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Basics for Prom committees


It's all about where you hold your prom: The right place can really make the evening. I mean, who wants to tell their kids ten years from now that mommy & daddy went to their prom at McDonalds? - well, maybe not Mcdonalds, but you know what I mean.

Okay, so there are three things to consider when you're choosing a location:

  1. Don't get a place that's too large for the number of people you're expecting: you don't want your crowd looking lost in there.

  2. Don't get a place that's too small for the number of people you're expecting: you don't want them feeling like sardines in a can. Besides, there're laws against overcrowding.

  3. No matter what, get a place with high ceilings: something about high ceilings makes formal affairs like prom, well, more formal. You don't want people feeling like prom's being held in somebody's basement, do you?

Actually, there's a fourth thing, and that is: how much is it going to cost?

Used to be prom was almost always held in the school gym, or in the school hall, or some other large place on school grounds. But times have changed, and now prom can be held almost anywhere. Some places you might consider are: fine hotels, YMCA, ELKS, American Legion or other halls, convention centers, and you know, those marriage places where everyone goes to party after the wedding service. All of these are good prom sites, but each one has a different cost. Ranged from Expensive to less expensive, here's the list:

Fine Hotels   Most Expensive
Convention ctrs   Middle Expensive
Reception halls   Middle Expensive
YMCA, Etc.   Less Expensive
School grounds   Least Expensive

And here're a couple of alternatives that have become popular in recent years:

Cruise ships-- no, not the big ones that take you out to sea, but the smaller ones that sit in a harbor and that you party on.

Lodges-- seems these days there's a lodge for every kind of activity: lodges at country clubs and golf courses, lodges at ski resorts, and so on. Many of these are rentable for the night (particularly if you know someone who's a member!).

And how expensive are cruise ships and lodges? Well, usually just a cut above the fine hotels.

Of course, when considering the cost of the hall, you need to take into account whether or not the place caters and/or provides its own security. If you need to hire these from outside, it may drive the total cost up. If you use the site's services, there will still be a charge, but it will almost certainly be less than hiring from outside. The best thing to do, is to shop around, to ask about what services are available, and to consider packages-- that is, hall, catering and security at one price, or hall and catering only, etc.

Whichever place you choose, you need to keep one thing in mind concerning expense: Much of this expense will be reflected in the tickets you sell to prom-goers. So if you don't'want to scare them all off with an outrageously costly ticket, you need to keep location expenses in check (especially since there are several other key expenses besides renting the hall).

Like location, the right music is everything-- and I mean everything! You can put up with a low-ceiling, cramped, crowded and smelly place, but you can't put up with cr--py music. No way. So here you have some alternatives, and they're all good ones:

The Band
Can you get a band? And if so, are they a good band? I mean, can they play the songs you want them to play-- your theme song, particular songs your classmates like, and so on? When you're checking bands out, ask to get their playlist. In return, give them the tunes you want played and ask if they can play them. If they say yes, get all this in writing-- you don't want them just reeling you in or taking you for a sucker. Also, be sure to get references-- where have they played, what kinds of gigs, that sort of thing. Then call up these people and ask if they were satisfied with the band's performance. Finally, be sure to get a sample of their sound. Most of them will provide you with a demo CD or cassette so you can gauge their sound and see if it's for you.

Now, if you get a band, you need to keep this in mind: the band doesn't play non-stop from the moment it arrives to the moment everyone's stepping into their limos. They take breaks, and they play sets. In between their sets, you need more music, and this is usually provided by a DJ. In other words, if you get a band, you will probably also want to get a DJ-- but a low key one, basically a disc spinner and nothing else. On the other hand, you can also have someone from school handle the music during the band's sets. Mostly, they'll just stick a CD or tape on the player, and that's it.

The DJ
If you don't get a band, then you must get a DJ and you have to get the right DJ. Because the right DJ is like the Master of Ceremonies: with music, and with speech and other hints, he's the guy who directs most of what's going on. Very important role! Many of them even bring along light shows, fog machines, and other cool party stuff.

So, what do you do about selecting a DJ? Just what you would have done about selecting the band: get references, and check up on these references. Show him the songs you want played and get him to commit to these. Get all of this in writing because, again, you don't want to be promised one thing, then given another. And finally, make sure he's got liability insurance (yes, I know, I know, but it doesn't hurt to play it safe).

One other thing, concerning both band and DJ: don't be afraid to shop around, and be sure to get quotes before you agree to anything (just common business sense).

A picture is worth a thousand words, so you don't want the picture to be blurry, or too dark, or with the posers' heads cut off-- because that'll just provoke the wrong thousand words, most of which cannot be printed here. So be sure to get a good photographer: visit the studio, see samples of his work, get references, and get price quotes (definitely).

A word on service. The photographer doesn't just come and take some pictures. The right photographer sets up, or helps set up the background, consults with the prom committee on what will look best and what theme is going that year, and generally gets involved. Just be sure that when you select your photographer, he's prepared to do more than point and shoot.

Also, get a firm date on the delivery of the photographs-- get this in writing. Also get a commitment on reorder dates. The right photographer should be able to give you these dates without hemming and hawing.

Finally, ask about presentation, or the photo-package-- how are these photographs going to arrive, wrapped in yesterday's newspaper, or safely tucked into pretty folders of some kind? All of this is part of the photographer's package and you have to be prepared to make him stick to it.

When? WHen? When?

When should you get your hall, hire the band or DJ, and contract a photographer? Not at the last minute! Not even the month before!

Here are the time frames to keep in mind:

Location: depending where, it could be anywhere from a few months to 18 months, so plan ahead!

Entertainment: the best always go first, so, get your entertainment at least three to six months ahead of time.

Photographer: Since weddings begin in the spring months and he will be terribly busy, particularly in May, you should also contract him at least six months ahead of time.

These are your three big items that you simply must have in time, and so they are the ones you need to take care of before you do anything else (like setting a prom theme or worrying about decorations). Just make sure you have your place, your music, and the guy who's going to capture it all on camera for you, and you'll do just fine.

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