How much does it cost to go to prom? We added up some average prices for gowns, tuxes and more


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Attending your high school prom is not usually a cheap date. And this year might be even more expensive than usual.

After proms were all pretty much canceled in 2020 and those held in 2021 were somewhat last-minute affairs. The proms of 2022 are starting to look closer to how they did before the pandemic. But the supply chain issues, inflation and other factors that have grown over the last two years are hitting stylist and retailers just like they’re hitting everyone else.

And so, unsurprising, a number of items or services usually needed for prom have only gotten more expensive since 2019.

We reached out to a few businesses in our area to try and find an average price range for some of the most common prom necessities – namely, a gown, a tuxedo rental, flowers and even a limousine rental. And here are some of the numbers we found.

Note that these prices are only estimates, based on discussions with a few local businesses. Prices can vary wildly for these services and products, and that’s also not including expenses like hair, nails, shoes or jewelry to complete any prom looks.

Prom gown: around $300-$700, before alterations

It’s certainly possible to find cheaper prom dresses, especially if you give yourself lots of time and are willing to be a bit more creative in your search. But if you’re checking out the off-the-rack selection at a store like Hershey’s Cocoa Couture, $300 is going to be the low end.

“Our dresses here, we try to keep them under $500,” said Jill Brown, owner of Cocoa Couture. “We don’t always accomplish that, some of them might be $525, somewhere around there. We have a lot of them start in the $300 range, with most probably being in the $400s, if you were going to average them out.”

Brown said that many prom dresses go far beyond her own soft limit of $500, adding that “the average dress right now is probably $500 to $600.” But the limited space in her store means she tries to keep the average price lower, to appeal to more customers.

When it comes to overall prices, she said, “everything has gone up.” But not as much as she had initially feared. The biggest price increases she’s seen aren’t among the prom gowns, but the wedding gowns.

“With bridal, there’s been a big increase, because a lot of that like the lace and stuff comes from France,” she said. “Everything is sourced from other countries. The beading is done in a different country, and the dresses are then made in China, because the cheapest place they can get them made.”

Prices on prom gowns in her inventory have maybe gone up an average of $10 each, she said. But the other problem is just getting the dresses in the first place. Supply chain issues meant that this season had fewer dresses, and the ones she did have have fewer available sizes.

“I didn’t see a big price increase with the prom gowns, but I did see that we did not get a lot of stock that we ordered,” Brown said. “It just didn’t come in time. Once we got a dress, in other years, we could order a different size in that dress. But you couldn’t order anything [this year]. There was nothing in stock.”

Factoring in alterations (which Brown gave an admittedly loose estimate of another $75, depending on what needs to be done), and a prom gown could certainly put a dent in anyone’s budget.

Tuxedo: $100-$250 for a rental

Costs used to be a lot simpler to calculate, according to Ron Kaplan, owner of Top Line Tuxedos in Susquehanna Township.

“It’s difficult, there are so many different prices today,” Kaplan said. “Years ago, I could tell you every price on everything down to a penny. [Tuxedo rentals] can start at $100 But every time I say that, people who are coming in for a $100 tux pick out a $200 tux.”

The lower-end tuxedo rentals are your standard black suit, Kaplan said, but those with the traditional look can range “from low to high,” Kaplan said. And the high fashion looks that are popular with many prom students, which can come in a variety of colors and styles, run in a range “from high to high,” he joked.

Rentals for tuxedos are far more common than purchases, with Kaplan estimating that only about one percent of the students he sees in his store taking home a tux permanently.

“The major reason for that, and I tell them honestly: if he goes off to college and puts on 10 pounds?” he said. “I might like that, because that means you’re coming back to buy him a new coat. I don’t recommend it. They’re going to pick up some weight, or maybe grow a little bit more.”

And prices have gone up for formal suits just as it has with gowns. But there’s a chance you might not see a drastic increase when it comes to prom tuxedos.

“We have faced increasing prices up and down the line,” Kaplan said. “But remember, we’re a rental company. So if I buy a coat, if [the supplier] increased the price $20 on the coat, and I rent it [at the usual rate] 20 times, it only cost me $1 per round. So the effect [on our profits] is not as dramatic. When you’re selling your retail, and they add $20, then I have to increase my price because I’m giving up pure profit, not 1/20th.”

So with rental prices not seeing as dramatic a rise as outright purchasing, once again, it makes more sense to rent. And just as with gowns, many shipments and new orders have yet to actually arrive on shelves. So while inventory may be more limited than usual, a huge price spike isn’t likely for a standard rental.

Flowers: $50-$100 for boutonnieres and corsages or nosegays

According to Mark
Vickrey of Blooms By Vickrey in Camp Hill, the rising prices in flowers goes back to how fewer were even being grown.

“[Growers] didn’t plant as many crops because they were throwing crops out, because they didn’t have any transportation to get flowers to people,” Vickrey said. “So now they’re back at square one, where they haven’t planted as much to get crops back into the supply chain, and then transportation costs, fuel costs. That all affected everything.”

Even extras like ribbons are in shorter supply than usual. And while not a concern for prom-going customers, glassware and other containers have seen price hikes, as have things like spray paint.

“Anything that came in a can [has gone up],” Vickrey said. “We’ve had spray paint that we haven’t been able to get for over a year and a half, because cans are going to the use of sanitizers and things like that. So in the industry, they think by September, we’ll have this far supplies back.”

Ultimately, flowers are still one of the cheaper parts of the prom checklist.

“At our store, for corsages? You’re looking at between $35 and $55 for wrist corsage,” Vickrey said. “A lot of people are now doing little nosegays, and there’s a larger price, they’re more like $55 to $75 depending on what flowers they would want. And the boutonniere is still like around $12 to $15, depending. Some are up to $20, but usually never over $20.”

Limousine: $400-$1,500, before fuel costs

The biggest factor in price for renting a limousine is how big a vehicle you want, according to Doug Rydbom, senior member at Premiere #1 Limousine Service.

“There’s there’s a whole range of vehicles due to capacities for passengers, as well as how long you’d like to have it for,” Rydbom said. “So if we start on the bottom end of the spectrum, we’re probably in an eight passenger vehicle, which would be our smallest limousine. Somebody could get into the minimum rental on stuff like that for less than $400, which is about three hour type scenario.”

Renting a limo means you’re also renting a driver, so if you are just using it for your arrival to prom, the three hour window ought to cover things. But if you also want a ride home in one afterwards, for example, Rydbom said that “you might go from a $400 ride up to possibly an $800 ride, and that’s a smaller car.”

Yes, an eight-person limo is a smaller car, compared to the other vehicles available. There are cars that can carry 10, 12, 14, 18 and even more passengers.

“Now, if you go into the big party buses?” Rydbom said. “We’ve got them for up to 30 passengers. For a minimum rental, you’re about $800. For full nights, that the students might be asking for, they can be up to about $1,500.”

Now, keep in mind that if everyone is paying their share, the cost can be somewhat reasonable. A $400 limo divided eight ways, as well as a $1,500 party bus divided evenly by 30 students, is only $50 a person. But that’s before some surcharges, including, as you might imagine, fuel expenses. The sharp rise in gasoline prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has of course affected rented vehicles.

All told, Rydbom estimates that costs have risen somewhere between 15 and 20 percent for the limousine rental business in the past year.

“We have recently changed the prices here this year, and a lot of it was driven by the cost of labor, as well as cost of fuel,” Rydbom said. “So our limousine [costs] went up. We have a fuel surcharge that we’ve put on right now. And our rates went up about eight percent this year on the rental base. Everything in America went up.”

Prom tickets: $45-$65, depending on the school

The tickets themselves are another cost, and that too can vary by school. Lower Dauphin High School’s tickets are $50 for seniors and $55 for juniors, while Central Dauphin East’s prom tickets are $65 each. The average in our area seems to be somewhere between $45 and $65 per person, and even then, whether or not dinner is included can also vary.

Total cost per couple: $700-$1,300+ (and remember, that’s without shoes, hair, nails or jewelry)

Assuming that a couple goes all out, joins in with a shared cost of a limousine with friends, rents a tux, buys a new dress, and decks themselves out in a matching set of flowers? Prom this year for two can easily cost a month’s rent or mortgage for most families.

Costs can definitely be cut down – finding a dress on a clearance rack, for instance, or skipping the limo – but even to get in the door and look the part, it’s an expensive evening. After two years of canceled or curtailed events, the businesses that supply these items are seeing rising costs and diminished inventory. But what’s a few dollars in exchange for a celebration of their high school careers – a celebration that many didn’t even have the chance to take part in during the pandemic?

And of course, for those with the money, there are always more expensive ways to make some high school memories – like going all out with tuxes, gowns, and alterations, before adding in other accessories. But hey, college or careers are just around the corner for a lot of these students, so it wouldn’t kill anybody to work within a budget, either.


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