Sweet 16 parties...does Anyone Actually Do These in Real Life?

Updated on January 26, 2013
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
24 answers

My husband has recently really gotten himself stuck on the idea that we (he) *need* to throw his daugther (my SD) a Sweet 16 party this year - as in rent a place, have catering and a DJ etc. She won't be 16 until November and he's been talking about this for a month or two already. I let him know that it's a nice idea but to my knowledge, no one actually does these. When my friends and I were turning this age (early 1990's) this just wasn't something people did, and I had plenty of friends in the Country Club set who, if this kind of thing were done, would have done it. To me, it's a goofy construct for a movie plot. Right up there with debutante balls.

She is our oldest child so we don't have a ton of friends with teenagers, but I am pretty plugged in to the mom/parent network in town and have only heard of one girl having a big Sweet 16 party and she went to private school and had ostentatious parents. She will be the first of her friends to turn 16 so we won't know in advance what they are planning, if anything.

My idea would be to have her plan a special night out for a small group of friends. Maybe step it up from the normal "hang out in my basement and have pizza" kind of party but no need for a mini prom, kwim? I'm also think that whatever we spend on a party for her, we have to spend on my son, who will turn 16 a few months later. And then do it all over again for our younger boys. To me, this sets up a bad precendent for spending way more than we need to on what is, afterall, just a birthday. He thinks that because she's a girl, it's different and she should have some special lavish party.

So what's the norm in your circle? Is he out of touch or am I? We asked my SD what she thinks/ wants and she hasn't even thought about this yet.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone - I think I'll continue to try to steer him away from this idea he has in his head of some huge bash. Honestly I think he got this idea from seeing the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie LOL. We'll of course make this birthday special for both kids, but as others have pointed out, they have homecoming in November already and the prom in the spring. Plus we let them throw a pool party at the beginning of the summer and one at the end. Plus they'll both be getting confirmed next year so there will be some kind of Confirmation celebration in the spring. I really think that if this were the norm around here, I would have heard a lot more about them just like we started to hear about Bar/Bat Mitzvahs a year or two before our kids were of the age to be going to them. The car comments are interesting. In MA, at 16 you can only apply for a learner's permit. Six months after getting your permit, if you have completed all of your driver education requirements, you can take the road test and get a Junior Operator license, which prohibits you from driving with anyone under the age of 18 who isn't a family member for 6 months. It's common around here for kids to not get their license until 17 so getting a car at the 16th birthday is not common because the kid can't drive it for at least another 6 months. That said, there is no way my SD is getting her permit in November. She definitely needs a lot more time before we'd consider letting her behind the wheel. I know that's totally unrelated but I thought it was interesting that in other areas kids get licenses at 16.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't think people do that. I know mexicans do the big bash at 15, and sweet 16 is a big deal, but it's not a huge lavish party. Tell him to save his money for her wedding, he's gonna need it!

ETA: "I suggest" that some responders are unnecessarily rude. :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

My daughter is 19 and in her second year of college. A good number of her girlfriends had big bashes for their 16th birthday. She even attended one in Rhode Island for her best friend from camp growing up. We opted for the new car instead. She went to the beach on her actual birthday.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

My ex and I just did a bigger party than usual for my daughter's 16th birthday. A friend reserved the clubhouse at her condo for us, we bought tons of pizza and soda, the kids brought their favorite music to dance to, and we gave my daughter concert tickets as her gift.
She's an only child, so we didn't ahve the worry about another party later for antoher child.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that it doesn't matter if a sweet sixteen party is a norm or not. If her Dad wants to throw her a party and she wants to have a party, have fun doing it.

Do you only have parties if it's done by others or do you have a party because you want to have a party? I suggest it's up to each person whether or not they want to celebrate and how they celebrate.

I also suggest that you don't have to spend the same amount on each child. I suggest that your boys will not want to have such a party. They will celebrate in the way they want to celebrate.

It is true that the Spanish culture does have a sweet sixteen party for girls. It's called a Quinceancenera. Traditionally it's held on the fifteenth birthday but in United States it's often held on the sixteenth birthday. I went to such a party when I lived in Phoenix.

Turning 16 is a developmental milestone. Sociologists and psychologists suggest that it's helpful to have a coming of age ritual to recognize the child's movement into the beginning of adulthood. It would be good to also recognize your sons 16th birthday. What you do should be based on what the child is comfortable with doing.


Sounds like you're gathering information to use in an argument with your husband. I suggest that you'll get further in the direction of what you want to do if you listen carefully to his reasons and work on finding a compromise.

I suggest that you join in the fun of talking about a big birthday bash while keeping in mind that eventually you'll make a decision that is more moderate and more in line with what his daughter wants to do.

Don't turn this into a fight.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think the "sweet 16" party is the white version of a Quinceanera or other cultural coming of age celebration. Growing up (I'm 34 now) I lived next-door to a Mexican family and their daughter was my best friend. When she turned 15 she got a huge party. It was explained to me that it was a coming of age celebration. When a girl transitions into a woman. As a white girl from a lackadaisically catholic family, I became a woman without any fanfare.

The Jewish faith has Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, where your coming of age is celebrated when you are only 14 years old.

I think with the influx of more culturally diverse heritages permeating america, white kids were starting to feel a little left out and thus, the sweet 16 "coming of age" celebration was born.

I don't mind that people are celebrating their sweet 16's. It's "sweet". Do I think parents should mortgage the house to pull one off? Hellllllllllllllll no.

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answers from Dallas on

Well first of all... I think it is great that you asked SD what SHE wants since it is her 16th!!

I don't see a ton of Sweet 16 parties around here. We do belong to the country club and we are not ostentatious.

We have thrown several large parties and several smaller parties for various events which were NOT in a "debutante" or "prom" fashion. We've had DJ parties for end of the year party and halloween party but most of those ended by age 15.

Around age 16, the Homecoming in the Fall and the Prom in the Spring are the HUGE parties that this age group looks forward to. A LOT of $$ is spent on these 2 events so you don't see a lot of $$$ being spent on other parties around age 16 and up.

Most of the 16yr olds around here can't wait to go to the DL location on their birthday and get their DL and a car. My daughter love a great party but on her 16th she got her DL and went to a restaurant with a few friends and that is what she has done ever since on her birthday. She just turned 18 in Dec. 2012.

Do I think either one of you are out of touch, NO. You are just not balanced. You both need to give a little and reach a happy medium and base it on what SD would like to do for her Sweet 16.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Where I live they are still alive and well and a big production. I think it is beautiful that your husband is so excited for her 16th birthday. Trust me, you will not have to throw big parties for the boys 16th. They do not want anything like that. Probably would be humiliated. Hope your daughter has an awesome birthday in November.

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answers from San Francisco on

How sweet of your husband to be so thoughtful. It seems that her birthday is just as much a milestone that he would like to celebrate too. You have gotten lots of good advice so far. I was thinking that if your SD would not want a lavish party than perhaps your husband can buy her a lavish gift. Say a special piece of jewelry or if its possible any type of car. (From a clunker to something nice) they could make a big production out of picking the gift and shopping for it together. That's what my parents (mostly my dad) did when I was 16 and I still have their gift and the memories. It wasn't a big deal to me then I thought... But thinking back its a huge deal to me now. The memories make me choak up. :) I think that was the goal. :)

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answers from Sacramento on

I think different areas of the country have different things going on so it's going to be hard to get a consistent answer on this site. However, if your husband wants to throw her a party, that is sweet and thoughtful and shouldn't be taken away from him just becasue not everyone does it. If no one else does it, she will stand out and everyone will be talking about her cool party--nothing wrong with that unless SHE doesn't want it. The only other thign I would take into consideration is "is he thinking about this rationally?" as in you can afford it or make some reasonable sacrifices to afford it, it will not be in place of a gift or car she may think she is getting unless she is ok with that, he plans to be helpful with this event and not put it all on you. Personally, I think it would be a lot of fun and you have plenty of time to plan!

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answers from Portland on

We had a BBQ when my daughter turned 16. It's what she wanted. She invited a bunch of friends over & several spent the night. It was easy & fairly inexpensive & everyone had fun.

I don't know of anyone who does the big sweet 16 parties.

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answers from Fargo on

My daughter just turned 16 last week. We did a surprise party for her...she was shocked and had a blast.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

A sweet 16 party is simply a way to recognize your child growing up and assuming adult responsibilities. Different cultures do it differently (quinceanera, bat or bar mitzvah, etc) and there is no prescribed formula for how it is done. Do discuss (before the planning gets out of hand) a strict budget that you are comfortable with that will be available for all the children. And include the kids in this process.
P.S. Were any of your friends perhaps debutantes? That sometimes takes the place of sweet 16.

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answers from Honolulu on

Its sorta cute that your Husband wants to do a party for her, for 16.

What does your daughter think?
I know you said she didn't think about it... but I would think, that amongst her friends and grade level peers... they would chat about it or not. If they are having one too. Or maybe it is not even something they think about.
What does she and her friends, talk about or say, about it?
Did you ask her?

I didn't have one when I was that age.
Neither did the other kids in my grade when I was that age.
Don't know what is the norm for those parties, nowadays.

Your daughter's seemingly "didn't think about it yet" reply, seems to mean that she didn't even think of a Sweet 16 party, herself. Probably because, she has not heard of one, at her school, per the other kids or older who was 16, once.

Inevitably, I would think it is up to your daughter.
If she doesn't care to have one, then don't.
Therefore, Daddy shouldn't push it, on her.

This not a "debutante ball" thing.
It seems your Husband just wants to have a party for her.
Does he have sisters... that had one at that age?
Maybe he got the idea, from that?
Or maybe, co-workers of his, talk about this as a HAVING TO do it, type party?
Maybe someone gave him the idea?
Mother in Law?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think it's a regional/cultural thing, they are still popular among certain demographics.
Here it's kind of special but nothing to rent a hall or hire a DJ over. My daughter wanted to go to dinner at Benihana with 8 good friends so that's what she did. We drove the girls there and back and paid for the meal. They brought cupcakes for my daughter, took a lot of photos and gave her gifts. It was a special night but nothing we had to take out a loan for LOL!

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answers from Portland on

I think you can make a meaningful party without breaking the bank. I turned 16 too long ago, but no-- there was no big party, just the usual family thing.

I like your idea of keeping things small and reasonable. I don't know any girls now who had big parties for 16.

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answers from New York on

Yes, they are still done, but it's not the norm. Most kids like to do something a little more special than they would for any other birthday.

My oldest had a small party. We took her and a few friends to a hibachi restaurant followed by bowling. Two of her friends spent the night.

My youngest could have cared less. She just wanted to spend some time with her friends. Friends came over and hung out, I picked up some pizzas and made some other appetizers. One of her friends baked her cupcakes.

Ask your daughter what she wants to do.

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answers from Chicago on

Okay, it KINDA is different for a girl, sorry but it is.

With that out of the way, I never had one, did not want one but my sister did. We had it at our house and a local highschool band was hired to play it was a Toga Party (FUN!!!) and it was part catered/part home BBQ since it was a backyard party the smell of BBQ just seemed right.

I get it's November, so maybe renting out a suite at a decent hotel in the area - have a theme, limited guest list adults present and a good time planned. Talk to the boys see what they think.

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answers from Tulsa on

Our rich neighbor invited 250 kids to a 13 year old's party. She rented a DJ, dance floor, bar(nonalcoholic drinks), and more. She had other parents working as chaperones. I don't know how anyone can top it.
Lots of other wealthy parents decided they would NEVER try something like this because it rivaled our weddings.

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answers from Kalamazoo on

The only people in my area who do it are Hispanic, for the 15th birthday. Have tou guys asked her what she wants to do? I would have wanted no part of a big party like that. Maybe you could use the money and buy the 2 almost 16 yr olds a beater car to share? Or take her and a few friends out to dinner and a movie. I dont think anyone really does those parties.

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answers from Boston on

Never heard of it in our area. They were done in the 60s and not much after that. The only exception is the quinceanera for Latina girls turning 15 but even so that's heavy on family and not a kids-only party.



answers from Boston on

I never had them when I was growing up (in the 80s) either nor did any of my friends. However, it seems to be the norm in my town. These parties have themes and I have seen the sweet 16 queen wear a tiara. (LOL) Some girls share these parties with their close friend(s) which does defray some of the costs. Sounds to me that you'd be fulfilling your husband's dream rather than your daughters; how cute/endearing is that??!! :)



answers from Tampa on

I can't imagine NOT doing SOMETHING for my daughter's sweet 16, but what you do actually depends on the child. We threw a big bash for our oldest on her 16th Bday, rented the dance hall, hired the DJ, a caterer, and even a videographer. It was a lot of fun. We had about 100 people there. For our 2nd daughter, she didn't really want the big party, so we went to stay onsite at Universal Studios Florida with 2 of her closest friends and our immediate family for a weekend. We went to the 2 theme parks, hung out at the pool at the hotel, and ate at the resteraunts. It was also very fun for everyone. Both celebrations cost about the same thing, so I didn't care what they chose. It was really up to them how they wanted to mark this milestone in their life. I would never have decided for them though. We gave them their choices and went from there. Our youngest daughter won't be 16 for quite some time, so it will be interesting to see what she chooses when the time comes. Like another response stated, I do bigger celebrations for the milestone birthdays, and the rest are just your typical birthday parties or even just family parties, depending on the year and what we can do. The ones we consider milestones are 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, and 21. Afte 21 I guess they are on their own. LOL


answers from Dover on

I don't think it matters what others do or plan to do. I think it matters what you as parents want to do for your daughter and what she wants. I do think for girls it's "Sweet 16" but for boys it tends to be "I got my license" so it isn't really the same. Things don't have to be exactly the same for all kids but rather comparable (within what each kid wants since they can be quite different).

If it were my daughter, I would throw a Sweet 16 party but it would not be a "mini prom" and what it consistes of may be someone between what you were thinking and what your hubby is thinking. Maybe rent a room, have music (maybe not a dj unless you have a friend or relative that is doing it just to help you out), food, and friends/family.


answers from Washington DC on

My kids will get big ones for 10, 16, 18, and 21. At least that's my plan. They are milestone years and should be celebrated as such. Not necessarily like Sweet 16 on MTV, but a good party! My husband is a DJ and we can rent places locally for a great price, even some are FREE. So yea, for 16 and 18 my kids will probably get that. For 10 (my daughter will be 10 in June) I plan to rent out the local pool (only $275) and have a big shindig there.

So I'd do something bigger for her than a normal party, but don't stress your budget on it either.

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