Here in Georgia, we’re just four weeks away from graduation. Last year, my babies — babies, I tell you! — graduated from elementary school. I need them to stop growing immediately. But of course, instead we celebrated with a mini elementary school graduation party.

Because their school colors were deep red and gold, and a colt was their mascot, you could copy much of this party decor for a Kentucky Derby Party. Here’s how I pulled it all together.Derby Inspired Graduation Party by The Party Teacher

Party Backdrop

The party started with me designing the party backdrop using PicMonkey. I don’t usually do my own design, but I spotted a look I loved on Etsy, and the shop owner never got back to me about customizing for our colors. I designed the backdrop, then sent off the image file to for printing. The vinyl banner had grommets that made it easy to hang from two 3M Command Strip Hooks. Then, I just disguised the hooks with the gold tissue fans.

But, of course, I had to dress up the tissue fans, too! So I ordered a gold glitter tassel from Amazon, cut it in half, and attached it to the tissue fan with some clear packing tape. I added a dark red bow to anchor the tassel to the tissue fans.

Dessert Table Decor

The dessert table itself was easy peasy to put together. I started by shopping at home:

  • White tablecloth
  • Gold glitter table runner and ribbon (Left over from my Country Music Karaoke Party.)
  • White cake stands and tray
  • Horse shoe (Because everyone has horseshoes just laying around – right? No? Just me?)
  • Round, gold place mats that I bought for another party and then never used
  • American Girl Doll-sized horse, pulled from our playroom

I just attached the gold glitter ribbon with glue dots to the cake stands to dress them up a bit. The glue dots peel right off when you’re done.

Dress Up a Simple Cake = Save Money

While elementary school graduation was something to celebrate, for sure, It wasn’t a party I was willing to spend a small fortune on. So that meant limiting our dessert table to a few favorite treats and then dressing them up to look more custom. (Psst: it’s one of my favorite party-on-a-budget tips.)

I had a local bakery make a cake, but kept the design extremely simple. It’s buttercream frosted (instead of fondant sculpted), except for a fondant plaque with the girls’ names. To the cake, I added two toppers:

  1. Tassels that I strung on embroidery floss and hung between two gold straws.
  2. A gold painted horse wearing his own mortar board from Half Pint Fauna. I stinking love him.

Dessert Table Treats

Along with our funfetti cake (the girls’ choice), we had chocolate and vanilla cupcakes and mortar board sugar cookies.

The cupcakes I popped in white candy cups, which I much prefer to cupcake liners. They are so much sturdier and taller than cupcake wrappers. But my cupcake topper inspiration came true via Zazzle. All I did was to import another graduation design that I created on PicMonkey, and I had round stickers delivered to my house in days. It doesn’t get easier than sticking a sticker on a lollipop stick and plopping that in a cupcake.

But because I’m all about layering on the cute, I also ordered gold fondant horseshoes from Kandy Koncepts, and added them to the base of each cupcake.

For cookies, I almost always turn to Guilty Confections, and of course, she did not disappoint with these mortar board sugar cookies.

Here’s an overhead shot of our super-simple dessert table, so you can get a feel for the layout.


Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you how I layered up this place setting. But for now, here’s the finished look.

I loooove using plate clings from Create UR Plate. You just purchase their glass or plastic plates (I like glass), and then choose a cling design. You also can upload your own design, which is what I did. The clings are removeable and reusable.

I painted a touch of gold on some bamboo forks and then topped gold straws with black horse heads cut from my Silhouette Cameo.

Soda is always a special treat in our family. I wrapped our sodas in gold glitter Duck Tape and then topped them with more of the circle stickers.


I’ll have a centerpiece tutorial of this later this week, but my horse centerpiece was inspired by the girl’s school mascot and the Kentucky Derby. A wreath of roses is the classic Derby look. All you really have to do is to snip off the heads of faux roses and then sew a long garland together.

I set the horse on a gold-painted tray and added some faux ranunculus around the base.

And just because I love individual floral arrangements, each place setting also featured a mini loving cup topped with faux roses. (Here’s a tutorial.) Disclaimer: I’m from the South and while real flowers are great and everything, but we loooove our fake flowers. They are perfect for kids parties because you can make them ahead of time and for a casual event, no one is going to turn up her nose at your fakes.

Anyone worried about a tall centerpiece blocking the view of your table mates? Nah.

And here are my little graduates, opening their gifts (water balloons and movie theater-sized candy — a direct line to their 11-year-old hearts).

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Get the 12 worksheets I use to plan all my parties!

Plus, you'll get all the latest blog posts from The Party Teacher.

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