The Quinceanera is the Latin American celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday. It is the time when she transforms from a girl to woman. This transition is witnessed by her sponsors and her court as well as families and friends. But what is the significance of sponsors and the court? What purpose do they serve?
In the Latin American custom of the Quinceanera, the girl is accompanied to the church and the reception by her padrino and madrina. These are Godparents or sponsors. Often they are chosen when the girl is young and they attend her baptism as well. The padrino or Godfather in many instances is also responsible for paying for flowers, invitations and possibly other things. While they may not be the ones to choose and purchase the gifts, the sponsors are the ones who make the presentation of the gifts to the girl during the church ceremony.
Traditionally, the members of the honor court number 14. The number can be split with 7 boys (chambelanes) and 7 girls (damas) or it can be comprised of 14 couples. In either case, the inclusion of the birthday girl, with or without an escort, would bring the number to 15 in keeping with the theme of the occasion. The members are chosen by the girl and her family from her family and friends. They are typically the same age or just slightly younger than the Quinceanera girl. Like bridesmaids or groomsmen, the honor court does not have a specific function other than to participate in the processional to and at the church. At the party afterward they are required to participate in one of the opening dances of the party.
Though the traditions of the Quinceanera date back to the 1500s, there is more flexibility in carrying them out today. Sponsors were traditionally asked to share the expense of the celebration to ease the burden for the family. This is not strictly adhered to any more. Likewise, though it is still desirable, the number of members in the court of honor does not have to total 14 if the girl has a small family or cost is prohibitive. It’s always best to discuss these matters well in advance so everyone’s concerns are addressed and the celebration goes off without a hitch.