So you're going to just ask to a girl to the prom? Might as well pop the soundtrack from '80s classic "Pretty in Pink" into the cassette deck of your Honda Prelude. The annual rite of spring now involves weeks of planning, art and engineering skills, possibly even pyrotechnics.
Known as the "promposal," the modern-day ask between teenagers is likely far more involved than their parents' (or even older siblings') marriage proposals.
"The girls expect a lot out of us," said J.P. Martins, a 17-year-old senior in Cumming, Ga.
He asked Ansley Heard, a 16-year-old junior, to his school's recent with the help of several friends. After one of Ansley's soccer games, J.P. and his prom posse held up lettered signs that spelled PROM. She said yes.
"If you do it in front of a big enough audience, she has to say yes," J.P. quipped.
Jack Meersman, a 16-year-old junior, also went the arts-and-crafts route. He painted a series of nesting boxes black, with gold lettering that asked Abbey Bohn, a 17-year-old junior, to be his date. The smallest box was full of candy, to seal the deal. He credits the rise of social media in stoking the promposal trend.
"You get one viral video" and everyone wants to top it, Jack said.
Indeed, the trend is popping up everywhere.
Courtney Rorex and her beau, Jeremiah Alphabet, both 18-year-old seniors, have been dating for three years, and each year it's just been assumed they would go to the prom.
This year, he surprised her by turning the marquee outside the Austell, Ga., Chick-fil-A, where she works as a cashier, into an invitation.
"I loved it," said Courtney, whose prom was Saturday. "I thought it was so creative. I think his mom helped him." Kimberly Robinson, though, isn't so sure about the whole promposal thing. Her 18-year-old daughter Taylor Thomas, a senior in DeKalb County, Ga., will attend her April 27 prom with her beau, but there was no fancy ask involved.
"I don't want my daughter to have these ridiculous expectations," Robinson said. "When you buy your kid a car, you don't buy them a BMW at first. You work up to that." She didn't want to seem critical of clever promposals.
"If it's not excessive, it's really cute," she said. "It seems like it can become a competition."
The promposal experts say it's best if each promposal within a school or circle of friends is different, and timing is key. (You don't want to be the guy with a car full of prom props who learns some other dude just asked his intended.) The promposal is big on theatrics but not necessarily romance. And it must be personal, not just entertaining.
"The 'ask' really reflects on your personality," said Trey Toms, an 18-year-old senior who floated a sign up to 17-year-old junior Katie Gallamore's third-floor homeroom with a bunch of balloons. Then he entered in black tie for an elegant close.
"I thought I'd class it up a bit, so I popped on my tuxedo," Trey said.
While the ladies expect an impressive promposal, they realize that the fellas are competing against each other as much as they are wooing their dates. You know the old chestnut about how women dress for other women? The promposal can be a sort of high-five to other guys.
"I don't think it's for us," Katie said. "It's for each other."
Juniors Alex Brenner and Julieta Flores, both 17, are going together after he sent her on a scavenger hunt that led her to a rose-in-hand Brenner, who then popped the question. Amanda Boyd, a 16-year-old junior, is going with Evan Montalbano, a 17-year-old junior, after he doctored a lunch detention slip into an invitation. Michael Bruckner, 17, and Stephanie Hightower, 16, both juniors, made plans after a teacher let him play what was billed as a video on debate techniques at the beginning of class one day. After 30 extremely boring seconds, the video cuts to Michael. Everyone knew he'd take Stephanie to the prom, since they have been dating for about a year. Yet Michael was still expected to come up with a unique promposal, and it caused a happy riot among their classmates.
"We screamed for two minutes straight," Ansley said.
We wondered, with all this planning and coordination, is the prom even more stressful? No. With the promposals over, the event itself is time to relax and have fun, the teens all said. But pretty soon it'll be time to start thinking about next year.