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Hosting an Elegant Kentucky Derby at a Historical Estate with Friends

Hosting anything at my dear friend and fellow blogger’s beautiful historical estate in Phoenix is such a dream! It is like I have been give the go-ahead to play in a beautiful setting, styling tables in the orchard or decorating one of her many fireplaces for the seasons. I had planned on joining some fellow bloggers at Mary’s Bella Terra a few weeks ago to join in and have an early Derby day party so we could share the inspiration with all of you early enough that you could use some of our ideas for your own Kentucky Derby celebration. Alas, sometimes life gets in the way and changes our plans beyond our control. I was unable to make the trip, but I packed up a box of the things I had planned on taking, shipped it off and encouraged the ladies to have fun putting it all together!

The Estate:

The front porch of Bella Terra is a wonderful spot to relax in a rocking chair and take in the natural beauty surrounding this placid residence.

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There are so many gorgeous little details throughout the grounds of the estate, I couldn’t possibly share them all here.

The Party Setting:

Guests will be greeting in the orchard with a table of delectable appetizers and a chilled glass of Champagne. This would be my choice over a Mint Julep, although it will certainly be the signature cocktail of the event since it is the signature of the Kentucky Derby. Did you know the Mint Julep began as a medicinal concoction to soothe the stomach? It was not until 1983 when the potion became the official drink of the Derby. Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. That bourbon and fresh mint along with lots of crushed ice make for that famous drink. Get ready to celebrate come the first Saturday in May and have friends gather for a good time.

Here in our first glimpse of the table, you can see the fresh red roses arranged artfully in the classic mint julep cups. I had selected this black and white harlequin patterned tablecloth because it reminded me of the creative patterns seen on the jockey’s silks.

I was particularly pleased with how this horse head centerpiece turned out. I first imagined this as a ‘wreath’ to hang on the front door to welcome guests to the party, but as it came together I knew it would be a stunning centerpiece. Here it is displayed on a dining table, but it would really be a standout on a buffet table. If you would like to fashion your own, you can read all of the details at How to make a Kentucky Derby Centerpiece.

Beautiful silk roses were used to make this customized napkin rings. They are complemented by Mary’s beautiful embroidered napkins. A green grass runner down the center of the table suggests the inner grassy area around which the track runs at Churchill Downs.

Beautiful early May weather is a wonderful time to celebrate spring and the derby festivities in Louisville, or wherever you may be!

Waterford Champagne flutes await arriving guests. It is always nice to greet guests with a lovely toast with a chilled glass of Champagne!

Of course, any celebration of the Derby has to include over the top hats! The tradition of hats at the Louisville event was actually started with the first race back in 1875. Meriwether Clark, the race’s founder wanted to make sure the race had a good crowd. He looked to the British racing traditions where attendees dressed to the nines. According to the Kentucky Derby Museum “He loaded up a wagon full of high society women and they were going door-to-door telling their friends, ‘We’re going to have a picnic at the racetrack,’”. And it worked! The wealthy class poured into the stadium in their finest, as a place to see and be seen.” Of course those ladies donned their fancy hats and headed out ready to make it a glamorous party.

Light appetizers and crudites were served at our little get together. There are so many foods that are time-honored tied to the Derby. Look for recipes for Kentucky Hot Browns, Benedictine Spread, Pimento Cheese Sandwiches and Derby Pie!

Get ready for race day with the ideas and inspiration I have shared here!

Mary is ready to serve up the bubbly and celebrate! She is dressed in classic Derby style, pastels and florals make a perfect choice for the fashionable Derby attendees.

My dear friends held it all together in my absence, here they are decked out in their derby hats. These wonderful ladies are Andrea, Mary and Chas. You can follow all of their blogs at Design Morsels, Life at Bella Terra and Chas’ Crazy Creations. I hope you have found inspiration in this Kentucky Derby day celebration and don your best attire, pick out your favorite horses and enjoy the best part of any occasion to gather with friends and family.


Supplies for the tablescape:

Horse head centerpiece
Harlequin tablecloth
Faux grass table runner
DIY red rose napkin rings

All photography by Emily Suipot of Cozy Clicks in Phoenix.

More sources for your derby party:

Make the red rose napkin rings
A more casual derby party
How to make a horse head centerpiece

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  1. Chloe, we so missed you at our gathering, but you were certainly there in spirit! Your horse head centerpiece, the gorgeous napkin rings, tablecloth, grass runner made the table so beautiful and elegant. Thanks for sharing the pictures and your creative talents made this an amazing photo shoot possible.

  2. I’m so sorry you had to miss this fun Chloe, but thank you for sharing what went on! I have been hosting Kentucky Derby parties the past few years, so much fun! I am hoping to have one this year also, it will be much more casual, but I do love your horse head centerpiece, stunning!

  3. That’s just not fair that you couldn’t be there to share in all the creativity you made and sent! But, I totally understand all that’s been going on, and at least they made you proud with their presentation. 🙂

  4. Your contributions to this amazing Kentucky Derby party were inspiring Chloe. The head of the horse was such an incredible detail. So sorry you weren’t able to attend. Wish I had been there that night as well. It was all so lovely.

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