Being Hispanic I have never been to a sweet sixteeen birthday party. But I have been in a few Quinceañeras. Quinceañera roughly translates to "sweet fifteen" in English. Quince means 15 in Spanish and añera isn't really a word but it kind of has the word ano in it which means years.
Now anyone who is familiar with Quinceañeras may pronounce it in a different way such as Quinceañero. Or also the celebration itself is the Quinceañero and the woman herself as the Quinceañera.
A Quinceañeras is more than just a big party. It marks the transformation from childhood to womanhood.
In most quinceañeras they have a court which is made up of damas(girls) and chambelans/caballeros (boys). The tradition is to have 15 boys and 14 girls (the quinceañera is the 15th) but many people do not do this because 30 people is a lot of people.
One other tradition is you have one girl for each of your previous years for example you could have one girl for 14, one for 13, one for 12, etc. The problem with this is you might have to leave people out what if three of the cousins you wanted to be one of your damas are 14 you can only pick one so you have to leave the other two out. Also you have to know a lot of people for that because what is the chance that 14 people you know are aged 1-14 one for each year.
I haven't had my quinceañera yet; it will be in nine months on January 5,2008. But I already know what's going to happen since my mother, grandmother and I stated planning it since I was 13. Some people have themes for their party. For example all my decorations will revolve around Roman things; we will have Roman statues and columns. Also people usually have colors for their party which means everything revolves around those colors, the clothes, the decorations, the cake etc.
The dress is also very important. Most people usually get a big expensive wedding dress. I don't have my dress yet because my mother said to wait until about three months before the party. Some people wear the big, huge, puffy dress the whole time. While others wear the big dress during the church ceremony and the beginning of the party and then change into a lighter dress usually a prom dress or something like that. The court also gets special outfits. The damas wear dresses usually custom made and usually something that has to do with the theme. The chambelan/caballeros wear a tux. The tuxes don't have to be boring they could be different color vest and you can add accessories such as canes and hats.
The church is something I'm going to do. But not everyone does it. First the court walks in before with their partners. After they are done the quinceañera walks in with her partner wearing her dress, flats and a small tiara. Then the woman walks up to the altar and agrees to a few things that have to do with religion.
After everyone heads to the reception which is usually at a hall. But you can't party or eat just yet. The court has to be introduced and the quinceañera. Then there is a dance usually a slow ballroom dance but not always. I once went to a quinceañera were we did the Cha-Cha slide. After that is the changing of the shoes and the crowning. The father (if father is not in attendance someone else may do this) will change the shoes from flats to heels. Also the girl will be crowned. They will take off the tiny tiara and put a bigger one on.
Another thing is the quinceañera could light 15 candles and dedicate one to a special person in her life. She may also be given the last doll which is just what is sound like the last doll she will ever have. It is usually a very beautiful doll and it signifies that she is no longer a little girl she is now a woman (who doesn't play with dolls).
After all this now you get to party. Most people get a DJ for the party and hire a photographer to take pictures.
While they do take a lot of work, months of planning, and some money it is worth it because it is not just big party; it is a tradition.
Angalgirl over and out