A magical night complete with a limo ride, a black tie affair and dinner - otherwise known by high school students and their parents as prom - doesn't come without a price tag.
The beginning of May for many area schools marks the beginning of prom season. And, as students begin to put together the pieces of their perfect night, bank accounts have the potential to become a lot lighter.
The credit card company Visa recently said the amount a typical parent or teenager will spend $1,139 on prom this year, based on about 3,000 interviews. The number, Visa said, is roughly 5 percent higher than the 2012 amount, and marked the second year in a row the spending beat the rate of inflation.
In Chautauqua County, though, parents may be able to breathe a little easier as their teen prepares for their big night. Jodie Sweatman, a senior at Cassadaga Valley, predicts together with her date, the couple will be spending only around $350. Hannah Samuelson, a Jamestown High School senior, who will be attending prom with friends, predicts she will spend $400.
According to the girls, the cost of prom is what you make of it. Although she spent $450 on a dress to attend prom her junior year, this year, Jodie opted to go a cheaper route.
"I paid $50 this year, but I paid $450 last year," Jodie said. "I went to Erie last year for my dress, but this year, I was like, 'I'm not spending that much at all.' So, I ended up going on eBay and getting a dress."
Like Jodie, Hannah also shopped online to find the best deal on a dress she has had her eye on since her freshman year. The designer dress, which had an original price tag of around $600, according to Hannah, only costs $160, including shipping. However, she estimates she will have to spend around $100 on a few alterations.
"The dress is beautiful, it's very beautifully made," Hannah said. "I was worried, because I had heard horror stories (about ordering online), but it's beautiful."
The cost of a prom dress has a wide cost range, and can very much depend on the budget that has been set. Hannah said she has friends who spent $430 and $600 on dresses they will wear for the night.
Meanwhile, young men can find tuxedos to rent beginning at around $80. However, when they choose to match their date, costs begin to increase. And, when factoring in the price of a tuxedo, don't forget to add in the cost of tax and a damage waiver.
"Basically, we have a starter tux, which is $79.95. That is for a jacket, pants, shirt, black tie and black tux. That would be very basic," said Rhonda Moiler, counter supervisor at The Lyon's Den. "If they want to change the color of the vest and tie, it would be $15. And shoes, if they want to rent shoes, would be $25."
Every princess may want a horse-drawn carriage for one of the most special nights of their high school career, but many opt to take a limousine instead. According to Chris Hillhouse, manager of La Grand Elite Limousine in Westfield, the company has limos to fit anywhere from 10 to 26 passengers, depending on the size of the group. For prom, there is usually a six-hour minimum, which allows prom-goers to be picked up, taken to dinner and the prom, and back home.
The smallest limo the company has costs $585, or $58.50 per person for all 10 passengers. Larger groups get a slightly better deal, as the 26-passenger limo costs $999 at La Grand Elite Limousine, or $38.42 per passenger. The prices include tax and tip.
"I've had people come in, bringing me all kinds of envelopes from every kid. It doesn't matter, as long as it's all there," Hillhouse laughed.
Prom night isn't complete without flowers. Ann Miller, owner of Virg-Ann Flower Shop in Warren, Pa., said corsages and boutonnieres, too, can range in price. The average wrist corsage at Virg-Ann will typically set a young man back $18 to $20, sometimes up to $25. And, a boutonniere typically costs $8 to $10.
"I'll bet anything, when you get into the cities, it's $30 or $40 for a corsage," Miller said. "But, their cost of living is more. It's all relative, it really is."
For girls, some pampering is typically in order before the big day, with manicures, pedicures and an updo. Prom hairstyles at Panache Salon in Jamestown begin at $40. Meanwhile, Salon 1 and Forbici Hair Design, also both in Jamestown, have updos beginning at $35, depending on the styles.
For manicures, Nail 4 U, located on Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood, and Lees Nails in the Chautauqua Mall both have services to offer. A basic manicure and pedicure at each will cost $35 before tip. For ladies looking for just a pedicure, the cost is $25. Acrylic nails begin at $27. Each location also typically offers free airbrushing with a student ID during the spring months.
Dinner costs depend on where the party chooses to eat. Jodie and her date plan on dining at La Scala, which has appetizers ranging from $3.75 to $15, and entrees ranging from $9.95 to $38.95. Hannah and her friends will be eating at Roberto's, with appetizers ranging from $6.79 to $10.99, and entrees ranging from $9.29 to $45. And, a prom ticket and photo package to remember the special night can easily run a student and their parents another $100.
That is a grand total of approximately $830 - assuming a girl wears a $200 dress with a pair of $40 shoes - in this area for a typical couple to attend prom festivities.
WORTH THE COST?
Both girls project to spend far less for prom than Visa's prom costs. However, Jodie and Hannah agree the amounts they are spending are worth the price tag.
"It's my senior year. I like to do school events, I like to dance," Jodie said. "So, prom is the perfect opportunity, no matter how much it costs."
With it being Jodie's second opportunity to go to prom, she has learned some lessons from her first time, including shopping online for her dress. Additionally, she said she and her date will avoid the cost of a limo by driving themselves. Although she thinks the price of tickets could be cheaper, Jodie said she is excited for the opportunity to go to the Grandview in Ellington for her last big dance of high school.
On the other hand, Hannah is looking forward to what she calls "the before" - getting ready for prom with her close friends, taking pictures and going to dinner.
"Once you're there, it's just, like, another dance," Hannah said. "But, it's going to be beautiful, because it's going to be at the train station. We have 30 people in my group, and I love every single one of them. So, we'll go to one girl's house for pictures, and then go to Roberto's for dinner."
Hannah said she did discuss a budget with her mother, who is a teacher at Jamestown High School, but the budget really focused on the price tag for her dress. When it comes to the other aspects of the big day, she said her friends are still undetermined when it comes to whether they will take a limo, and she plans on doing her own hair. But the price of the dress, manicure, dinner, tickets and photos are what have added up.
"It's a big event, it's one of the milestones, going to senior prom," she said. "Why not spend the money on it?"