How to Celebrate the Kentucky Derby

how-to-celebrate-the kentucky derby | derby style | fascinator from nordstrom and dress from Chicwish | By, Hilary Rose Southern Blogger

how-to-celebrate-the- kentucky derby | derby style | fascinator from nordstrom and dress from Chicwish | By, Hilary Rose Southern Blogger

how-to-celebrate-the-kentucky derby | derby style | fascinator from nordstrom and dress from Chicwish | By, Hilary Rose Southern Blogger

how-to-celebrate-the-kentucky derby | derby style | fascinator from nordstrom and dress from Chicwish | By, Hilary Rose Southern Blogger

Fascinator | Dress | Shoes | Bag | Lip

The Kentucky Derby is about a month and a half away, and that means it’s almost time for fascinators, big hats, horses, and mint juleps! In my opinion, after to Easter, Derby Day is one of the most important Spring holidays. It’s such a fun and exciting day, and definitely one worth planning ahead of time for if you want to make the most of it.

It’s on my bucket list to attend the real Kentucky Derby one day, but there are so many other fun ways to celebrate wherever you are! Here is my recipe for the perfect Derby Day:

#1 Finding the Best Party

Think about the vibe you’re going for and do some research. If you want to go all-in, you’ll want to find a party where everyone else is in the same spirit. Find a party where Derby attire is recommended or required so that you can feel comfortable in your outfit. If the party you’re looking at has happened more than once, you can check their Facebook page and see if there are albums from previous years to see what people wore. Also make sure they have a setup so can watch the actual race! You won’t want to miss those exciting two minutes.

I’ll be attending the Victory Cup Polo Match again this year for Derby Day! I went last year and it was so much fun I just had to go back. Check out my Instagram, I’m giving away 2 tickets today (3/22).

#2 Hosting Your Own Party

If you plan on hosting a party, you can make sure everyone has a great time by applying all the guidelines you would use to find a great party. Make sure there is enough room for everyone to see your TV or projector setup for the race. Also, to ensure everyone is on the same page as far at attire, add guidelines on the invitation. It will make your guests feel more at ease to know exactly what to wear, and having everyone feel comfortable is the most important thing you can do when hosting a get-together. Even adding “hat required” for ladies is completely appropriate. Normally, you wouldn’t want to put forth such a strict rule for attire, but for a Derby party it makes sense. One thing you can do is have your friends or co-hosts bring their extra hats and leave them on a table at the entrance of the party for girls to use if they didn’t have one or forgot theirs. Also, you can make it even by requiring the gentlemen to wear bow ties!

If you plan on serving drinks, make sure the bourbon is flowing. The mint julep is the signature drink for the Kentucky Derby, and having them at your party will add a great touch.

{Mint Julep Recipe: 10 mint leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, crushed ice, 2 tablespoons of simple syrup, 2 1/2 oz. of Kentucky bourbon whiskey}

Make you sure also have non-alcoholic options for those who do not wish to drink. Bottled sparkling water or lemonade are great refreshing options for a day event like the Kentucky Derby. You can also make “mocktails” like sweet tea with mint or orange juice with sparkling flavored water.

For food, seafood dishes are popular for Derby Day; crawfish, pickled shrimp, and crab cakes are big fan favorites. I unfortunately am allergic to shellfish (womp womp) and so are others, so I would also add simple dishes with Southern flare like stuffed chicken wings, cheese straws, pork sliders, and mini pies. Have a mix of sweet and savory dishes, and making them bite-size is a great idea if you won’t have an abundance of seating or tables for your guests.

Finally, make sure there are other activities to entertain your guests during the time when the race is not going on. Like I mentioned, the race is only two minutes, so the majority of the party will not be revolved around the TV. Yard games like ladder golf, horseshoes, cornhole, or croquet will keep everyone entertained and social before and after the race.

#3 Finding Your Hat or Fascinator

You won’t enjoy the day unless you feel totally awesome in your Derby outfit, and that all starts with the hat. Some say you should pick your dress and then add your hat, but I disagree. I think there are way more options for dresses than hats, so finding your hat first is key. First, you must decide if you’re a hat or fascinator kind of gal. I think anyone can pull of a fabulous fascinator, but for the Derby newbie, you’ll probably feel more comfortable getting your feet wet with any oversized sun hat. Also, think about the weather for the day. If you really are going to be outside all day, a hat might be the more practical option because you can use it for its real function and protect your skin from the sun. I got very sunburned last year at my Kentucky Derby party, but my face was just fine because of my hat! Fascinators, on the other hand, can be a lot of fun and more unique. There are was more crazy awesome choices to help you really get into the spirit, so you just have to find what style best suits you.

As far as pricing, be ready to spend $25-$70 on the perfect hat. I have shopped near and far, and even on sale (which they usually won’t be this time of year anyway) I’ve never found a great hat less than $20. However, you can always wear them again or lend them to a friend. I’ve found that $45 is the sweet spot for pricing.

#4 Choosing Your Practical Accessories

For a long day, comfort is key, and if you’re going to be outside, it’s really important to think about your shoes. You might look adorable in a pair of stilettos, but they’re going to sink in the grass and it will really take away from the fun of the day. Consider wedges or chunky-heeled sandals, instead, so you can comfortably and confidently stomp some divots and play yard games. Also, if you plan on partaking in any of the yummy aforementioned finger food, you’ll want to have your hands free, so choose a bag with a strap instead of a clutch so you aren’t juggling. You’ll want to have a bag with enough room to keep some emergency items, too, such as travel-sized sunscreen, band aids, oil blotting pads, face powder, mints, and lipstick. Any time I’m going to a long party, especially one where I’ll be out in the sun, I make sure to keep things like this in my purse.

I hope this guide was helpful and that you now feel prepared to gear up for Derby Day!

Photos by: Brandon Hill

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