Quinceañera – A Fiesta Celebrating 15 Years

In the Latino community, a girl’s “coming of age” is celebrated as QuinceaÑera. A Lancaster family recently celebrated their daughter’s QuinceaÑera with a party that brought Hollywood’s iconic red carpet to the Red Rose City.

Dresses and tuxedos worn by Diandra’s Court of Honor – composed of close family members and best friends – complemented her gown. Diandra’s escort for the event was Miguel Rodriguez.Hempfield High School freshman Diandra Valdez knew that her Quinceañera party was not going to be about pink glitter, even a year in advance. The basketball player, who doesn’t see herself as a “girly girl,” and her mother agreed on a theme as the two began envisioning the event: the central theme – a Hollywood-inspired Walk of Fame – would be carried out with a color scheme of red and black (Hempfield’s colors) with touches of white.

There were best friends to be invited and given the honor of standing in support of their Quinceañera celebrant, dressed to complement her ball gown – six in all, plus a very best friend in the most important role. There were escorts to be invited for each of the young ladies, all to be formally dressed. There were dances to be choreographed and rehearsed – one for father and daughter, another for Diandra and her escort, and an exuberant line dance with her girlfriends. There were remembrances to be prepared to formally thank those who were most influential in shaping the first 15 years of Diandra’s life. And, there was a party to be planned.

A Quinceañera celebration is filled with ceremonial aspects that symbolize a young lady’s coming of age. One includes trading a small tiara for a larger, more ornate one. Diandra and a guest pose on the red carpet that was part of the “Hollywood” theme of the party. The red and black in the color scheme pay homage to the colors of Hempfield High School, where Diandra is a student. Diandra reads the message a well-wisher penned on a greeting card. Diandra’s cake echoed the theme of the party.Diandra and members of her Court of Honor changed into casual clothing for dancing that kicked off with the traditional line dance that was choreographed for the occasion.

Parents Sandra and Hector Valdez chose Mulberry Art Studios as the venue and worked on the details of décor, caterer, cake, DJ and the many special touches, largely calling on members of the local Latino community as resources. Catering by El Friquitin de Villalba (Green and Rockland streets, Lancaster); Colombian-born DJ Daniel Arbelaez (former Lancaster resident, now in Philadelphia); and professional photographer José Urdaneta (formerly of Lancaster, now in Lansdale); and cake artisan Martine Cajas, owner of House of Clarendon (who is of Peruvian heritage).

In a day rich with tradition, religious ceremony and familial celebration, Diandra’s Quinceañera began with the gathering of her besties and their escorts at her family’s home. The girls were attired in semi-formal, street-length black dresses with zebra-print bodices, while the guys wore elegant black tuxedos and zebra-print accessories. A vibrant red dinner jacket, zebra vest and black tie were reserved for Diandra’s escort, Miguel Rodriguez, to perfectly complement her zebra-and-red-tulle strapless gown.

The family’s pastor presided over the gathering at Mulberry Art Studios to give thanks for Diandra and this important day in her life. To signify Diandra’s transformation into a young woman, a Bible was presented to show God as being first in Diandra’s endeavors. Her small tiara was then exchanged for a larger, more ornate version. A ring was presented to symbolize her bond to family commitments. A doll was passed on to a younger cousin, showing it was time to put away childish things. And, heels replaced Diandra’s little-girl flats.

At the reception, guests were greeted with a Hollywood-style red carpet entrance and velvet ropes. Their assigned tables were identified by movie titles or the names of famous actresses or actors. The photo booth was decked out with movie-star props, and the Oscar-worthy multi-tiered cake was embellished with a film reel, movie clapperboard and gold stars in edible fondant, to follow through with Hollywood glam.

Quiet on the set, it’s time for Diandra’s close-up – her moment to publicly recognize 15 important people who have helped her become the young lady she is, from family members to athletic coaches to friends. Traditionally presented as 15 candles, this star-studded event opted to thank its honorees with 15 “Oscar-style” gold statuettes. Family toasts followed with sparkling cider, a surprise video of Diandra through the years, and the traditional birthday song Feliz, Feliz En Tu Dia.

Following a bachata dance with her escort and the traditional father-daughter dance, it was time to cut loose. A quick change into more casual, dance-friendly activewear, and Diandra and her BFFs were ready to perform a choreographed line dance to get the dance party started. A candy table kept the sugar-fueled energy going, and the rest of the night belonged to the young, with the DJ mixing Diandra’s pre-selected playlist.

A few months later, Diandra happily reflects on the day, “I’m not the type of person who wants to be the center of attention, but that day, it was all about me!” As it should be, when you are the star!


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