With one senior prom down and three to go, Aiken teens are hitting the stores and calling for reservations in preparation for their big night.In categories such as formal wear, fine dining, flowers, accessories and transportation, young shoppers are hunting up the best supplies - and the best bargains.Tuxedos"People are renting a lot of tuxedos," said Lionel Smith Ltd. owner Van Smith. "Most people are renting instead of buying because their sizes change quickly at that age, and it's something they may never plan on wearing again. What the big things are - mainly it's the vests that go with the tux and some the bow ties."This year the vests and ties are hot in the vivid colors, such as pinks, blues, aquas and yellows, Smith said."Generally they try to match up with the girl's dress," he said.Orders for tuxes started to come in around mid-March, and the season will continue through a formal social dance on May 5, Smith said. Prices on tuxedo rentals range from $135 to $150, with an additional $25 for shoes, if necessary.Gowns"Long still prevails, but we've done more short gowns this year than usual," said Cheryl Allen, owner of Charlotte's Bridal. "Colors are very varied this year; there's not one trend, like last year, the big color was orange. We're seeing a lot of brights in general, not really pastels."Prices for formal gowns have gone up in the last year or two, and the price range on prom dresses can be from $300 to $650 for the big formal gowns. The shop did stock some of what Allen called "the snob lines" but chose the lowest-priced pieces from those lines."There are always some cutbacks, but I don't think there's that much difference in spending. Some people will go ahead and spend the bucks, because prom is a very special time," she said.DinnerThe Willcox Inn saw an influx of teens in formal wear before South Aiken High School's prom last weekend, according to general manager Tina McCarthy."We had several prom couples in for dinner, and we had a group of eight couples in the private dining room last weekend. We also had several couples here taking photographs, and some prom attendees came here in the days prior to prom for a manicure and pedicure or hair styling in our salon," she said.The hotel always recommends reservations for Friday and Saturday's dinner seatings due to high demand, even without a prom, according to McCarthy. Demand for the next several weekends is high, but at press time she did not think the dining room was fully booked up."I think we're known for good food, the ambience is quite lovely, and I think they enjoy that as they come in in their formal wear," she said.FlowersFloral Gallery owner Casey Stevens said pin-on corsages are out, and wristlets are in for prom this year."I don't think we've done a single pin-on yet," she said. "Turquoise is the new favorite color of all the girls this year. We've done a lot of spray roses and a lot of orchids, a lot of very colorful flowers. For the guys, they're liking the bow ties or colorful wire wraps around the stems of a boutonniere to add pizazz and to match the girls' dresses. It all ties in together."The shop has stocked up on orchid varieties, and Stevens said she has not seen shoppers cutting corners by resorting to less expensive flowers, such as carnations, much this prom season.TransportationS.C. Express general manager Jimmy Canady said reservations began coming in for the car service's two stretch Lincoln Town Cars and one stretch Hummer for prom nights months ago.The issues of concern to the service are parental consent - the teens who call cannot place a reservation unless S.C. Express speaks to the parents, and they sign off - and that the teens sign a Prom Promise with their parents.The Prom Promise covers alcohol and drug consumption, remaining fully in the vehicle while driving, damage to the interior and lewd behavior or disturbing the peace during their rides."The thing is, these kids are underage, and if the law gets broken, it's our driver who pays," Canady said. "If, say, one of the kids has illegal drugs in the car, and the police find it, it's the driver who'll be held responsible. So we make it clear we have a no-tolerance policy for those behaviors."Canady said prices aren't negotiable, but if a group of students is taking the ride, he encourages all of their parents to take on a share of the expense rather than leaving it to a single family."Transportation seems to be the last thing people preparing for prom will think of, and then it's too late. But the parents also know it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for some of these kids," he said.Aiken High School's prom is Saturday. The Silver Bluff High School and North Augusta High School proms are May 5. The Wagener-Salley High School prom will be on May 19.Suzanne Stone is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and studied communications at Augusta State University. She is a native of Augusta, Ga. She was a reporter for the North Augusta Star prior to joining the Aiken Standard staff. Contact Suzanne Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter at #SuzanneRStone and on Facebook at Suzanne Stone | Aiken Standard.
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