Elaborate, unique party teen’s dream

Madison Wood marking sweet 16 with quinceañera

Nancy MacPhee nmacphee@journalpioneer.com
Published on July 21, 2014
Madison Wood and her mother, Arlene, show off the special invitation made for Madison’s upcoming quinceañera. The elaborate party, a Spanish tradition, was something Madison has wanted to do since first heard about the unique celebration at age nine. The party takes place Thursday, a day after Madison’s 16th birthday. 
Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE — Madison Wood never doubted how she’d celebrate turning 16.

Even after her father enticed her with the offer of a second-hand car as a gift for the milestone birthday, the Summerside teen didn’t budge.

For the teen, who has a part-time job and spends spare time volunteering and helping others, a unique party where the spotlight is on her is all she ever wanted.

And this Thursday, her birthday wish comes true.

 “It’s going to be amazing,” said the shy Madison, who turns 16 Wednesday.

Decked out in an elaborate, top-secret dress, Madison will make her grand entrance before close 100 family and friends, kicking off her very own quinceañera.

A quinceañera isn’t something, to her knowledge, that’s ever been done on P.E.I.

It’s a Latin American tradition, an elaborate rite of passage to celebrate a girl’s fifteenth birthday.

So, how does a girl from Summerside get the idea for such a party?

Television, of course.

“She had seen it on Wizards of Waverly Place when she was nine and it was intriguing to her,” said mom, Arlene. “It was beautiful and she thought it was elegant. She’s always been a kind of out-of-the-box thinker.

“She’s been talking about it ever since.”

With no Spanish background and knowing little about a quinceañera, mother and daughter began preparing for the celebration six months ago, researching all the details and trying to stay true to the traditions involved.

Madison, who has a learning disability and normally doesn’t like to be the centre, had her heart set on pulling off the party and celebrating her sweet 16 with those closest to her — family, friends, her teachers and educational assistants.

“It was just the fanciness of it,” said the teen.

The celebration is also a way for Madison mark the passage from being a girl to becoming a young woman, which is the main purpose behind a quinceañera.

During the event, there is a traditional ceremony to do just that.

Madison will walk in wearing flat shoes. As she’s seated, her father, James, will remove those shoes, replacing them with heels before having father-daughter dance.

“I have a good relationship with my Dad, it’s just that he still treats me like a little girl,” said Madison. “I thought it would help a lot because he believes in traditions.”

Arlene admitted pulling the quinceañera together has been time consuming and, without the proper planning, could get quite costly. Working with a tight budget, they hired a decorator, DJ, ordered a cake and planned the food, which, much to Madison’s delight, will include a candy bar.

For the mom, making the day special for her daughter is worth it.

“When our other daughter was 16 she wanted something and we tried really hard to give it to her,” said Arlene. “Madison is very elegant and she always gives to people.

 “It’s never about Madison. It’s always about helping someone else.”

With a red, black and gold Hollywood theme, there will be a red carpet where Madison’s family and friends will pose for photos before entering the venue, Summerside’s Centre Belle-Alliance.

That’s when Madison will make her grand entrance in that special dress.

She’s tight-lipped about the gown that took forever to find.

It’s sparkly, has seven layers, but Madison won’t reveal the colour, style or any other small details.

In fact, until the big day, the dress will stay under layers of plastic so that Madison, who admittedly can’t keep a secret, isn’t tempted to try it on or show it off.

“Dad hasn’t seen it,” said Arlene. “The only other person who has seen it is me.”

Of course, in true Hollywood fashion, the day will be spent getting her hair and makeup done before she slips into the gown, which will be complimented with sparkling jewelry and her hair topped off with a tiara.

In keeping with traditions of a quinceañera, a special candle-lighting ceremony where Madison will honour special people in her life will be held.

“There are going to be 16 candles because I am turning 16. Each candle is for every year I’ve grown up,” she added. “Some candles will be dedicated to certain people and I will say something about them and what they mean to me.”

Arlene added, “There is going to be a lot of emotion involved. There are so many people that are special to Madison. She is an amazing girl.”

So, how does the teen feel about being the centre of attention?

“It is definitely going to be different,” added Madison. “I don’t like to be, oh, my goodness, look at me. It is very different that it is about me and not anybody else.”

But, Arlene quickly says, Madison deserves it.

“There are not a lot of people that want something at nine and still want to do it at 16 or would give up the opportunity to have a car in order to have something like this,” said mom, before turning to her daughter. “It’s your night. It’s all about you.”