Traditionally, a young Latina’s 15th birthday is marked by an outlandish, over-the-top celebration called a quinceañera, complete with bright colored tulle gowns, dazzling decor, multi-tiered cakes, choreographed dances, crazy parties, and of course, a formal introduction of the young girl into the world of womanhood. It’s a young girl’s dream — a lavish celebration in her honor, surrounded by loved ones, partying and indulging and finally being recognized as an “adult” as she navigates the transition from child to teen to woman.
But as many of us who have seen the teenage years come and go (a long, long time ago) now realize, we’re hardly adults at 15, and for many young girls, the attention and overwhelming planning behind a quinceañera can be too much to handle during the already stressful teen years.
Enter the Double Quinceañeras.
Times have changed. Quinceañeras are not only for 15-year-old girls, and they’re not always shackled by traditions (both secular and religious). And while they may still feature typical family and cultural celebrations, the old-fashioned elements have been replaced (or joined) by more modern takes on what it means to symbolically and literally enter adulthood.
Quinceañeras have evolved in more ways than one, from when they occur (30 is the new 15!) to how they are planned and what celebratory traditions are observed. Which means that if you missed your quince, you can still honor your journey through adulthood with a double quince. Here’s what you need to know.
The Rise of the Double Quinceañera — Redefining a Traditional Celebration
Once upon a time a quinceañera was reserved for girls as they turn 15; it was a celebration to mark the transition to adulthood and to formally introduce the teen to the Latina community as a woman. And while that traditional celebration is by no means a bad thing — in fact, it’s an incredibly special, memorable and important rite of passage — it’s also not an option for every young Latina woman and her family.
Perhaps a family is not able to plan and host a quinceañera for their daughter, either due to financial constraints at the time, or due to a lack of access to event components. Maybe a family just recently immigrated to the US and is not in a position to plan such a consuming event. Maybe the young girl is immature for her age and isn’t comfortable being the center of attention or having so much focus on her coming of age. Remember that traditionally these celebrations occur at 15, which for a lot of young girls can be a tumultuous, overwhelming, embarrassing, and stressful time. Some girls don’t blossom or come out of their shells until they are older, and the idea of having a room full of hundreds of friends and family members staring at you and commenting on your “womanhood” is a total nightmare.
Enter the Double Quinceañera, which is quite simply what it sounds like, a rite of passage celebration that occurs not when a young girl turns 15, but when a woman comes into her own and turns 30. Instead of it being an event of a Latina exiting childhood and entering womanhood, it’s an event to honor all that a Latina has achieved and become as she enters her 30s. Perhaps you didn’t have the quince you wanted back in the day, and now as an adult you’re able to properly commemorate this milestone moment. Or maybe you feel that at 30, you are more of a woman today and have more to honor and celebrate about your heritage and your culture than you did as a teenager entering “womanhood.” Regardless of the motivation, double quinceañeras are becoming a thing.
In a world where aging is often frowned upon or approached with dread, this is a celebration we can really get behind.
Double quinceañeras are gaining popularity and are becoming more common as Latinas are looking for ways to partner traditional values and cultural celebrations with more modern outlooks and purposes. Think of it as a feminist take on an old school tradition. It’s a chance for Latina women to bridge the gaps between their heritage, the cultural rites of passage of their relatives and their modern values and lives as Latinas in America today.
“It’s about celebrating who I’ve become at 30, and the people who helped me get there,” said Francis Gortaire, a Latina whose family immigrated to the US from Ecuador just a few years before she would have had her quinceañera. At the time, they were settling in the states, saving up money and struggling to make ends meet as new immigrants, so a full-blown, lavish quinceañera was not in the cards. More recently, as a 30-year-old woman, Gortaire was ready to celebrate, she tells The Washington Post. For her, it was also an opportunity to honor an aspect of her womanhood that she hadn’t yet shared — during her candle lighting ceremony (a traditional component of quinceañeras) Gortaire used the opportunity to come out to her family and to light a candle dedicated to “the queer little Francis within and amongst all of you,” and to be proud and open about that part of her identity.
Another plus of a Double Quinceañera: There is booze. And if you don’t realize what a big bonus that is, imagine the fun and loud celebrations of a quinceañera but with copious amounts of tequila, and then get back to us.
And women aren’t just throwing themselves these Double Quinceañera celebrations, but they are getting together with friends and throwing group quinceañeras as well. In addition, Kim Gamez, founder and CEO of Mi Padrino, a quinceañera-planning website and app, tells us that she is also starting to see boys get involved in the cultural tradition in the form of quinceañeros, which may feature similar components to a quinceañera, but with less glitz and “girly” elements, and a more masculine tone celebrating that boy’s coming of age in his own way. She threw her son a quinceañero when he turned 15 as a way to bless him, to give thanks for his life and his health, to honor him and to celebrate his transition to adulthood.
Modern Companies and Apps Are Changing the Way People Plan Quinceañeras
Another way that quinceañeras are becoming more modernized and more accessible to a new generation of teenagers, adults and their families is through technology and a newfound ease of the planning process. Backing up a moment, consider just what goes into planning a quinceañera. First of all, you need a venue. And a date. And a band. And a caterer. And the girl/woman needs a dress. You need decor and centerpieces. You need to plan the religious ceremony. You need to organize a choreographed dance, plan the candle lighting, source the crown, determine your court, ask for Padrinos… the list literally goes on and on (and on). And without proper tools, support, time and of course, funding, planning a quinceañera can be an impossible task. And for many people, it’s a task they don’t even attempt due to lack of financing, lack of energy, lack of access, and an overwhelming sense of confusion.
Kim Gamez understands this all too well. When she was asked to be a Padrino for her niece’s quinceañera — Padrinos are essential members of their Hispanic community who act as patrons or sponsors for family events, such as weddings and quinceañera — she didn’t know where to begin. She started searching online for tools or checklists so she could figure out where to start and what she needed to do, and there was nothing helpful available. It was in that moment that she knew she had an opportunity to serve the Hispanic community by creating a more efficient solution for organizing Quinceañeras, Weddings, Baptisms, and more for the Hispanic community.
And that’s what Mi Padrino is all about.
The website and mobile app serve as a content hub with literally everything you need to do know, do, organize, and plan surrounding a Hispanic life event such as quinceañeras. You’ll get guidance, inspiration, access to vendors, interactive checklists, and more to help you from beginning to end. Their website and app allow you to set a budget (and manage that budget as you go), request funding, organize a guest list, find vendors, send out invitations and more. It also allows you to share your event page with family members all around the world who may or may not be able to physically be a part of the special day.
According to Gamez, one of the most challenging aspects of planning a quinceañera or a double quince doesn’t actually have to do with the funding, but with the intense details that go into planning. And that’s where Mi Padrino is changing the game for Latinas and their families; it helps you stay organized and have all the details you need handy in one place. “If you miss one detail, it could throw off the whole event,” Gamez told us during a phone interview. It’s crucial that you are organized and have everything you need at your fingertips. “Mi Padrino sends reminders, helps you organize, helps you manage, keeps you in control and provides resources and inspiration” to plan a quinceañera, she explains. There are ways around financial obstacles (either by cutting back on costs, planning a smaller event, hosting a potluck, renting a dress etc.), but “the overwhelming planning process is a bigger obstacle for many families.”
And Gamez knows a thing or two about quinceañeras. In addition to her own children and the celebration she helped plan for her niece, she had a double quinceañera of her own!
Back when her husband planned a surprise double quince for her 7 years ago, it was not yet a common occurrence in the Latina community. But as times are changing and cultures are evolving, she’s starting to see a lot more double quinces as new generations of Latinas (and Latinos) are choosing to redefine what this coming-of-age, rite of passage event means to them and their families.
Celebrating the Modern (and Complex) Latina Identity With Traditional Rites of Passage
While quinceañeras have always been very deeply rooted in tradition practiced by generations, we are starting to see some of these established rituals get a more modern twist that suits the girl (or boy) being celebrated. Which makes a lot of sense actually — just as there is no one type of Latina, there is also no one-size-fits-all quinceañera. While this event consistently represents a person’s coming of age (whether he or she is 15 or 30), and certain traditional components remain intact and important (both religious and secular traditions), people are also starting to infuse their own identities into their quinceañeras more than ever before. And they are using these events as a way to expand the purpose of their quinceañera to address where they are in their lives.
While the party elements of the quinceañera might be shifting to a more modern, flexible and customizable place, “the religious component is still very important to the majority of families planning their events,” explains Gamez. There are still a lot of traditional components that are ingrained in the events, but they might be adjusted slightly to adapt to current times and new trends.
A recent New York Times article reports that “it is now more common to see quinces as celebrations of identity, including for queer and transgender individuals, and quinces that honor more than the transition to adulthood.” Quinceañeras are no longer only for teenage girls, but also for older women, for men, for groups of friends, for mixed race families, for people coming out as queer and everything in between. This generation is embracing some of the traditional rituals of their relatives and adding their own traditions as well.
According to Stephanie Canizales, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California Merced, who studies Latino immigration and youth, “quinceañeras are becoming a distinct way to create belonging in the United States.” They are “important for a positive identity and space in a political moment where Latinxs are constantly portrayed as social deviants with no place to belong,” she said in the previously mentioned Times piece. And they are also a bridge between their current life in the US and the traditions of their home country and generations that came before them. “The changing nature of quinceañeras point to an exciting diversification of the Latinx landscape,” Professor Canizales explained. “There is no one-size-fits-all quinceañera celebration. This means there is no one Latinx — and that’s a beautiful landscape.”