Vibrant colours, cacti, tacos, tequila, piñatas, possibly even a spot of wild dancing – if you throw one party this summer, make it a Mexican-themed fiesta. We've got all the insider expert tips to ensure people will be clamouring for an invite. The dancing? We'll leave that to you...
How to Throw a Fiesta!
You’d expect Meriel Armitage to know a thing or two about throwing a fiesta. After all, she is the co-founder of Club Mexicana, the cult vegan taqueria serving Mexican street food beloved by all – not just the vegan fraternity – which now has three London locations. She’s also the kind of woman who travels the world – and then throws in her job to launch her own venture. You definitely get the sense that she knows how to have a good time.
First up from Meriel, a warning: eschew cliché fancy dress. “Please,” she implores, “make your party a sombrero-free zone. Nobody wears them in Mexico.” (Whoops!) For a more authentic vibe, get your hands on brightly coloured paper decorations: “Mexico is covering in vibrant colours, so go crazy!” Set the scene with music. “Spotify some mariachi brands for a tasteful intro to your night, but then move onto Mexican 80s cover versions. Pure gold.”
Your fiesta starts – as all fiestas should – with tequila. Meriel cautions against cheap tequila – “nasty” and a shortcut to making your guests ill: “It’s really easy to get a decent tequila in the UK now – most supermarkets do good ones. Anything that isn’t in the shape of a Mexican skull or has a sombrero as a lid will usually be fine.” She advises opting for silver tequila – “mellower and better quality than the gold stuff”. Serve over ice with a dash of lime juice, or – for the brave – as shots.
Alternatively, suggests Meriel, welcome your guests with micheladas a.k.a. a beer-based version of a Bloody Mary - see the recipe here! Lastly, when it comes to food, informality should be your watchword. “Mexican fiestas are all about sharing! Nothing should be served as individual portions. Make more than enough food and let people help themselves and mix and match. Think lots of things to dunk in dips and salsas.” And no cutlery! "Mexican food and parties are all about using your hands," says Meriel, "so stock up on napkins instead and let people get messy. If anyone asks for a knife and fork for their taco, you can politely ask them to leave!”
Ruth Davis is the woman (and the floral-fingers) behind All For Love London, the boutique florist which dresses events for the likes of Bafta, the National Portrait Gallery and Harper’s Bazaar. They were also on the shortlist for a certain (royal) wedding that takes place this month. Suffice to say - she knows how to style a space. So how would she tackle the theme of fiesta?
“Flowers, flowers and more flowers - they can instantly transform any space and in an array of brightly coloured hues will bring the fiesta indoors or outside if you’re lucky with the weather! Lighting, music and food are your other key essentials.” It’s important, she notes, to be consistent and follow through with your theme across all elements of your party - from décor to food: so from the moment your guests come through the door - they know they’re in for an, ahem, fiesta.”
“I’d go with fiery colours: bright reds, sunset oranges, deep yellows - imagine a flamenco dress in a vase! Also why not throw in some pink pineapples and large palms which can instantly add some theatre, or bring in the iconic cacti and hang some colourful sombreros from the ceiling for a real style statement? Opt for tropical flowers, like a neon explosion of orchids in all the shades of lime green, orange and pinks. Use brightly coloured, large-headed single blooms (try dahlias or gerberas) - which are also cost-effective - as table runners, and add brightly coloured napkins, as well as chillies dotted down the centre, or even hung in bunches in key guest areas.”
“Lighting is also crucial for setting the scene; think festoon lighting and lanterns, twinkly lights and lots of coloured candlesticks. For an extra wow add some large balloons in hot pinks, turquoises and lemons, with jazzy tassel tails.” The fancy-dress-shy should note that Ruth favours a dress code. But if that’s a bridge too far, she suggests a box of fun dressing up props (flamenco dresses, sunglasses, faux moustaches) which guests can delve into, should they be so inclined.