Cinco de Mayo, May 5, was not on my celebration radar growing up. But when I became a party planner, I did my research on this festive occasion for our Mexican neighbors and the many Latino residents of the United States. Now it seems like the most natural time to celebrate the Hispanic culture as well as the start of spring. So setting a Cinco De Mayo dinner table is the way to get started!
I am planning to invite some friends over on May 5–a Friday night, a great way to celebrate the end of the work week. That’s a month off, but if I don’t start planning early, between work and a very busy April schedule, I won’t be ready. So I decided to get a head-start on my decorating by pulling my placemats, napkins, dishes, accessories and centerpiece items.
So, what you are seeing is my trial run for my Cinco de Mayo dinner table. Even though I have been creating tablescapes for years, I am not always certain that what I envisioned will work as I had hoped, so setting my table in advance to see how it looks is helpful. Some times the table may look too crowded or too spare. Some times, the centerpiece is too tall or the tablecloth is too busy with certain dishes. On the day of the dinner when I am coming home from work about an hour before my guests arrive, I want to have everything in the dining room ready to go.
I began the tablescape with multi-colored striped placemats on the bare table. These are not Mexican placemats–just summer stripes from Pier I–but they have that fiesta look. Then I used natural-color woven water hyacinth round placemats and smaller woven rattan chargers over them. Next I chose my bright yellow stoneware plates to echo the yellow stripe in the colorful placemat. I used red cotton cloth napkins and pulled them through the multi-color beaded napkin rings from my collection. These strong colors of the plates and napkins pick up on the stripes in the bottom placemats, but the neutral browns of the mat and charger as a divider between makes them stand out well.
My dining room table is designed for six people, so when only four places are set, there is more room for a larger centerpiece. So I began with the two extra striped placemats I had–I laid them out and they overlapped about four inches. Then I had a large Mexican brown pottery vase with a floral border that someone gave me. The brown color echoes the rattan chargers. In the vase, I used brown thin branches which are tall enough not to obscure my guests’ view across the table when they are seated.
Then I took an inexpensive fringed multi-color party garland available at a party supply or discount store to drape around the center of the table over the striped placemats. It definitely has a fiesta look to it. Then I placed faux tomatoes, green, red and yellow peppers and votive candles within the garland. On Cinco de Mayo, I plan to use real tomatoes and peppers because I can use them for cooking afterward. I have many faux fruits and vegetables, but I prefer to use real items when my guests are sitting right by them. These vegetables are often used in Mexican cooking so they are most appropriate to use in the centerpiece for a Mexican meal.
This Cinco de Mayo dinner table looks good to me, so now it’s time to plan my menu and to get out my mariachi CD. I will probably do an Internet search for easy Mexican menus and decide what looks good. I will also check the menu of my favorite Mexican restaurant, just in case I decide I need to purchase a menu item or the whole meal in case I get into a time bind. My friends will not care if I can’t fix the entire meal myself. They will just want a good meal with their friends and a relaxed hostess who is sitting at the table visiting with them.
Hope you have as wonderful a time with your family and friends on Cinco de Mayo as I know I’ll have with mine! Enjoy!