Even though there's the theme, the music, the food and the venue to consider, you can't get past that got-to-be gorgeous ball gown.
For weeks ahead, many senior girls throughout the region have been combing the frock shop. But buying your gown online has also been popular, according to those contacted by the Chronicle.
A few girls have coerced their mothers, aunts or grandmas to make a special dress but most have splashed out with a bought gown.
Opportunity shops haven't really been considered this year. One volunteer, who didn't want to be named, said girls hadn't been searching for second-hand dresses this year.
"We haven't really had boys in either. I think online buying has really taken over."
Most boys have hired suits with a few buying a smart suit ... online.
At Just Looking in Wanganui, full length gowns in pastel hues were displayed in the windows.
Manager Mel Walker admitted she adored ball season.
"It's such a lovely time, we really enjoy it every year. We've had young customers in from all over, from Taranaki to Palmerston North. It's been great."
Kirsty Davidson, owner of Etcetera in Wanganui, said they had been geared up for months. The dedicated formal-wear shop had been inundated with young women preparing weeks in advance.
"It's an exciting time and I really enjoy it."
Ms Davidson said she ensures she never has two of the same gown in her store.
"There's nothing worse than turning up to your ball and seeing someone else in the exact same gown."
If a particular gown is not the right size it doesn't matter, she said.
"Once the choice is made we arrange to get the gown custom-made so that very girl arrives in an original gown."
But the gown is just part of the look, she said.
Cosmetic spray tans, makeup and a special hairdo create the perfect look.
Wanganui Suit Hire Services is situated above Etcetera and has been doing a roaring trade, Ms Davidson said.
"The boys don't mess around though, they just come get fitted and they're out again."
But the big one for the girls this year is to have a spray tan and go to the ball golden and glowing, she said.
"Spray tanning is big, big business."
But flowers are out.
According to one florist who didn't want to named, flowers fell out of favour some time ago.
"The days of corsages are well over for now I think," she said.
The two balls tonight are the Cullinane Ball at the Pioneer Room in the War Memorial Hall and the Rangitikei College Ball in their school hall in Marton.
Yesterday, the Year 13 ball committees were on the job decorating the venues with chosen themes.
For Cullinane, the theme is the Secret Garden. Head of the ball committee Jaime Oaeeffe said it was a mutual decision by the committee.
There is a sit-down formal dinner with 75 guests and the music from a DJ.
Each table has a white cloth with a centrepiece, a round antique-style bird cage filled with coloured feathers and glittering butterflies. The archway leading into the venue will be twined with ivy and flowers and brightly coloured large crepe paper pom poms will be strung around the walls. A street lamp and a park bench also feature.
The Cullinane girls were doing each other's hair this year and most were doing their own makeup, Jaime said.
"And we all bought our dresses on-line."
Year 13 Dean Anne-Marie Bullock said the no-alcohol rule applies, and the school took no responsibility for any after-ball parties.
"We, of course, have informed the police the ball is on."
At Rangitikei College, the theme is Narnia, the white witch.
In Marton, the local pharmacy was booked to the hilt today with appointments for makeups and hairdos.
Pharmacy cosmetic salesperson Gleeson Sewell said there were numerous girls booked in for hair-ups and makeup.
Rangitikei Year 13 Dean Sheree Osgood said the ball was the absolute highlight of the year and excitement had been running hot for weeks.
Ms Osgood said 135 tickets had been sold and supper was being provided by parents and friends of the school. A DJ would provide music.
Ms Osgood said the school would not be responsible for any after-ball parties. "We inform local police, so they know what is happening in the community tonight."