Much like bar and bat mitzvahs, sweet sixteens, confirmations and debutante balls, the quinceanera symbolizes a girl's coming of age. At the age of 15, the quinceanera girl celebrates with family and friends the idea of "becoming a lady." Quinceaneras date back hundreds of years, and while they continue to involve deep-rooted religious ceremonies, many are evolving into more modern celebrations. One of the most exciting things about quinceaneras is the idea of tailoring them to fit your every desire and whim.
The quinceanera celebrant is surrounded by her court for support on her special day. While tradition shows a court of 15 (including seven boys/chambelanes and seven girls/damas), this is no longer a hard-and-fast rule. Determine whether you will have a traditional court or one with more modern flavor (which may allow for fewer or additional court members). Keep in mind that if there will be a court dance during the ceremony, there will need to be an equal number of girls and boys to serve as partners.
Dolls and Bouquets
The quinceanera symbolizes a girl's evolving into womanhood, therefore, many participants like to involve a "last doll" in their ceremonies. The quinceanera celebrant enters the room carrying this doll. Two varying possibilities ensue: The quinceanera celebrant may hand the doll off to a little sister or cousin, or she may "trade" it for a bouquet from one of the girls in her court. If a last doll is not used in the ceremony, a last doll ceremony may take place after the main festivities. In this case, the quinceanera girl enters carrying a flower bouquet. She then places this bouquet on the altar as an offering.
The ceremony centers around a thanksgiving mass. It gives thanks to the quinceanera girl's family and friends during this special time. For those who choose, godparents and grandparents may be involved in a coronation, where they present the quinceanera girl with a tiara. The godparents may also present the scepter, one of the true symbols of the quinceanera. Additionally, godparents or close family friends called padrinos may also be involved with the ceremony. They will either present the quinceanera celebrant with gifts or assist with the ceremony (handing items to the priest for blessings, etc.).
Choosing a quinceanera dress is one of the most exciting and fun parts of the special day. Depending on your area of the country, many shops specialize in dresses just for this occasion. Other girls find appealing items in the prom and bridesmaid sections of specialty shops and department stores. Each quinceanera girl also requires two pairs of shoes for the ceremony--flats and heels. Flats are worn in the beginning part of the ceremony, then exchanged for the heels, which symbolizes the girl's passing into womanhood. Where chosen, the girl's father will exchange her shoes for her and then they will perform a waltz together. This waltz is the first dance of the evening.