Kentucky Derby Party ideas

How To Throw The Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party -top ideas

Recently I hosted the ultimate Kentucky Derby party in honor of a beautiful bride. The Kentucky Derby party theme is ideal for any celebration. In this post, I sharing creative fun tablescape, decorating, food and drink ideas for your Kentucky Derby-themed party.

The Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes of sports, and it’s the perfect occasion to throw a fabulous party. These Kentucky Derby party ideas are perfect for both die-hard racing fans and those looking for a fun and stylish event. It’s always a crowd pleaser. 

Kentucky Derby History

The Kentucky Derby’s fashion tradition dates back to its inception in 1875, inspired by British horse races. This year we celebrated the 150th Kentucky Derby. Over the decades, Derby style has evolved from formal morning dresses and hats to bold, colorful headpieces and whimsical fascinators. 

The Kentucky Derby is a stylish event held on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs Racetrack. Attendees at the Kentucky Derby don their most fashionable hats and fascinators in a dazzling array of colors, patterns, and designs, making it a festive event.

Hosting the ultimate Kentucky Derby party may include fashion, food, drinks, and excitement makes it the perfect occasion for a lively party. Hosting allows you to share your love of the race with others in a festive and creative way. It’s a popular southern tradition that expands the nation. Many celebrate the annual event in style while other create a “watch party”. Either way, we will offer lots of ways to throw a memorable Kentucky Derby party. 

Hosting the Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party

Paperless Post Invites for the Kentucky Derby

The Festive Invitation

There are many festive Kentucky Derby digital invitations on Paperless Post. Fun Kentucky derby party invitation ideas may include the following wording for hosting a Kentucky Derby Party:

  • Derby Darlings: You’re invited to our Kentucky Derby soiree – let’s sip mint juleps and cheer on the fillies!”
  • “Fascinators & Fillies: Dust off your best hat and get ready to place your bets at our Kentucky Derby bash!”
  • “Roses & Revelry: You’re invited to our Kentucky Derby party – let’s celebrate the Run for the Roses in style!”
  • “Juleps & Jewels: Grab your girlfriends and get ready for a glitzy Kentucky Derby party filled with mint juleps and merriment!”
  • “They are off to the Altar!” Join us in your Derby best to celebrate the bride.

Festive Kentucky Derby Decorations and Color Schemes

When you are planning your Kentucky Derby party, embrace the classic party decorations elements like roses, horses, and jockeys, to create a festive and celebratory atmosphere for your party. Check out the list of party supplies here.

The following list of party decorations include mixing and matching these iconic decorations will give your event a timeless, derby-ready look. 

Derby Party Color Schemes:

Depending on what type of Kentucky Derby Party you are throwing, the colors you pick may include the following: 

a. Preppy Prints

Embrace classic preppy style with a color palette of navy, kelly green, and bright pink.  Incorporate preppy patterns like stripes, gingham, and polka dots for a fun, playful look.

b. Monochrome Moments

Make a bold statement with a single color scheme, like all-white or all-black. Consider using texture and varying shades add depth to a monochrome palette.The key is to choose colors that reflect your personal style and the overall vibe you want to create for your Kentucky Derby party.

c. Jewel Tones

Rich, saturated jewel tones like emerald green, sapphire blue, and amethyst purple create an elegant, sophisticated look. Pair with metallic accents like gold or silver for added glamour. Add gold for some glamour. Consider a balloon arch with white and gold. See ours here.

Balloon Arch for Kentucky derby party

d. Black and White and Red

When I hosted my ultimate Kentucky Derby party, I used the classic black, white and red colors. It was the ideal color scheme for the Bridal Shower. It’s elegant and goes well with the fresh red roses. I used black and white stripes with ribbons and the printed signs I created.

Decorating Party Details and Party Supplies

 The Race For The Roses- Lots of red roses! For our Kentucky Derby Bridal Shower, I opted to decorate with lots of red roses everywhere. Here are some ways to incorporate red roses into the party decor.

Kentucky Derby Classic Party Decor Ideas:

  • Equestrian– Incorporate classic Kentucky Derby decorations like jockey silks, and equestrian-inspired accents to set the mood.
  • Horseshoes – Incorporate horseshoes into your decor for a classic equestrian touch, like hanging them on the wall or using them as napkin rings. Horseshoes make the ideal party favor too.
  • Jockey silks – The colorful uniforms worn by jockeys make for festive decorations. Hang them on the walls or use them as table runners.
  • Mint julep cups – The iconic silver cups used to serve mint juleps are a must-have for any Derby party. Use them as vases or fill them with flowers.
  • Equestrian-inspired accents – Decorate with other horse racing-themed items like trophies, saddles, and riding crops to set the mood.
  • Install a large television in your party area for guests to enjoy the race in a stylish manner.
  • Red Roses! Run for the roses! The iconic blanket of red roses draped over the winning horse is a key motif to embrace for Derby decor. Use roses in vases, wreaths, and floral arrangements. Adorn your space with red roses, the official flower of the Kentucky Derby.
  • Kentucky Derby Posters: Display posters or prints featuring past Kentucky Derby winners or iconic moments from the race. You can frame these and hang them on walls or set them up on tables for guests to admire.
  • Bunting and Flags: Use bunting or flags in traditional Derby colors like red, white, and blue to add a festive touch. Hang them along walls, fences, or across doorways to enhance the party atmosphere.
Beistle Horse Racing Decorations, Jockey Helmet Cutouts 14 Inch, Pack 48 Beistle Horse Racing Decorations, Jockey Helmet Cutouts 14 Inch, Pack 48

Fun colorful jockey hat for party decorations

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05/09/2024 04:35 am GMT
  • Hat Display: Create a hat display area where guests can showcase their fabulous Derby hats. Use hat stands or hooks to arrange the hats attractively. Provide a few extra hats as props for photo opportunities.
Race for the roses  party decorations for kentucky derby

Derby Party Tablescape Ideas

Create a Derby party tablescape with a crisp white tablecloth and accents in mint green, rose pink, and black and white. Add horseshoe napkin holders or jockey figurines for charm. Derby party tablescape ideas may include a centerpiece of fresh roses or a floral arrangement in a silver trophy vase adds elegance. Incorporate miniature racehorse figurines or themed place cards add a whimsical touch.


Derby party tablescape ideas must include red roses! I am, it’s a race for the roses right?

  • Roses and Greens: Arrange a centerpiece using fresh red roses and greenery. Place them in a silver or gold vase to add a touch of elegance.
  • Miniature Racetrack: Create a miniature racetrack centerpiece using turf-like fabric or green moss. Add small horse figurines and miniature fences to complete the racetrack look.
  • Hat Display: Showcase a collection of Derby hats as a unique and eye-catching centerpiece. Arrange them on hat stands or a decorative hat rack.
Mint Julep Signage and drink cups
“Mint To Be”


  • Mint Julep Cups: Serve drinks in traditional mint julep cups for an authentic Derby feel. Add a sprig of fresh mint to each cup for garnish.
  • Themed Glasses: Use glasses or stemware with etched horse designs or Derby logos to elevate the table setting.
Tablescape ideas for kentucky derby party

Table Linens:

  • Table Runner: Place a decorative table runner in a Derby-themed pattern, such as a horseshoe or rose motif. Alternatively, use a green runner to represent the racetrack.
  • Linen Napkins: Choose linen napkins in coordinating colors or patterns that complement the overall theme.
4 different black and white and red Kentucky Derby Tablescape ideas

Place Settings:

Derby party tablescape ideas can be so much fun. Get creative with napkins, napkin rings and place cards.

  • Elegant Dinnerware: Use fine china or porcelain dinnerware in classic Derby colors like white, gold, or silver. Consider adding a horse or horseshoe motif to the plates or napkins.
  • Napkin Decor: Fold napkins in the shape of a horse’s head or a rose and place them on each plate. Alternatively, tie them with ribbon in Derby colors and add a small horseshoe charm.
  • Place Cards: Create custom place cards featuring Derby-related elements such as jockey silhouettes, horse names, or racing silks. Attach them to miniature horseshoes for a decorative touch.
Red roses in silver antique vase with black and white ribbon tied around it.

Floral Arrangements:

Floral arrangements like the one above, is so festive! The antique silver trophy looking vase filled with red roses is simple! Add Derby elegance for your Kentucky Derby tablescape ideas.

  • Place potted plants or floral arrangements near your entryway, incorporating red roses and green foliage for a touch of Derby elegance.
  • Use decorative containers such as galvanized buckets, wooden crates, or vintage planters to enhance the theme.
Kentucky Derby Front Door Decorations

Decorate Your Door And Entryway In Derby Fashion

Derby Wreath

Create a custom Derby-themed wreath using a combination of faux red roses, greenery, and ribbons in traditional Derby colors like red, white, and green.

Add decorative elements such as miniature horseshoes, jockey silhouettes, or horse figurines to embellish the wreath are fun derby tablescape ideas.

Hang the wreath on your front door as a stunning focal point that instantly conveys the theme of your party.

Welcome Sign:

When you walk into your home for the Kentucky Derby party, be greeted by a fun welcome sign. I created the above sign for the shower.

  • Design a personalized welcome sign that incorporates Derby imagery and motifs. You can use chalkboard or wooden signs and decorate them with horse-related graphics, Derby hats, or racecourse elements.
  • Include a festive greeting such as “Welcome to the Derby Party” or “Enter for a Day at the Races” to invite guests into the theme.

Horse and Jockey Cutouts:

  • Create life-size or oversized cutouts of horses and jockeys to flank either side of your front door. These can be made from cardboard, foam board, or plywood and painted in Derby colors.
  • Add finishing touches like ribbons, saddle details, and racing silks to make the cutouts more realistic and eye-catching.

Derby Banners and Flags:

  • Hang Derby-themed banners or flags above your entryway or along the porch railing. Choose designs featuring horses, horseshoes, roses, or the Kentucky Derby logo.
  • Consider using bunting in Derby colors to add a festive touch to the exterior of your home.
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05/09/2024 04:42 am GMT

Lanterns and Lighting:

  • Illuminate your entryway with decorative lanterns or string lights in Derby colors. You can hang lanterns from hooks or place them on either side of the door.
  • Use LED candles or lighted horse sculptures to create a warm and inviting glow that enhances the Derby theme.

Hay Bale Seating:

  • If space allows, place hay bales or rustic benches near the entry for additional seating. Decorate the hay bales with checkered blankets, throw pillows in Derby patterns, or horseshoe-shaped cushions.

Derby Dress Code:

When hosting your Kentucky Derby party, consider encouraging the guests to dress in classic Derby fashion, which commonly includes:

  1. Hats: Hats are a must at a Kentucky Derby party! Guests wear wide-brimmed hats, fascinators, or any elaborate headpiece that adds flair to their outfit. You could even organize a “Best Hat” contest for added fun. Men like to wear top hats. 
  2. Attire: For men, seersucker suits, bow ties, and suspenders are traditional choices. For women, the classic look is a sundresses or elegant outfits in bright colors or floral patterns.Cocktail dress code. Encourage everyone to dress in a way that reflects the Derby’s southern charm and sophistication.
  3. Footwear: Comfortable yet stylish footwear is essential, especially if your party includes outdoor activities like lawn games or a viewing area for the race.
Kentucky derby ladies wearing hats

Kentucky Derby Classic Drinks & Foods

  • Serve classic Southern dishes like pimento cheese dip, smoked grits, and fudgy pecan bourbon balls.
  • Hot Brown: An open-faced sandwich featuring turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce.
  • Derby Pie: A delicious dessert made with chocolate, pecans, and bourbon.
  • Shrimp and Grits: A Southern classic featuring shrimp served over creamy grits.
  • Bourbon-Glazed Ham Sliders: Mini sandwiches with ham glazed in bourbon for a flavorful twist.
  • Pecan-Crusted Chicken: Chicken breasts coated in crushed pecans for a crunchy and savory dish.
  • Set up a build-your-own open-faced sandwich bar with fresh ingredients for a crowd-pleasing option.
  • There are some classic recipes that include fresh mint that can be used instead of a Mint Julep- just saying.
Cold Refreshing Classic Mint Julep
Cold Refreshing Classic Mint Julep

The Mint Julep

  • The mint julep is the official drink of the derby. Have you ever tasted a mint julep? I don’t love it so we have another option for you that I served at our party. 
  • Serve them in traditional julep cups or put a twist on the classic with a mint julep slush or big-batch sweet tea mint julep.
  • Offer other Derby-inspired cocktails like the Oaks Lily, Black-Eyed Susan Slushies, Old Fashioned Cocktails, and Champagne Punch.
  • Set up a fully stocked bar cart with all the essentials, including bourbon, mint, and crushed ice.
Bootleg cocktail with mint

Another Option: Bootleg Mint Recipe- It’s so good

Now this recipe is the real deal! My sweet friend and neighbor Lenea gave this to me to use at our party. It was a huge hit!   The recipe comes from Minnesota during the Prohibition time. It gets its name from Prohibition when it was served and no one could detect the booze in it!  But no reason it can’t be called a Minnesota ‘mint julep’!

Bootleg Drink Recipe – Minnesota’s Signature Cocktail- See it here.

Derby Party Games and Activities

The following are fun derby party games and activities.

  • Hold a friendly betting competition by setting out betting cards before the race. Offer a julep cup filled with roses or a cash prize for the winner.
  • Provide an array of affordable fascinators, hats, and bow ties for guests to wear and keep, or set up a craft table for them to create their own.
  • Play the traditional recitation of “My Old Kentucky Home” just before post time to get everyone eager for the big race.
  • The game of horseshoes – the ideal lawn game. 
  • If you are hosting a Derby bridal shower then come up with some bridal shower games and hand hout fun derby themed prizes.

Music For Your Derby Party

Music sets the tone: Opt for an upbeat yet relaxed playlist to create a lively ambiance without overshadowing conversations. While Kentucky’s Bluegrass music fits the theme perfectly, feel free to explore other genres. Maintain a daytime-friendly volume. As the race nears, transition to an energizing Spotify playlist. Then, switch to live Derby coverage for the iconic “My Old Kentucky Home” just before post time.

With these Kentucky Derby party ideas, you’ll be well on your way to hosting an unforgettable celebration that captures the spirit of the “Run for the Roses.” So grab your hat, mix up a mint julep, and get ready for an exciting day at the races!

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