With spring just around the corner, high school students around Greater Williamsburg are getting ready for the age-old American tradition of prom.
But what many don’t realize is planning an event like this takes multiple students, months of hard work, and thousands of dollars.
“Everyone is expecting this to be beautiful and perfect,” said Archie Jefferson, student advancement coach at Lafayette High School and the staff member in charge of planning prom. “They’re not staying up at night thinking about colors and tablecloths, but I am.”
This year will be Jefferson’s third time planning prom, and while he has been able to use past experience to prepare, each year he tries to outdo the previous. Jefferson describes himself as a “hopeless romantic,” and prom is his masterpiece.
“If you’ve never been in love, you’ll fall in love at this dance,” Jefferson said.
For Jefferson, this is the chance to create the most romantic night of these students’ young lives. Prom is an event that he enjoys planning he said, and he even is flying his own mother in from Alabama to be his date to prom this year.
“As a young lady, you want to feel like a queen at prom,” Jefferson said. “And my mother never got to have that, so I want her to have this out-of-this-world experience.”
Getting to work
Planning for the prom at Lafayette starts months before the actual event when Jefferson makes a call to students from the junior class to join the planning committee.
Each week, a group of 10 juniors at Lafayette meet during their academic enrichment period at 7:30 a.m. to discuss tiaras, DJ’s and decorations. While the committee is open to all students, only females at Lafayette have stepped up to join. The group of 10 female students spend their mornings at a table spread with thick copies of prom-planning magazines across it.
It is a lot of work Jefferson said, but these students take it seriously.
Not only is this group of students taking time out of their mornings to plan this event, but they have to go in on the day of prom to decorate which takes time out of their process for getting ready for that night, according to Ty Hundley, a junior at Lafayette.
“The hardest part is making sure everyone is going to have a good time,” Hundley said. “We don’t want people to say ‘oh, prom was wack,’ because we’ve tried our hardest to plan something nice.”
In addition to worrying about making the night special for their peers, these students have to continuously take budget into account. Each year, the students have to rely on ticket sales to cover the cost of the event.
At Lafayette, the prom costs $3,500 to create and while it takes all of this money to build a prom, the event brings in even more— nearly $7,000 according to Jefferson.
“Prom is the biggest money-maker,” Jefferson said. “Nobody makes more money than prom.”
At Jamestown High School, prom raises approximately $10,000-$13,000 in ticket sales and Jessica Switzer, lead school counselor and head of planning prom at Jamestown has relied on these ticket sales for the past seven proms she has planned.
According to Switzer, the money that is leftover after paying for the expenses of the dance stays with the junior class into their senior year to pay for the senior class gift, the senior trip or any other events that the students want to have.
Prom is important to these students not only for the actual event but the revenue it brings in for other events afterward, Switzer said. These students are putting in the effort not only to have a nice prom but to have a good senior year.
With months of planning, thousands of dollars on the line and the opinion of their peers at risk, planning this event is more than simply picking out colors and themes. To these students, planning prom is more than just one night of fun, Jefferson said.
After months of work, though, the students and staff sponsor get to walk into the event and know that they made it possible.
“Most of us haven’t even gone to prom yet,” Hundley said. “So when you finally get there you know that you’re the one who did it, it’s magic.”