Katherine D'Andrea knew that Baylor School classmate Alex Armstrong was going to ask her to the junior/senior prom. What she didn't know was just how he was going to do it.
Would he ask her the old-fashioned, face-to-face way or go the route many teens are taking today, a "promposal," a creative and sometimes public way of asking a date to the prom.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, promposals may have originated on MTV's reality show "Laguna Beach," which followed the lives of wealthy high school students. The show included what some called "outlandish" prom proposals, such as dressing up in gorilla suits and a fake car towing. The show aired from 2004 to 2006.
Then, in 2011, Disney promoted its movie "Prom" with a "Prom: Ultimate Invite Contest" asking for videos of creative and unusual prom proposals.
Armstrong, a junior, chose the public route. He lined an outdoor stairwell on campus with more than a dozen, helium-filled balloons that D'Andrea, also a junior, would see after class. At the bottom of the stairs, Armstrong parked his car, which had a big sign displayed on the back that read, "Katherine, prom?"
It was a successful gesture. D'Andrea said yes.
"I liked it a lot," D'Andrea says. "I figured he'd do something creative. I was very surprised."
"I know she knew I was going to ask her, but she had no idea when or how I was going to do it," he says.
Because it was his first prom, Armstrong says he enlisted the help of a couple of classmates for ideas on how to execute the promposal.
Prom was the couple's first date.
Zach Payne, a senior at Baylor, says his promposal to girlfriend Peyton Miller, a student at Boyd-Buchanan, took a lot of planning that involved strategy, skill and luck.
"Last year I heard someone mention asking someone to prom as a goal celebration (during a soccer game), but they were only joking about it," he explains. "It stuck in my head all year because I thought it would be really cool if I could pull it off."
Payne, who's on Baylor's soccer team, wanted to ask his date to the prom during a Baylor/Boyd-Buchanan soccer match. The plan hinged on him scoring a goal. He then planned to lift up his shirt where he would have written the promposal on his chest.
"First, I had to ask my coach if I could do this, and he said yes, but I was only allowed to lift my shirt up and not take it completely off," Payne says. "So, I wrote, 'Peyton, prom?' on an undershirt instead. This was one of our first scrimmages of the year, so I asked her to come since we were playing her school. The whole scheme was very conditional, because I had to score for it to work."
Payne's teammates were aware of the plan so whenever they were in range to shoot a goal, they passed the ball to Payne.
"My teammate, Ramsey Seagle, could have scored himself, but he saw me wide open in front of the goal so he passed it to me, and I just knocked it in," Payne says.
As he had planned, he celebrated the goal by taking off his shirt so his girlfriend, sitting on the sidelines, could see her public invitation to the prom.
"She was very surprised," he says. "She had no idea it was coming, and she replied with a yes, but I had to quickly run back to the field for the next kickoff."
Payne takes pride in his promposal.
"None of my friends asked in this way, but many did try to do something clever. But most people tend to think my way was one of the best," he says.
Miller says it's a moment she'll never forget.
"Getting asked to prom was such an exciting moment," she says. "It's one of those moments you can't forget. So getting asked in front of the whole audience at the soccer game was definitely an amazing surprise."
Chattanoogan Beth Lapina says her cousin, Will Pyron, a senior at Lakota East High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, came up with a creative and original way of inviting a girl to the prom.
Lapina says her cousin is "quite the socialite," so family members weren't surprised by his romantic gesture.
"We work together at Ace Hardware, and we've been talking a little bit outside of work and I really started to like her," Pyron says of his intended date. "So one day while we were unloading totes and restocking shelves, she came across a tote with a picture with the both of us, a dozen pink roses and a piece of paper that said, 'Prom?' She was overjoyed and showed everyone working and every customer that came in from that point on. It really was awesome."
It wasn't Pyron's first promposal. Last year he asked his date by spelling out "prom" in her backyard using 23 roses and a question mark made of Hershey Kisses.
"A lot of kids are doing [promposals] nowadays, but most of them aren't very original and consist mostly of people writing 'prom?' on a poster board and giving the girl flowers," he says. "Personally, I like to keep mine original so it means more."
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...