A girls wedding is supposed to be the biggest day of her life, but in Latin American cultures, young girls get a glimpse of that “big day” a lot sooner. A Quince Años [keen-se-anyera] is a girl’s’ 15th birthday celebration that marks her transition from childhood, into the life of a young woman.
It’s far from the sleep over party or road trip an American girl has for her sweet 16. A quinceañera celebration is typically comparable in scale to that of an average wedding, complete with a fancy ball gown, limo, a wedding style cake and live music.
There’re a lot of similarities between a quince años and a wedding, the biggest difference is that there’s no groom. So to make it simple, take a wedding, subtract the groom, and add a 15 year old girl. Oh, and umm, keep the price tag too. These 15th birthday party celebrations can cost upwards of $20,000-$50,000! Having three younger sisters, all a year apart, I can assure you, these things add up! It’s a good thing we’ve have ‘padrinos’ to offset some of the cost (more about his below).
“Tradiciones De Quince Años”
As with a lot of traditions (including weddings), a quinceañera celebration has slightly changed over the years, though the essence and the majority of it is still the same. For example, on the day of her quince años the girl spends a large part of her morning at a beauty salon doing her makeup and hair. Traditionally this would be the first time she ever wore makeup. Or her first dance, this was traditionally the first time a girl danced in public.
There’re a lot of traditions and mini celebrations that go on throughout the day but I’ll try to shorten it as much as I can, (also giving you a comparison for illustrative purposes). Let us know if you’d like to see a deeper explanation. We’d love to hear your comments and questions!
Anyway, the girl is accompanied by “chambelanes & damas”, (like a bridal party) which are usually a group of a few male and female friends or cousins. They usually rehearse and perform a series of choreographed dances during the reception. The “padrinos” (godparents) usually help out by paying for things such as the limo, cake, reception hall, and others buy the traditional gifts to be given during the special ceremonies.
Preparation and planning for a quinceañera usually starts 12-18 months prior to the event. The actual day is just as long as a wedding, starting with makeup in the early morning, to the reception sometimes going until 2-3am the next day. As a photographer, I try to be there for at least for 10 hours, sometimes shooting for as long as 14-16 hours! But that’s common for weddings too. It helps to love what you do 🙂
A Quince Años is Something Special
There’s a lot that goes on during the day of a typical quinceañera, from the mother crying of joy as she remembers when she cradled her daughter in her arms, the father during the first dance holding her tight and shedding a “macho” tear, to all the dancing and celebrations during the reception. It’s truly a unique experience to be a part of and I couldn’t feel more blessed to be a part of it.
Just like wedding photos, a girls quinceañera’s photos always stay with her, even after she marries, the parents usually keep them up on the walls.
As a photographer, I get to come into that family and be a part of it, a part of the traditions and memories. Afterwards, when I deliver their images and video, I always watch the first 10 minutes with them. Seeing them relive those memories, seeing them feel the emotion of the day, is amazing. Then, to come back a few years later, and to see my work still adorning their home, it just leaves me speechless. That really doesn’t have a price.