When my youngest daughter, Gaby, turned 15, we celebrated with a lavish Quinceañera celebration to mark her passage into womanhood. In fact, we wanted her debut to society to be a formal announcement that family and friends would not soon forget. Gaby loves New York and plans to attend college there one day, so we thought what a great idea for a party theme – we would treat guests to an evening in Manhattan and host a Big Apple party.
The invitations we sent were copies of the New York Times front page with a headline announcing Gaby’s Quinceañera. A short “article” followed with all the details of the event, including the theme and request for formal ball attire. This Cinderella affair was going to be big, New York style. Think lights on Broadway.
We rented a hotel ballroom for the party and on the morning of the event got to work creating a room that would look like New York. I hired an event coordinator, Pam, to help with the decorations, entertainment, and event festivities. Pam had a gigantic mural made of the Manhattan skyline that took up one whole wall of the ballroom. It was amazing. On another wall were large stand-up playbills from some of the most famous Broadway plays- Phantom of the Opera, My Fair Lady, Les Miserables, Chorus Line – and a red velvet carpet for walking down and being photographed by paparazzi (who would be set up later for keepsake photos). The last wall was where the band and dance floor would be set up.
The dining area included round tables of ten and was decorated to resemble the famous New York restaurant, Tavern on the Green. Each table was decorated with white linen and fully set. In the middle of the table was a tall glass vase filled with fresh white roses, and around the vase were half a dozen votive candles. The tables were surrounded by live trees entwined with tiny white lights.
Gaby looked beautiful in her ball gown, tiara, and borrowed jewelry. She was speechless when she made her formal entrance into the ballroom. She later said it couldn’t have been more perfect or more New York. She had her first dance with her father and then he handed her to her handsome escort, a boy that has been a close family friend since they were in pre-school together. Afterwards, Gaby gave a touching speech and thanked everyone for coming. She hoped everyone would enjoy their “trip to New York” and encouraged everyone to enjoy the Broadway tunes and kick up their heels.
Of course, there was some tradition, and the Quinceañera waltz was the next song played by the band. A mariachi was also present to play during the reception (he was kind enough to come from the church). But tunes from Broadway ruled the dance floor and everyone enjoyed the music. At one point, the band handed out top hats and canes so that everyone could participate in a “chorus line.” The dance floor was always full, except for when dinner was served.
An elegant sit-down dinner was served in five courses. First, a small bowl of peach sorbet was introduced to clean everyone’s palate. Then a green salad was offered with choice of dressing. The main course was filet mignon and shrimp scampi with roasted potatoes and green beans. Next came dessert. An exquisitely decorated multi-tiered cake was wheeled onto the dance floor. Gaby, my husband and I, and my two other daughters, all stood by the cake as guests sang Happy Birthday. We returned to our seats and the chocolate cake was cut and served. Lastly, coffee, tea and apple cider were poured.
My husband stood and gave a toast to Gaby while we ate dessert. My father and brother also stood to give well wishes and then the party really got started.
Before everyone got up after dessert, an emcee came on the band’s microphone and asked everyone to remain seated for a brand new Broadway musical that was making it’s debut tonight, in honor of Gaby’s 15th birthday. Then, to everyone’s surprise and amusement, a group of characters – bag ladies, cab drivers, Wall Street bankers, athletes, and the Statue of Liberty herself – all symbols of the Big Apple, put on a wonderful show that included information about Gaby and her friends and family. Guests were delighted when their name was mentioned. There was drama, singing, dancing, and even a serenade to Gaby. We got the whole show on videotape and when it was over the actors and actresses received a standing ovation.
The dancing continued until the wee hours of the night. And there was one more surprise in store. A caricature artist was set up at the Manhattan skyline to draw guests with the New York backdrop. It was our hope that everyone would remember Gaby’s Big Apple Quinceañera bash with a personalized drawing.
While on the dance floor dancing our last dance, my husband and I remarked how thrilled we were with the way the evening had gone. Gaby had a smile on her face the entire night and seemed to have a delightful time with all of her friends. Just wait until her wedding, I told my husband, and he almost fell over.