Sweet sixteens and teenage dreams

From Argentina to Arkansas, every family, region, and culture has a unique approach toward the iconic coming-of-age moments in a teen girl’s life. Among the most memorable are those birthday parties that start with the perfect sweet sixteen invitation or quinceañera invitation. Though sweet sixteens and quinceañeras have a few specific cultural differences, both are celebrations full of dressing up, dancing, and having a great time with a whole lot of people.

Quinceañera is Spanish for “15-year-old girl” and in Latin America the event marks the turning point between childhood and adulthood (or the first step toward it, at least). The quinceañera—decked out in tiara and gown—is accompanied to a church mass by a “court of honor” made up of her closest friends. The quinceañera’s family gifts her la ultima muñeca, or the last doll, which she then gives away to a younger girl as a symbolic gesture. (These days, modern quinceañeras often opt for a coveted pair of “grown-up” shoes instead of the traditional doll exchange.) Then, the real party begins.

Sweet sixteens, on the other hand, are generally more casual, following fewer set traditions—a modern sweet sixteen can range from a low-key family get-together to an extravaganza featuring a DJ and photo or video montages.

Of course, there are many other types of coming-of-age parties that call for different birthday invitations, from bar and bat mitzvah invitations to milestone birthday invitations celebrating that most important American rite: turning 21.