Planning your Quinceanera will be a lot of fun as long as you keep it simple. It’s easy to add a lot of intricate details, but you can plan a Quince in a very straightforward manner. A lot of girls take a full year to plan, but you still don’t have to make it complicated. And this particular Quinceanera planning guide will really work for you especially if you’re planning your Quince a little late in the game—like maybe your birthday is only a couple of months away. Just follow the numbers, do the steps in order or however else they suit you, and you’ll be good to go for a fun and perfect Sweet 15 Quinceanera!
1. Get Permission
Before you start looking at dresses or pins or anything else, you need permission from two different groups of people.
- Ask your Parents
Not only will you need your parent’s permission to have a Quinceanera celebration, but you’ll also need their permission to plan the event. It takes time to put a Quince party together and your folks will probably want to make sure that your schoolwork doesn’t suffer and that you don’t take time away from other important things like family obligations and extracurricular activities that will have a positive impact on your future like sports or school academic clubs.
Your parents will also need to have the final say as to whether you have a Quinceanera Mass.
- Ask your Church
It’s traditional—but not mandatory—to have a Misa de acción de gracias, a “Mass of Giving Thanks” before your reception. This is a beautiful part of a traditional Quinceanera, but you should be aware that your Church might have some conditions you must meet.
You might have to give a donation so unless you’ve saved up, your parents will have to pay for that. You might also be required to either already be a regular participant in the parish activities, become a regular participant during the months before your Quince, and sometimes also have to take special classes or do some kind of charity work.
The other thing to be aware of is that a Quinceanera Mass is not considered a “sacrament.” Marriage is a sacrament, so anyone wanting to get married on your Quinceanera day will be given preference in the Church calendar.
2. Select a Date
Most girls plan their Quinceanera near their birthday but before setting a final date, you should also take into consideration some other things.
- Can everybody make it?
Will the people you most want to attend be in town? Can you have your party outside? What other holidays, vacations or other obligations might conflict with your party?
- Saturday night is not mandatory
If your birthday falls on a weekday, convention says that you should have your Quince the Saturday either before or after your birthday. However, while most Quinces are held on Saturdays, you might be able to do a Friday evening, Sunday afternoon, or maybe even a Saturday morning.
3. Set a Budget
Again, unless you’ve worked and saved up quite a bit of money, your parents will be footing the bill for your party. The good news is that, even if your parents want to keep the cost way down, you can still have a lovely Quinceanera at home or in an inexpensive setting.
- Focus on inviting loved ones first
Just like a wedding, a Quinceanera is all about celebrating your important 15th birthday with the people who love you. You don’t necessarily need 100 people, a grand ballroom, and an expensive designer dress to have a beautiful, meaningful Quinceanera. What you do need is creativity!
- Be considerate of siblings
You also might have to “share the budget” with an older or younger sister who either just had her Quinceanera or who will have her Quince shortly after yours. So be gracious to your parents and thankful for whatever they can do. Then put on your creative thinking hat and get to work planning!
- Be respectful to potential padrinos
The one thing a Quince can have that other celebrations do not is the concept of padrinos—sponsors who will help foot the bill. But keep in mind that when you approach them, you should let them decide what they want to take care of. Let them ask you what you need.
4. Find a Celebration Space
You have several choices when it comes to where you can hold your Quinceanera reception.
- Book a reception hall
This is the most traditional but also usually the most expensive option. You can find a hotel ballroom, a social hall like the Knights of Columbus, or the clubhouse if your neighborhood has one.
- Rent your Church’s recreation space
A time-honored and original Quinceanera tradition is to have the Quinceanera and her court and family, followed by her guests, to walk in procession from the Church to the reception place led by a mariachi band. If you either have a hall around the corner from the church or can have the party in the church itself, there’s nothing better than walking to live music. Walking saves a lot of money, too, when it comes to transportation!
- Hold your Quince at home
There’s nothing that will stretch your creativity, teach you how to stretch a dollar and make you focus on inviting the most important people than to have your Quince reception at home. A home reception also lets you concentrate on the religious and family aspect of the celebration instead of worrying about menus and table decorations and just think of the memories you’ll make!
- Totally creative alternatives
You don’t have to have a formal reception at all. You can have a casual picnic in the park or have a pizza party at a place with games and activities. You could take a group of friends to an amusement park. You could even go bowling!
5. Design the Timeline
You’ll need to set a schedule, starting either with the Church ceremony if you have one until the time the last guest must leave the reception. And once more, this detail will be dependent on your parents and the church.
- Church’s schedule
Remember: a Quinceanera is not considered a sacrament by the Catholic Church. Therefore if someone wants to book a wedding on the same day, they’ll get preferential treatment. If you want a “guaranteed” time, you can have a blessing by the priest at the end of a regularly scheduled Mass.
- Parents’ preference for start & end times
Your folks need to make the final decision for when the party will end, but when it comes to what time your Mass starts, that will be up to the Church. But here are some other things to talk about when it comes to the schedule.
- Have the ceremony in late morning
If you want a church ceremony, consider starting your Quinceañera in the late morning and continue the reception through the afternoon and end in the early evening.
- Have the ceremony in the afternoon
The timeline for this will run very much like a wedding, so you can borrow from wedding planning materials for ideas.
- Set a firm ending time
If you book a traditional venue—hotel, hall, church basement—your end time will be determined by the facility. It can be harder to set an end time at home or in a venue that doesn’t have a specific contract limit. Once the party starts, you may never want it to end.
It’s very tempting, especially with a home reception, to not have a designated end time and to just let things happen as they will. But in order to keep some semblance of order, establish a time when you’ll begin to give strong hints that “the party’s over—it’s time to go home, please.”
- Extend the fun with a sleepover
Probably the people most excited about your Quince will be your damas and other girlfriends. So especially if you have a reception at home, a clubhouse or a more casual hall (just not a fancy ballroom) maybe ask your parents if you can have the girls stay over for the night. They might really like this idea if your reception is at home and you make a deal that you’ll all pitch in to help clean up!
6. Choose your Corte de Honor
There are several choices when it comes to a court of honor for a Quince. Here are the primary considerations:
- Who’s in the court?
Make sure to honor your family’s wishes and include relatives first if your family desires. It’s much better to include a cousin and keep the peace in the household than to insist on girlfriends only.
- Total number of people
This is entirely optional. The ultra-traditional Court of Honor comprises 15 couples, including the birthday girl and her escort. It’s more common now to see 7 couples altogether. The idea is to have “15” people or couples, one couple to represent each one of your 15 years.
- Couples, individuals or no court at all
You can have 14 couples or 7 couples or no couples at all. Some girls chose to have a male-only court—just herself, 6 chambelanes and her escort. Less common is a court of just girls because part of the idea of the rite of passage from little girl to young lady is that you can now dance with eligible gentlemen. You can also skip the court altogether and just have an escort.
- Do Choose an Escort
Unless you go against all traditions, you’ll want to have one male escort. Whether he’s all by himself, or whether he’s surrounded by your 7 or 14 other couples, his job is to accompany you throughout the evening. Good choices are your boyfriend, a good male friend, a cousin, or a neighbor. You should like the guy pretty well, and he should like you well enough to feel comfortable acting the role of a gentleman for this important day.
- Get everyone’s parents’ permission
If you plan on having a court, before you formally invite anybody, you should approach each and every person’s parents individually to explain their role and get permission. If the family isn’t familiar with the Quince, you’ll want to explain its significance, especially if you’re having a Mass.
You also need to make sure that the date you choose doesn’t interfere with that particular family’s obligations. You should honor your court’s family responsibilities just as you should your own, which is why the parents need to know so they can tell you right away if there’s a conflict.
- Talk about clothing costs
If your family will be paying for everyone’s outfits, then there’s no issue. But usually, each member of the court pays for his or her own dress and shoes, tux or suit, tie and suspenders, vest and tie—whatever you decide to have the guys wear. This is crucial when you talk to everyone’s parents. They need to know what to expect and also be given the opportunity to decline the invitation if they feel it’s too much money.
7. Send Out Invitations.
Again, just like a wedding, there are all kinds of Quinceanera invitations, and they can be as simple or as lavish as you wish. It all depends on your budget.
- Invite your Court of Honor
It’s customary to ask each member of your court to be in your celebration in a formal way. Even if you’ve talked to them personally, it’s a big tradition to give them each formal invitations of some kind. Even something like a candy bar with a note “Will you be my dama?” or “Please by my chambelane” will work just fine. This isn’t mandatory—it’s just really nice.
- Invite your guests
Your regular Quince invitations do not have to match what you give your court. You can choose anything you want, and you can also choose the option to send one invitation per person or one invitation per couple, and you can also—unless your reception is super-formal—send one invitation per family. Talk to your parents about how they want to handle this because you do need to send some kind of formal invitation, not just a casual phone call or message.
- Include a reply card
Even if it’s a casual affair, you need to know how many plan to show up so you can have enough food, chairs, and giveaways for everyone. Use the standard wedding invitation approach and assign a “reply by” date—usually 2 weeks before your Quince date.
8. Choose Everyone’s Attire
Now you need to decide who wears what, how fancy everything will be, and what it will all cost.
- Your dress & shoes
The classic Quinceanera dress is a ball gown with a giant hoop skirt, but you can wear just about anything you want as long as it’s a long formal style gown. You’ll also probably switch out for the surprise dance if you plan to do one, so you’ll either keep your bodice and change your skirt or wear a different dance outfit altogether—whatever your choreographer suggests.
You’ll also need 2 different pairs of shoes: One pair of flats for the religious ceremony and for the beginning of the reception, then one pair of dressy high heels. You might also have a 3rd pair of shoes for the dances.
- Clothing for court of honor and/or escort
The most formal Quinceaneras have the girls in gowns, either long or short, and the guys in tuxedos or suits. Your guys can just wear a nice shirt and trousers and then a vest and tie, or perhaps just dressy suspenders and a bow tie.
The only “rule” is that nobody wears jeans, t-shirts or sneakers to the religious ceremony, but that’s just common sense when it comes to anything held in a church.
- Attire for parents & guests
Sometimes the Quinceanera’s parents dress up in evening wear and sometimes they just wear something really nice. It all depends on the formality of the reception. Guests invited to a Quince dress just as they would for a wedding: they match the formality of the event.
Occasionally a Quinceanera will decide to have a theme reception and ask the guests to dress accordingly. Just make sure your crowd will like the idea of theme attire before you impose any suggestions or restrictions on what they can and cannot wear.
9. Select your Food & Drink
There are just as many options of what to serve your guests as there are ideas for Quinceanera celebrations! Here’s a super-basic guide to get you started:
- Formal plated dinner or buffet
If you plan to rent a ballroom or an elegant venue, then for sure you want either a sit-down dinner or a formal buffet.
- Casual style
There’s no reason you can’t have casual food in a rented ballroom. If the theme of your Quince is casual but you chose a banquet hall because you need room for all the people on your guest list, just have the caterer prepare a less formal dinner.
- Family potluck
This is perfect for a home Quinceanera, and also, you might be able to bring your own food to some casual reception halls like a Knights of Columbus or a clubhouse.
Throw a picnic in your backyard, have a block party barbecue, or have casual catering brought in like fried chicken.
- Don’t forget the Cake!
No matter what style reception food, you must—really must—have a cake. Part of the big deal about going from little girl to your lady is having a cake to cut, and it can be as fancy or as simple as you want. You can also have one smaller cake to cut, then serve sheet cakes or cupcakes.
- Decide how to toast
It’s traditional to have a toast to the Quinceanera, but there are different ways to do it, so ask your parents what they prefer. Your Quinceanera toast might be your first taste of real champagne, or your family might want you to stick to sparkling grape juice. Everyone in the court of honor is included in the toast, so if any of their parents object to real champagne, honor their wishes and choose non-alcoholic.
- Last consideration: Diets & Allergies
It’s really no trouble to stick to foods that everyone can eat, or have some special menu items for those with specific allergies. Just be aware and ask around to see if you need to be careful about anything in particular.
10. Organize the Traditions
There are a handful of traditions that go with a Quinceanera. You can choose some of them, all of them, or none of them. Here’s the basic list:
- Changing of the Shoes
Changing your shoes implies that you’re becoming a woman. In a traditional ceremony, your dad or perhaps your escort will make a show of slipping off your “little girl flats” and helping you into your “grown up high heels.”
- Crowning with tiara & scepter
A tiara and scepter are symbolic of you being a princess in the eyes of your family and also, with regard to the church, a princess of God.
- La ultima muñeca (Last Doll)
This is a fun tradition you might want to keep even if you don’t do a scepter or tiara. The idea is that you have one last doll as a little girl that you carry for a while at the reception, then, also symbolic of your change from little girl to woman, you hand the doll over to your younger sister, or cousin, or perhaps a young friend if there are no close female relatives.
The classic traditional doll is often made from porcelain and designed to look like the Quinceañera, but these days you can use any material that you want. You can buy a doll already in costume, or purchase something cute like a Cabbage Patch doll and make it a little dress to match yours. You can even make a special dress for your real last doll if you still own one.
11. Dancing: Choreographed & Casual
A big part of a Quinceanera is dancing and again, this can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The two things you’ll probably want to include is a First Waltz and also a Father-Daughter dance, but you can combine those two. Here’s a list of the standard traditional dances:
- Fairytale Waltz
Traditionally this is a fancy choreographed dance done by the Quinceanera, her escort, and her entire court. The idea is that this is your first “grown up affair” which includes dancing with gentlemen and not just with the other little girls.
- Father-Daughter Dance
Unless you chose to have no dancing whatsoever, you’ll want to include this. You can have a Mother-Daughter dance instead if your dad isn’t available, or have a Mother-Daughter dance in addition to the Father-Daughter dance.
- Baile Sopresa (Surprise Dance)
This is a fun choreographed dance done by the Quinceanera and her court, but it doesn’t matter if the court is couples or just guys. You can also do the bachata or another dance with just your escort, or prepare a surprise dance with your dad or mom.
- Reception Dancing: Yes or No?
If you have a casual reception in your backyard, you might or might not put on some tunes, but if you have a formal reception, you’ll definitely want a band or DJ and have dancing like you would at a wedding. But you still have the option of not having any dancing at all. It all depends on your choice and your budget and the overall style of your Quince celebration.
12. Hire Film People
The one thing you definitely want is a set of beautiful formal photos to remember your Quinceanera.
- Professional Photographer
You can hire a photographer to do photos all during the ceremony and reception, including formal group poses. But you could also limit the formal pictures to just a photo shoot with you alone, rather like a high school graduation photo package.
- Professional or Amateur Videographer
The decision for a professional videographer depends on the formality of your Quinceanera and your budget, so talk to your folks. For sure you can always have a friend capture the action with a video camera or even a good video on a tablet or high-end smartphone.
- Professional and Amateur Casual Shots
It’s a lot of fun to arrange for formal photos done by your pro and then create a hashtag for selfies. You can also put disposable cameras on the tables like they do at a wedding, or let a friend who’s a photography bug have fun snapping pictures.
- Just for fun:
Whether or not you go with a professional photographer or just want to take better selfies, here’s a great little guide for how to pose for perfect pictures! It’s got everything—full length poses, seated, even facial expressions!
Click here to get the full instructions with pictures: http://www.techradar.com/how-to/photography-video-capture/cameras/54-portrait-ideas-free-downloadable-posing-guide-1320788
13. Plan Decorations & Music
Just as there are many types of Quinceaneras, there are many ways to decorate your party.
- Choose a theme or a direction
You can give your Quince a fancy theme like Masquerade or Renaissance then choose decorations and invitations to match. Or you can just pick a color scheme you like as a way to tie things together.
The only thing to keep in mind is to not have the reception decorations so different that they clash with your dress and court of honor outfits. You want all the photos to look good, even the selfies.
- Keep decor simple or go all out
Let your personal taste decide what’s included in the decorations—flowers, streamers, balloons, lights—then let your budget decide how much of each thing you have. It really is perfectly okay to just have nice tablecloths and a simple centerpiece.
- Choose what kind of music to have
If you go the formal route, you’ll want music selections for each different part of your Quince reception, maybe played by a band or DJ. You can accomplish the same thing with your iPod and a set of speakers. There’s plenty of advice out there on how to deal with Quinceanera music—this is just a basic checklist guide.
- Make the music appropriate
Of course, you’ll want to have music that you and your friends like, but you might want to play it safe and not have too much hip-hop or anything with controversial lyrics. This goes back to being a thoughtful young lady and having respect for both the youngest and oldest guests at your reception.
Also, when it comes to the Father-Daughter dance, it’s extra sweet if you let your dad pick the song.
14. Send Thank You Notes After the Party.
You can order beautiful monogrammed notes that match your invitations, but they should be blank inside.
- Write each note by hand
You absolutely must write each and every thank you note by hand. Make sure to address the person by name and write a little bit about the gift. But to add a fun twist, you could make the thank you’s a picture card from your Quinceanera.
- Mail thank you’s within one month
Any longer may seem rude, or might give the impression that you’re unappreciative, and maybe even make people think you’re lazy, and you don’t want that!
15. Have Fun!
Your Quinceanera comes just once in a lifetime, and it’s definitely your day to shine. One or two little things will probably go wrong, though—remember Muphy’s annoying Law? But you’ll do fine if you focus on what your Quince is all about:
On this memorable day, you will change, like magic, from a little girl to a wonderful, beautiful young lady.
So congratulations, birthday girl!