Host a festive Cinco de Mayo party with these easy table setting and decorating ideas.
Opt for a color scheme of vivid, saturated hues—no delicate tints allowed! Think shades that have to stand up to intense sub-tropical sunlight and you’ll have the perfect palette for your gathering. Decorating the party table is simple. Start with a tablecloth in a rich hue like our royal purple (there are lots of affordable options online). This saturated shade will act as a solid base for all the pattern and color to come.
For each setting, cut a rectangle of bright floral-pattern oilcloth to act as your placemat. The cut edges won’t fray and the bright pattern makes a cheerful background for your setting (isn’t this one just so delicious? You can find it here).
The easiest way to make a placemat is to trace the shape of another placemat from your stash and cut with sharp scissors. If you don’t have a placement to trace, use a ruler to draw the shape on the reverse of your cloth. The common size for placemats is about 18 inches wide by 12 or 14 inches high. You can adjust this to fit on a smaller table but make sure the finished size is large enough to accommodate your plate size plus flatware.
A colorful ceramic vase with a unique shape holds a bright bouquet of paper flowers. Mix in different sizes of faux blooms for a lush look.
Iced daisy sugar cookies dotted with a chocolate center fill one side of a pedestal plate while a stack of cakes balances the other side. We hit up our local Mexican grocery for our treats (lots of fresh bakery options to choose from) but any colorful or traditional Mexican dessert will satisfy sweet cravings.
Brighten chair cushions with striped tea towel covers. We went with no-sew versions made with fabric tape. If you’d like a permanent cover, try this: place two tea towels right sides together. On the short end of the bottom towel, turn the end under about two inches (adjust to fit your cushion). Bring the matching end of the top tea towel level with the turned edge. Pin the sides and bottom. The top tea towel will have a couple of extra inches at the bottom that you can trim. Sew around all three sides and turn inside out. Insert the cushion into the open fold.
Jazz up plain margarita glasses (and a serving pitcher!) with a unique paint treatment. Cover the base with a layer of frosted color then, add freehand dot, swirl, and squiggle designs around the goblet. Use paints or markers formulated for use on glass for best results. To make your designs permanent, opt for an application that can be baked onto the glass.
While a traditional Mexican version of a Cinco de Mayo celebration would likely feature classic Puebla dishes such as mole poblano, chalupas, or chiles en nogada, our menu is a firmly Americanized Tex-Mex celebration with street tacos, corn salsa, and chips with pico and quacamole.
Set out your eats and implements on a buffet table so guests can help themselves. If your event is an evening party, add some punched-tin luminarias for a candlelit glow.
Make your buffet a focal point with a vivid oilcloth cover. Accent it with a striped runner in coordinating colors. Placing the table near a flowerbed adds depth to this appetizing tableau.
For an adult get-together, skip the piñata and opt for a pendant of brilliant paper flowers. Wire the blooms to a lightweight chandelier made to hold pillar candles and hang it above your buffet or dining table. Or spread the color around and hang bunches of paper blooms from trees around your yard.
A painted pitcher serves margaritas on the rocks. So much easier than the frozen kind! Mix up a large batch ahead of the party and keep it cold in the fridge so all you have to do is replenish the pitcher(s) from time to time.
Here’s a recipe by the glass that’s one of our favorites, courtesy of Kurtis:
Gather your ingredients
- Agave nectar
- Cocktail shaker
First, fill your glass with ice and pour the ice into the cocktail shaker along with two shots of tequila.
Slice a lime (Mexican lime if you have it) in half and squeeze the juices into the shaker.
Add a liberal amount of agave nectar to taste – we typically use about a tablespoon.
Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy.
For those who rather not partake of the margaritas, add a selection of cold Mexican sodas for a flavorful but non-alcoholic choice.
Multicolored Otomi hand-embroidered cocktail napkins bring authentic Mexican craftsmanship to the Cinco de Mayo buffet table.
Bright plastic flatware fills a woven water hyacinth caddy, keeping utensils tidy and easy to grab.
Tortilla chips with fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and salsas encourage grazing before and after the main meal. Place small plates nearby for guests who want to mingle and nosh at the same time.
You can’t have a Tex-Mex meal without a bowl of fresh jalapeños at hand. This carved wood bowl adds whimsy to the presentation.
If you’re planning a large Cinco de Mayo gathering rather than a sit-down meal, tuck in some seating around your yard, both near the action where guests can chat and in quieter spots where an observer can relax. Include some small tables or garden stools, too.
Styling by Carla Sayklay, Vintage Chic Trading Co.
© Caruth Studio