Prom Night -- Living Up to Expectations
By Jamie Lober / April & May 2012
Prom is the most anticipated high school event of the year, with hype building up as it nears. South Floridians of all ages reflect upon the prom experience, whether in expectation of a wonderful night or looking back on it decades later.
Jolene Quinn, 52, of Davie, described her prom as one of her favorite high school experiences. She was in the prom court, which she likens to being on "American Idol." "I remember feeling like Cinderella going to the ball, wearing an orchid corsage and not being given a curfew that night by my parents," Quinn said.
Samantha Gibbons, 35, of Coconut Creek, did not view her prom as favorably. "I went with a group of girlfriends, since we did not have dates, and it was just another night," said Gibbons. "We ended up going out for dessert afterwards and then returned home. I cannot believe what a big deal prom has become."
While limousines, tuxedoes and ball gowns apropos for a White House gala are commonplace these days, unlike 60 years ago, the event itself is now a very lavish affair. Every school has a unique way to celebrate the occasion. "Boca Raton High School's prom is huge, a black-tie event with a full, sit-down, formal dinner," said Elyce Singer, prom coordinator at Boca Raton High School.
Invitations disclosing the theme are issued on March 13 to seniors. "It is a big deal and we never repeat a theme, with past years being Arabian nights, the roaring twenties, winter wonderland and paradise island," said Singer.
No two proms are alike. "Stoneman Douglas High School's prom is on May 12 at the Diplomat in Hallandale Beach and old Hollywood is the theme," said teacher Danielle Driskoll.
Dëcor varies. "Our centerpieces are magnificent," said Singer.
Kids at Boca Raton High School choose who they sit with when they buy their tickets. Place card seating is used. Favors like photo albums are often given at the end of the night.
Prom can prove costly. Aside from tickets, which usually run about $100, dollars, there may be a few other expenses. "Kids buy dresses that range from $250 to $600, rent tuxedoes, get a limo and do after-parties," said Raeann Panciera, owner at Susan Rose Dresses in Plantation. "Prom today is more significant than in the past. My daughter's group last year rented out a boat that cruised the Intracoastal Waterway, so the kids have a lot of memories because they do exciting things," said Panciera.
While prom is presumably a time to let loose, kids still have to follow the guidelines of the county school district. "When the kids come in, they go through a security check," said Singer.
This has not hindered the popularity. "There are over 600 kids (in attendance), so it is a tremendous amount of work but well worth it," she said.
The most common issues arise as a result of negligence to follow the dress code. "Some schools are stricter than others," said Panciera. "A lot will not allow a deep back that is risquë. Some do not allow an open front where the stomach is out and some have a code on how short it (a dress) can be."
Most girls look forward to dress shopping and some schools get donations or have fundraisers for kids who cannot afford proper attire. Some stories have dress registries, so no two dresses appear at the same school's prom. "We do a fashion show the day we start selling tickets for the guys and they get a free tuxedo if they participate," said Singer.
Trends have changed over the years. "For awhile, the girls were wearing black dresses, then rainbow dresses, then shorter, then longer," said Singer.
"Style-wise, sequins, runway and red carpet-type dresses, beading, mermaid and Grecian style are in, as well as silvers, golds and more dramatic styles," said Panciera.
School personnel note that prom is a night where the kids shine. "What stands out is how incredible they look and how you do not even recognize some of them because they look so fabulous and their behavior is perfect," said Singer.
It is also a time when recognition is given to those who deserve it most. "We do not have kids vote on prom court king and queen; we vote on kids who have done good things for the school, helped out in the classrooms and are nice to other people," said Singer.
Kids should not miss prom. "They are treated with dignity and respect and it is a big night in their lives," said Singer.
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