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What is a Quinceañera and How to Begin Planning Yours

Our oldest daughter, Bella, just turned 14-years-old which means next year is her quinceañera. That means this 1/2 first-generation Latina is planning my first ever quinceañera for my 1/4 Latina. I never got to celebrate my quinces and I regret that. The planning process is exciting and overwhelming but I love that my daughter and I get to do this together with a little help from our village. It’s bringing us closer in ways I hadn’t considered.

What is a quinceañera, you ask?

It is not the same as a sweet sixteen in American culture. Is it the same as a Bat Mitzvah? Closer, there is definitely a religious aspect to it. Because I didn’t get to celebrate the quinceañera tradition myself, I’ve always secretly hoped my girls would want one.

Most cultures celebrate a young girl coming of age, in the United States that’s usually done by throwing a big sweet sixteen party. For Latinas, ideally, we celebrate our becoming a woman when a girl turns 15-years-old, the age of maturity in the Catholic church. (Similar to a Jewish girl who celebrates her Bat Mitzvah at 12-years and one-day-old; the age of religious maturity in the Jewish religion). As Latinas, we celebrate this birthday with a mass followed by a huge celebration with family and friends. It’s a time-honored tradition and a big part of our culture.

READ ALSO: The Day My Teenager told me How She Really Felt

I didn’t have a quince because, quite frankly, my parents couldn’t afford it. It’s expensive for a birthday party. I always wanted one and I promised myself that if my girl wanted one, I’d find a way to make it happen. That’s what I’m doing. It’s a bit overwhelming since I’ve never planned one before. My mom is not Latina and I don’t live near any of my Latina friends or family so everything is a work in progress but 100% worth it to see the excitement in my daughter’s eyes.

It’s hard to explain the entire idea of a quinceañera to people who didn’t grow up around the culture. Basically, it’s celebrated like a wedding, often referred to as a mini boda, minus the groom and the honeymoon. If you’re not raised in the culture, from the outside looking it, it looks a lot like an extravagant party for a fifteenth birthday but it symbolizes so much more than that. It’s the celebration of a girl becoming a woman and I think that should be celebrated like this for every little girl.

What is a Quinceañera?

For Latina girls, the 15th birthday marks the most lavish celebration of their lives. Symbolizing a girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood, the quinceañera is a two-part celebration consisting of a religious celebration and a reception that traces back to both indigenous and European cultural traditions. Parents often spend more on their daughter’s quinceañera than their actual wedding. In fact, quinceañeras are often referred to as mini bodas, or miniature weddings. A low-key quinceañera in the United States can easily cost upwards of $3,000. The key is to set a budget and stick to it.

When you see the quince girl (nickname for the quinceañera honoree) on her special day, the high price tag makes sense. A prom-like gown (quinceañera dress) like the ones found at PromGirl.com is the central quinceañera tradition. They’re often made of satin with lace overlays and rhinestone accents, not unlike a wedding dress. Think Cinderella dressed for the fairytale ball. Traditionally white or pale pink floor-length gowns were worn, but in modern times dresses in all colors of the rainbow are acceptable. The quince girl wears a delicate tiara or crown (corona) and during the mass, she carries a Bible or book of prayer.

READ ALSO: Things to do in Chicago with Teens

The Quinceañera celebration traditionally begins with the religious ceremony. We’ve already booked our mass and priest for next year. Before anything else happens, the quince girl attends a special Mass in which she reaffirms her dedication to God and receives a blessing from the priest. The Quinceañera will also leave a bouquet of flowers at the altar of the Virgin Mary to symbolize her purity. As a symbol of her transition from childhood to becoming a woman, a quince girl gives away a porcelain doll (ultima muñeca) to a younger sister.

How to begin planning your quinceanera

A reception is held following the mass at home or a banquet hall. We reserved our hall in December, well over a year in advance. The celebration includes food, music, the quinceañera dress and most often, a choreographed waltz and baile sorpresa (surprise dance) performed by the Quinceañera and her Court de honor (honor court).

What is a quinceañera honor court?

Quinceañera custom calls for 14 damas, or maiden attendants, to accompany the quince girl and symbolize the past 14 years of her life. And a group of young ladies needs a corresponding group of escorts, which means the quince girl must also select 15 chambelans, or male attendants. Less formal quinceañera celebrations typically use 7 or 4 damas and chambelans.

At the reception is where the quince girl is officially presented to guests. She can pick a quinceañera theme of her choice. I’ve seen everything from Disney princesses to Great Gatsby. Similar to cotillion and debutante traditions, quinceañeras serve as a young Latina’s official entrance into society and womanhood and incorporate a host of unique elements and rituals that celebrate a young woman’s coming of age as well as her Latino heritage.

One of the final rituals of a quinceañera, and most sentimental, is the changing of the quince girl’s shoes. After the party is in full swing, the quince girl’s father will remove the flat-soled slippers his daughter wore to the party and replace them with a pair of heels. This symbolizes that the 15-year-old girl who arrived at the quinceañera will leave a young woman. This pays cultural homage to coming out ceremonies orchestrated by Aztec high priests in the early 1500s.

READ ALSO:  What Does Be “More Latina” mean?

Aztec Indians considered young girls marriage-ready at the age of 15. As a result, ceremonial rites of passage including parental speeches begging their daughters to become wise, upstanding women. When the Spanish invaded modern-day Mexico and overthrew the Aztecs in the 1520s, they brought their European influence to the indigenous people. The upper-class debutante aspects of quinceañera emerged as a result.

Today, there were certain privileges associated with the quinceañera. Being that it is a celebration of her transition into womanhood, the quinceañera might be allowed to attend adult parties, pluck her eyebrows and shave her legs, wear makeup, jewelry and high heels and maybe even start dating. Whoah! We will have to wait and see about this “dating” business. I mean, she’s still my baby.

Quinceañera Traditions

From surrendering the last doll (ultima muñeca) during the Catholic mass to the shoe ceremony before the final father-daughter dance afterward, the quinceañera is full of symbolic gestures and gifts. Unlike the ordinary birthday parties that the quince girl might’ve enjoyed for the first 14 years of her life, her quinceañera party officially marks her coming of age and therefore, requires appropriate gifts and apparel to carry her through that transition.

The quinceañera itself is the present for the birthday girl from her parents. Sometimes, parents may give their daughter a regálo sorpresa, or surprise gift. However, the emphasis of traditional quinceañera presents, including the prayer book, rosary and Bible needed for Mass, is on what the quince girl will wear and carry to her ceremony. These gifts may be given by a combination of grandparents (known as padrinos), other relatives and friends, and each of them carries a special meaning:

Traditional  Quinceañera Gifts

  • Quinceañera dresses represent femininity.

  • Quinceañera rings represent a girl’s bond to God, family and her community.

  • Quinceañera crowns and tiaras represent her superior morality.

  • Quinceañera cross necklaces emphasize a girl’s devotion to the Catholic Church.

Considering everything that goes into planning for your quinceañera, it’s understandable that they only happen once in a Latina girl’s lifetime. Though the rite of passage may vary slightly from country to country, the heart of the quinceañera remains constant. Whether it’s lavish or low-key, these extraordinary parties allow young girls to become fairytale princesses for one day on their way to becoming grown women and embracing all the responsibilities and duties that come with it.

We’ve just begun planning my daughter’s quinceañera but we’ll be sharing it all here and hope that you’ll join us on this exciting journey and celebration from little girl to young lady. We’ll be sharing everything we learn along the way and all things quinceañera.

 

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Elsa, Frozen, costume, how to make an Elsa costume

How to make an Elsa Costume? My girls loved Frozen and there are no Elsa costumes to be found….anywhere. We are in desperate need of an Elsa costume. My girls have Elsa on the brain and want to eat, sleep and be Elsa. We are living in a Frozen state of mind over here and I am not even referring to the below zero temperatures and 4 foot of snow in my front yard. I am talking all things Elsa, Olaf, Anna, Sven and Cristophe. I am talking Let it Go, all day every day. I am talking sisterly love and all things winter.

I am talking I need to know how to make an Elsa costume right now!

My Bella is turning 9 next Monday and so we are throwing the Frozen party to end all parties because what else do you do for the soon to be 9-year-old who is gaga for Elsa and completely obsessed with her own #Disneyside. Every year, the girls have had themed birthday parties and every year there have been costumes. Yes, Costumes! There have been Fairies, Dora, Fancy Nancy, Pink Poodles in Paris, Moulin Rouge, Alice in Wonderland, 60’ peace and Love and a pajama party. We’ve had Princesses, Tinker Belle, Fancy Nancy again, Madeline, Rocker chicks and butterfly magic. Costumes .every.single.time and sometimes even a Harlem Shake.

This year, we had to have Frozen themed Party and Bella wanted an Elsa costume. Only, if you have been online or to the Disney store, you know that there are no Frozen costumes left unless you go to eBay and pay with your first-born.  I’d prefer to keep my first-born.

READ ALSO: What is Disney Creator Days and How to Get Invited

My girls are both pretty tall so the only dress up dress that my 8-year-old can wear at 4’ 9” are Disney because they go up to size XL (if you buy them on grounds) but since we live in the middle of the country, we must improvise.

Last year, we started hitting garage sales and vintage stores in search of costumes from ballet productions, prom and wedding dresses. The girls have gotten some really beautiful dresses to play dress up in and make great costumes. Remember Halloween’s Magenta costume?

READ ALSO: Recipes for the Perfect Frozen Party

I am not a seamstress, wish I were, but I am creative and I can hand-stitch the hell out of anything and just so happens that I have a Mother-in-law who can sew anything. The only things that surpasses her sewing abilities is her imagination and her big heart.

Frozen, Elsa, Frozen themed party, birthday party, how to make an Elsa CostumeFrozen, Elsa, Frozen themed party, birthday party, how to make an Elsa Costume, olaf, christophe, anna, Frozen

 

So, we scoured our supply and found a beautiful prom dress that could be perfect except it was lavender. Everyone knows Elsa’s dress is that beautiful shimmery bluish/green. I set out to try to dye it.

I bought some Dylon dye in Bahama blue at Walmart. I went home, rinsed and drained the $3 garage sale prom dress. Followed the directions on the Dylon Dye ( mixed it with 4 cups of warm water to dissolve. Filled the sink up with lukewarm water and 4 teaspoons of salt, mixed well and submerged the entire dress into the sink. Then proceeded to mix well for 45 minutes. I used my hands. I suggest using rubber gloves. I did not and have the bluish hued hands to prove it.

Frozen, Elsa, Frozen themed party, birthday party, how to make an Elsa Costume, olaf, christophe, anna, Frozen

I can tell you that I learned a valuable lesson; polyester prom dress shells do not dye. The lavender shell turned more of a grey silver (perfect in my mind) and all the lavender fabric flowers with sparkly glitter on the overlay turned that gorgeous bluish/greenish color of Elsa’s dress.  It looks amazing and only cost me $6.00.

READ ALSO: How to have a Quality Fashion Wardrobe on a Budget

The dress is strapless and Elsa’s has sleeves, so we are using silver sparkly gloves that come to just above my daughter’s elbow. The infamous sparkly cape? Well, while rummaging through fabric remnants at Grandma’s house we found the perfect 2.5 yards of sheer fabric with sparkly shimmer already on it. Grandma gave it a seam and made it into a cape that can easily attach to the back straps of Elsa’ dress.

Frozen, Elsa, Frozen themed party, birthday party, how to make an Elsa Costume, olaf, christophe, anna, Frozen

 

To complete the look, I will be spraying Bella’s hair white and putting it into a loose French braid and she will be wearing silver sandals that she already had around the house.

Frozen, Elsa, Frozen themed party, birthday party, how to make an Elsa Costume, olaf, christophe, anna, Frozen

The entire costume cost me $6.00 versus $200 on eBay. Even if you don’t just happen to have an old prom dress laying around the house for dress-up purposes, why not repurpose one of your old Bridesmaids outfits (God knows you’ll never wear it again), hit the local Goodwill or just use an old flower girl dress of your child’s. The dye I picked up matched the color perfectly. The packet says it dyes ½ pound to the color of on the package. The dress I dyed was 11 pounds and I only used one packet. It dyed it to the perfect shade.

Elsa, Frozen, costume, how to make an Elsa costume

 

Frozen, Elsa, Frozen themed party, birthday party, how to make an Elsa Costume, olaf, christophe, anna, Frozen

We’re not all great seamstresses and I am here to tell you that with a little imagination and ingenuity, you can make all your child’s Frozen dreams come true. Now, to get started on my youngest’s Olaf costume. Oh, you thought she’d want to be Anna? Nope, she likes to break the mold. I’ll share her costume later this week and I will be showing all kinds of great crafts, decorating ideas and recipes to host your very own awesome Frozen party! I will also have plenty of photos this weekend with the complete hair, makeup and costume together. Can’t wait to share.

If you’ve made your own Elsa costume, feel free to leave a link to it in the comments!

Elsa, Frozen, costume, how to make an Elsa costume

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Bella in Wonderland

Every year since Bella has had a birthday party, it’s always been a really big deal. I believe it has something to do with the fact that when I was little I seldom remember having a party.So,when it comes to my girls, we love to celebrate the party in a big way. I mean, who doesn’t love a party? I am fully aware that the Bellapalooza of 2009, when she turned 4, was a bit excessive. I do recall something like 4 parties being had in a one week span of time. There was the family party on her actual birthday, the Fancy Nancy tea and spa experience with her fellow ballerinas, then there was the birthday play date celebration and last but not least the extended family and traveling friends party. It really was Bellapalooza but it was so much fun & Bella has since referred to her birthday week as Bellapalooza.

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The cakes made by the Big Guy!

This year, Bella was adamant that she wanted a Alice in Wonderland birthday party.This girl always wants a theme that is “not available” in stores. Of course you can’t find party favors for Alice in Wonderland, so we  improvise..as always. But this year, I was determined to keep the party to 1! After 6 years of birthday parties, I’ve come to the realization that the party is about the birthday girl having fun..the rest is not important. So, after much searching and creativity, we found just the right decorations. It was a small party with all the immediate family and  a few friends and classmates.

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Obviously, Bella dressed as Alice.She dresses in costume for every theme party.

The Wonderland aspect of this party was really the friendship and family. Bella was over the moon that her friends from school and her play date friends were all there to celebrate with her. She was also over the moon because her Grandpa Manny, my Dad, who normally comes and serenades her on her birthday ( this is a long standing tradition in our home. He has serenaded me and my sisters every birthday with Las mananitas (traditional Mexican birthday song) since we were born. Bella was absolutely devastated that he would be out of the country for this birthday party) called from Mexico to play the guitar and serenade her.All was right with the world!

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Bella (Alice) & her best friend.By sheer coincidence, he came as the Mad Hatter (her favorite character).*Awwww,swoon*

Party was a huge success and birthday girl was over the moon! The.End!

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Wonderland punch!

 

 

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