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Help, I'm Invited to My First Quinceañera!

If your friend invited you to her special 15th birthday celebration, here's what you need to know about her big day!

By Isabella Wall

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In Latino culture, turning 15 is a huge deal. Girls have an elaborate party called a quinceañera. The birthday girl (also called a quinceañera) transforms into a princess! If you were invited to her party, you're probably excited but not sure what to expect. Don't worry, we've got answers!

q:My friend asked me to be in her court. What will I have to do?
a:An invitation to the court means your friend wants you to be a dama. Wow! Damas are like bridesmaids – you will be paired up with a guy, called a chambelán, for the dances. Traditionally there are 14 couples, but your friend may have less. She will probably tell you the color and style she wants your dress to be (expect to spend up to $150). Time-wise, you’ll commit between two weeks to three months for fittings and dance rehearsals. Usually the meetings take place on Saturdays at a dance studio or in your friend’s backyard.

q:How does the day traditionally go?
a:It’s very much like a wedding: The quinceañera and her court ride in a limo to the church or ballroom. The damas and chambelanes enter two-by-two, followed by flower girls. The quinceañera makes her grand entrance with Dad. Mom follows behind with her daughter’s chambelán. After dinner and some dancing, Dad gives his not-so-little girl a new pair of high-heeled shoes to symbolize that she’s all grown up. He waltzes with her, and then hands her off to her chambelán. There are speeches and toasts to honor the quinceañera and everybody sings happy birthday. Then everyone dances the night away!

q:Why not wait till Sweet 16 for the big party?
a:A quinceañera is a chance to embrace her Latino heritage. It’s a rite of passage and a very old tradition for Hispanics (dating back to the Aztecs!). It’s a family celebration of her transition from girl to woman. The quinceañera reaffirms her commitment to her family, friends, community, and heritage.

q:What should I give as a gift?
a:Even though a quinceañera seems like a wedding, it’s still a birthday party, so you don’t need an extravagant gift. If you have something specific in mind that is out of your budget, or if you want to spend more than $50, you can chip in on a gift with friends. The best gifts are personalized ones – a framed poem or encouraging letter that you wrote, a craft you made, birthstone jewelry, an initial necklace, or a zodiac pendant.

q:What should I wear?
a:The invitation will indicate the type of attire expected, unless you are in the court. However, if there is no indication on the invite, dress according to the season and time of day. Keep in mind the place of the party. You don’t want to get stuck in the grass with 5-inch heels!

q:What dances are popular? What if I mess them up?
a:There will definitely be Latin music in the program. It’d be helpful for you to start listening to salsa, meringue and reggaeton to loosen up. Close your eyes and move to the beat. Do the shimmy, sway your hips, shake your tush, lift your arms. At rehearsals, let your chambelán take the lead, while keeping some of the moves you practiced. The choreographer will do the rest. Chances are you won’t mess it up, but if you do, just act confident – the audience won’t notice! Keep on going and HAVE FUN!
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