Gourmet meals, flash corporate venues and highbrow musicians - school balls have come a long way. Elle Hunt reports on the events that have taken the place of discos in the school hall.
Putting on a party can be expensive, but Tawa College says pupils are happy to pay for tickets which will recoup the $45,000 price tag of its event.
Nearly 400 year 12 and 13 pupils at the decile nine state school paid up to $120 for a ticket to the event, held at Wellington Town Hall on June 16.
Other Wellington schools spoken to by The Dominion Post charged around $85 for tickets to their formals, though many were held for just one year group.
Tawa College head of maths Lynley MacEwan, who organised the ball alongside a student committee, said the price of tickets tended to increase by around $15 every three years.
This year, it rose by only $5 to $115, or $120 including transport to the venue from Tawa.
Mrs MacEwan said this was the result of cost-cutting, including re-using decorations from previous events and downsizing the smorgasbord.
"We had to do a lot of work to keep it at that price."
Mrs MacEwan said the ball cost around $45,000 to stage, which was recouped by ticket sales.
Other schools estimated the total cost of their formals ranged between $10,500 and $27,000, also entirely covered by ticket sales.
Newlands College deputy principal Deb Mills said around $24,000 was spent on their ball, and tickets were $80.
Hutt Valley High School deputy principal Tim Fox said its upcoming leavers' ball for year 13 pupils was "self-funding" through the sale of around 300 tickets at $90 each.
St Patrick's College Wellington's event in June was attended by around 250 people at $90 a head. Rector's secretary Gerardine Parkinson said the event did not return any profit to the school.
Heretaunga College principal Bruce Hart said the total cost of its ball this year - attended by 172 students at $100 per ticket - was close to $18,500.
Mr Hart said that each year the event returned a slight profit of between $300 and $500, which went towards subsidising other student activities such as leavers' jerseys.
Mrs MacEwan said Tawa College pupils understood the high price of tickets if they were given enough notice, and understood the costs involved.
"When I'm teaching them ballroom dancing, I tell the year 12s how much it costs, and how much trouble it takes to organise," she said.
"I say to them there's no point spending $115 if you're not going to dance, the food's not worth it."
The formal was held in the town hall auditorium and the two rooms of the Square Affair Suite, which Positively Wellington Venues said would cost $6150 (excluding GST) to hire.
Mrs MacEwan said that aside from venue hire, the costs involved hiring Rodger Fox's Wellington Jazz Orchestra and providing a two-course meal.
Buses were also hired to transport students to and from Tawa, which prevented them from organising large after-parties.
Year 13 student Junior Kirisome, 17, said the event was well worth the ticket price.
"It was just a good experience, and everything was planned out well. The music was good, the food as well."
Mrs MacEwan estimated that around two-thirds of the school's senior pupils attended. Around 20 staff also attended, and paid only for the meal.
Tickets were limited to 400 due to venue capacity, and no outside partners were permitted.
Tawa College principal Murray Lucas told the TawaLink website that the ball was “social education at its very best”, and that students were well-behaved.
“Their behaviour was a credit to themselves, the college and the community.”
Dress: From $100
Suit hire: $110
Hair and makeup:$120
Limo with drinks and nibbles: $300
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