of what kind of corsage to get.  First, your son needs to find out what color his date's dress is, and whether she has any color preferences. My son asked his GF and immediately got a picture of the dress back via text, so I have a feeling girls are ready to provide this sort of information on request. I don't know, I have three boys and did not go to prom myself. Anyway, you might help him with the color since she has said she doesn't know. You don't want to get red roses if her dress is chartreuse.  White is always safe. You could add ribbon that matches the dress.  Wrist corsage or pinned corsage?  If she doesn't have a preference get wrist. Last year at the prom all the girls had wrist corsages (I was on clean-up duty) so it seems like wrist is the default.

    Then there is the boutonniere for your son. I believe it is supposed to match his date's corsage. I am not sure if the girl is supposed to buy it or the boy.  It makes more sense to get them both at the same time if you want them to match, which is what we did. The total for both of them at Ashby Flowers was around $50.   

    It's crazy that these rituals are still around after decades of so many others thankfully falling by the wayside!  But it makes my 18 year old feel very grown up and like he's entering the world of adults with all its mysteries. 

  • Prom ticket etiquette

    (9 replies)

    If there is a ticket that must be purchased for prom, say over $100 per person, and boy invites girl (AFTER girl strongly hints that she would like boy to invite her to prom, but does not explicitly suggest to boy that they attend together, even though 1) boy is obviously clueless and 2) boy would obviously love to go to prom with girl and 3) one would expect that, in 2018, girl would feel sufficiently independent to suggest it outright to clueless boy, but nothing happens until boy's mother points out to boy that obviously girl would like to be invited and boy should ask girl to go to the prom, which he eventually does, and girl immediately and enthusiastically accepts.) So. Is boy expected to pay for girl's prom ticket? (= $200+)   Does girl's financial situation vs. boy's financial situation have bearing on this? (assuming boy even knows what financial situation is, which he doesn't)? How does this work in 2018?

    - Just wondering

    Feminist mom of clueless boy

    It really should have nothing to do with "feminism":

    1. If they go to the same school, they should each buy their own ticket.

    2. If they go to different schools, the one at the host school should buy both tickets, but maybe the other one buys dinner.

    3. The kids could discuss this themselves; a main point of consideration should be each financial situation. For example, I get the idea from your post that perhaps the girl is presenting some entitlement. The boy needs to let her know that he will take her, but his budget (including tickets, transportation, corsage, suit/tux, etc is $X), her loss if she can't deal with it.

    Each kid should pay. $100 is a lot of money.

    Hmm, kind of tricky.  Since he/you :-) did the asking, it might not be cool to turn around and ask the girl to pay.  He probably has to wait for her to offer to buy her own ticket.  My daughter was asked by a friend, not as a formal "date" but just because the friend didn't want to go alone.  We paid for my daughter's ticket.

    Mostly, I just wanted to say that your post was the most entertaining I've read in a while!

    Dear feminist mom of clueless boy,

    Your post cracked me up. I think since he invited her, he should probably pay.  If you think that costs should be split evenly, try to keep in mind that it is pretty expensive for a girl to go to prom.

    My daughter went to prom recently and here's how it went:  Her date paid for the tickets.  Because he bought the tickets, she offered to get the flowers.  By the time she bought her dress & shoes, had her hair and nails done (a friend helped with her makeup) and then bought the flowers, I'm pretty sure she spent at least as much as her date, although I don't know how much it is to rent a tux nowadays.  She was actually extremely aware of the costs and bought a dress from a girl on Facebook, so it's not like she was being extravagant.  

    The kids can work it out however they want though.  I hope they have fun.  It sounds like they like each other.  :-)

    Your post and esp. your signature made me smile.  I am truly shocked at some of the traditional ways of young women today who think they are egalitarian except when it comes to asking a guy out on a date or paying for the first date and proposing marriage: never!  (I teach Family at university level).   So my son took his girlfriend to the prom and I think she purchased her ticket and they split some of the other costs.  I had a good time purchasing a wrist corsage for her, I must admit.  I'd encourage you to talk w/ your son about approaching the topic with his date somehow.  He could suggest that he pays for dinner and would she be able/willing to pay for X.    Your son sounds very endearing in his cluelessness, I must tell you.   Enjoy.

    The etiquette rules for prom in this regard aren't any different than those for any other date. The one who does the inviting - unless some other arrangement is proposed up front as part of the invitation - is responsible for paying the cost of admission (and transportation, and food, and so on) for the invited. 

    In my opinion, the silly games that teenagers play when trying to figure out who likes whom doesn't have any real bearing on this, nor does the relative financial resources of the involved parties, nor does the fact that yes, in 2018 (or even in 2008 or 1998 or 1988 for that matter) a girl who wants to go to the prom with a boy really ought to just ask him straight out!  That said, if the relationship is a good one it ought to be possible (if still somewhat embarrassing for the boy who had to be hit with a clue-by-four) for the inviting person to humbly admit to financial restraints and request a contribution from the invited person. And my 17yo often tells me that my sense of the right thing to do is ridiculous, and he and his friends don't follow "all these rules".  Social skills are certainly not a strength for him, and I think he'll discover the good reasons for those rules as he gets older, but you never know...I could be wrong!

    No, I think each person should pay for their own ticket. My son has been invited to 2 Senior proms (different girls) and both times he paid for his own ticket as she paid for hers. They split  the other expenses as well (limo, pictures, etc.)  He did buy the girls the  traditional corsage as well as his own boutonniere. But sometimes the girl buys the boutonniere for the guy. These days kids generally split things 50-50, even dates. I guess if one person's financial situation would prevent them from going to prom the other person could offer to pay, but it's not expected. Prom is ridiculously expensive, and don't forget he'll want to rent a suit or tux if he doesn't have one!

    What a wonderful question! I hope others chime in. My child is in elementary school, so I have no first-hand experience. Just writing to point out that as you consider respective financial obligations of Boy and Girl, keep in mind that Girl is likely to spend waaaaaaay more on appearance for this event. If Boy's high school prom is anything like the ones I just observed around here, Girl and her peers (and/or their families) will spend money on buying a dress that cannot look like anyone else's dress, shoes that cannot have been worn before because they must go with the dress, plus hair, makeup, bag, and jewelry/accessories. Boy will buy some but not all of these things, and each item will cost less than the corresponding one that Girl purchased. It may even the score a bit if Boy pays for Girl's ticket.

    I have taught my daughter to ALWAYS pay for herself on dates of any kind. It severs any basis for a sense of entitlement to sexual payback for money spent on the part of any boy/young man who asks her out. I don’t want her to feel either entitled or indebted, but to be responsible for herself and unencumbered in making her choices. She and her steady BF have looser arrangements based on who has money but try to stay roughly balanced. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


The Prom. The After-Prom. And Getting There.

March 2015

I am the parent of a Berkeley High Senior and my child/soon to be young adult wants to go to the BHS Prom. The Prom this year is being held at the SF Design Center which is located in lower Potrero Hill/South of Market. The Prom ends at midnight. So how are the kids supposed to get home when BART runs till midnight? Is it true that EVERYONE will be renting a limo? Is it true that EVERYONE will be staying in a SF Hotel room, overnight, without any parent chaperones? Are any kids attending after-proms hosted in homes with a parent present? Are any kids taking BART to the prom and then splitting taxi costs for a ride home to the East Bay? Am I the only parent somewhat uncomfortable with spending lots and lots of money on just one night? I would love a respectful (anonymous of the sake of my child's pride!) discussion of this subject. Would appreciate ideas and perspectives....

Just Another Anonymous Worried Parent

Is there anything to prevent parents from carpooling their kids home from SF? I am sure that it is the epitome of uncool, and the after-parties are probably where the ''action'' is, but I would offer it as an option if you can and if you prefer to have your kid back on this side of the Bay after midnight.

the chauffeur

A couple of years ago, a lot of BHS kids took BART into SF for the prom and many stayed overnight at hotels. While we didn't feel comfortable with that amount of freedom for our daughter, a few short months earlier, by spring of senior year it seemed reasonable to stay overnight in SF. After all, they were all going off to college and would be completely independent in making their own decisions in another few months. But, it's up to you to decide what you feel comfortable with. Getting cabs or limos back to the East Bay after prom seems like a good alternative. It is a lot of money, but it is a milestone worth celebrating. Is there a way to split the expense with your kid? anon

I doubt kids will be taking BART to the prom. I'm a BHS grad class of '97 and lots of the kids (myself included) got a limo for prom. Split 10+ ways I don't think it was that expensive. Kids who didn't rent a limo either drove or got rides from friends/family. Taking BART in a prom dress and heels wouldn't have been much fun. I remember some kids did get hotel rooms, some went to after parties hosted by parents, many went to house parties without parents. It is ''just one night'' but it's the only prom your child will ever attend so I say if it's in your budget it's ok to splurge a bit for a special night. Set a prom budget that's comfortable for you and let your child decide how to spend it. They may spend most of it on attire and have to get a ride with somebody or maybe they'll find a cheap outfit and get a bunch of friend together to split a limo.

Not Prom Queen but still had fun

As a parent of a Junior myself, I would not allow my kid to stay unchaperoned at a hotel overnight after a Prom. And no, not everyone rides in a Limo. Maybe a few kids that are in a clique go together in a Limo. I would suggest that you offer to pick up your daughter after the prom. There may be other parents with similar concerns who may wish to carpool. And I totally agree with you about the expense of a Prom dress, hair and makeup. Its ridiculous! I told my daughter my maximum budget was $150, including the Prom Tickets. Affordability is not an issue, but I want to teach her some budgeting before she takes off to college next year..

You have my sympathies!

Another stressed mom

Many kids rent limos, and many stay in hotels without parent chaperones. I have no idea how kids rent hotel rooms, but it seems to happen A LOT. My kids split the cost of hotel rooms with friends, ditto for the limos/party bus.

Prom night was probably the most unsupervised my kids had been at that point, or at least for the longest duration (overnight), and I know that lots of serious partying was going on in some of those hotel rooms. We figured that our kids were only a few months from going off to college and being unsupervised 24/7, and that we just had to let go a little and trust them to make good decisions. If they made bad decisions, we were only a phone call away, and they agreed to call us if they needed help (although they assured us this would not happen, and it didn't).

If you are not comfortable with that, I'm sure you could arrange for them to Uber home.

As for the money, it is totally out of control and absurd. We made our kids pay for their own expenses. All of them: tickets, tux, dress, limo/party bus/hotel, after party, and breakfast the next day, EVERYTHING. Using their own money put things in better perspective for them and kept it in check a little.

It was NOT the most fabulous night in either of their lives. They had fun, but were very glad they did not spend the ridiculous amounts of money that other kids had spent. It helps to give kids a reality check and not let them get caught in the hype.

--BTDT twice

My kid and friends took the Ferry to Prom -- some of the parents gave them a ride to the ferry terminal. Then a taxi from the Ferry to the venue. The Ferry was more festive than BART and much less expensive than a limo. Most of the group of friends did stay in a hotel. The hotel part turned out (for mine) not to be all that fun, which was probably a good lesson.

Some bought dresses at thrift stores, some got new dresses on sale. Some of the dresses could be used again, others were one-hit wonders (another lesson.)

In terms of the night on their own -- it was a first for us too, but Spring of senior year is almost time for college, where they will be making their own decisions every day. The transition is a bit of a shock if you are a parent who keeps fairly close tabs on your child, but my suggestion is within a reasonable budget, let your child try what they feel comfortable with. anon

Prom tickets--who pays, parents or kids?

April 2014

My BHS senior daughter is going to prom with her ''boyfriend'' (''nobody calls it that mom!''). We got her a reasonably priced dress and it's understood that she's paying for all the extras: grooming if she wants it, hotel, limo, after-parties, whatever).

My husband and I are having a debate over who pays for the prom ticket. He says we do bc it's a big deal rite of passage thing. If you ask me, graduation is the rite of passage and prom is a culturally sanctioned excuse to party to excess. I don't think I'll be swayed on the view that prom expenses are a nice-to-have that she can pay for herself just as her dad won't be swayed as to it's being something he ''should'' pay for.

So, I'm just curious, in your family, who's paying for what?

You party, you pay

Our daughters, who worked the county fair for three weeks every summer and did occasional odd jobs for neighbors, paid for their OWN prom tickets. We parental units bought (or, in one case, arranged to borrow)the dresses. Modest makeup from Clinique and jewelry I designed and made were gifts from me --i.e., I did provide them, but there was no expectation that I would.

My oldest daughter --she of the borrowed dress-- actually paid for her date's prom ticket because he was financially strapped. He rented a tux, bought flowers, arranged free (non-limo) transportation, and took her out to dinner afterwards at Denny's. It was all very sweet and low budget and I think they both had a good time.

The younger daughter went with a group of girl friends. They rented a hotel room together for afterwards, but took BART over ---in their gowns. (I think someone's Mom took the overnight bags in one car.) Except for the fact that only my daughter wore athletic shoes on BART (and checked them at the prom!)the girls all had a GREAT time.

Both girls were really satisfied with their experiences --and particularly pleased that it was all on their own terms. Lucky Mom

We paid. I agree with your husband. I felt it was a rite of passage.

Limo rental for the prom

May 2003

There are no listings for limousines on the web site and with prom coming up, I thought it might be a good idea to get some recommendations. Please recommend good, reliable limousine services for our darling children. Toby

This isn't really a limousine recommendation and definitely wouldn't work for everyone... But, for future reference and the archives... For the junior prom my husband rented (from Budget on Gilman) a 15 passenger Ford Club Wagon and drove 11 kids to the prom. The 24 hour cost of renting the van was only ~$120 with tax. A much cheaper alternative and we knew the driver well. ;-) Sally