We’ve got all the best Kentucky Derby Party ideas. Is there any annual spring event more beloved and filled with tradition than the Kentucky Derby? You’d be hard pressed to find one. The rich history of the event, the beauty of the horses, the frivolity of the hats, the immense pageantry, the refreshing Juleps, and the beautiful Kentucky landscape … the first Saturday in May is a celebration like no other. And we’ve got the best Kentucky Derby Party ideas to help you celebrate!
In 2021, the “Run for the Roses” is back in it’s (almost) full glory on May 1! This year’s Derby, the 147th to be exact, will allow 40 to 50 percent reserve-seating capacity at Churchill Downs. With limited seating at the race, the best bet is to gather a few friends and celebrate at home! Post time for the race is estimated to take place at 7:01 p.m. Eastern, so you’ll want to be sure to plan your festivities around that timeframe. This is a great party theme to consider a true cocktail or dinner format. Here are all the details from the Louisville Courier-Journal on how and where to tune in, how to bet, and the timeline of all the other activities leading up to this year’s race.
CREATING AN KENTUCKY DERBY PARTY IS EASY WITH THESE FOUR ADORABLE IDEAS:
1. THE DRINKS …
When you’re in Kentucky … you’re in bourbon country. So you’ll want to have plenty of the best Kentucky bourbon on hand. On that note, the Mint Julep is the quintessential cocktail of Derby Day. It became the official drink of the event in 1938. More than 120,000 Mint Juleps are typically consumed at Churchill Downs over the course of Derby weekend. So it’s an imperative, you just can’t throw a Derby party without them. While there are lots of recipes out there, we prefer the authentic thing and this recipe for a Danielson’s Mint Julep is the official recipe that is served at Churchill Downs. Here’s the recipe.
Another requisite for any Derby party is the manner in which you serve your Mint Julep. Silver cups are the standard. Not only do they keep the drink ice cold, they allow frost to form on the sides of the cup. It’s for this reason, you always want to hold a julep cup from the top or the bottom. It is also perfectly acceptable to serve them in a highball glass. We love these glasses which were the official souvenirs of last year’s Kentucky Derby. Official souvenir glasses from the 2021 Derby are already available to order for your at-home party.
2. THE DÉCOR …
Some describe the Derby as “two minutes of racing and an entire day of drinking.” While we can’t find a huge amount of fault with that sentiment, the race is truly the focal point of the day. When creating the décor for our celebration, we began with that end in mind.
The highlight of our tablescape is seven, lighted horse silhouettes, which created our very own horse race right on the dining table. To mimic the colorful jockey silks seen at the Derby, we lighted each of the silhouettes a different, vibrant color. Making these adorable centerpieces was easy, thanks to our Cricut Maker, multipurpose cylindrical vases and LED lights.
A cute, artificial grass table runner created the perfect foundation and accent for our thoroughbred silhouettes. Finally red roses were an essential décor element. After all, this is a party honoring an event often called “the run for the roses.” To match our black silhouettes, we opted to showcase these beautiful florals in square black vases. Add a trio of votive candles on either side for a dramatic lighting effect and you’ve got a table that will get the party off to a great start … riders up!
3. THE FASHION …
Floral prints, bright jewel tones, feminine ruffles and masks with a bit of bling … that’s what you’ll see at the 2021 Kentucky Derby, if you’re lucky enough to attend in person, according to this forecast by the Louisville Courier-Journal. For those of us that will be celebrating at home, we can use this occasion as an excuse to finally dress up a bit. Bye-bye black leggings! Yippee!!!
Vineyard Vines is the official clothing “style” of The Kentucky Derby again this year. Some of my personal favorites in this year’s collection include their men’s tonal gallop printed tie (how great would these pinks look paired against a navy sport coat) and this floral gingham side-tie dress is the perfect midi length for this season. To complete the look, just add this Kentucky Derby Bow Fascinator. It’s handmade by the featured milliner of the 147th Kentucky Derby, Jennifer Pfannenstiel of Forme Millinery. Add some jute-colored wedge espadrilles and you’ve got a great ensemble. Adorable!
4. THE DETAILS …
As with any good event, the best way to make it truly special is to pay attention to the small details. This party was no exception. We began by finding colorful cocktail napkins which are official souvenirs of the Kentucky Derby. We love how they depict the colorful jockey silks. Truth be told, we used them as the color palette for our entire table.
PRO TIP: Pick one element of décor that you’re drawn to and build your color scheme around that. It’s a great way to decorate and tie everything together. It also does the work for you … all of the colors are already coordinated!
To add some fun, we coordinated each guests’ napkin with one of the colors of the horse silhouettes. You could even take this a step further by associating a particular horse running in the race with each color. This fun approach will each of your guests to literally have a horse in the race and create an extra element of fun!
HERE ARE SOME OF THE ESSENTIAL DECOR ITEMS WE INCLUDED ON OUR TABLE AND WHERE TO GET THEM:
Gold flatware — I absolutely love the elegance this gold flatware adds to the table. When I bought it, I thought it was a bit of a splurge. I now think it was a great investment. I use it often!
Silver julep cups — as I stated earlier, these are essential for any Kentucky derby themed party
Horseshoe swizzle sticks — what happened to the swizzle stick? They are just fun and need to make a comeback. I found these at Party City!
The Horseshoe is a symbol of luck and was a cute accent to incorporate into our tablescape. Here’s a bit more detail on why horseshoes are a symbol of luck and one of the many superstitions woven into the traditions of the Derby.
Did you try this idea? Share it on Instagram with the hashtag #makeeverydayanevent and tag @makeeverydayanevent! Looking for another drink option as you watch the Derby? Check out this bourbon-based cocktail whose origin traces back to Kentucky, the Old Fashioned.