Planning a Birthday in Costa Rica … Table Settings for Under $100

Once our theme was set, I spent a lot of time online looking through Style Me Pretty, Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Knot.  I wanted something elegant and feminine which incorporated orchids.  Also, because it was a birthday party and I did not want the room to look like it was set up for a wedding, so I stayed away from all-white themes.  I found this image at, which I used for inspiration:

Since so many people were contributing to Aunt Carmen’s party, we needed to keep our costs low.  The best way to do this was to use as many the hotel’s services as possible, so I started with the room.  The hotel’s Arboleda salon is surrounded by windows and reminded me of a conservatory, so I thought it would be fun to turn each table into a miniature floral garden.

Salon Arboleda Intercontinental Costa Rica

Next, I asked for pictures of their table linens:

Beige topper from Intercontinental Costa Rica

And this is all we had.

I knew that even with nothing added, the tables would look fine.  There were to be 11-12 people per table, so they would be much fuller, and the combination of pewter chargers, white china, clear stemware, and all our food meant that at the very least, this would look like an upscale restaurant.  But I wanted to transform the room.

I studied my inspiration images carefully, and I realized several things:

– Our guest list was large, so we needed place cards and menus;

– Candles are great for dinner parties.  They add light and movement, and they would allow us to dim the main lights to create a magical setting;

– People love gifts.  Special guests could be given our floral centerpieces to take home, but we wanted small favors for everyone.

To keep the menus simple (I needed to print 175, plus all the extras due to corrections and last-minute changes), I went to Staples and bought a package of heavy ivory stock and asked them to cut the sheets in half.  Then, I made individual menus with guests’ names at the top; these would serve as both place cards and as souvenirs after the event:


For sparkle, we bought lots of white votives in clear containers from, …

White votives in clear glass holders

… and for height and color, we bought 15″ green tapers from

Patrician 15" Green Taper Candles

For an extravagant look, we found freeze-dried rose petals at  These were really inexpensive (about $5 per table), really lightweight (perfect for carrying on the plane), and they looked great scattered on our tables:

Pink freeze-dried rose petals

And finally, for favors, we found small purses online at for just $0.25 each; these we filled with Hershey’s Easter kisses (these are like regular kisses, but they are wrapped in pastel foils) from our local supermarket:

Favor containers

Our florist suggested tall arrangements and showed us samples by e-mail.  She also let us borrow mirrored bases for our party, which came in really handy at night.

Finally, this is how our tables looked:

Aunt Carmen's Birthday Table

I hope you’ve enjoyed this!  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, each table’s decorations (including flowers) came to $87.80.  But the look on my aunt’s face when she walked in?  That was priceless.

Aunt Carmen and Uncle Arturo

Gracious Style is an online retailer of sophisticated, high-quality products for every room in the house.  We love helping others create warm and welcoming rooms for themselves.  To read more, visit our blog.

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