Are you thinking of throwing a Kentucky Derby party? If you’re hoping to celebrate the most exciting two minutes in sports but don’t know where to start – this is your one-stop shop for inspiration and ideas.

Hello! We are throwing a surprise Kentucky Derby themed party for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday, and we’re inviting you.  

kentucky derby party

You know I love a party. So, when my sweet mother-in-law had a birthday coming up, my sisters-in-law and I put our heads together to come up with a way to celebrate her AND her birthday. Terry (my MIL) is a Kentucky girl and grew up on a horse farm – how cool is that?! My Sister-in-law had a fabulous idea to throw her a surprise Kentucky Derby themed party, and we all agreed. It was only fitting that we pull out the big hats and the bowties to celebrate her big day!

Ideas for hosting a cheer-worthy Kentucky Derby Party 

*This post contains affiliate links for your convenience

We embraced the theme fully. You can check out my Pinterest Board for all of the fun ideas I came across!


Derby Party- Invite

To keep it simple (and secret), we created a Facebook event to manage the guest and RSVP list.  I created an invitation graphic and posted it in the group in printable form for those who prefer a printable invitation.  We were still able to set the tone of the party by using the digital invite but without the hassle of a paper invitation – bonus: ease of an online solution.



In keeping with the theme, we asked our guests to wear fancy, derby hats and bowties. I think everyone had fun with the idea! 

kentucky derby party - all the hats

kentucky derby party - all of us

For fun, I made a few fascinators and decorated a few floppy hats.


Click here for the tutorial on how I made the fascinators (hint: I used a paper plate and deco mesh). They were not only simple to make and super inexpensive, but most of all they were fun!

Kentucky Derby Party - fascintators



To give us a southern country feel, we used a myriad of gingham and floral patterns, with accents of black and white stripes. I used my Cricut Diecut machine to cut out the horseshoe and the racing horse silhouettes. These accents brought the theme home in a simple way.


Kentucky Derby Party - Floral Centerpiece - Dining Room

Kentucky Derby Party - Floral Centerpiece - Kitchen

My Mother-in-Law’s birthday is at the end of March when there aren’t a plethora of flowers around. To bring spring to us, we decorated with extra large tissue and other flowers in abundance. I’ll have a tutorial up for how we made them shortly and will link back when I do. 

Kentucky Derby Party - flowers on fireplace

The cupcake toppers and food labels carried on the theme in florals and hand-lettering script.

Kentucky Derby Party - Dessert table

Kentucky Derby Party - Derby Pie Squares

The floral chandelier was the perfect centerpiece for my spring table, and I was so excited to get to use it again in this setting. It might even look more beautiful on my Sister-in-law’s grand chandelier.


Kentucky Derby Party - Floral Chandelier Wreath



We used this porcelain dinnerware from World Market. I love that it comes in its own space-saving tray – great for storing between events.


The food was straightforward and inexpensive to make, perfect for a crowd, and fit our theme. The menu included:

Kentucky Derby Party - hot brown casserole

  • Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole  – I followed this recipe almost exactly, but used turkey deli meat instead of roasted turkey to save on time, along with crisped turkey bacon as that was what I had in the house.
  • Pulled Pork with Slaw
  • Potato Salad
  • Crudites Tray (Fancy for veggies)
  • Chicken nuggets – kids love ’em!
  • Fruit tray
  • Pimento Dip and crackers – OMG – SO good and rave reviews from the Kentucky natives.

Kentucky Derby Party - pimento cheese

Dessert included:

Kentucky Derby Party - Dessert table

Kentucky Derby Party - cupcake

Kentucky Derby Party - Derby Pie Squares

Kentucky Derby Party - cake


A must-have at a derby party, along with the basics like water and soda, we served mint juleps with a twist – strawberry mint julep punch to be exact. We also had all of the fixings for the Oaks Lily cocktail – the official drink of the of the Kentucky Oaks, the premier race for 3-year-old female horses that they’ve held each year on the day before the Kentucky Derby since 1875. And no, I did not know that – Google told me – but now we both do.

Kentucky Derby Party - punch

A self-serve drink table made beverage service easy, as did a multi-purpose punch. This drink recipe card was close by for those who wanted to add a bit of a zip – aka: bourbon – to their punch. The cocktail recipe card is part of the printables kit I created for the party – it will be available for download shortly!

Kentucky Derby Party - drink recipe card

I would have loved to serve our mint julep punch in silver julep cups, but that was a little out of our budget. Instead, we went with a silver-topped disposable cup – a similar look within our budget.

Kentucky Derby Party - silver rimmed glass


Inspired by Kentucky Derby Party ideas I found while researching for this one, I borrowed bits and pieces from those parties to make this Derby themed photo backdrop, and props.


Kentucky Derby Party - prop backdrop

The horse balloons were one of my favorite props – I like how they set the scene and the kids LOVED them.

Kentucky Derby Party - horse baby

Our photo backdrop is made from a paper tablecloth that we embellished, then hung on a rolling garment rack.

I used my Cricut to cut out the photo prop shapes, then, added scraps of ribbon and other fun craft-leftovers to bring them to life.

Kentucky Derby Party - props in bucket



The party was a huge success!

Kentucky Derby Party - decor shadow box

Our guests were such good sports, and everyone took their turn posing in the photo area.

Kentucky Derby Party - props in action 2

Kentucky Derby Party - props in action 1Our Birthday Girl had NO idea what we were planning – A perfectly executed surprise party!

Derby Party - arriving

I think she was as excited as we were when she arrived to find all the family and treasured friends coming out just for her. I think she (and our guests) had a fabulous time – nearly as much as if we’d been at the actual Kentucky Derby. But that is another party!

a_happy birthday terry

derby party the whole gang

rather buy than diy

Like this post? Enter your email address to get access to our freebie area and monthly newsletter! It’s non-stop Knock it Off Kim fun!

* indicates required

Email Format



  1. Stephanie on May 25, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Oh it looks like so much fun. I really enjoyed your party through pictures. These are so beautiful.

    • Kim on May 25, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      I’m so glad, Stephanie! It was SUCH a fun party – our birthday girl had the best time, which is the most important thing! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment – that always makes my day. 🙂

Leave a Comment