where does all this hard-earned money go? It goes mostly to businesses
that specialize in weddings and don’t advertise services for quinceañeras.
Some are specialty shops that make the damas dresses or rent the chambelanes
tuxedos. Some are large operations that offer one-stop shopping for the
meal, music, decorations, and hall.
owners of ten businesses surveyed by HISPANIC Magazine say quince affairs
offer respectable profits, although the celebrations are by no means their
bread and butter. Business owners in San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Miami
estimated quince affairs make up 10 to 25 percent of their work.
factors curb quinceañera business in America. Some debutantes and
their courts buy their dresses and tiaras in Mexico. Others get their goods
from people who work at home. One woman who runs a catering business from
her home declined an interview because she didn’t want the health department
to inspect her kitchen and because she doesn’t pay taxes.
are just a small percentage of our business,” says Martha Pérez,
an event coordinator in the Hispanic market for Good Gracious, a catering
and event company in west Los Angeles. “A lot of people have their grandma
do the food and their aunt do the dress, and they hold it in the backyard.
They don’t have the money, so they do all the work themselves.”
In Texas, the
Catholic Church also has taken a toll on quinceañera spending. In
Austin, priests of six predominantly Mexican American parishes passed a
resolution in 1987 that discouraged families from spending lots of money
on the tradition. The priests disapproved of the unnecessary financial
burden on some families. Instead, they encouraged a return to a “simpler,
more spiritual approach.”
of those churches still are upholding the resolution and two of them don’t
offer individual quinceañera masses. Many of the churches also require
quince candidates to be active in youth ministry for a year before their
debut and to attend a one-day religious retreat before their mass. As a
result, debutantes have flocked to the sixth church with less strict requirements,
says Jesse Luna, a sexton at St. Julia’s Catholic Church.
debutante’s dress is among the first items a quinceañera dreams
about when planning her affair. Tatiana Alvarez of Miami celebrated her
fiesta de los quince recently.
San Antonio, the archdiocese has taken a similar stance. San Fernando Cathedral,
for example, holds a yearly group quinceañera mass for nearly fifteen
girls in May. Girls must attend a year of religious study to qualify. The
church then provides a party for them after the mass, says Jennifer Comi,
a San Fernando parishioner and manager of the youth department for San
Antonio’s Central Library.
snags, the tradition is alive and well. A hunger for information on quince
celebrations in San Antonio prompted Comi to stockpile reference materials
at the library. During Hispanic Heritage Month in September, she posted
the first Web site dedicated exclusively to quinceañera parties.
The site at
www.youthwired.sat.lib.tx.us offers tips for planning a fiesta de los quince,
information on quinceañera traditions, personal quinceañera
accounts, Web resources, and books. Comi also was planning for nearly 200
girls to attend a quinceañera workshop in October on everything
from doing hair and makeup to choosing a dress.
to be a hunger for this information, and I think it’s important for us
to key into that interest,” Comi says. “It’s important that girls who want
to do this very traditional thing have an outlet for their interest. We
are building a Web site and a book collection to validate them.”
in the tradition remains strong, word of mouth keeps business rolling in,
even without advertising or support from Catholic churches in Texas. Here’s
a look at a few quinceañera businesses and the services they offer.
and Accessories, Miami
dress is among the first items she dreams about when she plans her fiesta
de los quince. Will she wear a traditional white gown with beads and lace
or will she choose a trendy pink, lavender, or blue shade, perhaps with
a ribbed fitted bodice and an organza bottom?
Manager Gerry Leyva and his six employees help debutantes make these all-important
decisions. They can either custom-make a dress or order one from a catalogue.
They also help coordinate the damas dresses with tuxedos they rent to the
store specializes in weddings, with quinceañeras making up nearly
25 percent of total sales. He tried advertising in an English-language
magazine to pick up quince business and didn’t notice results. Advertising
in a Spanish-language publication probably would be more useful, Leyva
see quinceañeras as an opportunity to expand,” Leyva said. “There
are a lot of variables to it. You don’t just deal with one family. You
deal with all of their friends, too. The best kind of advertising is word
Internacional de Manuel Vega, San
debutante deserves to be serenaded by mariachis during her fiesta de los
quince. Manuel Vega and his seven-person mariachi band have been providing
girls with this flattery for the past 22 years. They’ll perform songs from
Vicente Fernández, Lola Beltrán, José Alfredo Jiménez,
and Javier Solís for an hour or two at $300 an hour.
and company primarily play weddings, anniversaries, and conventions. Quinces
make up nearly 20 percent of their work. They have performed on television
from time to time, but Vega considers word of mouth the best advertising.
have a lot of clients that we have known for many years and we keep in
touch with them,” Vega says in Spanish. “We play weddings more than anything,
but definitely we play quinceañeras.”
wants the debutante and her family to sit back and relax during the quince
affair. Pérez will take care of everything.
party, Pérez will discuss a budget with the family and refer them
to businesses within their means for the location, music, and dresses.
Pérez also will help them plan a menu that her company provides
for $25 to $29 a person.
will then attend the quince party to ensure everything runs smoothly. She
charges $75 an hour for coordinating and usually spends 20 to 25 hours
company primarily coordinates weddings, corporate functions, and museum
openings. Quinceañeras make up 7 to 10 percent of the company’s
businesses. Most of its quinceañera business comes from referral
book at the Latin Business Association, Pérez says.
Hall.....(per person) $40
looking for the royal treatment hold their parties at this Renaissance-style
Mediterranean mansion in southwest Miami. Guests enjoy valet parking, a
grand staircase, mirrored ballrooms, and handmade Spanish-tile floors.
square-foot banquet facility has five ballrooms and can accommodate 1,200
people. It provides one-stop shopping for everything from invitations and
photography to music, flowers, and food, says wedding services concierge
Michelle De La Torre.
Waiters in black
tuxedos and white gloves provide guests with French service for a several-course
meal that may include filet mignon, lobster, or chicken. An open bar, hors
d’oeuvres, a sparkling cider toast, and a layered cake also are available.
The debutante’s family buys a package that includes a $35 to $50 price
per plate and a fee for other services. Parties usually cost between $5,000
and $8,000, De La Torre says.
hosts nearly 100 quinces a year. Weddings account for nearly 70 percent
of the mansion’s revenues. Quinces comprise nearly 15 percent, and it’s
mostly word-of-mouth business. Debutantes also find out about the mansion’s
services through bridal shows held at the mansion three times a year, De
La Torre says.
Carlo Studio and Bridal, San Antonio
Mary Jane Flores’
business is an exception to the norm when it comes to quinces. Flores co-owns
a photography studio and bridal shop dedicated primarily to quinceañeras.
It offers one-stop shopping for memorabilia, decorations, photographs,
and formal wear for girls, Flores says.
dress the debutante and her damas from head to toe. Meanwhile, photographers
take a 16-by-20 inch portrait of the debutante to display at the party
and shoot candid pictures during the celebration, Flores says.
shifted the focus of Flores’ business from weddings to quinces over the
past twenty years. Clients would come to her store looking for hard-to-find
quince items, such as guest books in English, scepters, or tiaras with
the number “15” on them. Flores would get on the phone and track the items
Over the years,
Flores also has invested in equipment for making the last dolls, sometimes
from porcelain, and for stamping gold letters on memorabilia, such as photographs,
ribbons, and invitations.
comes into our store and asks for something we don’t have, we don’t turn
them away,” Flores says. “We contact companies and we find the items. We’re
trying to find what the other places can’t find, to be a very unique place.”
As a result,
quinces make up nearly 85 percent of Flores’ business. To keep interest
flowing, Flores is among the few businesses that advertise quinceañera
services. Flores spends $6,000 to run television advertisements twice a
year for a month on one Mexican American station and two English-language
stations with large teenage audiences, Flores says.
“We always know
when the ads are running, because we get an immediate response,” Flores
says. “The phones start ringing with people saying, ‘We saw your ad and
just got the phone number. Where are you?’ It’s a good investment. A quinceañera
has a lot of money to spend. She is just like a bride. She has a cake,
the food, the music, the hall, everything. The only difference is Mama
takes her home at night.”
Tux Shops, Van Nuys, California
Flores, Scott Thomas believes in the power of the quinceañera dollar.
Thomas is marketing director of the largest retail tuxedo chain on the
West Coast. His chain has nearly 120 shops in areas with large Hispanic
populations, such as California, Arizona, and Nevada.
To tap into
this market, Thomas spent two months learning about quince parties. He
interviewed at least 30 debutantes, damas and chambelanes, mothers, fathers,
and priests. Thomas also researched the history of the tradition at libraries
and on the Internet.
his knowledge to produce the only quinceañera planning booklet he’s
aware of. It gives information about quince parties in both English and
Spanish. Thomas hands it out to quince planners at churches.
employees also benefit from Thomas’ knowledge. They receive training on
fiesta de los quince history, on the religious significance, and on the
court-member rolls. The chain also aims at hiring employees who have attended
quinces and who speak English and Spanish, Thomas says.
are sometimes shocked and relieved and happy that they don’t have to explain
the whole thing,” Thomas says. “Sometimes we know more than they do and
love to be surrounded by family,best friends, and schoolmates at their
fiestas de los quince.In Miami, Tatiana Alvarez’s friends enjoyed the special
occasion this summer
ideas to make
their quinceañera even better. Quinceañeras are an integral
part of our business, and we think it’s important to uphold the tradition.”
efforts, quinces make up about 10 percent of the chain’s business. The
chain rents the basic black tuxedos to chambelanes at a special rate. If
a court has seven chambelanes, one tuxedo is free, and if it has fourteen,
two tuxedos are free, Thomas says.
are an integral part of our business,” Thomas says. “We do business in
Latin areas, and we think it’s important to uphold their traditions. Quinceañeras
are a tradition, and it isn’t going away because of the church looking
down on the family spending all their money on it. It’s too much of a revered