This summer I was lucky enough to have the privilege of travelling with my Aunt to Panama to celebrate and help organize my cousins Quinceañera. I have never been one to like parties much but this party is a little different then your average. I’m sure some of you may not know what a Quinceañera is so I’ll give you a little background. A Quinceañera, also refereed to as the sweet fifteen, is celebrated by most Spanish speaking countries . It’s similar to the sweet sixteen we are all familiar with except that it has a more symbolic meaning and family oriented vibe. It is the coming of age of a young girl reaching adulthood so I would say it is kind of a big deal. I chose not to have one because like I stated before, I am not one for parties or like to be the center of attention. I would say however that I got to do something even better which was take a beautiful trip to Hawaii, but that’s a different story all together.
Now, planning a part is a lot of hard work but to organize a party from a different country, I would say has even more challenges. The party was is August and we had been helping since about January with all the preparations. My Aunt and I were in charge of the Candy Bar ( Yum!) among other things like decorations for the venue. We were also put to help find her a dress to wear that would be more of the style and color she had in mine.
Our first major challenge was finding the color that she wanted for the dress. Traditionally the dresses used are either white or pink. As time went on however this tradition changed so the girls can essentially pick any color they wanted so it could go with the color scheme of the party. Even to this day, I have no idea what the exact name is of the color my cousin wanted for her dress. They had told us it was Turquoise but their turquoise and ours is a completely different color in my opinion ( in the pictures it doesn’t look that far off but in person it didn’t match). Although I know there can be many variations to a color, it was just not the one we had pictured and it was a challenge to find a dress close to that color. We even had them mail a sample of the fabrics but it got lost and then we got it when we were about a month away from the party so it was cutting it close. Because of this some of the party decorations didn’t exactly match but it still looked good with the theme so we could use them. The other problem was we had to pray that the dress would fit! We did get her measurement but it can always be tricky to get it right. We also had to try and get the dress color as close as possible since we are buying a short dress. What some people do, like my cousin did as well, is get a short dress but make a separate piece to make it look like a long poofy princess dress. This is for the reason that with all the traditional activities that come first, its a little more formal. Once that is all done, the long piece of the dress comes off and then its time to party.
Once we arrived in Panama we had about 4 days till the actual party. We arrived later at night so this was our only real time to relax before all the crazy preparations began. The next day my cousin arrived to try on the dress and thank God it fit perfectly! We let her pick some different accessories we had brought and then it was on to the serious venue decorations to prepare. My older cousin and her husband had also traveled with us to come and help with the party.
In total we had brought about 8 full sized luggage in which about 5 of them was just things for the party. That’s a lot of stuff! Even someone at the airport made a comment about us having many suitcases and they didn’t see all of them. Our first job was to unpack all the items and organize them so when it came down to decorating, we had an idea of where things were. In the days that followed we made labels for different favors we were giving out,we bought some items that we couldn’t bring,and we were assembling little cardboard boxes and filling them with treats as a table favor to take home. This however had to be done the day before the party to avoid any of the treats we used to go bad. The problem we had quickly run into was there was not enough so at about mid-night my aunt went running around with some family to see if anything was open and had what we needed. The bad news was most were closed so these had to be purchased early in the morning and assembled at the venue.
The day of the party had quickly arrived and everyone went early to the venue to set up. The thing with this location is that all that is provided to you is the space. We had to rent the tables and chairs and if its one thing we learned, they are’t always clean. We did not prepare for that so again another trip into town to get some cleaning supplies and last minute items. Also no one is there to set it up for you unless you paid someone,so all my family helped to set up the tables and chair and arrange the seating plan, put the decorations up on the stage, put together the candy bar and put do other small details to help it come all together. Once everything was set up it was time to get ready. We had a hair and make up artist coming to do about 5 of us so I went ahead of others to get ready. When we arrived home the artist was late and once she started to work on my cousin the process was taking an extremely long time. By the time she finished with my cousin we only had about an hour and a half to do everyone else. With the ceremony, there is a court of people who bring certain objects that are symbolic to her life. One of the young girls from her court was getting ready with us and she needed to be done before the rest of us. She also took quite a lot of time to do so there was basically no time for others to get their hair and make-up done. One of my cousins did my hair, I did my aunts hair and I managed to get my make-up done by the artist at least and then it was time to go.
Lucky for us it was the most perfect weather, Heavy rain with Thunderstorms all around! Not only did this affect the venue, having to put in some tables that were close to the edge, but also the entrance for my cousin. It’s also tradition that no one sees her until its time to start so getting her into the back without ruining her dress was a challenge but we managed to pull it off. The ceremony went great, everyone stayed relatively calm and things ran rather smoothly.
Our last challenge of the night was the food. Originally my uncle had hired a couple of ladies to help serve the food. Well,they never showed up. No one knows why but we moved on and worked fast. The kitchen space was very small but we had about 7 people including myself all helping to serve food, plus two of my cousins bringing the food out. The only problem was that we were not able to get the food out fast enough so some guest were getting impatient,but there is only so much you can do. We manged to pull it off only with a rumor that someone had gone home without eating. But it was their fault for leaving early since we still had food for days. Once that was all over, we could all relax and enjoy the rest of the party till it was time to go. We also had to clean up our mess so we had to make sure we were “awake” enough to clean up. When we had everything cleaned it was about 4 in the morning. We had our last 10 minutes to sit, relax, talk and drink our last shot before going to crash for the night. I didn’t wake up till about 2:00pm. So if anyone is still reading my long story, I hope you enjoyed it and realized like I did that planning a party has lots of hard work behind the scenes. It was well worth it and my cousins friends will have a tough time topping her amazing Quinceañera!
Once again, Sorry for the long post!It was very hard to condense it while keeping the details I wanted to get across.