Yes, 15 is a special birthday in the Dominican Republic and in most Latin American countries. Girls are given their first dance party to launch them into the sea of society. It can be celebrated with as much or as little fanfare and extravagance as her parents choose, or can afford. It may be a small disco at home, or a full blown formal affair at a club with dinner and a live band.
My daughter has received a formal invitation to a friend’s 15th birthday party. Can you give me some idea what to expect?
As it is a formal party you can expect the royal treatment. There will be several hundred guests. These will include almost everyone from the girl’s grade level at school, which may be four or five classes. All her extended family and the close family friends plus their youngsters will attend. So you will see a very mixed age group, from one or two very young children to the grandparents.
There will be a buffet dinner. This will, however, be served quite late in the evening, certainly not before 11 pm.
The entertainment in this case will most certainly be provided by a large band interspersed with, of course, a disco, playing nice and loud.
I am concerned about alcoholic beverages being served.
Yes, there will certainly be an open bar, with waiters usually on hand to serve the drinks. Girls under the age of 17 do not drink at all, but it is quite normal to serve 14 or 15 year old boys rum or beer. Although this may clash with some foreign cultures, there is no apparent peer pressure to drink in this country. The aim is not to get drunk but to enjoy the company of your friends. It is a good opportunity to have a “heart to heart” with your children and agree upon some rules.
What should my son wear?
Men are so lucky... all he needs is a smart suit, a clean shirt and a tie and he is prince charming.
What time should we plan to arrive and leave?
Although the invitation does state a time, if you have lived for more than five minutes in Latin America, you will know that they do not mean it. Half an hour to an hour after the stated time is what you should aim for, unless you would like to have a nice long chat with the waiters until everyone else turns up.
It is a very good idea to arrange to “car pool” with a friend, so that the girls have someone to arrive with, as it puts them at ease.
Going home time is usually between 1 am and 2 am. Use your discretion and the stamina of your child as a guide.
Does the invitation have to be presented?
Yes, take the invitation with you to hand in at the door. This is especially important if the event is being held at a public venue. The invitation will, however, be requested even at a private house. Someone will collect them, usually at a table set up outside the main gate. This practice deters any would-be gate-crashers.
What do I do about a gift?
There is a plethora of very nice boutiques around town where you can buy suitable gifts. Picture frames are always popular. Arte Vitral across from Plaza Central (at the corner of Winston Churchill and 27 de Febrero) has some lovely ones in stained glass.
Palladium at Plaza Palmeras, on Winston Churchill, features exquisite gifts for discerning teenagers and adults.
Jenny Polanco. There are two locations in Santo Domingo—one in the Plaza Central mall and the other one at the Diamond Mall at the entrance of Arroyo Hondo. They have a selection of lovely scarves, pareos or wraps.
Novapelis situated in the Plaza Fernández shopping center on Winston Churchill, just before Calle Charles Sumner or in Plaza Central. This shop features a large selection of Dominican-made leather belts, handbags, pen cases and makeup bags.
Axxesorri, also in Plaza Fernández and Plaza Central, features a large selection of jewelry.
Maycard is now at José Amado Soler No. 52, almost corner Federico Geraldino, Ens. Piantini. Tel. 566-7860. They represent the Crane fine line and have beautiful stationary sets, diaries, agendas, storage boxes in those lovely designs and shapes so popular now, albums, frames and lots more.
Chaly Fiesta. Also on Gustavo Mejía Ricart between Av. Lope de Vega and Tiradentes. They have a lot of small gift items, novelties, cards—definitely the place to go when you have to get something immediately, but you will pay a little extra for the convenience.
Casa Virginia, located at Roberto Pastoriza almost corner Tiradentes is a popular shop with the youngsters with some very lovely things. One suggestion is a satin case to hold lingerie.
The good thing about buying gifts here is that gift-wrapping is done everywhere at no extra charge. If you are one of those very organized sort of people, you can bring several gifts for these occasions when you next return from abroad. It will probably work out a little less expensive, but be sure not to forget the wrapping paper.