In the US we have the cotillion, in Canada the Sweet 16, in Japan the seijin shiki, and in China the Ji Li; but in the Latin American community a girl’s coming of age celebration is called a quinceanera or Sweet 15. The ceremony marks a girl’s transition from child to young woman, and is very common in all Latin American nations. However, each country has its own traditions for the Sweet 15. Those of the Mexican communities in the US will be much different than those of the Dominican Republic.
A full Mass at a Catholic Church marks the beginning of a Dominican quinceanera, and is later followed with a party. No doubt you have received a formal invitation to the event; the start times for everything will be on it. Stay true to traditional Dominican time customs, arrive about an hour after what is indicated on the invitation. You could be left sitting there by yourself if you do otherwise. At the door of the party or reception, be sure to bring along the invitation. Very often these kinds of events are held at a public place, thus invitations are needed to prevent ‘gate-crashers’.
Bring a gift, card and be sure it is all wrapped nicely. Silver picture frames are popular, but use good sense and when in doubt ask a few local women what they recommend for a quinceanera gift. Most Sweet 15 parties are attended by the entire extended family of the guest of honor, almost the entire school she attends and hundreds of other guests. Make sure you have formal dress before you get ready to go. Gentlemen, be prepared to wear your best suit. Ladies should have their hair nicely styled and also have a manicure for the event. In choosing your dress, be very careful not to out-do the quinceanera’s dress. Find out ahead of time what her dress color is and choose something different.
At the initial Mass, 14 couples will accompany the quinceanera and her partner to the altar for the entire service. When everyone arrives at the reception, a great deal of dancing should be expected. The young guest of honor first will waltz with her partner, then her father, and perhaps a few uncles. Then it is customary for all 15 male escorts to perform a series of choreographed dances. A variety of music will be played, including classical, salsa and pop.
The reception will also include a large buffet and an open bar. Typically, young men from 13 years will be served alcohol, but the ladies under 18 will abstain. All the guests will be asked to sign an album and will be given party favors as well.