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How to Throw the Perfect Kentucky Derby Themed Party

You may not live in the South—but that doesn't mean you can't take part in the country's most famous horse racing event. From dapper decor to fresh mint juleps, here's everything you need for a Kentucky Derby themed party.

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Hang a Ribbon Banner

A gorgeous garland like this one from Design Improvised will set the scene for your Southern soiree. The best part? It’s so easy to make yourself—all you need is a bunch of festive fans (find them at a party store or a place like Target), ribbon and a hole punch. And you’re off!

Still planning your Derby Day menu? We have the best recipes picked out for you.

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Bake Mini Derby Pies

This take on the traditional Derby dessert is part pecan pie, part chocolate chip cookie—and 100% deliciousness. For a boozy bite, add a dollop of homemade bourbon whipped cream on top.

Psst: If you’ve never made whipped cream from scratch before, follow this step-by-step guide.

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Make a Rose Wreath

Fun fact: The rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904, thanks to the garland that’s famously draped around the winning horse. Welcome your guests to your “Run for the Roses” party with a bright red wreath, like this one from She’s Kinda Crafty, hanging on the door. Prefer to eat your winnings? Try our recipe for chocolate-dipped strawberry meringue roses.

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Set Up a Mint Julep Bar

No Kentucky Derby party is complete without a mint julep. (Get the recipe.) And what better way to serve the signature sip than with an adorable build-your-own bar with instructions from our friends at Pizzazzerie. Set up a tea cart with bourbon, simple syrup and a variety of mix-ins including fresh mint and fruit.

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A group of fashionable well dressed women pose whilst enjoying the social atmosphere at Market Rasen Races Ladies DayMick Atkins/Shutterstock

Host a Hat Contest

Channel your inner Southern belle and don a chic chapeau. (The more over-the-top, the better!) Ask your guests to do the same and vote on categories like “Fanciest Hat” or “Best Homemade Hat.” After all, big brims are to horse racing as these recipes are to Kentucky.

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Derby Hot BrownsTaste of Home

Serve Hot Brown Sliders

If there’s one thing that people below the Mason Dixon line know how to do, it’s comfort food. Like the classic Kentucky Brown that inspired these savory sliders, covered in melted cheese and topped with bacon. Pair ’em with one (or more!) of the best Kentucky Derby appetizers.

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Set the Table With First Place FlowersCourtesy Hostess with the Mostess

Set the Table With First Place Flowers

The horses won’t be the only ones #winning on Saturday thanks to these celebratory centerpieces designed by Hostess with the Mostess. Snag an inexpensive plastic trophy, then simply set a bundle of bright blooms inside.

Want more pretty party inspo? Try your hand at one of these 12 crafty centerpieces.

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Paper pieces for lottery and glass jar on gray tableNew Africa/Shutterstock

Bet on the Horses

All bets are off on when race day rolls around! Have everyone drop a piece of paper in a mason jar with their name on it and the horse they think will win. After the race, check the names, and gift anyone who chose the champion one of these perfect party favors.

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Serve Stable-Inspired Sweets

There’s no horsing around when it comes to crafting these cute cookies—and no baking either. It just takes a little assembling. The “face” is actually a Milano cookie with a Nilla wafer for the “nose.” If you’re looking for something more homemade, whip up one of these decadent Derby day desserts.

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Fold Bow Tie Napkins

Who says bow ties are just for the gentlemen? These preppy place settings are as adorable as they are easy to make—simply tie a grosgrain ribbon around the center of a napkin to cinch it together, then fan out the edges. You can try one of these seven fancy folds, too.

Amanda Tarlton
As both a freelance lifestyle writer and editor for a national teen magazine, Amanda spends most of her time creating #content. In those (rare) moments when she's not at her desk typing furiously, she's likely teaching a hot yoga class, reading the latest chick-lit or baking a batch of her famous scones.

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