Prom Checklist Tips to Help You Have the Perfect Night

A prom checklist can make the hours before prom feel like smooth sailing.

Updated March 14, 2023
Two teen girls with digital tablet

In the days and hours leading up to any special event, the pressure can mount, and it can be hard to stay on top of everything you need to do. As teens, it's wild how many different boxes you need to tick before heading out the door for prom. But you don't need to feel overwhelmed. Take a deep breath; we're here to help you hit everything on your prom checklist with time to spare.

No Two Prom Checklists are the Same

The things you need to schedule for your prom experience aren't going to be same as your best friend's - or anyone else's. Rather, ask yourself a few questions first to figure out what things you need to put on the schedule. For example:

  • If you're going with someone who attends a different school (or vice versa), are there any forms that need filled out before prom?
  • Have you purchased your ticket?
  • Have you picked up your prom outfit yet?
  • Are you going to eat dinner beforehand?
  • Are you planning to do your own hair/makeup (if you're wearing any at all)?
  • Are you buying or making a corsage or boutonniere?
  • Are you getting professional pictures taken?
  • Do you have transportation to and from the venue?

Once you answer these fundamental questions, you can look at the stuff you still need to figure out and make a plan for how you're going to organize them all to fit together.

Picking Up Your Prom Outfit

Ideally, you should have your prom outfit picked out about two months before prom. This gives you the chance to get any alterations you need completed or, if you're renting, gives you the first pick of whatever they have in stock. If you don't need any special changes made to your outfit and have it in hand, make sure it's pressed and hanging up the night before your prom. That way, you can slip right into it when the time comes.

If you're renting, then you should schedule to pick up your outfit a few days before the actual prom. The most nightmare scenario is when someone plans to pick it up the day of and the shop's closed, or they don't get there in time and they're in a real bind. Prevent this by getting your outfit in your hands a few days before.

Similarly, if you're getting alterations made, make sure the tailors can finish any alterations about two weeks before your prom. This buffer room might feel unnecessary, but final fittings often reveal something small that needs to be adjusted and could extend the number of days your outfit'll be in the shop. Plan for bumps in the road and be thrilled if there aren't any.

Organize Your Transportation a Few Weeks Before

If you're driving or riding with someone to prom, you're golden when it comes to this part of your checklist. But, if you're being dropped off by someone, you want to ask them a few weeks in advance so they can clear their schedule and add it to their calendar. You don't want any unexpected things to pop up.

If you're using a private driving service, you'll want to get your group on the schedule weeks in advance. You'll be competing with other students for the limited number of drivers, and the earlier you can get your deposit in, the better.

Book Hair & Makeup Weeks to Months in Advance

If you regularly visit a salon, then you know how far in advance some hairstylists and makeup artists are booked. Unfortunately, it's just the nature of the business. So, if you want to get in with someone whose work you admire and that you trust, you want to get on the schedule with them as early as you can.

Make sure you discuss whether they do house visits (and if those cost extra) or if you have to go to a salon for their services. If you have to go to a salon, the standard is to book an appointment for several hours (typically four to five) before you're set to leave your house. This gives anyone working on you the time they need to get everything done without feeling rushed.

However, if you're getting your nails done, aim to get them in the week leading up to your prom. They'll be fresh, but you won't have any irritation, and they won't have the chance to grow out.

If You're Going Professional, Find a Photographer ASAP

Thanks to cell phone camera quality today, most people don't feel like it's necessary to book a professional photographer to take pictures of couples or groups in their prom outfits. But once in a while, someone's parents will want to have a more elaborate photoshoot before their babies head off on their high school adventure. Or, if you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have been together a long time, you might consider professional photos.

If you're one of these, look at booking a photographer as soon as you can. Prom season lands in the spring when a lot of weddings are taking place, so photographers are going to be booked up. Slide into their schedules as soon as you find one whose prices and work you like.

Not only do you need to tell your photographer where you want your pictures shot (it's not their job to come up with locations for you) but you also need to confirm a time with them. These sessions can be as short or long as you want depending on how many photos you want taken, but you should schedule an hour at least to account for transportation and setting up.

Make Reservations for Dinner (If You Can)

Not everyone goes to dinner before they head out for prom, but it's become a kind of unwritten rule to go. One major tip for jumping the dinner crowd is only looking for restaurants that take reservations.

Every restaurant's reservation policy is different - some only reserve to certain-sized parties, others will only take them the day before - so make sure you get all the information before settling on a specific location. Then, as soon as you can, set a reservation about two hours before prom starts. This gives you enough time to head there, eat, and get on the way to prom.

Other Things to Consider Putting on Your Prom Checklist

Other things to think about and consider putting on your prom checklist include:

  • Making and verifying pre-prom and after-prom plans with your date or friends
  • Getting undergarments, jewelry, or other accessories to go with your prom outfit
  • Breaking in your shoes so your feet are comfy on prom night
  • Doing a trial run of hair and makeup before prom
  • Thinking about whether you'll bring a purse or what you'll need to have in your purse or on your person (breath mints, chapstick, cash etc.)
  • Checking the weather for the day of prom - will you need an umbrella or a jacket?
  • If you're using your car or your parent's car to pick up your date, do you need to put gas in the car or air in the tires?
  • Making sure your phone's fully charged so you can take plenty of prom pictures
  • Do you have an escape plan if there are activities at an after party you're uncomfortable with?

What Does the Day of Prom Look Like for Me?

With a prom schedule being a drag-and-drop kind of situation, you might be reeling in the abstract and need a concrete way of envisioning what these timelines look like. Here's an example of what the day in the life of one person's prom might look like:

  • 12:00 - Head to the salon.
  • 3:00 - Go back home and change.
  • 3:45 - Meet with photographer and take pictures.
  • 5:00 - Head out for dinner reservations.
  • 6:30/7:00 - Leave for prom venue.

Schedule a Stress-Free Day of Prom

Time blindness and inexperience are all real things that can make an unscheduled prom day feel challenging. But if you make a schedule ahead of time and have a prom checklist to ensure you don't forget anything on the day of, your future you will be so happy with your past you's choices.

Prom Checklist Tips to Help You Have the Perfect Night