The lights were low and music played inside a beautiful hall. Guests dressed in their very best sat patiently and awaited the arrival of the guest of honor. Looking around the room, it was obvious that the party that was about to begin must have cost somewhere in the ballpark of the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The party wasn’t for royalty or some celebrity though. It wasn’t even a wedding. This small, intimate gathering was a birthday party featured on MTV’s new reality show, “My Super Sweet 16.” The preceding description could be used to talk about any of show’s episodes, since none of the broadcasted parties have fallen anywhere short of extravagant.
Students at the College are not too old to remember the feeling of turning 16. And although no one here may have had a party at an exclusive club, turning 16 was a rite of passage that warranted some sort of celebration. Whether it involved a group dinner, a semi-formal dance or a formal traditional event, students are sure to remember their Sweet 16.
For most people, birthdays are occasions to celebrate with family and friends. Stephanie Scheeler, senior marketing major, always had birthday parties while she was growing up. As she entered her teen years, parties turned into gatherings with friends. Wanting to do something special for her 16th birthday, Scheeler’s parents took her and 20 of her closest friends out to dinner.
“It was just something casual, but a nice way to celebrate with my friends,” Scheeler said. “I had a great time at my party and I wasn’t expecting anything less.”
According to Scheeler, it wasn’t uncommon among her group of friends to have some sort of Sweet 16 party. Jenna Withers, junior health and exercise science major, expressed the same sentiment. When it came time for her Sweet 16, she decided she wanted a semi-formal gathering.
“I wanted to be able to have my family,
friends from my town, high school and grammar school all together,” Withers said of her decision. “I thought it would be a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of thing.”
Withers’ party was held at a wedding banquet hall in Clifton, with about 100 people attending. Since it was a semi-formal event, Withers wore a prom gown, while her friends came in dresses and suits and ties.
“There was DJ at the party, lots of dancing and really good food,” Withers said.
She spent about two months planning the event with her parents, coordinating everything from invitations to decorations. But in the end, the party was definitely worth the trouble for Withers.
“I was one of the last big Sweet 16’s I went to, so I really thought it was special. My friends all seemed to have a good time too. I would not have changed anything,” she said.
And while some parties may have been celebrated for pure fun, in some instances Sweet 16’s can be a matter of cultural tradition.
“My Sweet 16 was given to me based on tradition,” Jennifer Esmart, freshman chemistry major, said. “It is a custom based on my Hispanic background to give a daughter a ‘quincia?era’ or a sweet 15. My parents Americanized it and gave me a Sweet 16 with the same traditions as a ‘quince.'”
According to Esmart, having this party was a very special event for her. At times she felt her friends didn’t understand the importance the event has in Hispanic culture, but that didn’t stop her family from throwing her, and later her sister, a huge party.
Esmart’s party, a formal affair, was held at a hall in Toms River. Guests wore dresses and suits. As for Esmart, she was dressed in a white gown and was escorted by one of her best friends, who wore a tuxedo. To go along with the Hispanic tradition, Esmart also had “damas,” or attendants. The final guest list included her entire family, close family friends and her closest school friends, a total of about 350 people.
Planning for an event of this size was no easy task, with Esmart, her parents and the party coordinator starting to get ready a year in advance.
Having felt like a princess for the night, Esmart was grateful to her parents for all the work they put into her party.
“I felt like I was on cloud nine,” she said. “I was truly grateful to my parents for their efforts. They went above and beyond and gave me a night I will always remember.”
While students at the College have their own Sweet 16’s to remember, they don’t think highly of the extravagant parties played on MTV.
“I have seen a few of the episodes, and I think the show is unbelievable with the stuff that goes on,” Scheeler said. “Yes, some of my friends had parties at halls with food and DJs for us to dance, but I never went to anything like the parties on TV.”