How To Decorate For Prom For Prom Committees

Decorating for prom is no small task, from covering the basic elements to coordinating a theme to recruiting adequate labor.

Magical and promising, prom is a social rite of passage for many high school students. A prom's success largely depends on decorations - a primary responsibility for the student prom committee. Far more than an ordinary dance, prom requires an elaborate setting, including specialized lighting, banners, backdrops, and props. With careful planning and meticulous attention to detail, a prom committee can easily orchestrate an extravagant event that is the highlight of the school year.

Prom Decorations: Covering the Basics

Prom is expensive, often costing thousands of dollars to rent a site, purchase decorations, reserve a band or DJ, hire a photographer and security, print tickets and programs, and arrange refreshments. Ten to twenty percent of a typical prom budget is dedicated to decorations, and certain basic elements must be arranged for a memorable evening.

Before decorations are chosen, the committee must survey the dance site and note any restrictions. Many sites will not allow staples, nails, or tape on the walls, and candles may not be permitted because of fire concerns. Drawing a site diagram helps decoration planners: include dimensions, restroom locations, the dance floor, seating area, band area, and other site details to engineer an effective decorating scheme.

The entrance is the first impression guests have of the event. Potted plants, floor lights, and carpeting can be used to create a memorable entrance and an arch or garland creates a stunning entryway. Arches can be a trellis, floral garland, balloon sculpture, or stage set, and often incorporate the school's name, date, or mascot.

To create a romantic, magical mood, lighting should be subdued. If a site already uses chandeliers that is a great starting point, but large, florescent lights are more common and should be dimmed or left off altogether. To dim lights, consider creating a balloon ceiling or covering them with colored paper or tissue. Candles, twinkle lights, disco lights, and strobes create different subtle moods. A photographer, usually stationed near the entrance to take formal portraits, will need adequate lighting and may supply his own fixtures.

Banners are a staple prom decoration. Decorative banners denote different areas of the event, including photography, restrooms, a prom court area, and other attractions. The school's name, graduating class motto, prom title or theme, school year, and mascot are often featured on banners, many of which can be reused for different school events.



Hundreds of students will attend prom and plentiful seating is necessary. Intimate tables are great for breaks, refreshments, and chatting. Tables should seat an even number of people, and six or eight is the most common size. Simple cloths, decorative sprinkles such as confetti, glass rocks, or flower petals, and graceful centerpieces make each table a focal point for groups of friends. Centerpieces range from elaborate floral arrangements to candles, candy dishes, and custom figurines relating to the prom theme. Printed napkins with the school logo or monogram can be used as a functional yet decorative accent. Many proms also offer favors to each student, such as small picture frames or other commemorative trinkets placed on each table.

Prom seating can also include casual areas, such as benches or bean bags. When placed along the edges of the dance floor, in small corner groupings, or opposite a more formal seating area, casual seating allows students to relax and enjoy the evening no matter what their mood.

A key part to any prom is the arrangement of different sets and backdrops for photographs. Elaborate backdrops transform the most mundane site into a different world, and large canvases hide dull walls and cover unattractive features such as trophy cases, oversized windows with parking lot views, or bulletin boards. Several different backdrops can be used, including one neutral, formal setting for professional photographs, several tied into the theme, and at least one humorous or corny setting to give students multiple venues for memorable photographs.

Prom Decorations: Themes

From entrances to seating to backdrops, prom requires massive decorating efforts. Most schools coordinate each decoration into a theme, from exciting venues to romantic interludes. Popular themes include starry nights, Paris, fantasy, castles, art deco, underwater, Hollywood, Broadway, Mardi Gras, luau, casino, jungle, Egyptian, secret garden, memories, and school spirit. The theme is usually given a catchy title, such as "Stellar Fantasy," "We'll Always Have Paris," or "Luck Be A Lady." The title is used for programs, tickets, banners, and advertising to spread the word about what students can expect.

Prom decorating kits are available to make any theme a breeze. The kit typically contains an entrance banner, coordinating napkins, balloons, and small favors, as well as assembly instructions for backdrops and suggestions for additional details. While kits are expensive, they work well for smaller proms or committees without much time or outside assistance.

To create a theme from scratch, first choose an overall concept, such as luau or jungle. Then select appropriate colors for napkins, tablecloths, balloons, and other decorative accents. Different themes require different lighting: a casino works well with strobe lighting, while a Parisian café is more suited to candles or twinkle lights. Finally, brainstorm set and backdrop ideas and arrange to rent, purchase, or build different props to add realism and depth to the site. For example, a jungle theme not only requires jungle backdrops and curtains for photographs, but potted palms, mosquito netting, vines, and tropical flowers can be placed near doorways, along walls, and in corners to enhance the illusion of a different world.

Prom Decorations: Manpower

Prom decorations may take days or weeks to arrange, build, and set up. To spark interest in the prom, committees can recruit student labor to help build props, choose a theme, and raise money for necessary expenses. The student body can vote on a theme, a color scheme, whether to have a live band or a DJ, and other key issues, keeping everyone involved from the beginning of the school year. Art, drama, and shop classes can create props, while journalism classes can design programs and business classes can develop a budget. The more students involved, the lighter the committee's workload.

The biggest project for the prom decorating committee is actually preparing the site. If possible, arrange to decorate the week before the prom, but note that some sites will charge extra because they won't be able to use the room during that time. If it is necessary to decorate the day of the prom, meet at the site as early as possible so everyone has adequate time to change after decorating. To recruit manual labor, offer students discounted tickets or refreshments as incentives for their assistance, and don't forget to arrange volunteers for cleanup if needed.

Lights, balloons, backdrops, banners, and props are only a few of the prom decorations that coordinate to create a magical evening of dancing, socializing, and fun. From starry nights to Mardi Gras to jungle fever, the only limit to a prom's setting is the creativity of its committee.

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