On Sunday, December 3, at The Lincoln Manor: Banquet Hall and Event Center in Lincoln Park, MI, the line to enter Expo: Quinceanera was 15 people deep. Some arrived long before the doors opened. But the cold gray weather gave way to bright, festive colors in a hall full of vendors ready to sell everything from formal ball gowns worn by young girls during a coming-of-age ceremony in Latino culture to hair, make-up, DJs, and caterers and, yes, even cowboy boots—everything it takes to plan a perfect Quinceanera.
The hall bustled with movement, full of eager teen girls and their moms shopping the different small businesses.
Mom and daughter Norma and Ashley Cisneros, whose family is from El Salvador, are planning an Enchanted Forest-themed party. She may be one of many girls who choose to do their Quinceanera during the summer months. Today, they are looking at décor and food vendors.
“It’s her initiation into adolescence,” said Norma Cisneros.
Similar to a sweet sixteen, Quinceañeras are often wildly extravagant affairs. There is grand décor and a big, flashy dress, but instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, at a quinceañera, there are chambelanes and damas, which are a group of male and female friends that serve as an entourage.
Ashley may go home with the number for a baker who specializes in seven-tier cakes, or she may choose a large Cinderella-carriage cake from Pasteles Carina, a home business in Melvindale. The decisions are endless, and the planning can take over a year. Norma Cisneros has a budget of $15,000-$20,000 and a guest list of 300 people.
A Quinceañera has the same economic impact as a wedding. And, like a wedding, an entire industry is built around creating a perfect day. Dress vendors sell gowns worth anywhere from $500 on the low end to $2,500 on the high end. Though the dress is the event’s centerpiece, dozens of costs are associated with the party.
Hair and makeup for the birthday girl can cost $250 at Elizabeth Beauty, a Detroit salon. A dance instructor and choreography package can go for $1,350. Depending on the equipment needed, a DJ can cost anywhere between $2,500 to $4,500.
DJ William, for example, DJs 45 Quinceaneras a year. Most of his business is Quinceaneras. “I manage five DJs and bring in $12,000 a week,” DJ William said.
Décor packages start at $650. Like with any party, these ballpark estimates can vary, and the sky is the limit if you’re willing to shell out the big bucks.
These parties are often the result of the Hispanic community’s growing financial success. In an interview in Texas Monthly, Rachel González-Martin, a professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the book Quinceañera Style: Social Belonging and Latinx Consumer Identities, said that many Latinos are leaning into extravagance.
“[This pushes] back on the public narrative that assumes that Latinos are working- or under-class,” she said. “Latino consumption and Latino social success are on display,” said González-Martin.
Most vendors agree that a large portion of their business comes from word of mouth and social media. The young women in attendance rattle off TikTok and Instagram as sources of inspiration.
The Expo, now in its sixth year, attracts thousands of visitors. Karina Lambaren, the event’s planner, says. Lincoln Park has the largest Hispanic population by percentage in Michigan, according to Census.gov, making the Expo the perfect place to gauge how Latino clientele and businesses vibe off each other.
If Sunday’s event is any indication, Latinos are more than willing to spend the money. These parties are as big as the dresses, but so too are the dreams of the girls wearing them.