Tips to Host the Perfect Kentucky Derby Party

Photo © The Refined Host

BY JULIE UNGER

Plaid Horse readers share a few traits: the love for horses, the love of style and knowing how to work hard and play hard.

Hosting a Kentucky Derby watch party is one of those times where we can play hard. Those of us in the Hunter/Jumper category live for horses soaring over jumps, and there’s a sense of excitement along with pomp and circumstance surrounding the Kentucky Derby.

A Derby party is a place for those who love racing, to see and be seen, and watch some of the best and fastest horses compete against one another.

The Kentucky Derby is just a few days away, but it is still possible to put together an elegant party for your closest friends, or to put something together at your barn. Watch parties with a garden or barn feel are great ways to gather, celebrate the perfectly pastel pallet of the Derby, dress up with floppy hats, nuzzle our horses (if the party is at the barn) and watch a quick race while socializing with friends.

Photo © The Refined Host

Daulton Van Kuren, owner of The Refined Host, based in Buffalo, New York, puts together elegant events not unlike the pomp and circumstance that centers around the lively stands at the Kentucky Derby.

For this exciting annual event, Daulton suggests the following for putting together a Kentucky Derby party that will leave a lasting impression! 

DRESS CODE: When hosting a Kentucky Derby watch party, be sure to specify the dress code on the invitation (electronic is perfectly fine for an event such as this!). You want to encourage your guests to be festive and have fun with their attire to mimic that of the guests attending the race at Churchill Downs.  “Festive Derby” or “Spring Chic” will help people grasp the vibe you are going for. Of course, women should not forget their hats—they are a sign of good luck! You can even provide a trophy for best dressed!

FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS: The rose has been the official flower of the Kentucky Derby since 1904, so if you are making flower arrangements, group together a handful of roses in silver vases (to match the mint julep glasses!). 

SIGNATURE COCKTAIL: No Kentucky Derby party would be complete without a signature cocktail, such as the Mint Julep, which is a bourbon based cocktail served in a sterling silver cup. If you can, create a small sign to display that lists the ingredients in case some of your guests are not the biggest fans. Always have a non-alcoholic version too and instead of bourbon, a good substitute is to pour in fresh, sweet tea. 

Photo © The Refined Host

COCKTAIL NAPKINS: Order custom cocktail napkins with horse icons on them or fun derby sayings. You could also have 3-4 different sets of napkins made with trivia questions on each. Display them all around the different spaces (i.e. some on the bar area, some with the food table, some on the coffee table), so that while guests are mingling, they can test their knowledge and easily make conversation. 

TEST YOUR TV & SOUND: With the Kentucky Derby being coined as “the most exciting two minutes in sports” it is imperative that you have a great viewing area set up and a working TV with sound system. If you must, rearrange your sofas and ottomans to allow all guests to have an unobstructed view. 

Photo © The Refined Host

PIN THE TAIL ON THE HORSE: Just like the game you played during your childhood, you can bring back this party classic but with a Horse instead of a donkey! 

Of course, as equestrians, we truly will be paying attention to the race, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have an amazing time before and after.

By implementing some, or all, of Daulton’s suggestions, it is possible to have the best Kentucky Derby party ever, even if you can’t be in Kentucky this year.

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