Ideas for a Havana-style Birthday Party

by Kate Bradley

Rum, beaches, cigars, palm trees and jazz--old Havana is an excellent theme for your birthday party. Whether you want to go formal or keep it low-key, you can turn your birthday party into a Cuban oasis of good times and good friends. Give your guests an authentic Havana experience and enjoy an evening of sophisticated fun.

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Decor

Your Havana-style party needs just the right ambiance to be a success. Mix bright, tropical colors with the warm, earthy hues of sand and leather for tablecloths, napkins and dinnerware to capture the Havana charm. Use artificial palms around your venue's perimeter to create an exotic beach atmosphere. Set the tables with rattan place mats and use wicker chairs with solid white cushions. For centerpieces, use vintage rum bottles as vases and place tropical flowers inside them. Set out place cards written in a vintage script and tie a ribbon around a foiled chocolate cigar for each guest's place.

Refreshments

Nothing says Havana like tasty cocktails and good food. Serve Cuban rum with a variety of mixers and offer several cocktails, such as Cuba Libres and Mojitos. For non-drinkers, serve fruit punch or lemonade with fruit slices to give it an extra sweet kick. Serve finger foods as guests arrive, such as miniature Cuban mixto sandwiches or empanadas. For the main course, offer light options, such as garbanzo salad or Cuban salad, in addition to hearty Cuban favorites such as beef stew, fried pork tenders or barbecued ribs. Serve the most famous Cuban dessert--flan.

Entertainment

A Havana-themed birthday must have plenty of dancing, so clear a space in your venue and play Cuban jazz or dance music. Consider hiring a dance instructor or someone familiar with the dances to teach your guests the art of the samba or mambo. Assemble the rums and mixers and hold a bartending competition to see which guest can mix the tastiest Cuban cocktail. Show classic Cuban films with English subtitles such as "Guantanamera" and "Cecilia" or "The Buena Vista Social Club."

Party Favors

Don't let your guests forget how much fun they had at your Havana-themed party. Give boxes of chocolate cigars and small favor bags filled with coconut or guava candies. As a memento of Cuba, where several varieties of bamboo are grown, wrap three lengths of cut bamboo inside burlap, with the tops of the plants protruding, and place them in a small decorative bowl as another favor. Include instructions about caring for the bamboo along with a message about its ability to bring good luck.

About the Author

Kate Bradley began writing professionally in 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in German from Berry College in Rome, Ga; TEFL/TESOL certification from ITC International in Prague; and a Master of Arts in integrated global communication from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.

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