The most expensive part of prom has become popping the question.

Justyn Buford, 17, spent a year – and about $500 – planning the perfect promposal for his girlfriend, Aviance Waters. On her 18th birthday a few weeks ago, he gave her 25 helium balloons, a colorful bouquet, a cake, and had the entire cafeteria sing “Happy Birthday.” Then after class, he gave her more flowers, and friends led her blindfoldeded outside of Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Illinois, where he was waiting on horseback with a custom-printed sign that said, “Will you ride away with me to prom?” She said yes – on video, since the school’s production team was recording it. Because, Millennials.

“It was totally worth it,” said Buford, who saved up the money for this himself from being enlisted in the Army and also singing in Chicago. “Prom is a major milestone in our relationship, and something we’ll always look back on. And I wanted to make a statement at our school.” He added, “It’s going viral!”

Promposals are a thing – like Justyn Buford, who rented a pony to ask his girlfriend Aviance Waters on her birthday. (Justyn Buford)

The promposal, which began blowing up on social media in 2011, has become as essential to prom planning as buying the dress, renting the tux and booking the limo. While total prom spending dropped to $919 on average last year from $1,139 in 2013, according to a Visa Inc. survey, the promposal has been taking a bigger bite of the senior formal budget. That same survey put the average promposal price tag at $324, with it spiking as high as $431 a pop in New England.

March 11 has been named the official “Promposal Day.” There are YouTube channels and Twitter pages devoted to them. And newsfeeds will be flooded for the next few months leading up to proms everywhere with elaborate gestures that are making most marriage proposals look lame. Like the “Beauty and the Beast” promposal last weekend, where a California student had his girlfriend follow a trail of candles and roses to where he was waiting – dressed in a handmade Beast costume. He had the fairytale’s title theme sung by Ariana Grande and John Legend playing in the background.

Or the Connecticut teen who literally took the plunge last year by skydiving from 10,000 feet holding a sign that said, “Prom?”
Young L.A. lovebirds Valerie Castaneda and Gabriel Hernandez III, both 16, spent two months selling 90 custom buttons to save $248 to go to Disneyland with friends. But Hernandez had a sweet surprise up his sleeve last weekend.

“Valerie and I have always loved Disneyland, so I wanted to make the experience more special by asking her to prom,” he said.
So while Castaneda was taking a picture with a park employee dressed as Winnie the Pooh, the punning young Romeo held up a sign that read, “Prom would be Pooh without you so bee my honey.” And he gave her a customized gold pair of fuzzy Mickey Mouse ears printed with “Prom?”

“I was so surprised,” gushed Castaneda – who said yes faster than you can say heffalump. “The fact that Winnie the Pooh was there, was perfect! Gabriel is truly an awesome person.”

This is a generation that broadcasts every aspect of their lives on social media, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that something as momentous in a high schooler’s life as being asked to the prom has become a pricey production.

“Look, everything with our generation is so publicized nowadays. It’s just like, go big or go home,” said Buford. “It’s what you expect. You don’t just ask – you expect someone to make a statement.”

But some savvy students put together sweet promposals without spending a lot of cash, too.

Amanda Darmstedter, a senior from Buffalo, N.Y., promposed to her boyfriend by making a scrapbook of pictures that her friends, family and perfect strangers took in different countries and landmarks around the world. The shots show people holding signs like, “Will you please go to the prom with Amanda? Love from South Wales, U.K.” She spent two months gathering 80 pictures from the Grand Canyon, the sets of “Shameless” and “American Horror Story,” Tasmania, Belgium and Pakistan.

Promposals are a thing – like Amanda Darmstedter, who made a scrapbook with 80 pix from around the world to ask her boyfriend. (Amanda Darmstedter)

“My boyfriend always says how we wants to travel the world and study abroad,” said Darmstedter, who brought the world to him for about $50. “Prom is one of the biggest highlights of high school. However, promposals being a big deal doesn’t necessarily mean something big and expensive. Sometimes, the homemade things are the best.”

Maybe, deep down, Millennials are just romantics at heart.

“Prom is like a prep for your wedding,” said Buford, who just realized he may have set the bar too high for himself. “My wedding proposal is gonna have to top my prom proposal, isn’t it? I should start thinking of something big now.”