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A Quinceanera is a memorable and momentous social and religious occasion in the life of a young girl in the Latino community. It is the ceremony and celebration of her 15thbirthday and considered her coming-of-age transition from girlhood into womanhood. Culturally, this is the age that signifies the turn from a youth to adulthood, whereas males are deemed to make their transition to men at age 18. The event is anticipated and well planned for, for many years in some cases. The celebrant’s parents, friends, family and community have roles in the planning and execution of the formal event.

Is a Quinceanera event like a wedding?

Many aspects of these events resemble a wedding in the traditional sense. The Quinceanera celebrant, will herself, wear a very colorful and lavish ballroom style gown, a bracelet, a necklace and a bejeweled tiara. She will have an honor escort wearing a tuxedo. She may have up to 14 girls in her Court, all wearing formal gowns and 14 boys will accompany them, all wearing tuxedo’s traditionally. In most cases, there will be a total of 28 members in the formal Court party flanking the girl, comprised of 14 girls, known as damas and 14 boys, known as chambelanes. There are families that deviate from this norm or tradition due to budgetary constraints or who opt for a different arrangement with fewer participants. Some modern arrangements may have as many as 7 damas and 7 chamberlanes and will dance during a ceremonial Waltz dance at the ceremony. The end celebration is the same. The principle is unchanged. The marker of this cross-over transition to womanhood applies equally to all who celebrate this right of passage. Besides the formal gowns and tuxedos worn by the Court, the family attends a Mass at a church before the reception. This is the ceremonial spiritual aspect of the event. The girl must receive a special blessing from the priest during the Mass and commit herself to purity and spiritual devotion. There is a ring given to the Quince to signify God’s unending love. In addition, it also acts like a place marker, where a future engagement band or wedding ring will be placed. Limousines escort them to the church event and then onto the reception that may be held at a home or at a banquet hall. There, a D.J. or band may be set up to perform and entertain the guests for the evening. Formal flower arrangements adorn the tables and other areas of the room. During the reception, a Waltz is played and the Quince and her honor escort dance alone at first and then the rest of the formal party join in shortly after. These traditions and formalities do resemble a wedding as you can see. Symbolically, the event is a pre-cursor to the girl becoming a candidate for marriage. All the symbolism points to that. The guests even receive small tokens called capias, to commemorate the celebration, like wedding guests receiving bottles of bubbles or another gift with the date etched into it, to take home.

What should you wear to a Quinceanera?

The family may have an event coordinator they are working with to help with the many details. The Quince now gets to shop with her parents and friends. This is a very exciting time for them. Colors and styles are picked out well in advance of the event date. Gowns and tuxedo are ordered and fittings are scheduled and completed leading up to the day. In my research, I found that you do not want to out-shine the Court party or celebrant by wearing something too colorful or lavish to a Quinceanera event. Black dresses are well suited for these events for female guests. Girls or women can wear attire suitable for any formal occasion. Boys and men can wear dress slacks, buttoned down shirts or golf shirts. Dark jackets, ties and leather shoes are suitable too. The idea is to not over-do it or go in with an overly casual ensemble. This is a time to be respectful of the moment and be dressed appropriately for such an event. If you really wanted to make sure you don’t clash with the Court party, check to see what colors are selected in advance and dress accordingly. To summarize, dress formal to semi-formally and do not clash with the formal party colors if possible. You can always ask the person who invited you of the theme colors. This would be the best practice.

Top 6 traditions at a Quinceanera

As outlined previously in this article, A Quinceanera is the right of passage in the Latino community. It is a combination of a Birthday party and the coming-of-age celebration of a girl at age 15. In this cultural period, males do not participate in this type of venue. They are deemed to become men at age 18. In addition to the Mass they attend, where God is recognized and the celebrant devotes herself to purity and spiritual discipline, there are some traditions that are meaningful to the family and Quince to perform.

1. One of these symbolic gestures is; the parents or godparents recognize the celebrant and give her a scepter. This gift recognizes her as passing from a girl to a woman. It has a royal connection and is symbolic of authority and her position of responsibility in the community.

2. A bracelet is also a symbolic gesture gifted to the Quince celebrant from the parents at this time. This is a once in a lifetime event for the girl and family and this gift will be a part of the memory. It might be a simple bangle or one that is adorned with charms or it may be custom made piece, with symbols, jewels or a Christian symbol. It will act as a reminder of the event and the memories created with her family, friends and her community around her.

3. A last childhood gift is given in some customs. A Last doll is given to the Quince to mark this event. After this, the girl will now turn her thoughts to that of a young lady, leaving childhood behind. It may that a Quince will give a Quinceanera Doll to a younger sibling or family member as a gesture that she is leaving childhood behind and becoming an adult.

4. The Shoe ceremony. Symbolically, there is a ‘changing of the shoes’ moment. When the Quince begins her dance, she does it wearing flats. These are shoes with no heels. During the Crowning Waltz dance, the parents are responsible for exchanging the Quince’s shoes to high heels representing her transition from Childhood to a woman. This is the first time she has been allowed to wear high heeled shoes.

5. Father-daughter dance.There is a designated time for this dance. It is a special time and can be very emotional for both and the family as they look on. It signifies the birthday girl’s first dance as an adult with her father.

6. Toast the Quinceanera.A special toast is given by the father to the Birthday girl. After the Quinceanera has danced with her honor escort and the Court has joined in, the father will make a toast to his daughter, typically at the end of the event. In some cases, the toast may be given by the master or mistress of ceremony, the honor escort or the band leader with a prepared outline.

In closing, these traditions and symbolic gestures which have been handed down from generations past from within the Latino communities, are in some cases modernized. They are deeply held religious and cultural beliefs and symbols that signify passage. Once the party is over and the guests are home and the venue cleared out, the candid pictures, videography and portrait photography are what can help to re-live the magical moments in the girl’s life. It would be our pleasure to speak with you about creating a lasting formal portrait collection of your Quinceanera. Our Quinceanera portraits are perfected and crafted onto Giclee style Gallery Wrap canvas. Each canvas portrait comes with a photograph Gift print of the same image.

Contact Jay Buchanan Photography for your Quinceanera Portrait needs.

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