Downsized prom

After canceling the event last year, Roman Catholic high school principals OK a scaled-down version.

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards
April 12, 2006 8:48PM (UTC)
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The prom is leaner and cheaper, but at least it's back on at two Roman Catholic high schools in Long Island, N.Y. MTV reports that the school principals have agreed to a scaled-back version of the event after canceling the prom last year because they were appalled at how extravagant it had become. But even the downsized prom hardly seems like a bargain: Students of Kellenberg Memorial High School and Chaminade High School for boys will now be bused to New York City for a dinner and dancing cruise that still costs $100 a head. And it's jackets and ties and dresses instead of tuxes and gowns.

"When we canceled the prom, we said all along that we wanted to find some alternative event," Father James Williams of Chaminade told MTV. "And this idea came from [the students]. There are some positive things about a class celebrating four years together and bringing it to a close, but we wanted to make sure that those things weren't lost in the debacle that was prom."


If a fancy boat dance is a compromise, what was the original prom like? In a letter to parents justifying the earlier ban, Brother Kenneth Hoagland of Kellenberg called prom culture "sick" and decried the "flaunting of affluence" that included $20,000 rental houses in the Hamptons and chartered boats for post-prom booze cruises.

Proms always have a tendency to get out of control -- because someone's parents try to outdo others with special meals, limos, even helicopters. But the phenomenon is not limited to suburban Long Island. According to my sister and her friends, who are high school seniors in San Diego, it's not unusual to spend $1,000 on the event. That tally comes from boutique cocktail dresses, shoes, professional hair and makeup, manicures, shares of limos, dinner, photos, flowers and tickets to the actual event -- which is usually held in a high-end hotel. And we're not even talking about the after-parties.

It does seem insane for an event that few people go on to remember as "the highlight of their youth." In the past few decades, parents, schools and students have done a fantastic job of curbing alcohol and stemming prom night deaths. Shouldn't we also be able to find a way to keep the institution but rein in the spending? In the meantime, someone get these girls a curling iron!

Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at

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