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Your Quinceanera Day: A Guide to Etiquette

Quinceaneras are similar to other debuts or special events that involve a large gathering, but for the Hispanic community, a Quinceanera is a sacred event, including a special Mass, said before the reception. Because this is such an important coming of age event, there are certain things to consider for both the guest of honor and the guests themselves.

RSVP

Celebrant: The guest of honor usually takes care of the guest list months before the big day. So as a young lady facing greater responsibilities in the coming years, make a point to help your mother or whoever is finalizing the event for you. Keep in touch with invited guests by asking them to confirm their attendance about a week before your party.

Guests: Guests have the responsibility to respond in a timely fashion and also give a heads up to the celebrant if they find they can’t make it, particularly if they have to cancel at the last minute. Response to and acknowledgment of the invitation is an excellent and straightforward form of respect.

Attire

Celebrant: Since a Catholic Mass is said long before the party begins, wearing appropriate attire is important. The guest of honor usually wears a big ball gown with a modest neckline or wears a shawl or bolero for modesty over a strapless bodice.    

Guests: Choose an outfit that’s respectful (not outrageous) especially for the religious ceremony. Guys should wear a dress shirt and dress pants with nice shoes and perhaps a jacket and tie. Girls can choose from any number of fashionable short dresses that aren’t too revealing and also wear a shawl or bolero for the Mass.

Religious ceremony

Celebrant: Be well prepared—and attend the ceremony rehearsal beforehand if there is one—so that everything goes smoothly. Observe proper decorum because your actions reflect your personality. You’re turning fifteen and will carry more responsibilities in the years to come so act like the lady you already are. Your ball gown and your adornment with symbolic gifts connected with the church are the most important part of a Quinceanera.

Guests: Save the merrymaking for later. During the Mass, be particularly respectful, attentive and listen quietly. Once at the reception, though, have fun!  That’s what you’re there for!

Gifts

Celebrant: Even though it’s your birthday, none of your guests are required to bring a gift. If they do, tell them thank you on the spot then send a handwritten thank you note the day after the Quince. If they don’t bring a gift, be genuine and thank them for coming to celebrate with you.

Guests: Just like any other party, you are not required to bring a gift. Don’t ever think that you have to “pay” the celebrant for inviting you. If you want to give her something, choose a gift that’s appropriate and reflects the relationship you have with her. One caution: When selecting a gift, remember a Quinceanera is a family event.

Speech

Celebrant: As the guest of honor, you’ll have had months to prepare your speech, so it should be a breeze when it comes to the big day. If you want, write key points on an index card so you won’t stumble during the toast.  

Guests: Listen attentively as the celebrant speaks. After all, it’s her most significant birthday, and her speech is important because it represents her life transition to a young lady. And while you should listen quietly, applaud her enthusiastically when she’s done!

Food

Celebrant: As the guest of honor, you set the tone for grace and decorum. Consider reading up on some classic etiquette, things like don’t talk while you’re eating, take small bites, cut food into little pieces. There are a hundred more little things that sound silly and obvious but are actually a lot of fun when you know what to do. Treat learning hi-level etiquette for your Quince as a fun game.

Guests: Be polite while waiting to be served. Don’t cut corners if there’s a buffet, and if it’s a sit-down dinner, wait for everyone else to get their plate before you start eating. Always thank the wait staff, observe classic table manners, and even if you’re (literally) starving from sitting through the Mass and the photos and whatnot, don’t eat like you are!

Greetings

Celebrant: As the guest of honor, you’re also the hostess so you must acknowledge and greet every guest personally. Smile, be charming and be thankful for your friends and loved ones who are with you. Also, since you’re the hostess, you might not be able to sit and chat as long as you want with your very best friends—be polite and “make the rounds” a couple of times thanking everybody and wishing them a good time at your party.

Guests: Whether you brought a gift or not, wish the celebrant a happy birthday when she comes to your table.  It’s her big day so make it more special with enthusiastic participation in her day.

Quinceaneras are rich in tradition and often involve many fun activities. Yes, it’s supposed to be a total blast, but it’s also all about celebrating a teenager embracing her future as a lady in society. So everybody—find a way to mind your manners and have fun! (You can do it!)