I’m crazy about Mexican culture – the vibrant colors, the lively folk art, the mouth-watering food. Which is why if it were up to me, I’d declare Cinco de Mayo a national holiday. Let’s eat and be merry all day long!
In honor of this festive and colorful celebration, this week I’m featuring the invitations I created for Anne Nosko, a bride who was planning her big day on the beach in Cabo San Lucas. My team and I chose a palette that mixed bright pink and orange with a beige that alluded to the sandy backdrop where Anne and her fiancée Daniel were getting married. We also had fun creating a crest for the couple: a little Mexican folk bunny carrying the American flag (symbolizing the bride) standing back-to-back with a regal lion holding the British flag (for the groom). I like to think of it as a dash of whimsy signaling the fun that was to come!
To show you exactly how I like to spend my Cinco de Mayo, I invited a group of friends from work and beyond to capture my favorite aspects of the holiday, below. Note the plentiful margaritas and the copious splashes of bright orange and pink! This week’s Get the Look also has a ton of ideas to get you in a celebratory mood. Plus, look for priceless tips on planning a destination wedding in Mexico from Alison Hotchkiss of AE Planning and Design, and Mexican-style entertaining ideas from creative chef Fany Gerson and events queen Karen Bussen. Finally, don’t miss out on this week’s special giveaway, which is loaded with fabulous gifts and rare discounts from all the experts featured in this issue (valued at over $4500!). Now get busy finalizing your party plans. Salud!
View the Behind the Scenes now!
Be inspired by Anne & Daniel’s beach wedding in Mexico
YOUR CHECKLIST FOR DESTINATION WEDDING INVITATIONS
When it comes to destination weddings, you’re essentially planning a mini vacation for your guests. So it’s very important you be the gracious hostess and include all the important details in your invitations. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for your guests to book their flight and come celebrate. Consult my checklist below to make sure you do it right.
Your Checklist for Destination Wedding Invitations by Ceci Johnson
Wedding invitation: Only list the wedding day on the main invitation (as opposed to all the dates of the weekend, which can be confusing).
Travel and accommodations card: List all the recommended hotels, nearby airports, and any special codes you may have arranged with your preferred airlines. Providing complimentary airport pick up? Shuttles to and from wedding? Put it on this card.
Itinerary card: Include a list of all the events you have planned so your guests know when they should arrive and depart. If you’re hosting welcome cocktails on Thursday, a rehearsal dinner on Friday, and a farewell brunch on Sunday, let them know! You don’t want them to miss all the fun events you have in store.
RSVP card: Make it easy on your guests (and you!) and include a reply card that lets them respond to all the events on one card. It’ll make it easier to manage, and your guests will appreciate your organization skills!
Directions card: Since many people will be coming to your chosen location for the first time, it’s common courtesy to include a directions card to help them get from the airport to your villa or event location. (This can be optional if your location is easy to get to.)
Things to do in the area: I love this detail and think it’s such a nice touch. Essentially it’s a list of your favorite hot spots for guests to check out in their free time. Suggestions can range from spas to places for outdoor activities like golf. Add personal messages next to each, so your guests understand why you love them so much.
Attire: Whether you include this information on a separate card or on your itinerary, I highly recommend specifying the suggested attire for each event. Your guests will appreciate this when they’re packing!
ANNE NOSKO GRUNDY
Be inspired! And carry that kernel of inspiration – whatever it is – with you at all times during your planning! Mine was a beach sunset: the colors, the lightness of the breeze, the sand under my feet. I kept coming back to it for all aspects of the wedding and weekend.
What It’s Like to Be a Ceci Bride:
So much fun! Ceci’s creative energy and her attention to detail made all the aspects of the invite planning enjoyable. From the small British touches (inspired by my husband), to the brightly-colored designs (inspired by our destination), Ceci’s designs were thoughtful and thoroughly “us”!
View Anne’s wedding invitations and wedding photos in Our Muse
AE PLANNING + DESIGN
Alison Hotchkiss, founder of AE Planning+Design, specializes in planning high-end custom events and destination weddings. Alison plans weddings around the world, including Mexico, Italy, Scotland, Costa Rica and more. In 2009, she wrote a book with photographer Thayer Allyson Gowdy called, “Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding from Afar.”
“Alison Hotchkiss of AE Planning + Design is the kind of girl that is such a pleasure to work with. She is smart, professional, fun and down-to-earth – as is every member of her team. I love how they are so on top of things and take care of every little detail for you. Wherever you’re getting married, AE Planning + Design can help. Now based in both California and on the East Coast, they have the world covered! You can also consult Alison’s “Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding from Afar” for all the expert advice you need – you’ll be impressed with the ideas and helpful hints in this book.” - CECI JOHNSON
Find out how you can win $4500 in prizes, including $2500 off services from AE Event Planning + Design.
The Ins and Outs of Planning a Wedding in Mexico by Alison Hotchkiss:
Hotels: When blocking hotel rooms, be aware that some guests might be on a budget. If the main hotel is pricey, don’t make people feel like they have to stay there.
Business as usual: Keep in mind that business is done differently in Mexico and communication styles vary. People can be slow to respond, so just go with the flow. A lot of business down there is based on a handshake rather than a contract, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t receive contracts from every vendor.
Safety first: Pack an emergency kit with every over-the-counter drug you might need. It’s not glamorous, but you’ll be really happy to have Benadryl, topical antihistamine, Claritin, Advil, Tums, etc. when you need it.
Proof: Always ask to see photos of past weddings at the venue. If there are chair covers in the photos, chances are you’re going to have those same chair covers at your wedding, which is totally great if you like that look. Still, sometimes there are gorgeous wood chairs underneath the fabric that look even more ornate and interesting, so ask to see them uncovered, too.
Practical makes perfect: Be practical when it comes to picking your wedding gown. If you’re getting married on the beach, you probably won’t be very comfortable in a gown made of heavy taffeta or tulle. Instead, opt for something in a lighter fabric that will allow you to actually breathe since it will likely be warm out. Make sure it’s a fabric that travels well since you might have to stow it in a tight space.
Be informed: Know that a destination wedding is a lot of work for you, but also a lot of work for your guests. Be prepared for lots of questions from them about airfares, hotels, etc. The best way to handle this is to set up a really informative website that answers all the questions your guests might have. Google the location where you are getting married and the word “wedding” and you may find websites that already have all that info.
Inspiration: Be inspired by your surroundings and incorporate the Mexican culture into your wedding. That doesn’t mean you have to throw a fiesta-themed wedding, but maybe you use some Mexican laces and textiles on the tables or some iconography that incorporates Mexican culture. Embrace the fact that you’re getting married in such a beautiful, interesting country with such a rich heritage.
Work with a planner: Hire a great planner who has experience and relationships in the area you’ve chosen for your wedding!
Timing: Make sure you DON’T plan your wedding during rainy season. The best time to plan a wedding in Mexico is between late November and mid-June. November and June are hot, hot months with a potential for rain. They call them “cusp” months so they are often less expensive, but the chances are low that a hurricane or crazy heat wave will happen so they’re often worth it. My favorite months are February (although it can get cold at night), March, April and May (although it can be really hot).
Shipping: Make sure you ship items to your destination 1 to 2 months in advance in case they get held up in customs. Also make sure you use the hotel broker who can ensure the items will get through customs.
Discover more on AE Planning + Design or purchase the book now
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Fany Gerson has worked in many kitchens—from the three-Michelin star Akelare in Spain, to Eleven Madison Park and Rosa Mexicano in New York, where she developed their celebrated modern Mexican desserts. Fany’s work has been featured in Gourmet, the New York Times, Fine Cooking, Daily Candy, and New York magazine. She splits her time between her native Mexico and New York City.
“Fany is a longtime client of mine whom I met when designing her wedding invitations many years back. Since then she has followed her dreams and launched La Newyorkina, her very own Mexican ice cream shop in NYC! Her ice pops are perfect for parties or just as a treat for yourself on a hot summer day. A must-try! Plus, her new book, “My Sweet Mexico” is full of wonderful recipes for authentic Mexican sweets that all of us can try making at home. I’m so proud of Fany for turning her dreams into reality!” - CECI JOHNSON
Find out how you can win $4500 in prizes, including an autographed copy of Fany Gerson’s book, “My Sweet Mexico”!
Top Tips for a Great Cinco de Mayo Mexican Celebration by Fany Gerson:
Drink: Instead of serving only one type of margarita at your party, consider setting up a mezcal and/or tequila bar with ice and either fresh fruit or fruit purees (and a blender if you want to do them frozen). You’ll need a good quality mezcal and/or tequila and fresh fruit (mangoes, watermelon, berries, etc) cut into pieces, which you can stir into the alcohol. Alternatively, create purees using passion fruit, guava, mangoes, tamarind and strawberries with a lot of ice. You can either stir or blend the alcohol, ice and puree for a frozen margarita-type beverage.
Color: Create a colorful setting using fuchsia, yellow and orange. The brighter, the better!
Eat: Slice some jicama, cucumbers and fruit (like oranges or mangoes), toss with chile powder (piquin or chipotle), fresh lime juice and salt. Then put them on skewers for a healthy and delicious snack that is found all over the streets of Mexico.
Fun: Try Mexican frozen pops as a fun treat for your guests. They are great on their own, or you can dip them in tequila. To learn more, visit La Newyorkina to place orders and ask about flavors.
Music: Put on some fun Latin music – essential for a Mexican fiesta!
Decor: When decorating, avoid anything that looks cheesy. Instead use natural items like dried chiles, colorful fresh flowers, fresh fruit, or seashells if you’re by the sea.
Sweet treats: No party would be complete without dessert. Try making any of the recipes from my recent book, “My Sweet Mexico.” Enter to win this week’s giveaway and you could receive an autographed copy!
Discover more on Fany Gerson or purchase the book now
Karen Bussen’s one-of-a-kind event designs and entertaining expertise are sought after by luminary hosts in the worlds of business, media and society. A quintuple-threat expert in food, wine, hospitality, flowers and design, Karen believes a truly great party is filled with uniquely well-chosen details and personal touches. Karen is the author of the SIMPLE STUNNING series of books on weddings and entertaining. She lives in New York City.
“Every time I see Karen, she always has a glow about her. Her happy energy and positive attitude are contagious. She is as real as it gets, and is never shy of creative ideas for making your party the best it can be. You will not only love working with Karen, but you just may make a new friend along the way!” - CECI JOHNSON
Find out how you can win $4500 in prizes, including an autographed copy of one of Karen Bussen’s “Simple Stunning” books!
Tips for Creating a Festive Cinco de Mayo Party by Karen Bussen:
Décor: Spice up the décor at your fiesta with an arrangement of sexy red peppers and pillar candles. Arranged on a simple tray or platter, they make a perfect centerpiece or welcome accent. If you want something more elaborate, fill clear glass vases with peppers in red and green (just one type of pepper per vase) and gather them in the center of your round table. For a long table or buffet, cluster the vases together and add a lush layer of red rose petals and some red votive candles to create a striking, chic Cinco de Mayo setting.
Drinks: Make margaritas muy buenas by adding one more unique ingredient. A splash of pomegranate, pineapple or passion fruit juice will add an extra layer of flavor and color to this classic Cinco de Mayo cocktail.
Food: For a fresh twist on tacos, and to get guests talking, create an interactive taco station! On a table or counter, arrange pretty bowls of your favorite taco fillings, a selection of hot sauces, and hard and soft taco shells. This way guests can have tacos their way. Just be sure to keep a stack of plates on the station for easy eating.
Music: Music creates mood, so get your salsa on! Use iTunes or any other great online music site to craft a custom playlist to enhance your Cinco de Mayo festivities. Think classic salsa and merengue, or add in a little reggaeton here and there to get your guests moving.
Discover more on Karen Bussen or purchase her book now
Anne & Daniel’s Dream Team
LUXE DESTINATION WEDDINGS
Tara Soloway is the founder of LUXE Destination Weddings, a boutique consultancy specializing in luxury destination weddings at the world’s most exclusive destinations. She is recognized as an authority on all things destination wedding, and her approach to planning is to ensure that the couple’s wedding vision is seamlessly blended with the natural environment. Tara has been featured in USA Today, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Weddingbells, Modern Bride and Real Simple Weddings. Always a step ahead of the trends, LUXE offers complete destination wedding solutions to discriminating brides and grooms.
“There is so much stress and emotion in planning a wedding or honeymoon or even a big vacation. Especially for destination weddings, you’re taking on a whole different level of responsibility and commitment as you enter into this unknown territory. To me, it’s most important to work with a planner who understands your location and can expertly take over and guide you seamlessly through the entire process. Tara and her team at LUXE Destination Weddings combine highly professional service with exceeding-your-expectations courtesy. They are warm, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. Best of all, they always know how to plan a great trip no matter where you want to celebrate in the world!” - CECI JOHNSON
Find out how you can win $4500 in prizes, including $500 off travel services from LUXE Destination Weddings!
Tips for Planning a Wedding in the Spirit of Cinco de Mayo by LUXE Destination Weddings:
Have a Wedding Parade: Take the whole wedding with you! In between the ceremony and reception, have a festive parade from one venue to the next (perhaps from church to restaurant). Hire a few strolling musicians and get the party started right away by announcing your marriage to the community.
Create a crafty project that involves your guests: Have your guests contribute some artistry to a Mexican blanket or quilt that you take home as a memory. And set up a craft station for the children in attendance to keep them busy (like making chili pepper garlands or maraca painting). Make the experience more organic.
Find a venue that suits your style: Maybe a traditional hacienda is more “you” than the beach? Or a gathering next to a cenote for some interesting scenery? Knowing some locals will help you find a unique location.
Don’t sweat the small stuff: Try to relax and enjoy. No matter what, a destination wedding requires the couple to give up a bit of control. So instead of losing sleep over it, try to just smile and have a great time.
Choose traditional music: We’ve all danced the night away to Top 40 hits and “best of wedding” songs many times over. Maybe a Mexican music fiesta is the way to go for your wedding.
Discover more on LUXE Destination Weddings
Use this palette as a stepping stone toward creating your own dream event.
Click on the color swatches to see how the colors come to life at a real event or discover more inspiring color stories now.
Esperanza Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
At the end of a continent lies a tranquil Cabo resort retreat. Where the body is healed, the soul is revived, the senses are awakened and the spirit soars to new heights. A place where sun, sea, sky and earth join as one to form a tropical oasis like no other. A place called Esperanza.
Discover more on Esperanza Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Ceci’s Favorite Mexican Restaurants in New York City
Being a girl from San Diego – and I’m sure my fellow Californians will agree with me – it’s hard to find great, authentic Mexican food in New York City. After living here for many years, I’ve tried plenty of restaurants in my search for the best ones to get my fix. While none here will ever offer the kind of authentic, home-cooked flavors that are at your fingertips so close to the Mexican border, there are a few standouts that do the trick. For your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites below, from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn. Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! May you each celebrate with plenty of chips and guacamole and muchas margaritas. Salud!
Lower East Side
Snack Dragon: Amazing little taco stand, and they’re open late.
La Esquina: Hidden bar/lounge in basement.
Dos Toros Taqueria: All organic ingredients; owned by guys from Oceanside.
Mayahuel: A specialty tequila bar/restaurant that has such an authentic feel, it’s almost crazy. Some are calling it a “house of worship” for tequila. It has an amazing selection!
Mercadito: All locations have delicious food, great Margaritas, and are fun places for big groups.
Upper East Side
Upper West Side
Super Tacos: Some of the best tacos I’ve had from a street vendor.
Mama Mexico: A slightly cheesy restaurant with a Mariachi band and fun atmosphere.
El Centro: Tasty and fun.
Rosa Mexicano: One of my favorites!
BROOKLYN & QUEENS
Pacifico: Awesome outdoor porch in the summer. Order the “queso fundido” for an appetizer (but make sure you bring friends).
Calexico Cart: Owned by brothers from North County, San Diego.
Tortilleria Nixtamal: They hand make their own tortillas in the kitchen!
These quesadillas make a nice lunch or snack served with a salad. If you like you can add ground beef or shredded chicken as well, along with a few slices of pickled jalapenos if you’re feeling spicy.
½ cup canned refried beans
8 medium flour tortillas
¼ pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated
¼ pound Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh salsa, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
- Spread refried beans on each of the tortillas.
- On 4 tortillas, sprinkle enough of each cheese to cover the tortilla, leaving a little space at the edge.
- Cover with the remaining 4 tortillas, bean-side pressed against the cheese.
- In a medium skillet on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil, then cook the tortillas one at a time until they’re golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted.
- Slice into quarters and serve with fresh salsa on top an sour cream on the side.
Go-To Guacamole & Homemade Fresh Salsa
This is a homemade appetizer you can make any time. Serve it with a big bowl of good tortilla chips and Homemade Fresh Salsa (below) or your favorite store-bought brand.
3 ripe Hass avocados
Juice of ½ lemon
Juice of 2 limes (¼ cup)
2 tablespoons chopped green chilis (optional—use them if you like it spicy!)
Salt and pepper
Peel and mash the avocados in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to keep it from browning. Stir in the lime juice and chilis, if you like (or serve the chilis on the side), and season with salt and pepper to finish.
Tip: Choosing and Working with Avocados
A ripe avocado should feel slightly soft (but not mushy). Its peel should appear more charcoal than green. (Hass avocados—the best choice—have a pebbly surface, rather than smooth skin.) to prepare your avocados, make a cut lengthwise all around the fruit. Pull the halves apart and use a spoon to remove the pit. For guacamole, simply scoop the flesh out of its skin. Peel the avocado if you want to slice or dice it. Before mashing or slicing avocado, squeeze lemon juice on it to help keep it from browning.
HOMEMADE FRESH SALSA
The key to success with this deliciously simple salsa is to use the best tomatoes you can get. Their sweet flavor, combined with the crunchy onions and bright cilantro, makes a perfect match for a crisp tortilla chips or as an accent to any Southwestern dish.
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 small white onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Mix all the ingredients together and serve with chips and guacamole (above) or with the Quick Quesadillas.
CECI NEW YORK GIVEAWAY
As a thank-you for being such loyal fans, I wanted to treat you to something quite fabulous. Here’s your chance to win a package of amazing gifts and offers from all the experts in this issue, including yours truly. And, yes, non-brides who love stationery, traveling and entertaining are welcome to enter, too!
When I put in a special request with my featured friends, I was thrilled to pieces when travel pro Tara Soloway of LUXE Destination Weddings and events guru Alison Hotchkiss of AE Planning + Design graciously offered spectacular deals on their services. These talents never give discounts, so this is a truly unique opportunity. Lifestyle expert Karen Bussen, author and sweets chef Fany Gerson, and Hotchkiss will also be giving away autographed copies of their best-selling books – an opportunity too great to miss. Of course, no giveaway of mine would be complete without a fantastic offer from Ceci New York. The complete package is valued at over $4500! Here’s the full list of prizes:
- 30% off any Ceci ready-to-order invitations
- $500 off Luxe Destination travel services*
- $2500 off AE Event Planning + Design*
- Autographed copies of best-selling books from Karen Bussen, Fany Gerson and Alison Hotchkiss
- Plus, a handbag from Mar y Sol!
The contest will run all week, from Tuesday, May 3 to Monday, May 9. To enter, all you have to do is subscribe to CeciStyle magazine (if you haven’t already), “like” our Ceci New York Facebook page and comment on the post, sharing with us your favorite place to travel in the world. Can’t take full advantage of this amazing offer? Forward it to a friend! The winner will be announced on our Facebook page on May 10th so, again, be sure you become a fan and “like” us. What are you waiting for? Enter now. And good luck!
* Additional terms and conditions may apply. Current subscribers do not need to resubscribe for a chance to win. Gifts cannot be exchanged for cash value.
CECI NEW YORK READY-TO-ORDER TRUNK SHOW
Don’t miss the Ceci Ready-To-Order Trunk Show on May 10th. For one night only, receive 15% savings on your Ceci Ready-To-Order Invitation, Save The Date, and/or Accessory suite!
Ceci Ready-To-Order is a fusion of elegance, personalization, and effortless style. Featuring original designs and artwork, these collections provide the luxury of customization combined with the ease of ready-to-order. Designed to take your event from ordinary to tastefully extraordinary, Ceci Ready-to-Order boasts an impressive range of color, paper, design, and printing possibilities that can be mixed and matched to reflect your aisle style and the tone of your event.
CAN’T MAKE THE TRUNK SHOW? Call your order in! Everyone can take advantage of this one-time offer no matter where you are in the world! Details below.
In next week’s issue: Butterflies and Enchantment
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, Founder and Creative Director of Ceci New York
, is the authority on style and invitation design. She is also the author of her highly coveted weekly style magazine, CeciStyle
. Loaded with gorgeous tips and takes on invitations, fashion, parties, weddings, décor, gifts and more, CeciStyle
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