“The race that stops the nation”, Melbourne Cup, gives the entire country an excuse to dress up and eat fancy food.

Bring some festivity to the first Tuesday in November with a horse-race themed afternoon tea or lunch. 

Here are some ideas for inspiration:

Fancy dress

Full frocks and dress coats might not be the order of the day at your residence, however there is always room for accessories! 

Dainty fascinators, dapper hats, ties, jewellery and brooches can be encouraged to bring some fun to the occasion. Charity shops often have a good selection of hats at low cost. 

Have a basket of fun accessories to hand out. Create photo opportunities with residents and visitors. Set up a ‘photo corner’ with a fun backdrop where everyone can have their portraits taken like celebrities in the trendiest marquees. 

The dress code can be optional but offer ‘best dressed’ awards for those who are able to make the effort.


If you want to go the whole hog (or the whole horse), there are plenty of Cup themed decorations available at party stores. Invest in some quality themed banners, tablecloths and ornaments then store them away for use come next November. 

If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, brightly coloured bunting and balloons will bring a sense of occasion and make the day feel special.


On Cup day - finger food is fine! Sandwiches with a range of fillings including cucumber, tuna, chicken, and egg and mayonnaise are always winners. 

Mini quiches are suitable as hot hors d'oeuvres as they are soft and easy to eat. 

Other ideas to round out the selection include


A Melbourne Cup sweep is a fun and easy way to get everybody involved on equal footing. Residents can ‘purchase’ a horse for a couple of dollars with a winner takes all result, or they can play for another fun prize. 

You could also create teams and put together a Melbourne Cup trivia quiz, asking questions about past winners, horse industry record breakers and Melbourne itself. 

Melbourne Cup trivia quiz

Melbourne Cup trivia quiz

Download a free Melbourne Cup trivia quiz here.

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Menu Template

Menu Template

Give your race day meals a winning menu!

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Table Talker

Table Talker

Keep the race theme on track with these table talkers.

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The Big Race

Despite all the hype, the Melbourne Cup race itself is only a few minutes long. Set up a big screen so everybody in the room can watch and cheer on their favourite. 

Run a sweep with a difference by replacing the jockey’s name with the resident’s name. An outgoing staff member can then call the race using their names and call the winner at the end.

Have a whiteboard or poster ready and post the winning horses’ and jockeys’ names in easy to read lettering. Offer drinks for your residents to toast their success. 

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