Giddy up! | How to Host a Melbourne Cup Party

The Melbourne Cup is just about the only day of the year where it is universally acceptable across Australia to host a party during the working day. It truly is the race that stops the nation. But, more importantly, it is the race that gives everyone the opportunity to host or attend a party!
For some people it is all about getting tickets to the best party in town. For others it is about taking the opportunity to host an exclusive event for their top clients and staff. For the rest of us it can often simply be about throwing a few bets down and heading to the boardroom to drink champagne and nibble on some cheese and crackers.
Whatever you prefer, we’re here to help you celebrate Melbourne Cup in style! Whether you are planning an exclusive event or organising an office party with pizazz, check out our top tips and advice below. You can also view a selection of great ticketed Melbourne Cup events hosted at our fabulous venues on our central special and events page.

Hosting an exclusive Melbourne Cup event – everything you need to know!

Hosting an exclusive Melbourne Cup event can be a fantastic way for you to engage with your key clients and reward staff. The colour, excitement and frivolity gives you a chance to have some fun and network on a personal level. Here are a few key elements you need to consider in order to be the host with the most on Melbourne Cup Day!

1. Finding The Perfect Venue

Finding an available venue to hire exclusively on Melbourne Cup day can be tricky, as many venues and restaurants use their event spaces to host ticketed events on the day. However, there are some hidden gems still to be found that are perfect for Melbourne Cup events.

When looking for a venue we recommend one with natural daylight to give your event that spring day feeling. Choose a space with elegant features or one with a blank canvas feel so you can create your ideal racing atmosphere. Lastly, it’s best to check they have access to TV reception before confirming – more on that important point below!
Need some further help looking for the ideal venue for Melbourne Cup? Then get in touch with our team, we know a few special venues with availability (

2. Styling – Create That Racing Carnival Atmosphere

Styling an event around horse racing is easy and fun. 
The colour palette is unlimited – think of all those bright colours featured on the jockey’s shirts and spectator’s frocks! However, we suggest keeping it to one or two bright colours, paired with ever-so-stylish black or clean white. Too many colours can make an event space look busy and cluttered. Let your guests add further colour with their frocks, ties, socks and fascinators!
Horse décor & decals are an obvious choice, as is lots of florals, bunting and luxe details. Horse racing is the sport of kings, so a sense of sophistication is definitely the way to go.
Check out some inspiration below or jump on over to our Pinterest Melbourne Cup style board.

Read more about How to style a Melbourne Cup event here.

Melbourne Cup event styling at Sydney Opera House
Venue: Sydney Opera House     Styling: Decorative Events & Exhibitions     Images: Harustudio for Business

Melbourne Cup event styling by Divine Events
Styling: Divine Events

Melbourne Cup styling by Decorative Events

Venue: Pier One Sydney Harbour     Styling: Decorative Events & Exhibitions     Images: Harustudio for Business

3. Drinks – There Is Only One Requirement!

We usually talk about the food first, but Melbourne Cup is quite simply all about champagne. Racing and champagne go hand in hand! While you can also offer beer, wine and soft drinks, we don’t suggest spending time and money on cocktails – leave that for the Christmas party. Picking a decent sparkling or champagne is a must and ensuring it is flowing throughout the day is expected – so do not disappoint your guests.

4. Food – Keep It Constant…

Melbourne Cup events usually start about midday, so guests will be expecting lunch. It is a few good hours of drinking until the race starts at about 3.00pm, so make sure you provide ample food for your guests to avoid any RSA or messy issues come mid-afternoon.
Whether you choose to host a sit down lunch or cocktail party, ensure the menu is light and fresh (it’s a lunch event after all), but ensure service is constant so guests can slowly fill up throughout the day. Depending on how long your event is, we recommend another round of hot canapés or a substantial dessert station for post-race to help soak up some of the champagne. 

Check out more great tips on Catering for Melbourne Cup events.

5. Watching The Race (Audio Visual) – Vital To The Event

You can host your event at the most amazing venue, have it styled perfectly, serve food and drink prepared by the best caterers in town, but if you don’t have a good set up for the live broadcast, this could bring it all tumbling down.
Planning ahead to ensure you have a live feed of the race and that viewing by everyone is possible is vital. One small screen for 100 guests will simply not do!
As much as we’d all like to think turning on a TV is simple, broadcasting television coverage at events needs some advance planning. Make sure you talk to an AV expert prior to the day to ensure there is an aerial and suitable reception to broadcast the race. Sound is often forgotten – guests love to hear the race being called loud and clearly.
To get the best advice and to ensure you get proper race coverage, get in touch with one of our AV suppliers.

6. Fancy A Flutter?

Melbourne Cup day is much more fun when you are screaming for a horse, so make sure you think ahead about gambling options and/or sweeps.
For event planners with BIG budgets you may like to invest in one of TAB’s event trucks. This is an expensive option and needs careful planning with TAB’s event team well in advance.
For everyone else, it’s all about sweeps! Sweepstakes are a fantastic way for guests to get their flutter on. They are easy to produce (we love these handy templates) and you just need a few key staff to manage them. We recommend having several going at once with different monetary values – you’ll be surprised at how quickly they sell out.
For those of your guests that want to make a serious bet – you no longer need to worry about the closest TAB facilities. Rightly or wrongly, everyone now has TAB (or similar betting) facilities in their pocket! Gambling is as easy as an app, which means even those die hard Melbourne Cup punters can enjoy your event while still throwing down their trifectas. Why not have a list of a few reputable betting apps available on the event day should some guests need assistance.

7. Entertainment – It’s A Long Day…

Depending on the length and style of your event, we recommend having a few extra elements to entertain your guests in the lead up to the race.
One great idea is to host a fashion parade! Don’t worry about hiring super models, just pick a few guests that have put together a fabulous race day outfit and get them to strut their stuff for the chance to win a prize! Best hat, best frock, best suit, best overall look, best shoes and best accessories – along with six fabulous prizes and you’re done!
An MC is also a great addition to a Melbourne Cup event. They can host the fashion parade, call out when the race starts and keep the day flowing smoothly (just like the champagne).
Lastly, your guests have dressed up for the occasion, so include some photo opportunities too – whether it’s a photo booth or a media wall with some paparazzi actors – give your guests a chance to take home a snap shot of just how good they looked!
Music for a little post-race, champagne-fuelled boogie is a great option too! Here is a list of some great bands you can hire for events.


Melbourne Cup office parties made easy!

Not every business is prepared to throw the whole hospitality budget at Melbourne Cup and time doesn’t always permit for everyone to have the day off, but hosting a Melbourne Cup party in the office can still be a great way to show staff you care and give them a break from the daily grind.
So whether you’re hosting a Melbourne Cup office party for 10 or 1,000, here are our top ten tips for making the most of your Melbourne Cup office party!

1. It’s an event, so treat it like one - invite staff to the party by sending out a personalised invitation (hard copy or electronic, just be sure not to miss anyone!).
2. Start selling sweeps around the office early in the day – build the anticipation.
3. Let staff know they should put their out-of-office on and divert phone calls for the duration of the party.
4. Do not start the event at 2.50pm. If time permits, include a late lunch as part of the event. Otherwise, start at least 30 mins prior to the race time (3pm).
5. If budget allows, consider getting a caterer for the event. Either to provide a lunch buffet, selection of canapés or perhaps even drop off some gourmet hampers*. 
6. If you are organising the catering yourself, be mindful of dietary requirements in the office, provide a selection of food options and give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
7. Make sure you have enough crockery, cutlery and glassware – nothing worse than having to drink the champagne from a coffee mug. 
8. Test your TV reception for Chanel 7 prior to the day and make sure you can pump up the sound come jump time.
9. Consider hiring in a large screen or projector so that everyone can see the race. 
10. Gather together a few prizes (funny ones will do) and encourage staff to dress up or play some fun office games in order to win!

*For gourmet hamper delivery in Sydney check out The Dropp.


Why plan when you can just attend…

If hosting an exclusive event or office party seems all too hard and you prefer to let someone else plan all the details, then you’re in luck! There are literally hundreds of options for ticketed Melbourne Cup events around town.
Event Birdie’s venues and restaurants are hosting a fabulous selection of events, which are updated regularly via the preceeding link. From long lunches with spectacular harbour views, to fun cocktail parties with fashion shows and entertainment, as long as you frock or suit up, and are in for a good time – you’ll love celebrating Melbourne Cup.
Where will you be celebrating Melbourne Cup this year? We’d love to hear about your plans below.
Blog updated: October 2018