A Perfect Prom Starts with a Perfect Theme!

(get you free list of 330 possible prom themes at the end of this blog post!)

Tip #1: Define the type of feelings you want guests to experience when they walk in

Check out the theme examples above.  If you imagine yourself walking into each of these various events, your initial "feelings" are different for each one.  What type of emotions do you believe will create the most excitement for your guests in setting them up for an enjoyable evening?

tip #2: define "WHO" will be coming to the prom

This needs to be a "generality" - and may be a little difficult to determine.  Will most be coming as couples, single, or in a group?  If the majority are coming as couples, they may prefer a "romantic theme".  On the other hand, a "themey" or "fun, festive" atmosphere would be more appealing to groups or singles.  Are they farm kids and like to get "all fancy" for a change? OR are they rural and like to keep things comfortable?

tip #3: Consider the place of your prom

What comes first? The THEME or the VENUE?  Some schools have their prom at the same location every year, and some have different venues each year.  Sometimes your venue is a "blank slate" and it may not really impact your theme selection.  HOWEVER.....

.... viewing these tent and log house pictures, you can see where it would be a challenge to host a "Hollywood Glam" or "Gatsby" themed prom in the log house, to create the ideal experience.  The tent, however, is pretty much the perfect "blank slate" and almost any theme could successfully come alive inside.   - YES, I said "almost" - can you think of a theme that may not work quite so well?  ... how about "Rustic"?  You could probably make it work, but it would take a lot more resources to achieve the atmosphere than if you would use the log house to start with.

Now, the square footage of your venue is important when it comes to your floor-plan and how it will handle the number of guests that will be present and the various activities (ie. dancing, eating, photo-ops, etc.).   HOWEVER, the cubic footage really needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to your decor.  Basically, this means "how high  is your ceiling?". 

Above is a "low ceiling" venue and a "gymnasium".  No matter what your theme, it is going to take significantly more resources to effectively decorate the gymnasium.  That being said.... choosing an appropriate prom theme can make it a little easier.  Example:  A garden theme will make it easier to create a good impact in the low ceiling venue verses trying to turn the gymnasium into a garden.  On the other hand, a "Gatsby" prom theme, with long chandeliers and silhouettes, or an "Industrial" prom theme, with giant gears, pipes, and duct work, would work very well in the gymnasium.

tip#4: inventory the resources available for your prom

What "resources" do you have for your prom decorating?  This "Tip" will have the biggest impact on your decorating results in creating a extraordinary experience for your prom guests.  So, lets take a look, and consider exactly what you will have available to you for this project:

  • Money for Decorating Your Prom
  • Time Before, During, and After Prom
  • Dedicated People with Time and Talent for Projects
  • Storage Available
  • Materials from Prior Events

money for your prom decorating

If your decorating budget is low, it does NOT mean that you can't have a great looking prom.  It DOES mean though, (as a rule of thumb) that you'll just need to do a little more work, it'll take more time, and you'll need to be a little more creative. (My next blog post: - How to be creative when you're not!)  Now, if you have no money and no help..... just cancel prom.... because it seems like no one cares anyway!  JUST JOKING!!!!!!   (kinda!)

Here's the deal:  Those Prom Magazines have great ideas and Beautiful pictures (taken by professional photographers with fancy lighting and high dollar photo editing) that make it very tempting to purchase their kits..... until, maybe, you look at the price tag.  In reality, when their box comes, you basically get a lot of cardboard, some adhesive tabs, a glue gun and some glue sticks.  Guess What! I can get FREE cardboard in any town across America!  Year after year, I could give my prom clients 3 times the decor for half the cost.

What I'm saying is:  Know how much money you have to spend on prom decorations, and spend it wisely.

time before, during, and after prom

Think about the calendar - Think about the clock.....  How many "work days" do you have before your prom weekend to work on projects?  How much time do the people helping you have?  When do you have access to your prom location to setup the decorations?  How much time will it take to setup the decorations?  When prom is over, how much time do you have to un-decorate, clear and clean up the area?

how many dedicated, talented people do you have to help you with your prom decorations?

The keyword here is "dedicated".... with "talented" running a close second!  (OK - maybe it's late at night and I got a little crazy with the choice of photo here - but why do this if I can't have a little fun?) ANYWAY -  It's been my experience that there are usually students, a few parents, and possibly some classes (art class and/or industrial arts class) that come through as your resources for "labor". 

More is ONLY better when there are specific projects helpers are held responsible for AND they are more productive than disruptive!  So know your helpers, their talents, strengths, and weaknesses so those decorating times can be both fun and productive.

what materials do you have from prior events?

Schools (and prom advisers) work in different ways.  There may, or may not, be materials left from last year's prom or homecoming.  Also, you may check with the Drama Department for some props that you can utilize.  Another idea, that has only worked on a few occasions - but worth mentioning, is checking with other schools that have already done a similar theme to see if they have anything you could borrow/buy.  Also, some community theaters may be willing to help out.

do you have safe storage available?

It is VERY nice to get as much done, projects made, as early as possible.  However, you will need a safe place to store these things. Also, if you rent items as part of your prom decorations, you will need a safe place to keep them after prom and before you can return them.  Just keep this in mind during your planning.

tip#5: Steps to your final prom theme decision

I just figured up that I've been a part of 250-300 proms over the past 27 years.  Every school had a different set of circumstances and traditions when it came to prom time.

My favorite process of determining the final Prom Theme selection is as follows: 

  1. A small committee narrows the theme selection down to three options, taking into consideration the tips outlined above.
  2. The committee then creates vision boards for each theme and puts them on display.
  3. Students vote anonymously, on the three candidates and simply, the theme with the most votes wins.


Yes, you can do any theme, in any location, that you want.  HOWEVER, when you take these "tips" into consideration, you are one step ahead in setting yourself up for a more successful prom experience by creating a better transformation of your venue.  ALSO, better choices will help in making your decorating  budget provide a more impressive atmosphere for your guests.


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Author: Cheryl Rupple

After selling her 26-year Special Event Decorating Business, Cheryl started blogging to continue helping people celebrate their happiest times. Enjoying life as a Special Occasion Designer, Certified Balloon Artist, Prom Consultant, Wedding Designer/Decorator, and Small Business Coach has brought many happy times to her, those she has met on this path, and hopefully you!

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