How Social Media Has Changed the Prom Game (and the Cost)

What used to be a sweet high school tradition has become an online competition, fueled by Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram

It’s prom season, but if you think you know what goes into prom planning in 2019, think again. The game has changed, thanks to social media. What used to be a sweet high school tradition has become an online competition, fueled by Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Elizabeth Anderson of Lakeville, Massachusetts, got her prom gown early.

“I think I went in January to get my dress,” said Anderson.

She said she wanted to be one of the first to post her gown on her school’s junior prom Facebook page.

“You just take a picture of it, and you put it on the website so no one gets the same one,” explained Anderson. “There’s a lot of drama if girls say they don’t really like that dress. It’s like you want to get the best dress, which is really stressful with Facebook and Instagram and all that.”

At the Ultimate Prom Store in Dedham, store manager Diana Patterson says social media has changed how they sell dresses.

“In the store, they’ll post what they have on, and they’re checking to see how many likes they got in that moment, and if they didn’t get enough likes, they move on to the next dress,” said Patterson.

When it comes to transportation this year, forget the limo, the party bus is now what’s popular with promgoers. The Buzz Bus, for example, holds 24 passengers. It has flashing lights, premium Spotify, and a glowing stripper pole.

This year's prom is all about getting noticed, but that big night can also come with a big price tag. It’s estimated each student could spend between $175 to $2,000 on prom.

“The cost is outrageous, but outrageous in a good way,” said Ashley Binda with “It really depends on the location you're in and how much you want to spend.”

A recent Yahoo Lifestyle Survey shows teens in the Northeast spend more on prom than those in the rest of the country. Parents of girls usually bear the brunt of prom expenses, but there are ways to cut costs.

If you splurge on your shoes, cut back on the dress. Instead of spending $300-800 on a gown, consider renting one, or buying second hand.

“We have previous season dresses that we sell. It's an opportunity for them to purchase as low as $50,” said Diana Patterson.

Hair, makeup, nails and accessories can add up as well — $500 in some cases. But you don't have to head to the salon to look picture perfect.

“That's all stuff you can do at home,” explained Binda. “Maybe your mom will help you, or your sister or a friend. There are definitely ways around it.”

And here’s a bargain: forget the limo or the classic car. Getting 24 friends to split the cost of a Buzz Bus to and from prom will only set you back about $30. You’ll make a statement and have those perfect pics for your social media accounts, with some money to spare.

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