The Complete Prom Planning Guide
Everything You Need to Host an Incredible & Memorable Prom
If you’re reading this, you’re likely on the Prom Planning Committee. Props to YOU! You clearly care about your school and your classmates, and want to host the BEST PROM EVAH – one that people will be talking about for years to come (in a good way, not in a Carrie movie way)! At SignUp, we’re here to help you make this incredible event go off without a hitch. We’ve covered all the details you need that go into planning a prom, including a month-by-month, week-by-week game plan at the end of this article.
Use the links below to jump to the section you’re interested in learning more about – and have a fabulous event!
Assemble Your Committees
The first thing to start with is choosing the team members of your Prom Planning Committee.
Collect a group of reliable and enthusiastic students – you can do this by sending a SignUp invitation to the junior and senior class students near the start of the school year. It is good to make sure you have a mix of students from different grades so you have a variety of perspectives and available helpers as the school year gets busy.
After choosing your prom committee, it would be helpful to break the team into smaller sub-committees, such as budgeting, decorating, logistics, food, entertainment, tickets, cleanup, etc. Create a new SignUp to send out invitations to join the sub-committees.
Nail Down Event Details
Choose a Date
Next, you’ll need to choose a date. When choosing the date, be sure to consult other schools to make sure the dates don’t coincide with each other. Planning early gives you the best choice of weekends and venues and can possibly prevent other schools from selecting the same prom date as your school’s.
Find the Perfect Venue
Speaking of venues, that is a good thing to secure next, as you want to have one selected early in the process – can’t have a prom without a venue! And no one wants to “get down” in their school gym… yuck. Luckily, SignUp has your back with our list of the best apps for finding the best and most unique event venues – check out SignUp's Fave Venue Finders. Don’t forget to choose a venue that is large enough to accommodate your guests, has space for parking, and fits your budget! Also make sure to think of accessibility when choosing a venue so all classmates can participate.
Determine Your Budget
Budget is another important thing to consider early on in the planning process. Consult previous years’ committees to learn how much money they spent on prom then determine how much money you have to work with:
- Does the school or PTA offer any activity funds?
- Will you be fundraising during the year to pay for prom expenses?
- How many tickets will you need to sell to cover costs?
Ideas for Themes & Decor
Choosing a theme is probably one of the most challenging parts of prom planning. Trying to do anything that hasn’t been done is nearly impossible, and the obscure themes never seem to land very well, do they? Consider sending out a poll to the senior students with a couple of prom themes to choose from.
Some Favorite Themes
- Ancient Greece
- Candy Land
- Enchanted Forest/ Garden
- Great Gatsby/Roaring 20s
- Hollywood Glam/ Red Carpet
- Moulin Rouge
- Neon Nights
- Outer space
- Passport Around the World
- Platinum/Gold Records
- Under the Sea
Each of these theme examples have specific decorations involved in them, which then makes it easier to plan for decor, props, and promotion.
Glitz and glamor – you can do it on a budget! You don’t have to have expensive decor for the venue to look great (remember, you will be in near darkness for most of the event). You’ll find that a ton of string lights and streamers go with any theme. Also consider things such as balloon arches, photo backdrops, painted props, and table centerpieces when planning decor.
Prom Entertainment Tips & Ideas
Party Music Tips
Now for the entertainment. Of course, music is the main priority. Good, age appropriate music is essential for getting those teens out on the dance floor! You definitely don’t have to go crazy looking for a live band or DJ – you mainly just need someone to control the music.
It does not have to be a rave. Get the prom committee to have a collaborative playlist that they can send to the DJ, which they can later sort through for profanities and such. This way, there is a selection of more than just current radio hits.
Fun Prom Activities & Games
Along with entertainment comes things such as a photo booth, or someone taking pictures at the door as students come in. Much of the entertainment may be based on what theme you end up choosing, such as having a ring toss or skee ball if you choose a carnival theme. Pro Tip: Be sure to stay in contact with entertainers/vendors throughout the planning process.
Snacks & Swag
Don’t Forget the Snacks
Dancing burns calories, and burned calories means extra hungry and thirsty prom-goers. Having a snack table and a punch bowl is a staple of prom. Small snacks that come pre-assembled such as pigs in a blanket or bowls of chips are the easiest way to go. Do make sure you have some yummy vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free snacks for the teens that need them! Having some of the snacks or a signature punch that match your theme will add some flare as well.
You can also organize caterers, hire food trucks, work with your school’s food service department, or even use SignUp to have parents or teachers sign up to bring refreshments.
Or the Swag Bags
Having a few fun things for students to take home as keepsakes to remember the special night is a great and classy touch. Things such as customized themed frames, sunglasses, or wristbands are all good examples of little goodies you can add into your budget for prom, especially as you can find most of these things for quite cheap. You can find more examples of some fun party favors at SignUp's Swag Ideas!
Spread the Word (Invitations & Advertising)
Time to get the word out about your amazing event! You need attendees, supporters, and party volunteers to make it all happen!
Having aesthetically pleasing invitations is a good way to entice people into buying a ticket! Take a peek at SignUp's Fave Invitation Websites to see our go-to’s for your dream invites.
A way to boost those ticket sales is to advertise the heck out of the event. You can boost engagement by preparing a Prom Essentials Guide – restaurants for before prom, where to find a corsage, where to find dresses on a budget, etc. An obvious one is making posters and banners to hang around school. Make fliers to tape onto lockers too! Make an Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat account for the prom and post different prom-posals to boost engagement and excitement. You can also use these to post sneak peaks of the decorations and pre-prom activities.
Sell Those Tickets
Arguably the most important thing… fundraising with ticket sales. Have your ticketing sub-committee (or whomever you choose) create a system for selling tickets, whether that be in person or online. Use SignUp to have members of the prom committee, teachers, or parents sign up to sell them. You can determine the cost of tickets based on your budget. Once you decide on a venue and a theme, this will be much easier as you know how much money you’ll be putting into the special night.
Gather the Volunteer Troops
As much as you may hate it, chaperones and adult helpers are usually a must for a safe and successful prom. Use SignUp to send out invitations to parents and teachers to volunteer to be a chaperone or another type of event-day helper. Volunteers could help with prom set-up, after-prom clean-up, refreshments, photography/social media, and anything else you may need extra help with.
Day-of Prom Setup
On the day of prom, run through lights, music, cameras, and decorations to make sure everything is working properly, and have a backup plan in case something ends up not working correctly. Make sure to arrive early and ensure you have the time to make everything look as fabulous as you want!
No need to worry about reminding helpers about their commitments to pitch in – SignUp’s got you covered with automated reminders!
Party Music Tips
Though this may be a hit or miss, organizing a few safe and fun after-prom activities for those who don’t have plans is a great way to keep students safe and entertained. Something such as a Waffle House/iHop group trip, renting out some lanes at a local bowling alley, or organizing an after-prom game night at a volunteers’ house.
Prom Planning Committee Timeline
You can make a physical prom planning checklist using the milestones below or use a project management app (like Trello or Asana) to ensure all details are covered and assigned properly.
First Month of School
Assemble your Prom Planning Committee made up of juniors and seniors, and assign members to sub-committees (budgeting, decorating, logistics, food, entertainment, tickets, cleanup, etc.)
Second Month of School
Book the venue! Securing a place for your prom that students are excited about will go a long way to making the rest of the planning fall into place. Be sure to find out venue requirements for capacity, catering, chaperones, security, entertainment, parking and insurance.
5-6 Months Before Prom
- Select your theme (which will inform other aspects of your planning such as decorations, tickets, social media, etc.)
- Plan your fundraisers to help cover expenses.
- Solicit sponsorships from local businesses.
- Book the entertainment, photographer, and the food truck(s) or caterers to provide the food on the special day.
- Coordinate security and anything else that needs to be booked in advance.
3-4 Months Prior to Prom
- Order promotional materials like banners, flyers, buttons, wristbands, balloons, and anything else needed to advertise your prom.
- Order your theme decorations, party favors, and invitations. This may include sashes, crowns, and pins for prom coronation, and decorations such as balloons, string lights, centerpieces, or streamers.
2-3 Months Prior to Prom
Advertise prom and start selling tickets! Now is the time to pull out all the stops to get students excited about prom including engaging them on your social media accounts.
1 Month Prior to Prom
- Send out invitations.
- Confirm all vendors and booked details (venue, caterer, food trucks, photographer, security, etc.).
- Push ticket sales, which may last up until the days before prom.
- Engage students to paint and prepare any theme props and backdrops.
- Have a detailed checklist ready at this point to prepare for the weeks to come. (Think about everything needed to pull off your big night including signage, tables, lighting, trash cans, decorations, props, volunteers, chaperones, check-in, prom court, social media, security, etc.)
- Arrange voting for prom king, queen and court – follow your school traditions for nominations and ensure everyone has a chance to vote.
1-2 Weeks Prior to Prom
- Get decorations and coronation supplies in order.
- Finalize the head count.
- Confirm volunteer and chaperone assignments.
The Days Before Prom
- Begin decorating as soon as the venue allows it.
- Go through your checklist and make sure everything is in place and ready to go.
- Check with all of your sub-committees to make sure they are up to date.
Day of Prom (Show Time!)
- Add the final pizazz to your decorations.
- Make sure the music and lights are set up as you want them.
- Assign volunteers to their stations taking tickets, monitoring food, trash and bathrooms.
- Engage the social media team to share and amplify the festivities.
- Relax and have fun -- enjoy the evening and revel in your hard work!
1-5 Days After Prom
- Clean up, return and/or store any reusable decorations and props.
- Square any outstanding bills.
- Document any learnings and tips for next year’s committee.
- Celebrate as a Committee – YOU DID IT!