Prom a night for special memories ... but it will cost you

abredeson@islandpacket.comApril 20, 2014 

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DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo illustration Buy Photo

It's prom season. Time for teenagers -- or more likely their parents -- to spend thousands of dollars on fancy clothing, hair, makeup and other luxuries that will make them feel like royalty for one magical evening.

The first expense of prom is the actual ticket. That could range from about $20 to $45 a student in Beaufort County.

But that is just the beginning. The girls have to find the perfect dresses. They get their hair and nails done. Others even get their makeup professionally applied. The guys have to rent tuxedos and possibly pay for dinner and buy a corsage. Some kids like to ride to prom in style in a limo. All this can quickly add up to a lot of money if you aren't careful.

Some people are saying kids are making too big a deal about prom these days, spending ridiculous amounts of money and going out of their way with elaborate proposals fit for a marriage, not a prom.

Others say prom only comes along once or twice in a lifetime and the kids deserve to be spoiled for a night.

Beaufort High School senior Olivia Anne Roberts is much more frugal than many of her peers.

While some teenage girls spend $500 to $1,000 on a prom dress, Olivia Anne's mother, Christina Roberts, said they found hers for only $13.49.

Olivia Anne will have her hair and makeup done, but she's not sure yet if her mother, a friend or a professional will do the work. She will not ride in a limo, but she will stay overnight on Cat Island with some friends and their parents. That will cost $20.

Bluffton High School sophomore Caitlin Thurnau found her dress for $110.

Her mother, Christine Brooks, said she and Caitlin decided, since she still has two more proms to attend, they would try to find a dress for $100 or less. They didn't quite meet that goal, but Brooks said they were close enough.

Of course, the dress isn't the only expense of going to prom. Caitlin will go to a salon to get her hair done. Brooks said that will cost between $30 and $75, depending on what she has done. She said that was the best deal they could find in the area.

They've also spent about $30 on shoes and $20 on jewelry. Caitlin's date will pay for dinner.

Brooks and Roberts got off easy, compared to many other parents.

One Hilton Head Island boutique has sold more than 50 dresses for prom this year, and many of those dresses cost almost $1,000.

Luciana owner Luciana Quiroga said the dresses in her shop start at $600. The most expensive prom dress she has sold was $1,265.

Quiroga said prom means a lot to high-schoolers.

"They do it like a wedding," she said. "I mean, the whole process -- buying the dress, getting the hair done, the makeup, manicure, pedicure, everything. I think if it's the senior year, it's not (unreasonable), but like sophomores and juniors, I don't think they should spend that much money. ... If it's senior year, you only graduate from high school once, so why not?"

Other local shops that sell dresses for prom include Chicas on the Promenade in Bluffton and The Porcupine on Hilton Head.

Chicas owner Sabra Stutz said her store has sold between 70 and 90 prom dresses so far this year. The average prom dress at Chicas costs about $375 and a little more than $400.

Avis Rollison of The Porcupine said the average price of a prom dress in her store is about $250.

Like many other shops that sell dresses for prom, these stores keep a list of which dresses have been bought so two girls don't show up in the same dress at the same prom.

And as far as the guys go, tuxedo rentals are running about $100. Soiree in the Village at Wexford on Hilton Head has had about 20 requests for tux rentals for this year's proms.

Owner Susanna Landi said a complete tuxedo, including shoes and accessories, is $115. If they want a pocket square, it's an extra $6. Their most expensive tux is $189.

"For the most part, the high school guys are like, 'Just don't make me look stupid,' " Landi said.

For the kids who plan on taking a limo to prom, it's going to cost about $500 for the night. Most local limousine rental companies charge $100 an hour, with a five-hour minimum. Some require an additional percentage for gratuity.

"I do think a lot of kids and parents go a bit overboard," mom Christine Brooks said. "This is a school event, not a wedding. I don't believe we need to spend a thousand dollars on a dress, hair, shoes, limo and dinner. But at the same time, I do believe it is a very special moment in high school they should enjoy."

Follow reporter Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.

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