How To Throw A Fabulous Queerceañera

Queer Queen for the night.

In a recent episode of the queer-centric Starz show “Vida,” character Marcos decides to throw himself a queer double-quinceañera party. Now, if you’re at all familiar with Latinx culture, you may recognize the term quinceañera (or quinces). Similar to the Sweet Sixteen, the quinces is a major birthday party in honor of a young woman turning 15 years of age, signifying her entrance into young womanhood. There may or may not be a religious component to it, especially for Catholic families. And then, of course, there are all the parallels to a wedding, such as the white dress and the father-daughter dance. But mostly? It’s an excuse to throw an extremely elaborate party where you’re basically Queen for the night.

So then, you may wonder, what exactly is a queerceañera? Well, for many young queer teens, the traditional quinces can often feel too rigid and patriarchal for us to want to participate. Are we down for a big party? Of course! But at 14-years-old and just barely out, I wasn’t feeling much for wearing a poofy white gown and having some boy parade me around like a show pig. In recent years, though, plenty of folks in the Latinx community have begun to transform the old tradition into a new type of event. Not only are we opening the quinces to celebrate those of us over 15-years-old who simply didn’t get the chance the first time around, we’re also turning it into an experience that shirks the heteronormativity and makes room for the rest of us. So, what exactly does one need for a queer quinceañera?

A Spectacular Outfit

Much like in a traditional wedding, a traditional quinces generally requires a fancy white gown to differentiate the belle of the ball from her court. She also generally wears some form of sparkly tiara. For your queer quinces, however, you can consider playing with your outfit (though personally I’d love an excuse to finally wear a tiara). Sure, you can opt for a big, poofy gown (even Marcos donned some tulle), but you can also throw some splashes of color or even go full-on rainbow — or if you prefer, invoke the power of “One Day At A Time’s” Elena who opted for a white blazer and slacks with a sparkly silver top. Either way, the point is to look fabulous, dah’lings!

A Chambelan

Every quinces queen needs her escort, and the chambelan would be yours. Who do you choose for this important role? On “Vida,” Marcos chooses Lyn, his bestie (who also happens to run the bar venue). If you’re already dating or married, though, you’ll probably want to pick your partner. Either way, this must be someone you hold in high regard who wouldn’t mind walking around the party and dancing with you throughout, — and preferably someone who cleans up nice.

The Court

You’re also going to need a few lovely willing humans to volunteer to learn a few dance moves for your big day. The best way to go about this is by looking up your friends who are still hip enough to not only be on TikTok but who actually post them regularly. Look for the ones who already know elaborate dance routines and the ones who aren’t shy about karaoke or lip-synching. Bonus points if you have any friends who are already gifted drag performers.

A Perfect Soundtrack

Now that you’ve recruited your best dance pals, you’ll have to come up with some great songs to make the night extra special. Bonus points again if you can build some stellar choreography to it. Try a blend of club hits and whatever your tia plays at her parties and then put it on shuffle. Or you could just throw on some Robyn, La Roux, Chavela Vargas, and Bikini Kill and see where the night takes you. Probably better if you hire a DJ that can keep all your guests happy, though you may also want to consider a karaoke machine for the late-night stragglers (because you’ll all eventually reach the point in the night where you, too, want to sing “What’s Going On”).

The Decor

You’re going to want to set a mood, and girl, that mood better be hella-gay for this fiesta. Consider this your birthday and coming out and debut party all in one; it’s your moment. We’re talking disco balls and spotlights and glitter and twinkle lights and maybe some of those sparklers for the birthday cake (yes, there must be cake — see below). Don’t be afraid to go for a theme if you feel you have a really strong one.

Food (And Booze For The Double-Quinces Crowd)

There’s no real standard for what you should serve at a quinceañera other than an epic birthday cake. Families often order homestyle cooking, meaning possibly tamales, picadillo, lechon, or other Latin American staples depending on which nationalities are present. While you can totally go for that, don’t be afraid to mix it up and throw in whatever foods make you and your tastebuds happiest. And don’t forget to include an open bar for all us elderqueers (but let’s face it: you’re reading this because you want a queer double-quinces, so feel free to have some fancy cocktails and something bubbly for the toasts). 

Speech, Speech, Speech! 

Just like a wedding, you’re going to want a few good folks to make speeches and toast in your honor. Sure, anecdotes from family members about your childhood could work, but I’d recommend picking three friends who know you best to share some truly unique anecdotes about your first protest, your last time at the Dinah, your favorite road trip in your Subaru — whatever. 

Most Of All, Enjoy Tu Dia!

That’s right, babe: This is YOUR day! Whether you’re turning 15, 30, or hell even 45 (triple-quinces can totally be a thing), make sure the spotlight stays on you. How often do we get to celebrate our own fabulousness? I’m especially looking at you, my fellow queer introverts. Don’t be afraid to queer it up and take back another part of the cultura.

What Do You Think?

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