Promposals: How 4 teens were asked to the big dance

By Allison Eatough

Prom season is approaching and that means there will be plenty of promposals taking place outside of Maryland high schools in the next few weeks.

After dating for two years, Danielle LaDue knew she and her boyfriend, Kyle Russell, would attend prom together. She just didn't know how he would ask her.

"I told him I wanted something creative... to be different," says LaDue, a 2014 graduate of South River High School in Edgewater.

And she got the surprise of her life with a public "promposal" at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport last March when she returned from a college visit in Florida. It's something LaDue will not soon forget.

Should you stumble on such a scene this spring — teens holding up letters spelling "prom," plastic cups jammed into wire fences on highway overpasses, or something that looks like a high school serenade — keep in mind that promposals are on the rise. Many high schoolers these days aren't content to merely ask their date to prom. Instead, they concoct elaborate schemes to get their intended date to say yes to prom.

Here are four stories, including LaDue's, of how local students have "promposed" to their dates in recent years.

Promposal2WThe airport promposal

When LaDue returned from the college visit last spring, Russell and seven of their friends were waiting in baggage claim to greet her.

The friends stood in a row, all holding signs that – when combined – read, "Will you go to prom with me?"

Russell, a 2014 graduate of Southern High School in Harwood, walked toward LaDue with a rose in hand. When she said yes, hundreds of strangers surrounding them in baggage claim clapped and cheered.

"I knew she was coming in, and I knew she wanted something big from me, so I figured, 'Why don't I surprise her at the airport,'" Russell says.

And surprise her he did.

"I was shocked," she says. "When you do something special and creative like that, it shows that you really care about the person."

The scavenger hunt promposal

Ellie Lewis made her boyfriend work – and walk – for his invitation to her homschooler's prom two years ago.

Using clues based on their first date, Lewis created a scavenger hunt in downtown Annapolis for her boyfriend, Nate Griffith.

"It took quite a bit of time," says Lewis, a Severna Park resident.

For weeks, she planned the clues, a series of riddles that would lead him to seven destinations.PromprosalEllieNateW

The first clue referred to Jane Eyre, a book by Charlotte Bronte that Griffith likes. It led him to Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers, where Lewis's sister, Becca, was waiting with the book and another clue. Becca and a friend guided Griffith along the way while recording and photographing the hunt. An employee at Kilwins ice cream shop had one clue and another was hidden in a brick wall on Chancery Lane. The final clue was behind a street sign on a pedestrian island in between two city streets. It read: "The first picture of just the two of us was taken here. Come find me!"

After more than an hour of tracking down all seven clues, Griffith found Lewis waiting for him on the steps at St. John's College's library where she asked him to her prom.

"It was truly one of the nicest and most considerate things that anyone has ever done for me," Griffith says. "I really like a good puzzle. Ellie knew that and did a great job writing all the clues."

Unfortunately, Griffith suffered a concussion while playing lacrosse a few weeks after the promposal, and the couple was unable to attend prom. But the proposal itself provided them with a lifelong memory, Lewis says.

"It was totally worth it and so much more fun than prom would have been," Lewis says.

Photo above: Kyle Russell promposes to Danielle LaDue. Right: Ellie Lewis and Nate Griffith after the scavenger hunt promposal.

Click next below for more promposal stories

The theater promposal

Shannon Moran and her friend, Sam Hoffman, both share a love of theater.

Moran, a Halethorpe resident and Mount de Sales Academy student, met the Mount Saint Joseph High School student in 2012 during her school's production of "Bye Bye Birdie." After that, they acted in several productions together.

So when it came time to find a junior prom date, Moran says she knew just the person to ask — and just the way to ask him.

In February 2014, after students finished a rehearsal in the Mount Saint Joseph auditorium, Moran began singing a parody of "One Day More" from "Les Miserables," a musical they both enjoy.

"On May 3, another night, another destiny," she recalls singing. "Will you go to prom with me?"

Surrounded by 50 other students, Hoffman put his hands up, signaling he wanted her to stop so he could answer, Moran says. But Moran was nervous so she just kept singing.

At the end of the song, Hoffman said, "Yes."

The promposal, recorded by one of Moran's friends, quickly spread through social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.

"People I didn't even know were sharing it," she says.

Nerves and public sharing aside, the prom and the proposal were worth it, Moran says.

"This was my first time doing anything like that," Moran says. "But I'm glad I did it."

The poem puzzle promposal

While planning his promposal, Andy Kuriatnikov drew upon his potential prom date's love of world travel.

The 2014 South River High School graduate wrote four poems describing places Sheridan Gardner, a fellow South River High School student, had either lived or visited: Paris, Rome, New Orleans and Munich. On the poems, he highlighted the "P" in Paris, the "R" in Rome, the "O" in New Orleans and the "M" in Munich to spell "prom."

On the big day, Kuriatnikov asked friends to deliver the poems during each of Gardner's four classes. He then waited for her in the school parking lot, armed with flowers and the fifth and final poem, asking her to prom.

Gardiner accepted.

"I wanted to do something nice and personal but that wasn't too flamboyant," Kuriatnikov says. "It was very individualized and personal and catered to her."

PromPosalIllusWThe pros and cons of the promposal trend

Psychology and psychiatry experts say promposals, likely born out of social media and reality television shows, can have both pros and cons.

"For the most part, it's a fun and creative way to memorialize the ritual of prom and overcome the anxieties over whether your intended date will say, 'Yes,'" says Carole Lieberman, a California psychiatrist and relationship expert.

Posting promposals on social media sites "satisfies today's teens' increased thirst for their 15 minutes of fame," she says.

But there are downsides to the trend, especially if social media is involved, say both Lieberman and Rachelle Tannenbaum, professor and head of the psychology department at Anne Arundel Community College.

"It creates pressure to do something that's more creative, more over the top, more special," Tannenbaum says.

It also creates financial and social pressure, she says, and Lieberman agrees.

"If you are afraid that your intended date might say, 'no,' a promposal makes it less likely that they will reject you in front of the whole school," she says. "It's a way of using peer pressure to get someone to agree to be your date, who you fear wouldn't say, 'yes' if it were just the two of you."

In addition, promposals may affect teens' perceptions — and expectations — for future proposals, Tannenbaum says.

"You don't want someone to have this idea that it's not a real proposal if it's not over the top," she says.