Cinco De Mayo is the perfect time to gather friends and family to celebrate all the things we love about a fiesta: colorful decorations, margaritas, tacos, salsa music, and the relaxed put-a-flower-in-your-hair-and-call-it-done, attitude. You’ve probably noticed that people love to throw fiesta parties and here’s why: no one says no to a fiesta. It’s impossible to resist the siren’s call (or is that the tequila calling?). And it’s easy to look like a star. Just hang a few strings of paper flags, bring out your brightest serving dishes, pick up some pretty flowers, download some sultry salsa tunes, and start chilling your margarita glasses. This party practically throws itself, but read on for a few fresh ideas.
Create a festive vibe before the party begins, with a bright, colorful invitation. If time permits, consider sending out printed invites (like the ones shown here, from zazzle.com). Or, if you’re feeling crafty, you can create one-of-a-kind pieces by printing invites on cardstock and wrapping the bottom with layers of brightly colored paper fringe to evoke a fun piñata vibe. If time is tight or you prefer digital invitations, evite.com has some nice fiesta-themed free options.
You really can’t be too colorful with fiesta decorations and there are so many options for adding in pretty patterns and textures. Luckily it’s possible to achieve an elegant look without spending a lot. Consider paper fans and lanterns, tissue flowers, bright Mexican blankets, and fresh bouquets on the tables. You probably already own some bright tablecloths, napkins and dishes, which can be combined in new ways to achieve a fiesta style. (You can find a nice selection of decorations at target.com) Top everything off with a few pretty piñatas. Hang one overhead and use the others to decorate the buffet, the margarita station, or wherever you need a pop of “fun.”
(photo: Nine Photography, Grit & Gold Design)
Download our free “Fiesta like there’s no Manana” sign for your party.
You’ll want to stand out amid all the colorful fiesta decorations. Choose a look that is bold yet feminine, with pretty details such as embroidery, beading or silk flowers. Luckily traditional Mexican style dresses and tops are flattering and currently in style. You’ll find a nice selection (including the dress pictured here) at Nordstroms.com. We also love the Spring dresses at Modcloth.com.
This is one holiday that does not require fancy food. Personally, we love the relaxed, but very tasty tradition of the taco bar. Simply cook up some basic fillings, put out a good selection of toppings and let guests DIY their perfect taco. This can just as easily be a nacho bar if you’re feeling wild (and have a heated serving dish for the melted cheese). If your party is larger, consider picking up the basics at a local Mexican restaurant or bringing in a taco truck (your guests will flip and you’ll save tons of prep time). (Photo: weddingchicks.com)
Fresh Fruit Cups
The light, tangy flavors of a Mexican fruit cup are the perfect complement to your taco bar. Traditional fruit includes watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, and pineapple. A squeeze of lime and dash of chili powder really makes the fruit flavor pop.
Churros and cupcakes together? My mind is blown! These light and fluffy cupcakes are dipped in melted butter, rolled in a cinnamon sugar mixture and then topped with a delicious cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Add an edible fiesta decoration on top and you have the perfect dessert for Cinco de Mayo.
(See the full recipe at ladybehindthecurtain.com)
Jalapeno Watermelon Margarita
Ingredients: 2 cups fresh watermelon juice, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1/2 cup tequila, 1/4 cup Triple Sec (or any orange liqueur), thin slices of fresh jalapeño, for garnish: salt or sugar to rim the glasses, lime slices
Directions: start with fresh watermelon juice (mango also works great), add lime juice, tequila, triple sec, and a slice or two of fresh jalapeño in a cocktail shaker with ice. Muddle the jalapeno (using a wooden spoon) to release its flavor, then shake and pour into salt or sugar rimmed glasses. For a real treat, make some watermelon juice ice cubes ahead of time. Your guests will be blown away. You can leave out the alcohol for a refreshingly spicy Agua Fresca.
(photo and recipe: gimmesomeoven.com)
Tequila Tasting Bar
If you’ve only had tequila in a margarita, or as a shot downed quickly on a dare (no judgments, we’ve all done it) you’re in for a treat. Choose a few varieties of nicer tequila (made from pure agave) for tasting. You can set the bar up to be self-serve by printing a small sign for each type of tequila with background and highlights. True tequila connoisseurs use special tequila glassware, similar to white wine glasses, but any small glasses will work. Ask guests to taste each variety and vote for their favorite. For more information on tequila varieties and what to look for when tasting each one, visit mygourmetconnection.com
Tequila Shot Girl (or Guy)
If fancy tequila isn’t your thing, or you just want to get your friends drunk faster, a Tequila Girl is for you. Enlist a cute (or at least very friendly) friend to strap on a shot glass belt and bottle of tequila. No one will be able to resist having a shot poured to order while they lounge on the couch. We love the full Tequila Girl Costume (also available as Tequila Dude) if you friend is brave and/or owes you a favor.
Most people can fake a good salsa dance but need a little incentive to get out on the dance floor. A salsa teacher can loosen everyone up with a few basic instructions and a command to “shake those hips!” and “thrust that pelvis!” If no teacher is available, you’ll find lots of good beginning salsa lessons on YouTube and Cable. Keep the music loud and the margaritas flowing for best results.
Put a blindfold on us, hand us a stick and tell us there’s candy inside? It’s so on. Just scrap the Smartees (which, honestly, no one likes) and the plastic toys for an assortment that’s a little more exciting. Start with some traditional Mexican candy, especially the spicy and unusual flavors, then add a few adults-only items like mini tequila bottles, margarita mix, limes, and mini velvet sombreros. Just make sure the action is far away from your flat screen TV and small pets.
There’s something about a fiesta that makes guests a little giddy. Maybe it’s the combination of sombreros, salsa music, and tequila, but it does make for good photo ops. Capture the fun with a colorful photo backdrop and a few themed props. A simple backdrop can be created by hanging multicolored streamers from a curtain rod or wire, then add pretty paper fans, lanterns and Mexican flags around the edges. Props might include velvet sombreros, piñatas, castanets, serapes, and fake mustaches. We’re not sure why fake mustaches are so popular at fiestas but who are we to argue when they look so great in the photos.
Once you’ve experienced the joys of a Cinco de Mayo party, you’ll wonder why you can’t have one more often. Fiesta Fridays?? Be sure to take lots of photos and send them in to be featured in our Party Gallery.