The guest lists for weddings tend to grow, and quinceañeras are no different. Melinda Ramos of Yakima watched her daughter Aaliyah's quince morph into a huge celebration. "We were not going to do an elaborate event. At first, it was just going to be a blessing at church, and a family barbecue with close friends. But my family's too big. Just on my dad's side there's like, 200, so from 100 people, it went to 400."
You can't pack all those people into the backyard, so the Ramoses rented the Ahtanum Park Activities Building. Then there was the entertainment. "My husband decided we've got to have music, because it's not going to be a fun party without music, so we have two DJs and a band," Melinda says. But not all of his suggestions were welcome. "My husband wanted a horse and I'm like - you're crazy!"
They started with a budget of eight grand, and ended up closer to $15,000. How can one family pay for all that? The answer is simple. The large, close-knit families common in Hispanic culture, and a big network of friends come to the rescue.
Melinda's good friend Marisela Garcia leaped into action, because she knows the enormous amount of work required to throw such a party. "I helped her with a lot of ideas and a little bit financially because we went through it three years ago with my daughter so I have an idea about what's going on with the stress, the dresses, the invitations, stuff like that," she laughs.
The day I visited their Yakima home, at least six relatives and friends were there to help Aaliyah do her makeup and hair, and try on her dress in a trial run. The 15-year old was a vision in cobalt blue.
Melinda remembers the day she first tried it on. "She said yes to the dress! Of course I cried because she's my baby girl and my only daughter." Aaliyah didn't want a quince at first. She's shy, preferring to stay home with her family, read books and take care of the little kids. She hadn't even worn makeup until now. But when her friends at school started talking about quinces, she changed her mind.
More friends and family members got involved. Melinda's mom made the pillow Aaliyah knelt on at church. Her Padrinos, (godparents) donated money. Marisela's daughter choreographed the "surprise dance" that her son performed with Aaliyah at the party. Her son, 13-year-old Jorge Garcia was Aaliyah's one "Chambelane" or chamberlain. He wore a tux and walked her down the church aisle and practiced dancing to "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Justin Beiber until they got the lifts and the spins just right. "It's my first time. I'm kind of nervous, and excited," he said before the ceremony.
Issac, Aaliyah's 10-year-old brother, observed all the activity calmly. He says he's thinking of having a quinceañero when he hits 15. Coming-of-age parties for boys are becoming more popular. Melinda says, if girls can do it, boys can too, and she's planning quinceañeros for both her sons.
Family and friends came from as far away as Florida and Texas to attend. Nearly all the out-of-town visitors were put up by family members who live in the Yakima Valley, and Melinda booked a block of rooms in a local hotel a year in advance. She says they laughed, danced, reminisced about old times and created new memories - and they couldn't have done it without the help of friends and family.