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Run for the Roses: Styling the Perfect Kentucky Derby Tablescape

Get ready to impress your guests with a Kentucky Derby tablescape that’s sure to steal the show! From floral arrangements to color palettes, we have everything you need to create an elegant and unforgettable Kentucky Derby dinner party.

Have you ever attended the Kentucky Derby?

Or maybe a Derby Day Party?

We haven’t done either so we thought it would be a super fun idea to host a Kentucky Derby dinner party.

I’ll help you create excitement, elegance, and Southern charm for your gathering with simple and attainable ideas.

Classic elements like horseshoes and roses mixed with antique favorites will help you set a beautiful tablescape your guests will adore.

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Welcome to Our Virtual Dinner Party

You may be asking yourself what a virtual dinner or supper club actually is.

Back in 2021, we started this club with our friends Stacy, Rachel, Jen, and Michele.

We share ideas and inspiration for entertaining at home.

Since we live in different parts of the country (Texas, Nebraska, New Jersey, and North Carolina), we can’t get together in person.

Our virtual supper club is the next best thing to being together but one day we hope to be able to do this together in person!

We all choose a different theme and share beautiful tablescapes, party decor, entertaining ideas, and recipes on our blogs.

And even though we call ourselves a dinner club, we’ve shared ideas for breakfasts, brunches, luncheons, and cocktail parties too.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed that our theme is all about the Kentucky Derby!

We’re sharing beautiful tablescapes, party ideas, and a delicious Derby Day menu.

And just wait until you see all of our friend’s gorgeous tables at the end of this post!

Check out all of our virtual dinner club tablescapes and menus!

Some of the items used in this post include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no added cost to you. You can read our full affiliate disclosure policy here.

The History of the Kentucky Derby

AnnMarie and Anne wearing black fancy hats holding mint juleps in front of azalea bushes

Did you know the Kentucky Derby has the longest history of any sporting event in the United States? 

The first Kentucky Derby was on May 17, 1875, so this year’s race marks the 150th Anniversary!

It’s always run on the first Saturday in May and is a 1-1/4 mile race.

The actual race only lasts about two minutes which is why it’s said to be, “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

There’s certainly a lot of excitement and anticipation for a sport that is over so quickly.

printable sign in frame beside antique pewter pitcher filled with mini white roses

Kentucky Derby Fun Facts:

  • Only 3-year-old horses are allowed to race.
  • The official flower of the Kentucky Derby is a red rose.
  • The event is called “The Run for the Roses” because the winner is crowned with a garland of red roses.
  • The garland consists of 554 red roses which represents the renewal of life and endurance to win such an event.
  • The trophy is made of 14-karat gold on a jade base.
  • The official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the mint julep.
  • Dressing up and wearing ornate hats began when the race started being televised in the 1960s
Kentucky Derby Party customizable free templates

How to Create a Beautiful Kentucky Derby Table Centerpiece

white roses in vintage amber bottles on long wood tray in middle of table

I always like to start styling my tablescapes with the centerpiece and work out from that point.

It’s important to remember scale and balance when designing a centerpiece so that it doesn’t overwhelm the table.

My long wood tray is a great base to use as it’s slim so it doesn’t take much space on the table which allows plenty of room for place settings.

Of course, my centerpiece had to include roses but instead of using the traditional red roses of the Kentucky Derby, I decided to use white roses.

close up of vintage amber bottle with white rose stem for Kentucky derby tablescape design

I bought a big bunch of 24 white roses from Costco for only $18.99…what a great price!

When I got them they were a bit smooshed looking…I mean what do I expect for that price?

But with a bit of fluffing, they looked stunning.

We’ll be sharing our trick to get roses to open up quickly and look gorgeous over on social media so be sure you’re following us there.

close up of white rose stems in vintage amber bottles lined up in middle of table

I pulled out my collection of vintage amber glass bottles and arranged them along the wood tray.

Then I added the roses to each antique bottle.

Some fit only one rose but others could accommodate two or even three roses in the bottle.

I really liked the variation in the design.

Lastly, I finished up the centerpiece by placing small glass candle votive jars in between the amber bottles.

Every table centerpiece needs a bit of ambiance that only candlelight can provide.

How to Style Place Settings for a Kentucky Derby Dinner Party

dinner party place setting with horseshoe and place card

My style is always a simple design with a touch of rustic charm.

Elegant but easy and attainable…nothing too formal or fancy.

When styling the place settings for my Kentucky Derby tablescape I used many items I already had on hand.

My everyday plain white dishes paired with my wedding silverware (which I rarely use) create a nice casual elegant look.

The rustic wood chargers and faux eucalyptus leaf placemats bring beautiful natural elements to the tablescape.

A pretty sage green cloth napkin softens the look and breaks up the white salad and dinner plates.

silver horseshoe as place card holder on top of plate on dining table for derby party

The horseshoes are a unique addition to the table and perfect for a horse racing theme.

I found this set of 10 cast iron horseshoes on Amazon.

The horseshoes add charm to each place setting and create a fun place to add customized name place cards.

close up of printable place card tied with organza ribbon on horse shoe

I created this place card design so you can personalize your tablescape for your derby day party.

To tie the name card to the horseshoe first punch a tiny hole in the top corner and then use a 3/8″ organza white ribbon.

So simple!

Click here to get started customizing your place cards.

What to Serve at a Horse Racing Themed Party?

Kentucky Derby tablescape on white wood dining table surrounded by white ladderback chairs

We’ve come up with a delicious menu that includes an appetizer, main entree, side dish, dessert, and a cocktail that’s perfect for any derby day event.

Here are a few more ideas:

  • bourbon-glazed ham
  • fried chicken
  • pimento cheese
  • Benedictine spread
  • deviled eggs
  • grits
  • biscuits
  • Derby pie
  • and of course, mint juleps!
close up of airplane bottle of bourbon next to stainless steel cup with mint julep

Since mint juleps are the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby I set my table with stainless steel julep cups and a mini bottle of bourbon for my guests.

If guests would rather keep their mint julep alcohol free they can enjoy a mocktail while dining.

How to Capture the Derby Spirit?

view of dining room with table in middle styled for Kentucky derby party

Create an immersive Derby experience beyond the table and decorate the rest of the party space.

Greenery and flowers throughout the dining room bring a fresh and festive vibe to your dinner party.

Keep the party color scheme cohesive with the decor of your room.

As you can see red roses wouldn’t have coordinated well with the area rug in my dining room so a white and green color scheme was a better option.

vintage pewter bowl filled with Kentucky derby printable betting cards on table

Capture the spirit of the race by hosting a friendly betting pool.

Customize and print a list of the horse names of the year then pop it in a frame to display for everyone.

close up of place your bet printable cards

Print out our “Place Your Bets” cards so guests can have fun betting on their favorite horses.

I placed a stack of cards with pens in an antique pewter bowl beside the list of horses to bet on.

printable party sign for Kentucky derby event

On the opposite side of the console buffet table, another sign in a matching wood frame adds more to the overall theme of the dinner party.

A vintage pewter pitcher is filled with mini roses on top of an antique brick mold.

I love the mix of old and new, rustic and elegant for a horse racing party theme.

Click below to get all the printables I created for my Kentucky Derby tablescape and dinner party.

Kentucky Derby Party customizable free templates

More Simply2Moms’ Tablescape Ideas:

Check out all of our virtual dinner club tablescapes and menus!

More Kentucky Derby Tablescape Ideas from Our Friends

Be sure to click each of the blog names below the photos to get even more inspiration for your Run for the Roses table.

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

Don’t miss any of our tips, tricks, or stories! We’d love for you to follow us on social media! You can find us on TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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