What about prom? High school seniors enjoy DIY and virtual proms at home

The prom must go on!

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By Allison Slater Tate

Along with all the other senior spring rites of passage, the Class of 2020 lost one of the iconic milestone moments for American high school students in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak: their proms.

But as their scheduled prom nights approached, some high schools and families across the country decided that even if the big hotel ballrooms and dance floors were not possible this year, the prom must go on.

In basements and on patios, using Spotify playlists and homemade decorations, with parents and siblings as their dance floor partners — and, sometimes, with the help of some pretty famous faces — seniors are still dressing up in their prom wear and getting their magic moments.

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Madeleine Roberts is a senior at the Maclay School in Tallahassee, Florida. She's excited to head to college in the fall, but her family felt there were still a few experiences she needed to finish at home first — like prom.

A local Tallahassee photographer, Lea Marshall, volunteered to take prom "porchtraits" of families hosting home proms for their Class of 2020 seniors, as the Roberts family did for their senior, Madeleine. Courtesy of Lea Marshall

Madeleine's four younger siblings and her parents collaborated and pulled off an at-home prom, complete with her favorite food (tacos), a "massive" dessert buffet and a two-hour curated playlist.

"Throwing a prom at home gave us a focus on one thing we could do to create joy instead of only feeling the losses of senior year," Madeleine's mom, Kristin, told TODAY Parents. "Everyone in our family pitched in with thoughtful things like her favorite music, flowers and food, which in some ways made it much more personal and fun than a more generalized school event."

The whole Roberts family got in on the prom planning for their 2020 high school graduate, Madeleine. They included her favorite foods, songs and flowers, and then they filled the home dance floor.Courtesy of Kristin Roberts

The Roberts's full house helped round out the party, she said. "It helps that we have five children, because they could actually fill up the dance floor!"

Roberts said she believed the prom at home would become one of her daughter's best senior year memories — and Madeleine agreed.

"It was so meaningful to celebrate with my family," Madeleine told TODAY Parents. "It's something I'll always remember."

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Another Tallahassee high school senior, Kaki Kirk, had a home prom of her own the same evening. Kaki, a 17-year-old senior at Leon High School who will head to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the fall to study business marketing, had three friends over to her house for pictures — though she and her friends stayed 6 feet apart.

Kaki Kirk, second from the right, poses with her family at her stay-at-home prom in Tallahassee, Florida.Courtesy of Lea Marshall

She then celebrated her prom with her parents, Erik and Kristen, her older sister, Caroline, and her younger sister, Annabelle. (Older brother Teddy sweetly but firmly opted out to go fishing, her mom said.)

Kaki Kirk's family decorated the whole house with prom balloons and streamers for her home prom. Courtesy of Kristen Kirk

"We thought it would be an exciting distraction from the monotony of sheltering in place at home," said Kaki's mom, Kristen. "It gave me an excuse to still support my local community by ordering balloons and flowers and a nice takeout dinner for the family."

Actor John Krasinski recently used his new series "Some Good News" to throw the Class of 2020 an epic national virtual prom with the help of stars like Billie Eilish, Chance the Rapper, Rainn Wilson and the Jonas Brothers.

TODAY's Al Roker treated some high school seniors in Nebraska to a virtual prom, complete with a shoutout from singer Demi Lovato.

In Elmira, New York, one local DJ brought the prom to his front lawn for his daughter and her friend. John Osterhout, aka DJ BIGGI, and his wife Meaghan threw their daughter Helaina a prom she will never forget, his mom wrote on Facebook.

But the award for most creative stay-at-home prom might go to the Anderson family of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Jennifer Anderson's oldest daughter, Ellie, 16, missed her Junior Prom this spring, so her younger siblings decided to throw her a "totally homegrown" prom in their basement instead.

They surprised Ellie with the results — an "Under the Sea" wonderland including sea creatures made from construction paper and other materials they already had in the house, a photo booth, and hours of dancing in the dress she wanted so much to wear to the prom. Anderson broadcast the dancing from her basement for friends and family on Facebook Live.

Ellie Anderson, 16, had searched for the perfect dress for her Junior Prom. She was able to wear it when her siblings threw her a surprise prom in the basement of her family's home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Jennifer Anderson

"Ellie was blown away by how much effort her brothers and sisters put into our 'fake prom,'" Anderson told TODAY Parents. "It almost made it more special than an actual prom, I think. She was so touched."