Victoria Swift, 18, estimates that her dress for her prom at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City will cost her $200 to $400.
She’s had time to save, though: She is part of a 15-member prom committee that started planning the event as soon as school started last fall.
Swift and other students across the country are browsing websites for bargains and shoring up their dates for the event that not only marks the end of four years in high school, but in some ways is a rite of passage. The prom is short for “promenade.” Students dressing in their fanciest outfits and dance, hug, laugh, talk, share and cry about what they will miss or not miss about their academic institution.
But sometimes, the prices and the relationship drama can make facing a prom formidable.
“Every girl wants to be a princess for a day.” -- Victoria Swift
Their school, located on Erie Street in downtown Jersey City, is the top-ranked public high school in the city as well as one of the premiere high schools in the state of New Jersey. It is a magnet school that requires an entrance exam for enrollment.
Swift, who is vice president of McNair’s senior class, will attend the prom with her boyfriend of two years, Douglas O’Mara.
“Basically, how I look at my prom is, every girl wants to be a princess for a day,” said Swift, who will head off to study at The College of New Jersey as an English major in the fall.
Skipping the limo
To reduce the cost of tickets, the senior class has raised more than $2,500 for the prom. They conducted pie and cheesecake sales throughout the year, as well as a “Mr. Academic” male beauty pageant.
Swift said that the DJ will cost the committee only $400. They are getting the venue at a discount because a classmate’s mother works for a company that holds events at the Bethwood.
Tickets will cost $75 per McNair student, $85 for non-McNair student.
Swift said she and a group of friends are driving to the prom, which she points out is a common scenario for many of those attending, since limousines cost $40 per person.
Regarding the dress, Swift got some advice from her mother, Laura.
“If you have a dress that is plain on the bottom,” Swift said, “you can get it altered so that it functions as a party dress for other occasions, rather than having a dress that you will only wear once.”
After the prom, Swift and some friends are renting a place in Ocean City, N.J. for Memorial Day weekend, which follows prom night.
Cutting the drama by taking a friend
Ashley Mendoza worked hard alongside her classmate Victoria Swift to make sure the prom is a success. That meant putting together a plan with the prom committee for decorating the Bethwood, suggesting the theme of “Cinderella” and “Happily Ever After.”
Mendoza knows who she will attend the prom with: Her friend Nick Arrue, since both promised each other that they would be each other’s dates, going back to their freshman year.
She said that many of the prom couples will be friends accompanying each other to the prom, which cuts down on much of the drama of people worrying about finding a date.
“Everyone is calm and we all know each other and like each other,” Mendoza said.
While the prom will be a memory to cherish, the more interesting time will be after the prom. Instead of partying at the Jersey shore, or taking a getaway in the Pocono Mountains as some McNair are planning to do, there is camping in the Catskills. Mendoza is part of a group of a dozen friends that are planning to enjoy New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Why rough it in the great outdoors?
“Places like Wildwood and other shore towns are going to be so crowded with everyone wanting to go to the beach that weekend,” Mendoza said. “And we wanted to avoid that.”
Mendoza will be back in upstate New York in the fall, as she’ll be attending Syracuse University to study mathematics.
I’m going; whatever
Hart Welles, the senior class president, is taking a more casual approach to the prom.
Welles, who hasn’t decided on a college but plans to study environmental engineering, says some of his fellow seniors are still trying to find dates.
While he has a girlfriend, Sarah Petrick, who will accompany him, Welles said he doesn’t care whether or not they attend, as he could find “better things to do.”
“They are fun to go to for the experience of them,” Welles said. “But I find that can I find a more fun use of my time.”
He said if he wasn’t going to the prom, he would be exploring Jersey City at night.
“I really enjoy wandering around Jersey City, biking around town with friends and just hanging out,” Welles said.
Welles said he will “dress nice” and will probably rent a tuxedo. He said he is hesitant to put on the old, worn-out tuxedo that he currently owns and wears on occasion.
Welles said he is just looking forward to going to have a good time with his school friends on their special night together.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.