For more than ten years, IPV Studio has been privileged to serve thousands of families preparing for their daughters’ Sweet 16s. Often times when parents called in to order their Sweet 16 Party Invitations with us, they were coping with the stress of planning the party, seeking advice about various aspects of the party, or looking for a sounding board just so that they could get their worries off their chests. I always did what I could to engage them in conversation in hopes of better serving them. While I did this, I received a thorough education in what goes in to planning a successful Sweet 16 party as well as why it’s crucial to always bear in mind the deeper meaning of family, community and coming of age.
Here comes the first installment:
Why Have A Sweet 16?
There are girls who wait all their young lives for that magical day when they finally reach their 16th Birthday. In our culture, this birthday seems to mark the girl’s transition into womanhood. Though most girls are ill prepared to handle the responsibilities of womanhood at the age of 16, many are eager to receive the new privileges, like permission to wear make up, or to date, or to have a later curfew, or to drive a car.
Many dream of the fabulous party that will accompany this milestone. They’ve spent their childhoods sighing over tiaras, admiring ball gowns with puffy floor length skirts made of tulle, and dreaming of being pampered and styled at the salon. For just this one night, they will be able to play the part of the princess at their own fantasy ball.
What teenage girl wouldn’t want that?
I strongly advocate celebrating a Sweet 16. The occasion is so much more than luxuriating in the trappings of dressing up and partying and posing for the camera. Like the Quinceanera in the Latino tradition, the Bat Mitzvah in the Jewish tradition, the Debutante Ball in high society, or any coming-of-age ritual, the Sweet 16 gives you an opportunity to present your Sweet 16 Girl to your friends and family as someone who is ready to take on some mantle of responsibility as a participant in her family and community. Childhood is slowly fading away and the woman within the Sweet 16 Girl is beginning to emerge.
That’s a beautiful aspect of the celebration to keep in mind, especially as your teenage daughter’s imagination is running wild with ideas for celebrating the big event. As she dreams of her party and you begin to feel the stress of handling the details and expense, remind yourself that her transition into womanhood has begun. Imagine how wonderful it will be to have her friends and family come together to mark this milestone with her.
If you’re hesitating to throw a party due to financial strains, I’d still advocate having a scaled down party. Because my daughter had previously become a Bat Mitzvah at age 13, complete with an expensive reception attended by 100 guests, my family decided against throwing her a lavish Sweet 16 only three years later. We wound up staging a small Surprise Party in our home for only 12 guests. Our budget was less than $200. With a little bit of research and a little imagination, we put together a beautiful party. When it was said and done, our daughter thanked us profusely and told us that it was one of the most memorable parties she’d ever attended. In a future entry, I’ll tell you about How to Throw a Party on a Shoestring Budget.
Finally, the most important reason to have a Sweet 16 is this:
Life will bring each one of us more than our fair share of sorrow. We’ll be given more than enough opportunities to gather with friends and family to mark sad events, illnesses and funerals. That’s why I believe it’s crucially important to embrace the happy turning points in life.
As the stress of the approaching Sweet 16 date begins to mount, whether you’re having a huge lavish affair or a house party on a tiny budget, focus on the fact that life has given you a wonderful moment to celebrate. Do everything that you can to enjoy the excitement. Take a moment to appreciate how beautiful the Sweet 16 girl looks in her dress, how wonderful it is to be surrounded by friends and family, and how much fun it will be to dance, to be entertained, and to see your child take her first tentative steps forward as a young woman.
A girl’s 16th year can be a time of great pressure. The Junior Year of High School can bring along what seems like an unending parade of big challenges to face and big decisions to make. Some girls are taking their first AP classes and struggling with the work load. Some may have had their first heartache from breaking up with a boy. Some may feel pressure to excel on their SATs, while their scores come up to be less than spectacular. Some may have already begun experimenting with intoxicants to cope with the stress or to succumb to peer pressure. Every last teenage girl I’ve ever met is way over scheduled with extra curricular activities. Here in New York City, many High School Juniors also face a battery of Regents exams, the results of which could profoundly affect their GPAs. The whole subject of looking ahead to college brings so many new and difficult decisions with it and some girls find themselves so overwhelmed that they don’t even want to discuss it.
As a result, a parent may find her daughter opening a fresh mouth at home, slacking off at school, or shutting down completely. The parent may find the daughter’s behavior to be exasperating. If this is happening in your home, remind yourself that the girl only does this at home because it’s her only outlet for letting off steam while she attempts to cope with these new pressures. If her behavior pushes you to the limit, please do not even consider using deprivation of the Sweet 16 Party as a weapon with which to punish her. She’s growing up and will quickly learn how to play the cards that life deals her.
Be happy with your beautiful Sweet 16 Girl, be proud of how far she’s come, and treasure your fondest dreams of what she will contribute to society and where life will take her from here.