NEW YORK – "Will you go to the prom with me?"
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Teenagers are still popping the question, but they're doing it in bigger and bolder ways that can sometimes rival a wedding proposal. Some ask on stadium Jumbotrons or surprise their future dates in class with giant signs. Known as a "promposal," they can pump up the overall cost of going to the prom. Teens then post videos and photos of their promposals on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, fueling the trend.
"It's all about creating a post-able moment," said Dr. Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University. "The more outlandish the promposal the more attention and feedback they get from friends on social media."
Families expect to spend an average of $324 on promposals this year, according to a survey by payment processor Visa Inc. That would make up more than a third of the $919 that families expect to pay for prom overall. Other expenses include the dress, tuxedo, flowers, limousine rentals and pictures. This year's survey, which questioned 3,041 people, is the first time Visa has asked about promposal spending.
Deidra Marques spent less than $100 on her promposal. She surprised her boyfriend during English class with a new pair of wrestling shoes and a sign she made that said: "You have wrestled your way into my heart...prom?" Her gesture was met with a round of applause.
"He grinned ear to ear while his face turned scarlet," said the 16-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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Promposals began gaining in popularity in the last decade, along with the growth of social media, said Yarrow. Promposals have become an expected part of prom tradition. Even cable channel MTV has noticed: It dedicated two days of programming in April to what it called "Promposal Mania," where celebrities delivered personalized promposals on behalf of MTV viewers.
Rachel Reckseit's promposal was on an even bigger screen: a Jumbotron. She and her boyfriend went to see their favorite hockey teams, the Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. During the second period of the game, a message popped up on the big screen overhead: "Rachel, will you go to prom with me?"
"I was speechless," said the 18-year-old. "It was the coolest thing ever."
Reckseit said the tickets cost her boyfriend $250, while the message on the Jumbotron was free.
Promposals can also be done on the cheap.
Shelby Kieler secured her date with an $8 Chipotle bowl. It took her about a week to come up with a way to ask her boyfriend to prom.
At the restaurant she ordered up his favorite dish: a rice bowl topped with chicken, black beans, corn salsa, lettuce, cheese and sour cream. Kieler asked an employee to write "Prom?" with black marker on the foil top of the bowl. She gave it to her boyfriend, who said yes to going to the prom, before digging in.
"He really likes Chipotle," said the 18-year-old from Hollywood, Florida. "We go there all time."
Others choose a more traditional setting for couples. Dyllan Johnson drove his potential prom date to a scenic lookout at sunset in a 1965 orange Mustang convertible he inherited from his dad. When they arrived, his friends came out with a banner he made that said: "Orange you glad I asked?"
The 17-year-old spent about $10 to make the poster. His mother, Mellissa Dahl, was happy about the low cost.
"I think it's better to not go all out and try to outdo each other," said Dahl, a marketing director at an office management software company in Hudson, Wisconsin. "Some kids do not have the money to make a huge investment in a promposal."