These girls' parties can cost more than a wedding

The Quinceañera is an elaborate and costly Hispanic coming-of-age event. It's also a fast-growing, multimillion-dollar industry.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 9, 2013 10:24AM

Credit: © Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images
Caption: Edith Paniagua, foreground, performs with professional dancers at her quinceanera in suburban Darien, IllinoisHas your kid been invited to a local Quinceañera? The Latina version of a sweet 16 party, the Quinceañera is a coming-of-age celebration for 15-year-old girls. It has also become a multimillion-dollar industry, with costs than can exceed a wedding's. And it has gained business interest outside of the U.S. Hispanic community.

Originally considered the province of rich families, the Quinceañera is now a mainstream event for hundreds of thousands of Hispanic girls in the U.S. The business now generates over $400 million a year.

The events can be very elaborate, starting with a mass and then followed by a reception and party featuring gowns and tuxedos, catering, gifts, photographers, attendants, limousines, bands, choreographed dances, special lighting and customized cake. Latino News Today says families spend on average between $15,000 to $20,000 for their child's Quinceañera -- and quite often much more.

"There are parents that have been saving up their entire lives for their daughter's Quinceañera," the site says. "Some Quinceañeras will cost more than the girls' future wedding."

Quinceañera magazine -- yes, there's a magazine -- lists dozens of Quinceañera expos in the U.S. Midwestern and Western states annually. Along with national companies, the expos attract local small businesses, from bridal stores making special Quinceañeras gowns to food companies and stationery stores.

"It is still growing. I would say it's a good, maybe five to six percent of our business at this time" Helen Edell, with Alligator Soup Stationery and Gift Boutique in Las Vegas told the city's 8 News Now-TV during a Quinceañera expo there in 2011. "Out of it also comes the weddings."

Some big corporations have also taken notice of the Quinceañera.

This past March, Disney Consumer Products, the business product segment of Walt Disney (DIS), unveiled its "first ever line of Quinceañera gowns inspired by the inner qualities, personalities and stories of the Disney Princess characters." The debut line of 21 gowns, featuring two styles for each Disney movie princess, comes with suggested retail prices running from $530 to $999.

"Disney is thrilled to provide young Latinas with the opportunity to celebrate the elegance, grace and poise of their favorite Disney Princess characters on such a special and momentous day," Gilberto Martinez Kladt, vice president of licensing for Disney Princess, said in a press statement.

And you know you've become a national phenomenon when a TV-reality show gets involved. As the Los Angeles Times reports, MTV's long-running "Quiero Mis Quinces" program "gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at just how expensive -- and bratty -- the parties can get."

More on moneyNOW

Aug 9, 2013 12:39PM
Hey, if you're not on the government dole and it's your hard-earned money, then you can spend it anyway you want.  It's none of my business.  But if you're getting section 8 housing assistance, welfare, food stamps, Obamaphones, governement disability payments, subsidized health insurance, subsidized utilities, etc. etc. then I have a big problem with these events.
Aug 9, 2013 4:49PM
perhaps that $$ would be better spent on a college education?
Aug 9, 2013 10:38AM
On the one hand, blowing a bunch of cash on stuff like this just seems like a waste.  On the other hand, just think how many small businesses are positively affected by these events - photographers, reception venues, florists, bakers, caterers, limo companies, dressmakers, formal wear shops, DJs, etc....
Aug 9, 2013 12:43PM
I never had a Quinceanera, I guess i was a deprived child.  But it's not too late.  i'll have a Cinquentinera and everyone can bring me  Depends, a walker, wheelchair, grab bars for the tub, and all that stuff i will be needing soon.
Aug 9, 2013 1:56PM

Is anyone proofreading these articles?  "Stationary stores"?  What, as opposed to movable stores?  The word is "stationery" when referring to paper products.  If you can't spell, why should we believe the balance of teh story?

Aug 9, 2013 1:44PM

These parties are really about the fact that at 15 years of age, a Hispanic girl is at the end of her childhood!  The $ blown on these things would be much better spent being put aside for the kids that are coming along - usually within a year or two after the party is thrown!
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