MISSION — Though some of the details of her quinceañera will fade over time, Lorena Torres, who turned 15 years old this summer, said she will never forget the feeling of unity between her family that night.

Cellists Pablo Sanchez entrains the visitors during the RGV Wedding an Quince Expo at the Mission Event Center on Sunday, Aug 25, 2019, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

It was at her July 4 quinceañera where she saw her grandfather for the first time in seven years.

“I was dancing with my dad and had my eyes closed because I did not want to cry,” Torres, of Alamo, recalled. “Then suddenly I felt my dad let go and another hand grabbed my waist and held my hand. I opened my eyes and it was my grandpa.”

The song Torres chose for her father-and-daughter dance was “Tu Sangre en mi Cuerpo,” by Angela Aguilar featuring Pepe Aguilar.

“It was the first time I ever saw my grandpa cry, and it was my first time seeing him after a very long time,” Torres added. “I closed my eyes again and just enjoyed the moment.

On Sunday afternoon at the Mission Event Center, Torres was a model for Illusion Invitaciones & Boutique at the RGV Wedding and Quinceañera Expo. About 45 special event vendors were there, including a variety of catering, DJ, orchestra and dining services.

Donning a champagne-colored ball gown that had crystal beading throughout the skirt and corset, Torres walked around the hall alongside the other models. Passing by the many booths that were there, they scouted for girls planning their own quinceañeras who were in need of a dress.

Just last month, Torres was in their shoes.

Her quinceañera followed the theme of “Beauty and the Beast,” her mother’s favorite movie.

Models display in Quinceanera dresses at the RGV Wedding an Quince Expo at the Mission Event Center on Sunday, Aug 25, 2019, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“My mom did not have a quince, so it was important that she lived her dream through me,” Torres, who attends T-STEM Early College High School in Pharr, said.

Quinceañeras are a part of the Hispanic culture that mark a girl’s transition to womanhood during her 15th birthday. The extravagant event commemorates maturity and new responsibilities. However, Torres had to learn these lessons before her birthday.

About three months before her big day, a tumor was found on her mother’s pituitary gland. It was then that Torres said that her determination to plan a great night was no longer just to celebrate her birthday, but rather, to honor family.

“We bonded through all the planning, that’s when we got really close,” Torres said through tears. “I realized that family was the most important part.”

Torres’ mother’s tumor was declared benign and she is now recovering from the stress of surgery.

“I am going to forever remember it as a time when my whole family was together,” Torres said. “I wanted to be with family and knew that family wanted to be with each other, since it was the Fourth of July. So, having everyone together, including my mom, was the happiest moment of the event.”

Photographer Karen Palacios talks with visitors to the RGV Wedding an Quince Expo at the Mission Event Center on Sunday, Aug 25, 2019, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Torres’ dress copied the style of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” a yellow sweetheart neckline gown with jeweled lacing along the skirt’s three layers. Her desserts also complemented the theme of the night with gold chocolate roses and candlelight sticks.

Yarida Richards of Marry Us, officiant and wedding services, also understands the importance of the details of special events. As a non-denominational ordained minister and wedding officiant of Marry Us, Richards has been wedding couples for the past 12 years.

“I love everything about it,” Richards, who grew up in El Paso, said. “I deal with happy people at a happy time, and really in one of the fondest memories that they are going to have for the rest of their lives.”

Richards said that one of the best parts of her job is being exposed to the different ways people celebrate marriage. Since she opens her services to all religions and cultures, Richards has been a part of an array of weddings.

One of the most memorable weddings Richards said she has officiated took place last June when she wedded a gay couple at the Reynosa-Hidalgo International Bridge. She has wedded many couples at the bridge before, but this was her first time marrying a gay couple at the border.

“Many friends came,” Richards said. “I remember in the middle of the ceremony, a bus with detainees came by and they walked through the ceremony.”

She added that everyone was kind and respectful.

There are situations when a couple cannot get married in the United States because of the legal status of one partner. So, Richards meets them at the border and hosts the ceremony there.

“It is an honor and privilege to be chosen to do this part of someone’s wedding,” Richards said. “The most important part is that they are promising their love to one another, and that they do it in front of their family and friends. It gives it a deeper sense of commitment and support.”