Just picture it—Havana in the 1920s. An exciting and imaginative setting for a party such as an engagement celebration that guests will be talking about long afterwards! The scene is pure vintage Cuba, reminiscent of the luxurious hacienda of a rich tobacco or sugar plantation owner. This ambiance of laid-back Latin elegance can be yours for the hosting. Simply take your cue from our complete arrangement of creative table settings and decor elements, exotic buffet menu and cocktails, and even party attire and music—all with a definite Cuban accent. So bring out the rum. It’s time for some fun in a stylish way!
Decorate the Party Scene a la Cubana
We’ve transformed a sunny veranda into a corner of a stylish hacienda! A chic color palette of aqua, browns, and greens is tempered by cool ivory and touches of orange, as references to sultry Havana keep the decor authentic but fun.
Welcome guests to your own little hacienda! Set a party scene that’s casual yet elegant—decked out in a dressy palette of rich brown and beige, highlighted by vibrant aqua and touches of green and orange.
Then, for the décor itself, here’s where you can really have fun! See how a medley of antique store finds and nostalgic collectibles are sure to get the party conversation going. To evoke that unmistakable Havana charm, we laid out the following key décor elements:
- Antique stand fan on one side
- Chairs in a mix of wood and rattan
- Jaunty fedoras and plantation-style woven hats
- Cuban cigar boxes
Call for Dressy Summer Attire
For such a stylish summer event, it seems only right to request guests to come in fashionably casual attire. Get them all excited about planning what to wear by sending out invitations early, encouraging a “vintage Havana” dress code. The ladies can come in summery cocktail dresses, while the gentlemen can don cool linen guayaberas, plantation or tropical print shirts with collars, and smart fedoras.
Assemble Place Settings That Say “Havana”
We assembled simple yet stylish place settings with clever cigar accents—boxes used as centerpiece “vases” and rolled up fabric napkins with a classic gold seal.
To suit this appealing scene, we crafted place settings that are surprisingly low-budget yet so cleverly theme-friendly. Old Cuban cigar boxes are used to hold the table centerpieces—each one filled with a simple arrangement of orange heliconias. A dash of bright color amidst the table’s palette of aqua, brown, and green.
Then, like each guest’s very own personal cigar, brown linen table napkins are rolled up into slim cylinders with gold circle cutouts serving as their “seals.” Matching these are place cards sporting whimsical palm tree cutouts also in gold, mimicking those that line the sandy beaches of the country of Cuba.
Other thematic details you can add to the party tables:
- Vintage bottles of rum as flower vases
- Place cards cut in the shape of fedora hats
- Colorful maracas used as fancy centerpiece accents
- Mini Cuban flags displayed atop appetizer plates
Prepare Themed Guest Favors
Bring in a refreshing feminine touch with pretty bags filled with sweet or savory treats.
Surprise guests with something special awaiting them right on their place settings. For the ladies, give treats that are nostalgic of old Havana such as sweet coconut candies, guava-flavored bon bons, Merenguitos (Cuban meringue cookies), or turrones. As for the men at the party, you can give out fedora hats propped on their chairs, personalized shot glasses, mini bottles of Cuban rum, and of course classic cigars!
Other party favor ideas you can consider would be powdered “mojito mixes” enclosed with a recipe card, novelty glasses decorated with the Cuban flag, or coasters with a vintage Cuban motif.
Play Cuban Jazz and Dance Music
Cuban music spans a wide range of influences from Europe to Africa. Cuban-style jazz, though, is just the thing to get everyone in the party mood. You may choose recordings by popular jazz artists Tito Puente, Alfredo Rodriguez, Pérez Prado, and Dizzy Gillespie. Or you could select from among the many CD compilations available that represent the Golden Age of Cuban jazz.
Want a truly exciting spin on the festivities? Bring in a dance instructor, put on some bossa nova, samba, and mambo tunes, and guests will be dancing the night away!
Mix Refreshing Drinks for Cocktail Time
Mmmmojitos! The perfect summer cocktail for this Havana theme engagement party. Paired with crusty empanadas and adorned with fancy swizzle sticks, they’re tempting indeed.
For this summertime occasion, think of cocktails such as mojitos served up nice and cold in stem-less wine glasses or in stylish long stem goblets. Add a personal twist to the drinks by creating monogrammed swizzle sticks. How? By combining hot silicone glue with gold paint and forming it into a letter—“m” for mojito perhaps, or your own paired initials!
Other popular drinks include Cuba libre, which is a simple mix of rum, Coke, and lime juice; or mojitos using non-traditional flavors like peach, cherry, or pineapple. For a fun recipe, try this one from Tommy Bahama using pineapple and yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit).
And for the teetotalers among your guests? Have non-alcoholic drinks on hand as well. Iced soda water flavored with syrups like guava, coconut, or lime would make a great fizzy drink. While another option would be to serve “virgin mojitos.”
Serve Delectable Entrees and Appetizers
Golden-crusted empanadas are a favorite. Serve them as filling welcome appetizers or as a scrumptious side dish to the main entrées at the party.
Cuba is famed for its rich, meaty dishes. Some main entrée choices for your party, then, could be “Ropa Vieja” (Beef Stew), “Masitas de Puerco” (Fried Pork Tenders), ox tail, or barbecued ribs. For a lighter option, you can serve the popular sandwiches called “sandwich mixto” or Cuban Pressed Sandwiches. These are typical menu items at any Cuban café, and are simply slices of grilled or fried pork with cheese pressed between buttered bread slices and toasted to a crispy golden brown.
Other favorites you can serve as appetizers are empanadas and tostones. Empanadas are biscuit dough or pastry shells filled with a tasty combo of ground beef, chicken, or turkey mixed with tomato sauce, corn, and grated cheese—then folded over into a crescent shape and crimped along the edges to seal. Tostones are simply plantain slices fried till tender and golden to bring out their natural sweetness.
What about Cuban salads? Choose from two classics: Ensalada Cubana and Ensalada de Garbanzo. The first is a typical Cuban salad made with ripe tomato wedges and thinly sliced onions and radishes, served with a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. The second is made with chick peas or garbanzo beans, tossed with diced green and red peppers and sweet yellow onions in a dressing of fresh lime juice and olive oil, with a hint of cumin. Or you can give your usual green salad a unique kick with the addition of black beans, caramelized onions, and avocado chunks drizzled with a tangy lime vinaigrette.
There’s A Lot to Love in Cuban Desserts
Now for the desserts! Cubans have a natural sweet tooth, so choose from these delectable temptations to round out your party menu. There is flan (Cuban custard) served in individual custard cups and dusted with a little cinnamon or nutmeg, or merenguitos (mini meringues) made from beaten egg whites whipped with sugar and then baked. You also have arroz con leche (rice pudding) flavored with cinnamon and topped with juicy raisins. Then for some pastry or cake options, there are señoritas, pastelitos, and capuchinos. Señoritas are flaky pastries filled with layers of creamy custard, served in a choice of vanilla or chocolate flavors. Pastelitos are little puff pastry “buns” stuffed with your choice of guava or cream cheese fillings, or grated coconut in heavy syrup. And the capuchinos are little yellow cone-shaped cakes, soaked in a syrup made with cinnamon, orange and lemon peels, and anisette. Yum!
Hint: If you don’t plan to cook the party fare yourself, you can always use the ideas above as a reference for finding a caterer or restaurant specializing in authentic Cuban dishes.
More Inspiration from the Web
We searched the web for the best ideas:
Where to Buy
Lastly, here are some cool product finds to help you get started:
Be sure to checkout our Pinterest board for more sizzling inspiration!