Your Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party Planning Checklist

The Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race held in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, ending the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds is held at Churchill Downs on a one and a quarter miles {2 km} track.

Also known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” and also “The Run for the Roses”, first raced in 1875 recently celebrating its 140 anniversary, is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown.

Kentucky Derby planning ideas by @KraylFunch #AnAppealingPlan

The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races frequently reaching over 165,000 people! If you are not one of the lucky “few” to acquire a ticket to this year’s race I highly recommend hosting a Kentucky Derby viewing party of your own. Who can resist chilled drinks in fabulous silver cups and a reason to wear a gorgeous hat!

If you are considering hosting a Derby party, the following list can serve as your party planner check list. With just a little prep work your gathering will run smoothly and even better, be stress free!


Kentucky Derby Table ideas - mint Julep Cups with Kentucky Bourbon, Wedgwood Equestrian espresso cups and zesty pimento cheese 700x



1-3 Months Before – {this is a general timeline – don’t let it stop you from pulling together a last-minute gathering}

  • Check your local listing for television coverage schedule and timing. Ensure you will be able to view at your home or if you will need to host your party elsewhere.
  • Contact friends or relatives with a “Save the Date” email or call {or if you have time, surprise your friends with a mailed invitation – the Derby is a fun time to go all out formal}.
  • Determine attire and other requirements of guests {Dressy or Casual / Hats or No Hats} be sure to include this in your invitation wording.
  • Shop for your Kentucky Derby hat or wardrobe!
  • Pull out your julep cups, silver vases and any china or linens with an equestrian theme.
  • Purchase additional supplies and favors as needed.
  • Order official Kentucky Derby race day programs to be delivered to your home – believe it or not, this can be done through the official website and adds a fun touch.

2 Weeks Before Your Kentucky Derby Party

  • Create your race day menu – select recipes, develop your shopping list.

Suggested Kentucky Derby Menu ::

Zesty Pimento Cheese
Bourbon Bacon Deviled Eggs
The Perfect Kentucky Mint Julep
Spinach + Kale Bites with Hollandaise Sauce – {sign up for alerts}

  • Determine your race day bar offerings and recipes – check your stock and create a list spirits, mixers and garnishes needed.
  • Check the menu and bar list against your silver, china, serveware and linen collection. Purchase or borrow to fill.
  • Tally RSVP’s to finalize guest list and count.

1 Week Before Your Kentucky Derby Party

  • Create a Derby Party music playlist, of course it must include – “My Old Kentucky Home”
  • Shop for all menu items and bar offerings.
  • Order flowers to be delivered, if you do not intend to create your own display.

Kentucky Derby Table pimento Cheese with Mint Julep Equestrian on #KraylFunch (2) 750x


1 Day Before Your Kentucky Derby Party

  • Arrange your table top the night before – this allows you time to get ready but also to enjoy your display before guests arrive.
  • Create your flower centerpiece – traditionally Roses are the flower of choice but use what is fresh and available.
  • Prepare dips or other items that will hold {or improve} overnight.
  • Stock your bar with spirits, mixers and garnish – ensure you have plenty of mixers, glassware and water available for guests to stay hydrated, or for those not partaking in alcoholic beverages.

Kentucky Derby Party ideas. Min Julep cocktail recipes. Starting with fresh mint and silver mint julep cups. AnAppealingPlan 1000x

Kentucky Derby Table - @KraylFunch #AnAppealingPlan - 750x

Day Of – Kentucky Derby Race Day

  • Make or Purchase extra ice.
  • Finish preparing your menu items – place on table when ready.
  • Print out racing forms for guests to track their wins!
  • Pour yourself a Mint Julep and put on your party dress… and hat of course!
  • Welcome guests as they begin to arrive.
  • Tune in early for coverage of the undercard races and Red Carpet – that’s the best part right!?
  • Breathe and relax. You did it! Enjoy the race in style!

How are you celebrating?? Let me know in the comments! We love to hear how you are entertaining at home!


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