a group of friends smiling while holding a drinks

How To Host A Melbourne Cup Party?

The racial divide is paralysing the country. What's more, it's the race that makes it possible for anyone to throw or attend a party.

For some, it's all about securing entry to the hottest club in town. For others, it's about throwing a special party for their most valued customers and employees.

For the rest of us, it's usually as easy as placing a few bets and then relaxing in the boardroom with some champagne and cheese and crackers.

No matter your taste, we can help you throw a fantastic party for the Melbourne Cup! Check out our top tips and advice below, whether you're planning an exclusive event or a dazzling office party.

FAQs About Melbourne Cup Party

The format is simple: first, you buy into the sweep, then all entrants get the chance to draw a Melbourne Cup horse until each horse has been assigned to a purchaser. So, in reality, there is no element of skill involved. The person with the winning ticket(s) gets the lion's share of the prize pool.

For general admission, stylish and comfortable is the go. But it is very formal when it comes to the members' areas. We're talking tailored slacks (or chinos), a sports coat or blazer, tie and dress shoes.

The 1874 Cup meeting was the last one to be run on a Thursday. So in 1875, you moved it to the second Tuesday of the month. It meant the Cup was to be run on 9 November, the Prince of Wales birthday.

The Melbourne Cup will be run at 3 pm - the same as every other year.

  • Order gourmet catering. One of the best parts of Melbourne Cup Day every year is, hands down, the food. 
  • Fashion on the front lawn. 
  • Virtual racing! 
  • The basics. 
  • Set a dress code.
  • Prepare games and activities. 
  • Melbourne Cup catering. 
  • Bubbly.

Why Is Melbourne Cup Day Celebrated?

friends playing video game at home · free stock ph

Since the first Melbourne Cup Race at Victoria's Flemington Racecourse in 1861, Australia has celebrated the day as a national holiday known as Melbourne Cup Day. Archer not only triumphed in the race, but went on to repeat his victory the following year.

Is Melbourne Cup Day A Public Holiday In Victoria?

Unless a non-metro council has arranged a different local holiday, Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday throughout Victoria.

History Of Melbourne Cup Day

In 1840, during the height of the Gold Rush, Melbourne's residents decided to hold horse races along the river's edge.

Spectators can watch the action from a hill in the north-west of the vast, flat area. The organisers erected some temporary scaffolding the following year, but it wasn't until 1848 that a proper grandstand was built. Melbourne Racecourse is the common name for the track.

The landowner gave the area the name "Flemington" in honour of a piece of property his Scottish-born wife had purchased, and by the 1850s, the racetrack had become universally known as "Flemington Racecourse." This is Australia's first and oldest racetrack.

In 1859, the Australian Championship Sweepstakes featured horses from New South Wales, Tasmania, and New Zealand. As the first Australian sporting event to be telegraphed in Sydney, the event drew a crowd of 40 thousand. The key players in Melbourne's racing industry saw an opportunity to raise funds for the track's expansion by hosting a larger, more prestigious event.

In 1861, the first running of the Melbourne Cup took place. In those early days of racing, the Victoria Turf Club and the Victoria Jockey Club were bitter rivals. Disputes between the two clubs led to poor course and Cup management, sabotage of the track, and financial ruin for both organisations. In 1864, they merged to form the Victoria Racing Club, which is still in charge of running things at Flemington today. Having Melbourne Cup Day recognised as a half-day holiday the following year was a big win for the Club.

However, one problem was that the Victoria Racing Club didn't own the land; they leased it. The Victorian Racing Club Act, which granted the club legal title to land, was enacted by the government in 1871. In 1875, they started holding the Melbourne Cup on a Tuesday. Due to the magnitude and significance of the event, Victoria declared that day to be a state holiday two years later.

Everything You Need To Know When Hosting An Exclusive Melbourne Cup Event 

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

Finding The Perfect Venue

It can be difficult to find a restaurant or other venue that is not already booked for a ticketed event on Melbourne Cup day and is available for private hire. But there are still some hidden gems out there that are ideal for Melbourne Cup celebrations. To create the feeling of a bright spring day at your event, we suggest booking a venue with plenty of windows. If you want to set the mood for a thrilling race, pick a venue that has a touch of class or one that is a blank slate. Last but not least, make sure they have a TV reception before confirming (this is crucial; read on for more details).

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. So let your guests add further colour with their dresses, ties, socks and fascinators!

Drinks: There Is Only One Requirement!

We usually talk about the food first, but the 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. 

Food: Keep It Constant.

Melbourne Cup events usually start about midday, so that guests will be expecting lunch. It is a few good hours of drinking until the race starts at about 3.00 pm, 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.

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 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 not do!

As much as we'd all like to think turning on a TV is simple, broadcasting television coverage at events needs some planning. Make sure you talk to an AV expert before the day to ensure an aerial and suitable reception to broadcast the race. Sound is often forgotten – guests love to hear the race being called loud and clearly.

Fancy A-Flutter?

Melbourne Cup day is much more fun when screaming for a horse, so make sure you think ahead about gambling options and sweeps.

For event planners with BIG budgets, you may like to invest in one of TAB's event trucks. However, it 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. However, they are easy to produce, and you 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.

You no longer need to worry about the closest TAB facilities for those of your guests who want to make a serious bet. Everyone now has TAB (or similar betting) facilities in their pocket, rightly or wrongly! Furthermore, 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. So why not list a few reputable betting apps available on the event day should some guests need assistance.

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 supermodels; 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 dress, 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 snapshot of just how good they looked!

Ways To Celebrate Melbourne Cup At Home

While the Melbourne Cup is still going ahead, many will probably wonder: how are we meant to celebrate it while everyone is working from home?

No reason anyone needs to miss out on the food and fashion, just because we are dealing with a new normal. The race that stops the nation is still forging ahead, so here is how you can make it fun from home.

Plan Ahead

When planning an office party, it always pays to be organised and prepared from the get-go. You've got to think about Melbourne Cup office catering, games and activities, what kind of budget you have to play with, all while making sure there's enough time in the day for everyone to have fun.

Not sure where to even start? Let us break it down for you.

The Basics

Before sending an invitation out to the entire office, it's crucial to get buy-in from your management team. So here are a few questions to clear with them before you begin making plans:

  • Will people be expected to go back to work after the race?
  • What is the allocated budget for the event?

Once all those details are confirmed, you can send your save-the-date notice to the office. Try and give them at least two to three weeks of lead-time (the more time, the better, really) so they have plenty of space to make preparations, and you have the numbers you need for catering.

Set A Dress Code

You wouldn't wear jeans and a t-shirt for the horse race, so why not invite the office to get dressed up for the day? Make it easy for everyone to participate by introducing a theme. Here are a few of our favourite ideas to help you get started:

  • All white or all florals
  • Classic cocktail attire
  • Melbourne Cup race stripes
  • Your best fascinator/tie
  • Fun socks!

Remember, not everyone will want to dress up, so if you're going to specify a dress code on your invitation, make it optional.

Prepare Games And Activities

group of friends bonding at home · free stock phot

Fun party games and other activities can keep guests entertained before, during, and after the big race. Some office party staples for the Melbourne Cup are as follows:

Desk Decorating Competition

It would be fun if teams were encouraged to decorate their workspaces with Melbourne Cup themes in the days leading up to the event. Then, on race day, assemble a panel of experts to determine the victor and distribute the spoils.

Fashions On The Field

Host your very own version of Fashions on the Field and give out prizes for the best dressed or best hat categories. Encourage people to get creative and crafty with their designs.

Melbourne Cup Trivia

Get your colleagues buzzing with a classic pub-style trivia game. Break colleagues into teams and offer prizes for the first, second and third place.

Sweeps

Host your office sweep to emulate the spirit of the racetrack and give away some prize money of your own.

Food And Drinks

At your Melbourne Cup party, the food and drinks you serve are of utmost importance. Make sure it's perfect because it will be the single most influential factor in encouraging coworkers to take a break from their work and mingle.

Melbourne Cup Catering

A potluck doesn't do justice to an event as prestigious as the Melbourne Cup. Instead, catered food is the ideal way to celebrate the race that stops the nation, and many Melbourne Cup catering menu options will suit your budget and needs.

A sit-down three-course lunch, buffet, a grazing table with food platters, an elegant cocktail party with gourmet finger food, or a classic high tea – the choices are endless. Just make sure you provide enough yummy bites for everyone (and you've accounted for special diets), so no one goes hungry, and there are no messy RSA issues by mid-afternoon.

Check out our ideas below for a great Melbourne Cup lunch:

  • Finger food - sliders, smoked salmon blinis with cream cheese, fresh rice paper rolls, skewers, roast duck pancakes and tartlets.
  • Sharing food platters that are perfect for mingling - including roast chicken, charcuterie, dips and crackers, cold meat platters, Middle Eastern mezze, sushi, tapas, cheese plates and more
  • Tasty BBQ catering - get a chef to man the BBQ, so your guests are free to mingle and watch the race.

Don't forget the sweet finish with a Melbourne Cup themed cupcake, chocolate-dipped strawberries, sweet slices or a whole corporate cake to celebrate

Bubbly

Melbourne Cup day is all about the bubbly. But don't forget to offer alternatives, such as beer, wine, soft drinks and water. We recommend getting alcohol delivered to the office a few days before Melbourne Cup. And don't forget glasses, ice and tubs to keep the drinks chilled. For Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth or Canberra alcohol delivery orders, please speak to our customer service superstars or order online from our website.

Build Buzz

In the lead up to the Melbourne Cup, create excitement in the office. It's going to work out to be a better day if people are excited in the lead up to the big day.

Send Reminders

Set up a series of reminders to send to your colleagues in the lead up to the race. Send them fun emails and aim to deliver them:

  • One week before
  • The day before
  • The morning of

Don't forget to let staff know they should put their out-of-office alert on and divert any calls for the duration of the party.

Decorate The Office

  • Fake turf
  • Flowers
  • Horseshoes
  • Jockey and horse stripes
  • Champagne bottles

Transform your office into that classic Melbourne Cup carnival atmosphere to get everyone into the spirit.

On The Day

Prepare The Food And Drink

Just like any other catered office event or party, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to receive the food and get it all set up.

Here are a few more handy food and drink tips to consider:

  • Give your staff plenty of time to eat and drink before the big race. Reward it for hard work and let them relax and have some fun with a fabulous catered lunch and party games
  • Don't forget about special dietary requirements. Include a selection of alternative food menu options so no one goes hungry.

Choose An Mc

On the day of the event, there will be lots of moving parts, so it's best to choose your very own Master of Ceremonies to help move things along. They'll help organise games, award prizes, and notify staff when the race starts.

horse racing

Set Up A Place To Watch

Just because you're in the office doesn't mean you can't enjoy the races as if you were by the trackside. All you need is a set and enough seating to support your staff. If you don't have a common area or employee lounge area with a television, convert your boardroom or conference room into a mini theatre by projecting the live event directly on a blank wall or white screen.

And Of Course, Watch The Race Together!

Watching your picks race each other and clapping for the winners (and losers) is a great way to bring the team together in the boardroom. One of the best parts of the day is watching the race with your coworkers after lunch and before some light refreshments in the afternoon.

Conclusion

There you have it! Follow this complete guide, and you're guaranteed to host a great Melbourne Cup lunch that your colleagues will never forget. 

Scroll to Top