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Prom's price tag
High school tradition doesn't come cheap
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Magna Vista High School senior Chelsey Craig will go to the school’s prom tonight with her boyfriend, Magna Vista graduate Harley Durham. Chelsey said her prom dress (above) cost $100. (Bulletin photos)
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Friday, May 13, 2011

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Several local prom-goers estimate they are spending from several hundred dollars to nearly $900 per couple to dress up, have fun and celebrate at the biggest social event of the school year.

Those numbers may sound like a lot, but they are below the national and Southern regional averages for prom spending, according to a VISA survey.

Chelsey Craig, a senior at Magna Vista High School, said she looked at a lot of prom dresses and tried on seven or eight before she picked one.

"It was different. I didn't want to look like everybody else," said Chelsey, whose prom is Saturday.

The pink, black and white cheetah and zebra print dress with a black diagonal strap over one shoulder cost $100, Chelsey said. That is about $30 less than she spent on last year's dress.

"I don't believe in spending that much on a dress I'll wear one time," she said. She added that she knows a girl who paid $530 for a dress last year.

Chelsey estimated that she and boyfriend Harley Durham's prom-related expenses this year will add up to less than $500, not counting flowers and gas for the Toyota Tacoma pickup Harley will drive. Harley, a 2008 Magna Vista graduate, works at The Pool House Ltd. in Bassett.

Chelsey's expenses this year include $35 for black cloth stiletto heels; $10 for pink and black zebra print earrings; $43 to have her nails done; and $10 for makeup.

She estimated that their other expenses will include $50 for dinner; $136 for his black tux with a pink tie and black shoes; roughly $20 from her class dues to pay for the prom; and $80 for her two months of unlimited tanning.

Chelsey said last year, her parents, Brian and Wendi Craig of Axton, paid all of her prom expenses.

"This year, I'm helping pay (about half), and I know how much things cost," said Chelsey, who works as a cashier at J.C. Penney. "I'm being a little bit more conservative with my money."�

That means her mom will do her hair, she will wear an imitation diamond bracelet she got for last year's prom, and "I'm doing my own makeup," she said.

But what she spends on the prom "is worth it," Chelsey said. "It's what you look forward to .... It's a privilege, and it's fun."�

This year's prom also is special to Chelsey because, "It's my senior prom. It's my last one." And she is looking forward to what she calls the "senior walk," when the names of seniors and their dates are announced.

Martinsville High School couple Yael Galloway and Derrick Ziglar indicated that together they will spend about $760 on the prom and after-prom, and MHS couple Ryan Reynolds and Nicolette Glasure estimated together they will spend about $895.

Yael, Derrick and Ryan are seniors, and Nicolette is a junior.

The biggest expenses for Yael and Derrick are Yael's dress and Derrick's tux. Yael said she looked at about 100 dresses in stores and on the Internet before she decided on a $150 fuchsia above-the-knee dress that flares out and at the top has a single, sequined strap.

"I don't like fuchsia (generally), but it was on sale," Yael said.

Derrick, who is a cook at Pigs R Us in Martinsville, said he bought a white tux with a "fuchsia pink" tie plus shoes for $165.

Clothes are only part of the expenses involved with going to the prom. Others include gas; manicures and pedicures; accessories; dinners and in some cases breakfast; after-prom tickets; flowers; class dues to pay for the prom; pictures; and other expenses. Some of the couples are doing all those things and more; some have cut back on those expenses this year.

Derrick and Yael also went to the prom together last year, and Derrick said he thinks this year's costs are a little higher.

But he thinks it's worth it. "It's like a one-time thing ... one night to go all-out," he said.

Derrick and Yael are nominated for prom king and queen, and they are excited about going to the prom. Yael, the daughter of Wayne and Joanne Galloway, said she likes to get dressed up, and Derrick, the son of Fredericka Tinsley, said it's the last big party together for seniors.

Nicolette's black and silver one-shouldered, floor-length mermaid dress cost about $190, on sale, she said.

"I tried to get my dress to look like Hollywood because that's our (prom) theme," said Nicolette, who is on the prom committee. She added that she feels like a celebrity when she wears it.

Ryan bought a black tux with a silver metallic tie and silver metallic vest for $180, Nicolette said. "He's borrowing my stepdad's formal (black) shoes," she added.

Parents are helping many of the teens with prom expenses, but some are covering at least part of the costs themselves.

For instance, Nicolette said her mom bought her dress. "I had to buy accessories, my jewelry, my handbag. I have a part-time job at Village Spa (in Martinsville and Collinsville). My mom is going to pay for my hair appointment. I have a gift certificate to pay for my nails."�

"Ryan's parents have given him money for a tux and the flowers," Nicolette said. Ryan, who works at the tennis center at Chatmoss Country Club, is paying for after-prom tickets, dinner for the two of them and gas, Nicolette said.

Nicolette said she thinks their prom costs this year are comparable to last year's, except they passed on renting a limousine this year.

Overall, the prom "is expensive, but we did the best we can in the economy," she said. "I guess it's worth it ... to look back, in the long run, pictures and memories. I think it is worth it, rather than blow it on clothes, to spend it on one special night of the year."�

Ryan said the prom is the last celebration of the year and is a tradition - "you've just got to go."�

Ryan is the son of Les and Gail Reynolds, and Nicolette is the daughter of Rebecca Setzer and Lee Hussey.

Expenses for Meghan Neal and her date, Blaine Atkins, will total about $660 to $695, Meghan said, excluding some costs for which she didn't have estimates. They are both seniors at Magna Vista.

The two biggest items were about $300 for Meghan's dress and $100 to $120 for Blaine's tux, she said.

Meghan's predominantly yellow dress has sequins at the top and flowers all over, she said.

"I had been looking for yellow for the longest time, and I finally found this one," she added.

Blaine will wear a black tux with a yellow vest, Meghan said.

About her only expenses are her dress and accessories, she said. "My family has done everything for me with my dress and everything," Meghan said, adding her family is excited about her going to the prom. She is the daughter of Angie and Wayne Helton.

This is her third prom. "I know what to expect," said Meghan, who said she loves to get dressed up, dance and have fun with friends.

Bassett High School seniors Cole Campbell and Taylor Shelton will be going together to Bassett's prom for the second year.

Cole wrote in an email he will spend about $275 for prom night, including $180 for his black tux with gold vest, white shirt, gold tie and shoes; $50 for dinner at Village Tavern in Greensboro; $20 for flowers for the two of them; and $20 for after-prom tickets.

An estimate of Taylor's expenses was unavailable.

Cole, the son of Robin and Glen Campbell, wrote: "Prom is important to me because: get to dress up nice, go out to eat at fancy places, spend time with all your friends. After prom is the best part of the evening. It is a lot of fun and keeps you in a safe place and out of trouble."�

He added that he is excited. "It's a long-standing tradition. It's different from what you do on every other Friday night."�

VISA's 2011 prom spending survey showed that nationwide, the average family with a single high school student attending the prom will spend $807, but the numbers vary widely between regions of the country. Southerners will spend an average of $542 per person; Northeasterners, an average of $667; Midwesterners, an average of $943; and Westerners, an average of $1,073.

Parents who make less than $50,000 will spend an average of $778, and parents who make more than $50,000 will spend an average of $916, the survey found.


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