Dress: $180. Suit: $220. Dinner: $50. Two tickets: $80. Sharing that year-end moment with friends and a significant other at the high school prom: expensive.
These are just some of the prom-related costs incurred by Canyon Del Oro High School senior Texana Sonnefeld V and CDO graduate J.D. Fitzgerald as they prepare for prom, an event that, while understandably important to high school students, continues to increase in cost. And whether those expenses are paid for by the students themselves or with assistance from parents, the financial burden that comes with prom can be enough to put a dent in the wallet.
The young Texana and Fitzgerald, along with Ryan Patrick, and Meghan Reidhead and Jaycee Reidhead and Tyler Cioffi are finding that making memories these days doesn’t come cheap.
Texana and Fitzgerald’s total reported expenses for prom amounts to just under $700, an astronomical amount when compared to the amount spent by these students’ parents when they attended prom.
When Texana Sonnefeld IV, mother of Texana Sonnefeld V, attended prom as a junior in 1979, tickets cost $30 for a couple, which included dinner. Her dress was only $42, which was considered expensive at the time. Sonnefeld said in her day, nobody rented limos or paid to have nails, makeup or hair done.
“I wouldn’t quite say it’s gotten outrageous, but where does it end?” she said. “It keeps going up and up. At the time, it was a very important event in that part of my life, but looking back it’s not such a big deal. People spend thousands of dollars on prom now. At some point, it needs to be capped.”
Tyler’s mother, Lynn, only spent $25 on a dress for her 1983 prom.
“I think it’s getting way out of control,” she said. “By the time my grandkids have their day, it’s probably not going to be less than $200 to $300 just for accessories.”
Nowadays, a dress, suit rental, and tickets are just the foundation for prom-goers, who, perhaps more than ever, view the event as a way to go out in style.
“As a senior, it’s the last big thing to happen before graduation,” said Jaycee. “It’s what we all look forward to, and as a girl, it’s something we look forward to months ahead of time.”
Jaycee managed to keep the expense of her dress modest, purchasing it online for $57. However, she faced several other expenses to include $40 for shoes, $30 to get her nails done, and $10 for new makeup.
Jaycee’s sister, Meghan, spent $75 on her dress, and $80 on shoes.
With all the expenses, prom photos have been put on the backburner, according to Texana.
“Nobody gets prom photos anymore,” she said. “We just take pictures on our own.”
Texana, who is attending her third prom at CDO, estimated the cheapest photo package to run about $70, yet another expense available to students.
Despite the numerous accessories desired by girls for prom, the guys will feel the financial strains as well. In addition to his suit, Fitzgerald plans to spent $50 for shoes and $30 for a tie and vest. Patrick’s tuxedo cost $149, and Tyler managed to borrow a tuxedo, limiting his expenses to $35 for a tie and vest, and $15 for a pair of earrings.
Then, there’s dinner. The couples, which ate at Tavolino Risorante Italiano, where dinner ran between $50 and $80 for a pair. The prom tickets, ranging between $70 and $90 for two, will pay for any additional food or beverages provided at Ventana Canyon, the site of CDO’s prom.
“Prom is more important than any other dance,” Meghan said. “It is more formal and fancy and you should probably go with someone who means a lot to you. The school puts a lot more money and effort into making it as good as they can for the students. It is also the last dance, so you want to make it as best as possible.”
Ryan added that even for guys, getting dressed up is one of the perks of prom.
“I am really excited for prom,” he said. “I get to dress up nice and wear a bow tie.”
While students are willing to incur the expenses to make memories, even some of them feel costs associated with prom are too high, and acknowledge the importance of knowing how to cut expenses down. Tyler did so by borrowing a tuxedo from a friend.
“It’s important to know people that can help out,” he said. “Being someone that doesn’t make a lot of money, it helps reduce the cost of prom.”
The CDO prom, which cost about $15,000 to put on, was held at Ventana Canyon on April 28.
(Editor’s Note: Randy Metcalf contributed to this story.)