A Thrifted and Budget Friendly Table for the Kentucky Derby

It’s tablescape day for my dinner club and the theme this month was so fun!!
I can’t wait to show you a thrifted and budget friendly table for the Kentucky Derby.

I have been wanting to create a tablescape for Derby Day for a couple of years, so I started keeping a look out for things I could use for this table when I have been thrifting.

white dinner plate stacked with white salad plate folded napkin on top and gold horseshoe on blue and white check placemat and mint julep cup beside plate for Kentucky Derby place setting

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dinner club table inspiration

If you are new here, let me explain about my virtual dinner club.

About three years ago, 5 of my blogger friends and I started a virtual dinner club.

Every other month we have a theme and we each create a table scape to go along with our theme.

We share our table ideas and inspiration on the last Thursday of the month.

We also create a menu to go along with our theme and we take turns with different courses of the dinner.

There is typically an appetizer, cocktail, main course, side dish, and a dessert and we share the recipes on the last Saturday of the month.

I have such a good time getting creative with our themes and seeing all of the ideas everyone comes up with.

If you have missed our past tablescapes, you can see a few of my favorites by clicking the photo.

And now, let’s talk about a thrifted and budget friendly table for the Kentucky Derby!!

Kentucky Derby themed table inspiration

I always like to start any tablescape with an inspiration or focal point piece.

This gives me a good starting point and direction for the design of my table.

For the Derby themed table, I began thinking about all the things that came to my mind that I associated with the Kentucky Derby race.

The obvious things were horses, hats, flowers, trophies, and mint juleps.

I made a list of some of these things I wanted to keep an eye out for when I was thrifting or garage sale shopping.

I also scoured my home for things I already had on hand that I could use.

The silver mint julep cups were fairly easy to find, and I also started finding plastic toy horses in the toy section of thrift store.

Some of the toy horses were bright colors or had bright color mane and tail, but some brown spray paint was an easy transformation.

I really wanted a horse trophy and that one was a bit more difficult. I would find lots of trophies at thrift shops, but they were typically baseball or soccer trophies.

Finally, I ran across one, and it was only a few dollars.

Then I spotted a vase that resembled a cup type trophy. I grabbed it up, even though it was in a colorful pattern because the shape was perfect and it was only $3.

A can of matte gold spray paint I already had on hand made a quick makeover and the vase became the “trophy” vase I was looking for.

kentucky derby table centerpiece decor

Since the Kentucky Derby is somewhat of a formal event, I decided to use a white tablecloth on my dining table for this table setting.

I don’t typically use tablecloths, but on occasion I will.

Lately, I have been finding some really cute tablecloths and I have enjoyed mixing patterns and prints for table settings for a change.

Artificial grass/turf placemats that I already had were perfect to use down the middle of the table as a base for my centerpiece decor. I lined a few of them end to end to create a grass table runner.

I started with the trophy cup that I spray painted gold, and placed it on a stack of vintage books to create a little height for my focal point centerpiece.

A bundle of $5 bright orange roses from the grocery store was the perfect floral arrangement for the center of this Kentucky Derby tablescape.

Next, I placed a horseshoe shaped flower arrangement on one side of the vase of flowers and the horse trophy on the other side.

I made the horseshoe shaped decor and I will share the DIY details later in this post.

I elevated the horse trophy on a vintage book, as well, to add different levels and heights along the center of the table.

Those thrifted horses were placed randomly along the grass runner and around the other table decor.

horse race place setting decor

I recently bought a roll of blue checked table runner paper at Homegoods for $3.99. I didn’t end up using it for the project I had in mind, so it came in handy for placemats for this Southern style Kentucky Derby table.

Something about blue gingham checks just says “southern” to me.

The table runner paper was already the perfect width so I just cut 6 pieces about 20″ wide to make the place mats.

Thrifted white dinner plates were layered with a thrifted white salad plate at each place setting.

And a set of beautiful embroidered linen napkins I found at a thrift store several years ago were perfect for my southern Kentucky Derby table.

A horseshoe topped each napkin instead of using napkin rings. I found these at an antique store for $2 each.

They were very rusty, and that didn’t really fit the look of my table, so I spray painted them gold with leftover gold spray paint.

An obligatory silver mint julep cup was placed beside each plate. Because, you can’t have a Kentucky Derby party without a mint julep made with Kentucky bourbon and fresh mint!

By the way, did you see my recipe for a traditional mint julep with a lemonade twist on Tuesday??  

Lastly, I hung a fancy hat on the back of each chair. I borrowed a few of these from my granddaughter’s dress up box and the other 2 were, you guessed it, thrifted for a few dollars each!

horseshoe shaped floral decor

For the horseshoe shaped floral decor, I used a cardboard letter “U” I bought for $4.99 from Hobby Lobby.

I cut it in half across the bottom then laid it out more in the shape of a horse shoe.

Then, I used some posterboard and packing tape to put it together.

I cut a strip of the posterboard the width of the U shape and taped it along both sides of the “U” where I had cut it apart.

Next, I filled it with floral foam that I already had. You could fill it with stirofoam or even crumpled up paper. The idea is just to fill the cavity of the U-shape so the flowers don’t fall down inside.

I have a stash of silk flowers leftover from other projects and I bought a few more stems from the dollar store.

I pulled the blooms off the stems and just started sticking them into the floral foam. A few of them were hot glued if they didn’t have a long enough stem to stick into the foam.

The entire inside of the horse shoe shape was covered and I also covered the sides.

This project was pretty quick and easy and finished off my centerpiece for a horse race themed table.

horseshoe shaped floral decor for table centerpiece for derby party

other ideas and variations for a derby day table

If you’re looking for other ways to create a thrifted and budget friendly table for the Kentucky Derby, you might like these ideas…

If you don’t have turf or faux grass placemats, you can use a moss table runner or a piece of turf cut the size you want.

I have even cut a piece of turf to fit the entire top of my table for a golf themed table setting.

Checked wrapping paper or card stock would work for placemats. Just cut the size you want to use at each place setting.

Or a checked tablecloth in place of a white one would be cute, then just omit the placemats.

Silver or gold chargers instead of placemats would also be great options for this table theme.

Any derby or horse race themed item on top of each plate would be cute.

I used horse shoes because I found inexpensive ones, but you could use small toy horses, a single silk flower bloom, or download free printables from Etsy that is horse race betting card.

And a collection of horse-related decor would work for your table centerpiece decor. 

Kentucky Derby party ideas

A derby party is the perfect occasion to get dressed up.  Invite your close friends and encourage them to wear suits, dresses, big hats and bow ties.  This is a great way to make your derby party an even more exciting event and create a fun atmosphere.

Wouldn’t a hat contest be such fun for a Kentucky Derby party?
Another fun idea is to have your guests make a guess at the winning horse and have a prize for the winner.

2 place settings of white dinner plate stacked with white salad plate folded napkin on top and gold horseshoe on blue and white check placemat and mint julep cup beside plate for Kentucky Derby dinner table

Kentucky Derby fun facts

Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and is traditionally held the first Saturday in May.

The Kentucky Derby is one of three races in the Triple Crown along with Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

Kentucky Derby is also referred to as ‘The Run for the Roses’ because the winner is awarded a blanket sewn with over 400 fresh red roses.

The first race was held in 1875.

Starting Kentucky Derby posts #5 and #10 have proven to be the luckiest. Riders assigned to those posts have won more times than any of the other starting lanes.

And the last fun fact is this year’s Kentucky Derby winner will receive $3.1 million dollars!!  Last year the winner received $1.86 million. 

budget friendly Kentucky Derby table setting with white dinner plate stacked with white salad plate folded napkin on top and gold horseshoe on blue and white check placemat and mint julep cup beside each plate strip of turf down center of table with 3 toy horses cup trophy with roses horse trophy for centerpiece

I hope you enjoyed seeing a thrifted and budget friendly table for the Kentucky Derby.

Be sure and pop over and see my friends derby tablescapes for lots of ideas and inspiration for hosting your own event.

And check back on Saturday for our menu filled with recipes for wonderful food for a Kentucky Derby party.


michele signature
white dinner plate stacked with white salad plate folded napkin on top and gold horseshoe mint julep cup beside plate for Kentucky Derby place setting


  1. RACHEL HARPER says:

    Your Kentucky Derby Table is amazing. I love all the hats and horses.

    1. Thank you Rachel! This was such a fun table theme!

    1. Oh, thanks so much Kassie! I really appreciate that and I’m so glad you like it.

  2. I love your Derby table, Michele! The hat at each chair is such a great addition!

    1. Thanks so much Kim! I’m so glad you liked it.

  3. Love your creative table, Michele. Think I just picked up some plates like yours-do they have fruit in the middle? I loved the textured edge.

    1. Yes, they do! I wish I could find more. This was only a set of 4. And thank you for the kind words about my table!

  4. I love the Kentucky Derby. Your table is wonderful. You always have the best ideas.

    1. Oh, thank you so much Renae! I really appreciate that! Have a lovely week!

  5. Your table is stunning, Michele! I love your horseshoe floral centerpiece. SO creative! You knocked this Derby party theme out of the park!

    1. Oh, thanks so much Jen! It was a really fun theme!

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