Cost of school formals soaring as teenagers glam-up

Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:07pm EST
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith.

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Parents used to save for their children's weddings but now there's another major rite of passage to fund before they even leave home -- the school formal or prom, a booming industry which seems recession-proof.

Parties or balls to celebrate the end of school have become increasingly glitzy affairs in a list of countries from Britain, to Singapore, to India and Australia, emulating U.S.-style proms glamorized in the hit Disney movie "High School Musical" and the TV series "Gossip Girl."

Teenagers are no longer content to celebrate in a school gym decorated with streamers and a parent DJ -- and parents are left with the dilemma of whether or not to join the party and splash out on their teenager's big night.

Figures from Elk and Sons Consolidated Ptd Ltd, which runs event organizer Prom Night Events, show that in Australia the high school formal market grew nine percent in the past year to be worth $170 million ($155 million) in the city of Sydney alone.

With the Australian school year ending in December, thousands of teenagers are forking out for glamorous evening gowns, hair stylists, a spray tan, photos and limousines as they celebrate at five-star venues more used to weddings than school events.

"This has become a huge industry in a niche market and some people even think it will overtake the bridal market," said Elliot Kleiner from Prom Night Events.

"The school formal is the biggest event on their calendar for the year. This is the Academy Awards of their school life and for many of them it's the last time they will see other."

A survey of nearly 2,000 Australian students aged between 15 and 18 found that on average girls were spending $1,330 each on the big night while boys were spending an average of $840.   Continued...