Quinceanera celebrations are rites of passage for Latina girls. Literally translating from Spanish to mean “15 years,” a quinceanera is celebration that takes place on a young girl”s 15th birthday to commemorate her journey into womanhood, much in the way that the traditional “sweet sixteen” birthday or a debutantes coming out is in Western culture.Quinceanera Traditions

While quinceanera customs vary from country to country, some aspects of a quinceanera celebration are traditional and common to many cultures.

In many cultures, the quinceanera celebration begins with a religious mass or ceremony as which the young lady wears an elaborate gown. Although the quinceanera dresses were traditionally pink, today the girl is allowed to choose any color she wants for her quinceanera dress. After a formal mass, all guests go to a reception hall to enjoy a party that celebrates the young woman. Often, at the reception, the young lady has a special court of her friends, ranging from seven to 14 couples.

One special custom that is often observed at the quinceanera party relates to the young lady”s shoes. While the girl wears flat shoes to the mass and to the quinceanera celebration, she changes into heels before the first dance, which is usually a waltz with her father. This symbolizes the girls transformation into a young woman.

Another common quinceanera tradition involves throwing a doll, similar to the tradition of throwing a garter at a wedding. The doll represents the last doll the girl will have as a child, symbolizing her transition into young womanhood.

Planning a Quinceanera

As with any party, the first thing that should be addressed is what type of budget you have. Because quinceaneras are such a meaningful part of Latin tradition, many families host extremely elaborate parties for their daughters. Keep in mind that its easy to get caught up in preparations and overspend if you dont set a fixed amount at the beginning. To avoid problems down the line, discuss the budget with the young lady right from the start so that she has a realistic expectation of the event.

The budget will set the parameters for many of the other aspects of the quinceanera. After setting your budget, here is a list of other aspects you will need to plan:

  • The guest list: Although you will definitely invite family and close friends, set a limit to the number of people you can afford to invite so that the guest list does not get out of control.
  • The invitations: Send invites out early enough to make sure as many guests as possible can attend the event. You may also want to send out follow up reminders to RSVP if the booked hall or restaurant requires a headcount.
  • The party favors: Like weddings, quinceanera celebrations are typically marked by the giving of small party favors to the attendees. Keep in mind that these party favors dont need to be excessive, as you will likely be spending enough money on other aspects of this event.
  • The seating arrangement, D.J. and entertainment: Each of these considerations depends on whether or not you host a sit down affair, rent out a reception hall and have a large guest list. While some quinceaneras can be as expensive as weddings, they need not be that elaborate. However, if you are planning a larger, more formal event, then you will need to do a bit more planning, which includes mapping out a seating arrangement, hiring a D.J. and providing some other entertainment.
  • The refreshments: Depending on the number of guests you invite, you may have a catered sit down meal or a series of appetizers set out. In general, larger quinceanera parties are best suited to set out trays of appetizers and finger foods.

Finer Details: Quinceanera Dresses

Many girls keenly anticipate their quinceaneras and plan an elaborate party far in advance. Some take great pains to plan out the dress they will wear, the friends they want to invite and the event itself.

Once the budget, guest list and location are set, figuring out the finder details, such as who will be part of the attendant party and what quinceanera dresses and gowns the girls will wear, will be next on the agenda. In many ways, a quinceanera dress is like a wedding gown, with a long, full skirt and ornate detailing. A tiara is also a frequent accessory for the event, signifying that the girl is a princess for her special day.