It’s almost time for the Kentucky Derby! Gather your friends for a classy late afternoon party where you can wear fancy hats, place bets, drink mint juleps, and watch “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

When is the Kentucky Derby Again?

The Kentucky Derby is always held the first Saturday of May (May 7 in 2016). Race coverage starts at 4pm, and the race itself (don’t blink or you’ll miss it!) starts around 6:34.

What to Wear to a Derby Party

A Kentucky Derby party is a great excuse to get dressed up! For an elegant derby party, you may wish to include attire suggestions in your invitation: sundresses or cocktail dresses for women, blazers or seersucker suits and bowties for men. The more colorful the better!

Derby attire is all about the hats! Even for a casual derby party, encourage guests to wear fanciful hats. Think Easter Sunday from the ‘80s, only with more bows and flowers. Men can get in on the fun too—fedoras or bowlers hats would look smashing!

Derby Party Decorations

You can go two directions with derby party décor: super-colorful, or white and gold. For a fun, more casual party, choose a mix of bright colors to reflect everyone’s colorful outfits and the brightly colored jerseys of the jockeys. Check out our line of party prints tableware for colorful tablecloths, plates, napkins, and cups. If all that color seems too rowdy for you, keep things simple and elegant with décor in white and gold. Check out our party solids and special occasions tableware for stylish options.

Whichever color scheme you choose, red roses make a great addition—they’re the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. If your budget allows, red roses in a mint julep cup make a beautiful centerpiece. Real roses not in the budget? For a low-cost, big-impact decoration, make giant roses out of red tissue paper and attach them to the walls.

What to Serve at Your Derby Party

Traditional southern fare is perfect for a derby party!  Just make you sure you choose dishes that will be easy for guests to eat while standing and socializing. Biscuits with country ham, deviled eggs, or small pimento cheese sandwiches are perfect Derby fare.

Kentucky Derby Pie (chocolate bourbon pecan pie) makes a great dessert. Prepare it in miniature pie shells for a less messy treat. Want to cut down on your food prep? Order a cake instead.  Grocery stores typically have sheet cakes with icing roses available—order one with extra red roses for a derby-themed dessert.

Liven up your party with mint juleps, the traditional Kentucky Derby cocktail. (For a non-alcoholic version, substitute lemonade for the bourbon.) Sweet tea also pairs splendidly with southern comfort food!

Fun Activities for a Derby Party

Most importantly, keep an eye on the clock so you don’t miss the actual race! It really is only two minutes long. Make those two minutes exciting by having guests bet on the winner beforehand. Guests who want to bet can put in an agreed-upon small amount of money ($1 or $5) and pull a contender’s name out of a hat. Winner takes all!

Derby parties make for great photos! Collect a few props and designate one area as a “photo booth” for hilarious Instagram-worthy pictures. Props could include a horse mask, a hobby horse, prize ribbons, and extra crazy hats.

Hold a crazy hat contest! Guests who want to participate put on a crazy hat fashion show, with other guests voting for their favorite. Have a small prize for the winner, such as a prize ribbon or a red rose corsage.

Classic outdoor games like horseshoes and cornhole are a fun way to get guests mingling while you wait for the derby to start.

The Kentucky Derby is a fantastic occasion for a party. It has all the excitement of the Super Bowl condensed into two minutes, plus fancy hats! Have fun planning the party your friends will be talking about all year!