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Planning a high school prom can involve coordinating many people, tasks and locations, so a prom planning checklist can make the process much easier. The checklist helps you keep track of all the details, including raising money and staying within your budget; choosing a venue, theme and music; and other important touches that will make your prom special.

But first, a quick history lesson. The idea of the prom goes back to the early 1800s. The event used to be called a promenade and was designed to allow young men to show off their manners and social status. Today, proms are more about listening to good music and having fun. Keep reading to learn more about how to plan a prom.

Fundraise the Prom 

Hosting a prom can be expensive. You need to pay for food and drinks, music or performers, decorations and more. Without enough money, it would be impossible for a high school prom to happen.

With a small budget, the prom might be mediocre and basic. A high school prom should be memorable and fun. This is why fundraising for the prom begins years before the prom happens.

A common tradition for many schools is for the junior class to host proms and help with fundraising and planning. Other schools may fundraise for the prom in different ways.

Before you start fundraising, you need to know how much a prom costs. You can find this out by learning the price of previous proms. Averaging out these numbers will give you a reasonable budget.

The exact cost depends on the specific details of the prom. Some proms only cost a few hundred dollars, but others may cost several thousand dollars and sometimes more, depending on the complexity.


What to Know 

It can take one to two years to raise enough money for a prom, so once you determine the budget you need to hold your prom, you can think about ways to raise money. The class advisor keeps the budget checklist over the years to make sure the class is meeting its fundraising goals.

The school can raise money in different ways. One of the most common fundraising ideas is to hold a bake sale or something similar. Students have the chance to bake some delicious goods and sell them for money that will go toward fundraising for the prom. This is an effective method because people are always in the mood to buy baked goods. The school can also sell items like school apparel or other merchandise that represent the school and raise money for the prom.

Some schools work with restaurants to raise money for an evening. With one to two years to work with, it shouldn't be difficult to raise enough money for a great prom. Be sure the prom planning checklist outlines your fundraising events and who is working on them.

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Choose the Right Prom Venue 

Choosing the right venue for the prom is very important. If you choose a venue that is too small, your senior class will be cramped and uncomfortable. If you choose a location that is too large, the class will be too spread out.

Some schools use the gym to hold the prom. Gyms are great prom locations because they are spacious but not too spacious and the school doesn't have to spend any extra money.

Setting up the prom decorations inside a gym is easy. You can set up the tables, make sure the dance floor is clear, have a place for the music speakers and so on.

But some schools do not have gyms that are large enough for the prom. This is especially true for large schools with many students, but small schools may have the same problem.

If the gym isn’t an option, it’s necessary to choose another location for the prom venue.

Like all your prom planning decisions, it is important to discuss this possibility with the prom planning committee. The committee usually consists of a dozen students and a teacher who leads and directs them. Each committee member is responsible for using the prom committee checklist to manage a prom element. This helps spread the prom planning workload among the entire committee.

As long as each student does his or her job according to the prom committee checklist, planning the prom should go smoothly.

What to Know

Working together can bring about ideas for potential prom locations. There are likely some great venues in your area that you can rent for the evening. Make sure you choose a venue with plenty of space. 

It is also important to choose a location that has space for equipment like speakers and tables. Don't forget to stay within your budget. Some rental venues can be very expensive. 

They are often rented for conference meetings and wedding receptions. Renting the same venue for a prom may be very costly, especially for a high-quality venue. It is best to review several different venues to compare the differences between them. 

You can review the spaces, the atmosphere, the design of the venues and more. Working with the prom planning committee should make this easier. Once you find the right venue, you will finally have a foundation for the rest of your prom planning checklist. 


Choose the Right Prom Theme 

Many people think that all proms are the same, but this is not true. When learning how to plan a prom with a prom planning checklist, there are many ways to make the school event unique. The main way is to choose a prom theme.

Some proms do not have themes. This makes them normal, formal proms. Other proms have themes that make them more fun and exciting.

A theme can guide your prom decor and make it more interesting too. Consider a Parisian theme. You can make the venue's decor reminiscent of Parisian lights, images of the Eiffel tower and so on. The music can have a French flair too.

Other ideas might be a rustic countryside, an enchanted garden or other intriguing locations.

Choosing a theme can guide what kind of decorations you need for the prom. If you want something rustic, consider using a lot of wood, bales of hay and similar items. Try gold and silver decorations for a more luxurious or vintage theme. You can bring in neon lights and disco balls for a more retro look.

What to Know 

Some proms may try a more gothic or haunted look for their decorations. Each prom will be a little different, so make sure yours stands out from the last one. But it is best to choose a theme that isn't too hard to create.

If you are having a hard time choosing a theme, research your options online. If you and the committee don't like any of the popular options, you can opt for a traditional, formal prom instead. There is nothing wrong with a prom that doesn't have a theme.

A traditional prom can be a lot of fun and still look great. A traditional prom consists of regular decorations such as streamers, balloons, mood lighting and more. The music can be more versatile when you're not following a theme too.

Reflective decorations can go a long way. Once the lights in the venue dim, they will sparkle and make the venue look more magical.


Plan the Details 

More details go into a prom than you might expect. If you forget about a few important details, the prom could be a disaster. But even simple prom accessories can make the evening pop.

If there is a lack of decor and accessories, your prom will feel like a ghost town. The goal of proper decor is to make the venue feel more atmospheric and magical. For example, consider getting an ice sculpture. An ice sculpture is a great thing to attract the eye. It reflects the lights in the venue to add a bit of extra flair to the environment.

A punch fountain is another option. This ensures that all the students can refresh themselves when they want to.

Having the right lighting is important too. No prom should have blaring lights shining down on the students.

It is best to have more atmospheric lighting and colored lights. Colored lights can help embody whatever prom theme you chose. Colored lights are also good for making the venue look more interesting.

Prom Accessories 

Don't forget about fresh flowers either. A few bundles of fresh flowers around the venue can make the whole area pop. You can coordinate the colors of the bouquets with the colors of your prom's theme. 

Fresh flowers also ensure that the venue smells nice and fresh. The decorations can be as vast as the prom committee sees fit. Prom decorations like arches, confetti and streamers can be expensive. 

This is why many schools choose to make their own. It is easy to cut confetti and streamers from pieces of colored paper. Painted cardboard and other materials are great for arches and other decorations. 

If there is no time to make decorations, buying them from a prom supply store is another great option. If you don't know what to buy, you can browse prom catalogs. These should have a variety of ideas for decorations like prom favors and other objects. 

Choose the Right Music 

The music may be the most important part of the prom. Students won’t dance if there isn't good music playing. Proms last for a long time, so it is best to make sure that the music track is long as well.

If it is too short, some of the songs might end up repeating by the end of the night. This could detract from the magic of the evening. It is important to have a variety of different music genres too.

The beginning of prom often starts with more upbeat songs. These get the students energized and excited. With the right lighting or accessories like a disco ball, you can make the venue feel a bit like a bustling nightclub.

Once the more upbeat music starts to get tiring, you can switch to slower songs. This gives the students a chance to slow dance and relax. You can also mix music from different decades.

Most students prefer modern music, but a few older songs may fit your prom's theme. This is especially true for slower songs. As long as you nail the music, the dance should be a success.

If the music is terrible, the students might not have a great time or they might get bored.


Stay Within Your Budget 

Planning for a prom can be very expensive. It is easy to get caught up in all the decorations and planning and forget about the budget. Going over the budget is a bad idea — you don't want to spend money the school doesn't have.

As long as the school raises enough money ahead of time, it should be easy to stay within the budget. Be sure that the decorations and food you buy aren't too expensive.

Also be aware of your budget if you plan on getting more expensive decorations such as ice sculptures, chocolate fountains and more.

If you are worried about going over your budget, try to save money in various ways. Making some decorations by hand can help.

Decorations from professional prom supply companies can be very expensive and the cost may not be worth it. As long as you stay within your budget, the prom should go swimmingly.

Your Prom Planning Checklist 

Learning how to plan a prom isn't as hard as you might think. A prom planning checklist ensures that the entire project plan is accessible and organized.

Some of the most important things are the music, venue, decorations and staying within the school's budget. Once you cover everything on this list, you should have a wonderful prom.

Prepare for Prom and Other Events with Our Free Checklists


There’s a lot to keep track of with any school event. That’s why we built three checklists, which will work for most school events, to simplify event management. The checklists and guides include the following… 

  • Prom event planning checklist. 
  • Homecoming event planning checklist and guide. 
  • A general school event planning checklist. 
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