Prom Advisor Tips Across America
Prom traditions and ideas from your peers throughout the U.S.
The most valuable information in planning a Prom often comes from experience. Therefore, American Prom asked Prom Advisors and Student Prom Planners from across the country to share their unique Prom ideas, traditions, and planning tips. You can borrow their innovative ideas or expand on them to create your school's own special Prom night.
Does your school have its own unique decorating ideas or planning tips? Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy planning!
When students register at the beginning of the school year, we ask them for their parents' e-mail addresses. This helps us keep in contact with the parents, but it's also great for Prom planning. We e-mail all the parents and ask if they can help out with Prom or if the companies they work for can donate funds or products for Prom. This helps us keep our costs low and the parents and the community feel more involved.
Suzanne - Prom Advisor
We decorate every area of our school to match our theme, including everything around the gum, the cafeteria, the hallways, and even the bathrooms. It really helps to transform the school.
Travis - Junior Class Sponsor
We video every aspect of Prom: walking into the room, dancing, picture taking, Prom Court coronation, etc. A week or two later, we sell the videos/DVDs to students as a fundraiser. That's how we pay for the next year's Prom.
Joanna - Prom Chair
We order vases with our Prom theme and date imprinted on it. Then we fill each vases with water and flowers for table centerpieces. Then we put a ticket under one seat at each table. At the end of the night, the DJ announces that whoever was sitting in the spot gets to take the centerpiece home as a Prom memento.
Alexis - Prom Advisor
We partner with a local fast-food company for our Post Prom party. They offer free food and a safe place for our kids to hang out until curfew.
Our school has a website where we don't have to count out all the ballads.
Max - Junior Class Sponsor
The best advice I can give is to make copies of the decoration kit you're using and send them out to the decorating committee a few weeks before Prom. We do this every year so the group will be familiar with the decorations and hopefully have some idea of how to put them together.
Karen - Prom Advisor
Parents are always invaluable at Prom time! We ask mothers (and a few fathers too) to be on-call for emergencies like a dress strap breaking or food stains on a tie. We set up a little area in the corner of the room where students can get necessities like bandages, bobby pins, safety pins, or stain removers. You can never be too prepared.
Janice - Event Coordinator
We do our Junior Prom in the gym at our school and go all out with the decorations. When the students enter the gym, it's like they're stepping into another world. One the other hand, we have our Senior Ball at an off-campus site. This makes the two dances unique experiences for each student.
Cheryl - Leadership Advisor
Since we have great skiing in our area, we skip the Post-Prom and have a school-sponsored ski trip the next day. Since the students aren't out too late the night before, they're energized to spend the whole day on the slopes.
Stephen - Parent Prom Committee
Two basic decorating hints: balloons are great for filling up areas that you're not sure what to do with and gossamer is great for covering up anything you want to hide. Both these decorations are inexpensive and add a lot of color to a room.
Patricia - Prom Advisor
Not all of our students feel comfortable dancing, so a month or two before Prom, our gym teachers focus they're classes on different types of dancing like ballroom and swing. The students have a ball in class and learn something that could come in handy the rest of their lives. Plus, just about everyone ends up dancing at the Prom.
Elizabeth - Leadership Advisor
At our school, the Prom Court is chosen by teacher recommendations and GPAs. The names of the Prom Court members are put in a decorated box and the Prom King and Queen's names are pulled from the box. There is no voting done by students so the voting is not just a popularity contest.
Sherry - Prom Advisor
We get parent volunteers to act as bathroom attendants. It's fun for the students because they feel like they're at a fancy location and the parents can keep an eye on what's going on.
Miranda - Prom Advisor
The administrators at our school hire a photographer who does digital photography. After we get our picture taken, we're given a slip with a website and password. We get to check out the photos on-line a week later and we can just order copies right off the web. Plus, we can have the photographer take the normal posed picture of us and some fun ones too at no extra charge.
Kara - Prom Committee Chair
For our decorations, we use a lot of lighting to set the mood. We use colored gels, gobos, light towers, etc. We set up teams to be in charge of different areas of décor so everyone knows his or her job. We have weekend workshops to prep for decorating.
Robert - Junior Class Advisor
At our school, we always have mints scattered on the table. We usually order the kind with shiny tins and we have our Prom theme imprinted on them. That way no one has to limit themselves on what they have for dinner (like onion soup or garlic bread). Everyone is less self-conscience and no one has to suffer. Plus, they're useful mementos.
Julie - Prom Committee Co-Chair
On the Friday before Prom, we have a breakfast in the morning for the students. Included with their French Toast and bacon, we have an alcohol-awareness program. We really want to promote a safe Prom night and this is a great way to do it.
Donna - Junior Class Advisor
Our school is located in a really small town, so we usually have a theme focused on a big city (like Paris or Las Vegas). This way the students can feel like they're getting the big-city experience. We even have parents decorate their cars to look like taxis (something we don't have in our town) and have them pick up the Prom goers and take them home. Some of them even get tips!
Richard - Prom Advisor
Get ahead on decorating by stapling gossamer over sections of twine or fishing line to make panels ahead of time. When decorating begins, you just have to hang the panels around the walls of your event room.
Tina - Prom Advisor
Our school is focused on being community-minded, so we offered a discount on Prom tickets if the students brought in a can of food when they purchased the tickets. We donated the goods to the local soup kitchen. Both our students and those in need benefited from our Prom.
Michele - Prom Advisor
The Homecoming King and Queen at our school crown the new Prom King and Queen. Also, no one from the senior Homecoming Court is eligible to be on the Prom Court.
Tammie - Prom Advisor
Three months before Prom, we asked our musically inclined students to submit recordings of their original music. During Prom, we interspersed the students' creations with popular music to make the evening completely unique.
Russell - Music Teacher
In the center of each dinner table, we placed a small glass bowl with a Beta fish to serve as decorations. About an hour before Prom ended, we had parent volunteers collect the centerpieces and sell the fish along with flowers for $5. It was very popular and a great way to raise extra funds for Prom.
Jennifer - Junior Class Advisor
Our entire school got involved with Prom. Our theme was Paris Nights, so the history teachers focused on French history, the math teachers focused on converting Euros to American dollars, and the art teachers had the students study French impressionism. By the time Prom night rolled around, everyone in the school was an expert on France and its capital.
Brad - Program Advisor
We hang PVC pope around the gym and then drape gossamer on it. This creates an amazing tent-like ceiling. It looks ever better with twinkle lights behind the gossamer.
Stewart - Prom Advisor
At our school, the Prom Committee sells photo albums a week after Prom. They insert photos of highlights during the night, like Prom King and Queen coronation, but leave lots of space for students to put in their own photos. We use the profits for next year's Prom.
Carlos - Prom Committee Chair
Use parents as a resource. Every year we send out a survey to the parents of our students and find out who would be willing to volunteer and who has skills and tools that we can borrow. We get tons of great ideas and help from our parents each year.
Michael - Junior Advisor
Due to budgetary reasons, we hold our Prom in our school gym. We try to transform it so the students feel like they're in a luxurious location. This past year we turned the gym into a Starry Night. The students barely noticed that they were in the same room where they do push-ups daily.
Tina - Event Coordinator
One way we get great ideas is to observe other Proms in the area. We call the schools in advance for approval. When we go, we melt into the corners so we don't take away from anyone's night. We get lots of great ideas that way.
Maria - Prom Advisor
Our students use key tags as their tickets. They order them with their Prom theme imprinted on them so they can also serve as mementos. It eliminates having to print out tickets, plus they carry them on their key chains, which is great P.R. for our school.
Irene - Prom Advisor
We allow the entire school to be involved in ideas and decision making. That way, everyone feels like he or she had a part in Prom. We give the school four options for themes and let them vote on the one they like best.
Sherri - Prom Advisor
Our school focuses on teaching academic and practical skills. Two weeks before Prom, we invite an etiquette expert to speak to our English classes (so it hits all our grade levels). Each class learns a different etiquette skill like table manners, hand shakes, and proper attire. By the time they come to Prom, they don't have to worry about which fork to use!
Marianne - Prom Advisor
When hanging decorations from the ceiling, use thin fishing line. It makes the decorations look like they're suspended in air.
Jayla - Prom Committee Advisor
My school does a different take on the wedding “Dollar Dance” tradition. After we announce Prom King and Queen, Prom guests are invited to dance with the King or Queen for a dollar a dance. We donate the money we make from the dance to a local charity.
Dale – Prom Committee Chair
In your decorating, fill the space above by hanging decorations from the ceiling. Some eye-level decorations might lose some effect, by everyone will really notice the unique pieces hanging from the ceiling. Choose the hanging decoration in relations to your Prom theme.
Roseanne – Prom Advisor
One thing that will really save time is to try to assemble as much of your decorations as possible before you get to the Prom location. Another great tip is to use oil lamps on your tables. You don’t have to worry about the candles burning out and the lamps look really elegant.
Sally - Prom Advisor
One thing we do that helps with our planning and our decorating is to choose a theme from the beginning and coordinate everything around that theme. Also, a really unique thing we do each year is to keep the Prom location a secret. We have a big assembly the week before Prom and announce the location.
Sarah - Prom Advisor
We have the Garter Ceremony as our Prom tradition. All the girls wear garters just above their right knees, and at ceremony time, everyone gathers in a huge circle around the dance floor. Each girl removers her garter as the theme song of the Prom begins and places it on her date’s right arm, over the jacket sleeve. Then each couple dances together.
Mandy – Prom Chairman
To keep track of ticket sales and who has paid, we keep an accurate spreadsheet with students’ names, homerooms, how they paid, check numbers, and their dates’ names and schools. This helps keep us organized and keep track of our budget.
Brooke – Class Sponsor
Carry your theme through all the way, even into the bathrooms. They always match our theme and the kids love to see how we dress them up.
Susan - Junior Class Sponsor
What we do to keep things interesting is to keep our theme a secret. The parents do the decorating so the students don’t know the theme or what the decorations look like until they get there. It is a fun surprise.
Brian – Decorating Coordinator
To help with planning, we make a folder for each aspect of Prom, (i.e. dance, dinner, decorations). These folders get passed down year to year so little items can be remembered and glitches avoided.
Barb – Prom Advisor
We do something really unique for our Seniors. It is a tradition at our Prom to show the Senior video following dinner. The video highlights each Senior and is sponsored by the Juniors. Later, graduation is added to the video and each Senior receives a copy.
Lynette – Prom Advisor
At our school we realize not everyone is a dancer, so we have activities for non-dancers. We have an arcade with video games, casino games, air hockey, and billiards. It’s also a fun break for those that are dancing to take a break.
Tammy – Class Sponsor
Our school always does a Prom Week – a week dedicated to juniors and seniors. Mondays are pajama days, Tuesdays are College Days, Wednesdays are Junior/Senior Olympics, Thursdays are class spirit days, and Fridays are dress like your date days.
Kristen – Class President
When planning, do first things first. Get the DJ, the photographer, the location, and the money. Then decide what your budget is for the rest. Decide what you want to spend the most amount of money on — the meal, the decorations, the souvenirs, etc. Then go from there.
Lori – Prom Advisor
The student council or our school sells corsages and boutonnieres the week before Prom. This is a great fundraiser, and it saves the students (or the students’ parents) a special trip to the florist.
Amberly – Prom Advisor
One thing we do at our Prom that is nice, but I am not sure unique, is to have gifts for the sponsors and chaperones. They work so hard to plan and put things together that we give them a gift and recognize them at the Prom for their hard work.
Matthew – Junior Class President
This year our school is using a Mardi Gras theme. We’re going to charge $2 extra per ticket and donate that money for Hurricane Katrina victims.
Kourtney – Student Council President
We used balloon centerpieces and they worked really well. They were inexpensive and easy to put together. All of the Prom goers loved them and they were easy to clean up too!
Dru – Class of 2005 Advisor
The most creative thing we do with our decorating is that our centerpieces always have a theme. One year we took sheet music and placed it in a top hat centerpiece. The kids loved it. One year we had hot air balloons as centerpieces that matched our theme.
Sylvia – Prom Advisor
We always ask the school’s swing choir to perform one song. It doesn’t take away too much from their own Prom night, and it gives school groups the opportunity to perform at school functions.
Leslie – School Principal
Do not limit yourselves to using the props exactly as they are shown in the catalog. Change things a little and embellish to make the kit your own unique decoration.
Linda – Prom Advisor
Every year for Prom, we hold it at a different venue. This way we always have a new challenge for decorating and we never hear that it is the same as last year.
Plus, the students look forward to finding out where Prom will be held.
Kathleen – Prom Advisor
We used the sunken ship theme this past year for our Prom. For the table centerpieces, we made ship masts by tying two wooden dowels together with string. Then we placed them in a small container with sand and seashells and used gossamer to make the sails. They were so cute!
Martina - Prom Advisor
We always incorporate our souvenirs into our table decorations so the students can take them off the table at the end of the night. This helps with clean up and makes the tables look even dressier with the souvenirs at each setting.
Rebecca – Prom Advisor
One thing we do for favors is to give every attendee a disposable camera. That way they can take pictures of all their friends and record the memories of their special night.
Lisa - Prom Chair
One creative thing we did last year for our decorations was to make the tables into clocks. Our theme had to do with time so we used white table covers and used black cardboard to make the hands of the clock. We also used black paper to make numbers on the clock. The tables looked incredible.
John – Class Sponsor
For added community involvement, we put bleachers outside the school before Prom. Friends and family can come and watch all of the students get out of their cars and go into the gym. An announcer announces each couple as they get out of their car.
Beverly – Junior Class Advisor
One creative thing we did at our school this past year was with our decorations. Our theme was “Around the World,” so we chose four all-black props (one for each corner). We had Paris, NYC, Shanghai, and Italy. Keeping all of the big decorations black helped unify the theme and we used red accents to add some color. It looked amazing.
Rene – Student Council President
We give our Prom King and Queen all the royal accessories so they really feel like stars. Instead of just the typical crown and tiara, we deck them out in robes, sashes, scepters… everything we can find to make them feel special.
Benjamin – Prom Advisor
We do a couple of things at our Prom that make it unique and memorable. First, we read senior class wills and junior class prophecies at the Prom. Second, we have a senior slide show at the Prom.
Kay – Prom Advisor
The school I advise uses assigned seating at the Prom dinner. The school is small enough that the teachers know the different groups of friends. Of course the students are seated with their dates, but we mix the couples up with students that they might not be familiar with. This gives them a last opportunity to get to know a little bit more about their classmates.
Marcus – Prom Advisor
Instead of doing fundraisers, we get our budget from our tickets. Students pay cash for their Prom tickets and that’s how we determine our budget.
Mary – Prom Advisor
We sell flowers at Proms specifically for parents. We try to remind our students to thank their parents for all the time and help they get from them. The flowers sell for around $5 and are great thank yous.
Tina - Teacher
One way to really transform your decorations is to make a tent over the dance floor out of gossamer and lights. It looks amazing and elegant and really makes you feel like you are transported to a different place.
Ashley – Student Council
One unique thing we do at our Prom is to video tape the students as they enter. Then the tape is put on a loop and played during our after-Prom event. This gives everyone a chance to see all of the people who came and what they were wearing. It’s fun and the students really enjoy it.
Joni – Prom Advisor
Our school does not have a Prom Court. Instead, it uses the money that would be spent on sashes and crowns to buy better-quality favors. There’s not popularity contest and everyone has something nice to help them remember Prom.
Nancy – Junior Class Advisor
For a Hawaiian Prom, turn fans on low around the dance floor to give a beach feel.
Maria - Prom Advisor
We do a class fundraising project at our school to add to the Prom budget. The top 16 sellers from the class get to be the decorators for the Prom.
Rudy - Prom Advisor
One creative thing we do with our decorating is to use mirrors on the tables for food display. They're also great to use on the tables as part of the centerpieces and to scatter around the room. They really add elegance.
Melissa - Even Coordinator
One year our Project-Graduation Parent Team offered a valet parking service to students at the Prom. This was a great success and really added to the class of the night.
Donna – Student Council Sponsor
Starting the Monday after Prom, we debrief. We make a post-Prom sheet and go over everything that went right and wrong and write down all ideas, last minute glitches, etc. for the next year while it is still fresh in our minds.
Deb – Prom Advisor
The Senior class is the guest at the Prom, so they give input on the music. I have each Senior submit a list of five songs they want to hear. This gives me a cross-section of tastes so I can compile a list for the DJ.
Carla – Prom Advisor
Our Prom starts way before the actual night. Finding a date and asking him or her in a special way is just as much fun as the dance. The boys especially try to out do each other with the most unique way of asking a girl to go to Prom. This makes the night of Prom even more special because everyone knows all the time and work that went into the invite.
Bonnie – Prom Advisor
All students that attend our Prom are required to stay until a certain time of night once they arrive. This is for safety. So, to make it fun and to motivate them to stay at the Prom rather than participating in alternative activities, we give away prizes throughout the night. At the end of the night, we give away a grand prize of $500.
Myriam – Junior Class Sponsor
Since it’s not always very warm at the end of April or early May, we try to focus our theme around “warm” ideas like tropical islands or summer dreams. We also use bright colors that are considered warm.
Rita – Prom Advisor
Our school makes a Prom scrapbook every year. In this scrapbook, we put ideas, sketches, pictures, and write-ups on all of our plans and thoughts. We keep this each year so we can go back and look at what has been done in the past and what worked and what didn’t.
Diane – Teacher
We centered our theme around fairy tales and used a lot of castle decorations. Since every student is familiar with at least a few of the stories, they could all relate to some aspect of the decorations.
Larry - Teacher
This is simple, but allow the students to have ownership of their Prom. My philosophy has been as long as we are not breaking school-board policy and the students are willing to work to earn the money, we do what they want to do. We also still have our Prom in our gym. The students have found that decorating is possibly as much fun as going to the Prom.
Mary Ellen – Prom Advisor
Before the Prom, we have a Grand March of all of the Prom goers downtown. It’s a great place for parents and friends to see the students rather than going to the Prom. Everyone loves it.
Don – Class Advisor
One thing we do each year that is really fun is the class officers are the emcees for our Prom event. They plan out special presentations and do the talking and announcing during the Prom. They really have fun with it and it makes Prom more personal for the students.
Angela – Junior Class Sponsor
Our Prom is basically free for Juniors and Seniors. The whole budget is based on fundraising and each student who wants to go to Prom just has to meet a sales goal set by the class officers. If they don’t meet the goal, then they have to pay for their dinner.
Jacquie – Prom Sponsor
We hold an after-Prom party. It starts right after the prom and we have a lot of nice prizes for the students that stay at the party. This is a fun and safe way for students to enjoy the time after the Prom is over.
Phil – Prom Advisor
When it comes to decorating, start with something simple. One year our theme was November Rain and we started with just a simple umbrella as the centerpiece of our dance and expanded from there. It was quite creative.
April – Event Coordinator
Besides having dancing and a DJ, we try to have other options for the students to do during Prom. We have games such as volleyball and BINGO. We also have a dance contest, which the kids enjoy.
Cassie – Prom Advisor