Every little girl dreams of a debutante party like those in the movies. But a debutante party isn’t just an occasion for the young lady—it’s for the entire family. That’s why planning an important party is not unlike constructing a building: It involves thorough planning and consists of many stages.
In Mexico and some parts of Latin America, this debutante party is known as a Quinceanera, or quince años (15 years) and is celebrated when the girl turns 15.
Because a Quince is an important social event, it matters very much how you handle how people mix and mingle with each other, especially when it comes to seating. Here is a 7-step plan for you and your parents when it comes to constructing—like that fabulous building—a most fabulous Quinceanera!
Set the Date
As much as possible, the Quinceanera should be celebrated on your actual birthday. If circumstances don’t allow this, then hold it on the closest possible date.
Pick a theme
Once a date is set, you need a Quinceanera theme. Sometimes the time of year makes it easy, especially if you plan to celebrate outdoors. Other times, it might be difficult to choose a theme because you’ll have an indoor venue to which you can do just about anything. So what do you, the celebrant, want?
A fairytale? A fun and fabulous retro party? Remember, you only turn fifteen once, so make it count! Let your Quince be your big chance to express yourself. Pick a theme that reflects your personality and the rest of the planning will go smoothly.
Book & Arrange a Venue
To bring some order to the party, choose your venue as soon as possible. Then, based on your theme, decide roughly how and where you want your guests to sit. This also helps you to estimate how many guests you’ll have. Use your venue and your theme to help with the guest list. Either get a layout of the room from the hall with their proposed table arrangement, or make a sketch of your yard or other venue site. Don’t seat more than 8 people per table and do try to keep the number even because people tend to pair up, and you don’t want anyone to feel left out.
Tip: If you don’t like the venue’s layout suggestion, you can rearrange tables up to a point. Ask them to work with you.
The deal breaker: Who Sits Where?
Now we come to the hard part. No one ever said creating a Quinceanera seating arrangement is easy, but it is doable. One idea is to seat those of the same age together, and also people who have the same interests. This facilitates conversation and avoids the awkward silence of not knowing what to say next. Use your party to test your matchmaking skills and introduce two people you always thought would look great together by seating them next to each other. You should also seat those who will be making speeches towards the front.
But, if you want to add a little fun to your Quince, you can let guests choose for themselves where to sit. One possible disadvantage is the potential for commotion if guests keep moving around trying to find “the best table” to sit at. Worst case, you might even have guests bickering over the same seat! However, one advantage of open seating is that it allows for natural mingling and is definitely more comfortable for your guests.
Now you need to create the actual Quinceanera party seating plan. You can use a spreadsheet on your computer, a tag board, or a large piece of paper. Outline the table arrangement, then use sticky notes with the names of your guests and start putting them into groups of 8 people each. Sticky notes are great because you can move them around as much as you want and if you use colored stick notes, you can sort names by assigning a color to each category! For instance, school friends could be yellow, friends from church blue, your parents’ friends green, your cousins orange, etc.
A Table for Everyone
This is for the celebrant of the Quinceanera: You! Also your immediate family, your Corte de honor, and if the table is large enough, some close friends. Put this table where you can see as many of your guests as possible, and in turn, you can be seen by everyone. After all, you are the main attraction for the evening!
Guest tables can be all the exact same size and shape, or you can mix them up—some round, some square, some rectangular. Remember that for every room size, though, there is a maximum number of tables both for fire regulation purposes and to allow for the comfort and convenience of your guests. Also, make sure the tables are placed so that the service staff has easy access. A big no-no is placing a table in front of a door, especially a fire escape!
Fun Tip: If you want to be creative, you can frame your Quinceanera seating chart, so think about making it pretty and a bit artsy!
Table Numbers and Place Cards
Once you have a final seating plan, you now have the option of using either escort cards or just a seating chart with your guests’ names listed by table number. The advantage of a seating chart is that it’s easier to display, it entails a little less work by you, and it can be set up so that your guests can sign it as a remembrance of your Quince. All that’s on the chart are your guests’ names listed by table, so they look on the chart to find where to sit.
You can also have escort cards with the name and table number. Escort cards are a fun DIY so get creative. One advantage of escort cards is that, if you pencil in the table number by hand, you can change it at the last minute.
The other escort card option is that there’s is also a place card at each table, meaning you’ve assigned not just which table a guest sits at, but which exact seat at the table is his or hers. This is done at large, socially significant weddings where there are a lot of personalities to juggle and if there’s a fail, it can be a disaster. You, though, have the option. Even if your Quince is ultra-formal, you can still just do escort cards with name and table number and not worry about who sits next to who exactly.
Tip: You might want to do place cards just for your head table so that there’s some order and organization. Remember, you’re juggling a pretty good sized group just with your Court and your parents!
Assess the pre-final Quinceanera seating plan
The first rule in planning a party is this: Do not be a slave to tradition! Choose a layout that matches your preference and style, and let your party reflect who you are. Although there are a lot of pre-made layouts available on the internet, you still have the final say.
It might be a good idea to go over your seating plan with a few key guests—like your court—or at least run it by your parents. Once it’s final, you can download software to help you out. A DIY Quinceanera seating plan really is a lot better…and more fun!
A few last words
Don’t overthink your Quince seating plan. More often than not, everything will run smoothly—or smoothly enough. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your party!