Sierra Wray had the time of her life at her high school prom.
Even getting ready for the big night created many special memories for the Rockridge High School senior.
The high school prom represents the last big event for many seniors before graduation and moving on to the next phase of their lives.
And, of course — as teens and their parents will attest — there is the cost of the magical evening.
Getting Sierra ready for her prom, held last weekend at Camden Community Center in Milan, cost about $1,000. That included a $550 dress purchased by her grandmother, jewelry, hairdo, makeup and manicure and pedicure. Tickets and dinner were extra.
Her mother, Paula Wray, said she and her daughter made a day of that Saturday, spending about $185 for lunch, jewelry, an updo on her hair and full makeup at a salon.
Sierra spent $60 for her manicure and pedicure.
"The kids made fun of me because my prom dress came from Montgomery Ward and cost $35 and I did my own hair and makeup," Paula Wray said of her experience about three decades ago.
Traditions and costs have evolved over the years.
"Getting asked to prom is a big deal," Sierra said. "People make posters. One of my friends got asked to prom, and (her date) bought her Nike shoes, and customized them to say 'Prom 2015.' People post those invitations on social media. If you don't post it, it didn't happen."
Making memories to last a lifetime doesn't come cheap.
The website www.promgirl.com lays out average costs associated with proms in the United States. Tickets can vary from $20 and $250, depending on the location. In some cases, prom is held at a hotel or convention center, and often includes dinner and beverages. Locally, a sampling of teens said a ticket ranges from being free for seniors to $10 or $20, and does not include dinner.
The website said going out for dinner can range from $25 to $130 per person. The cost of makeup and getting hair done can be from $30 to $275. Most prom dresses cost between $100 and $400. Boutonnieres usually cost $10 to $20, about the same cost as the girl's corsage.
In the Quad-Cities, Darryl Lamp, owner of Lamps Flower & Plant Shop in Rock Island, said his prices average $7.50 for boutonnieres and $20 for corsages.
"In some areas, prom is almost a season for florists," he said. "But not here, at least not this shop."
Renting a limo is an extravagant option, but it is common, the website reported. Those cost $200 to $500 and often are shared by couples.
Sierra, 18, said she recently broke up with her boyfriend, so she went to prom with a friend.
"I had a good time, a lot more fun because you did not have to dance with just one person," she said.
She went out to dinner and the dance with 14 friends.
She was able to wear the same shoes she wore for homecoming, which saved more money.
"My prom tickets were $15 apiece. I paid for my date because I asked him," she said. "The boutonniere was $15. My date paid for dinner and the corsage. But I had my hair and makeup, the nails, and girls also get tans before prom. I paid for a tanning membership as well. It is expensive to be beautiful."
Cindy Breecher, who owns Special Effects Fashion Boutique in Moline with her husband, Kim, has been kept very busy these past months.
"We rent the complete tux, and that ranges from $110 to $169, but you get everything," she said.
Dresses range from $200 to $1,000, she estimated. Girls' shoes average $65. Cindy Breecher said about 30 percent of girls pay for their own dresses and at least 50 percent pay for a portion of their expenses, with their parents paying the rest.
Diane Niebuhr, owner of Hope's Bridal in Davenport and Atkins, Iowa, concurred on the price of a dress: "The typical gown is $400 to $500. That is consistent with what girls are spending."
Abbey Bresko, 17, of East Moline, is a senior at Rock Island Alleman High School. She said she kept her expenses in check.
"I think dresses can range from $50 to $200," she said. "The most I heard this year was someone spent $400. Mine was $80. They are really hard to find, but they are out there. Shoes are $70, $80. But I had a pair to wear. With parents helping, it depends on the family. People who work try to pay for their own stuff. But I think it is a neat experience. This is senior year, one of the last things we get to experience together."
Katie Lemons, 18, a senior at Davenport Assumption High School, spent $150 for a dress she ordered online. Her mother helped with that expense. She also will wear shoes from a previous dance for tonight's festivities on the Celebration Belle, Moline.
"I did buy new jewelry to go with my dress. That was $30," she said. "But I am doing my own hair, makeup and nails. I got my hair done last year and it was not done well. I am pretty good at saving money."
She said Assumption's tickets are $40 apiece, which includes dinner.
"I think it is a great experience to get to be with friends and classmates, to get to socialize with friends and peers. It is great that schools do this."
She said the after-prom party in the school gym will include snacks, games, raffles and a Mass.
Night to remember
Chester Pelsang, 18, also an Assumption senior, spent $160 on his tuxedo, $80 for tickets that include dinner, and $12 for the corsage.
"I have gone to every dance since my sophomore year," he said. "I pay for things initially, but then my parents do help me."
Brandon Swift, 18, a senior at Geneseo High School, is attending two proms. His girlfriend goes to Annawan High School, which had its prom last weekend. He will take her to Geneseo's prom tonight.
"I had to rent two tuxedos," he said.
All told, he will spent more than $300 for the two events. But Brandon is not complaining.
"I have a job," he said. "I might as well spoil her. I work a ton. At least my money is going for something that is useful."
Tommy Davies, 18 and a senior at Alleman, also found ways to economize.
"Personally, I do not like to rent," he said. "If I shell out money, I like to own. So I got a three-piece suit for $70. I got new shoes for $18. I got my corsage for $17. If she were my girlfriend, I would pay for tickets and dinner. But since she is a friend, I paid for tickets and we each paid for dinner.
"There is definitely an environment around us that it is a pretty big deal. You want to make a big splash as you end your year. Seniors are just passing the torch. It is a bonding experience with juniors. Right now, we are living in the moment. There are plenty of times in the future to reminisce."