The Bridesmaids' Luncheon

Pink wedding cake cookies at bridesmaid luncheon

The Big Day is swiftly approaching. The bridal shower took place without a hitch. The final details are in place for the rehearsal dinner and reception, and your maid of honor assures you that preparations for the bachelorette party are well under way. Everything seems to be running smoothly. Then, without warning, your mother throws a wrench in the entire works by casually asking if you intend to host a bridesmaids' luncheon.

"Bridesmaids' luncheon?" What is that? Is it required? When does it take place? How will I ever pay for another event? Relax. Bridesmaids' luncheons are entirely optional and no one will fault you for opting to skip this delightful custom. Before you do though, read on about this special wedding event that doesn't need to be formal or expensive -- only heartfelt.

Who Hosts?

Because the bridesmaids' luncheon is not required, the etiquette surrounding this gathering is quite flexible. Perhaps the only hard and fast rule is "no boys allowed," and even that restriction has begun to loosen slightly in recent years. Traditionally, this event could be hosted by either the bride in honor of the bridesmaids, or by the bridesmaids in honor of the bride. Today however, the bridesmaids' luncheon is nearly always hosted by the bride, to thank her maids for their efforts. Attendees may include the bridesmaids (of course), as well as any other close female friends or relatives participating in the wedding -- including the mothers of the bride and groom, sisters and favorite aunts.

Time and Place.

Despite what the name implies, the luncheon does not have to be, well, a luncheon. In years past, particularly in the South, the bridesmaids' luncheon was held on the day before, or the day of the wedding. Typical fare was generally quite light -- salads, fruits, finger sandwiches, and sherbet or cake for dessert. Today, the luncheon has been reinvented as dinner at a favorite restaurant, brunch in the bride's home, even an afternoon of group pampering at the local spa. The event can be formal and elegant, with crisp linen napkins and fine wines, or casual and fun, with pizza and pitchers of margaritas. While the day before the wedding is still a popular time to host the luncheon -- your bridesmaids will all be in town -- you may choose to have your event earlier, perhaps after the final dress fittings, for a less stressful gathering.

Presents Please.

Regardless of who hosts the event, the luncheon provides a wonderful opportunity for the bride to present her attendants with their bridesmaid gifts. While in certain areas the bridesmaids also jointly give a gift to the bride, in general no such gesture is expected -- each bridesmaid has, after all, purchased a shower gift, a wedding gift and her bridesmaid's attire. If your mother and future mother-in-law will also be attending, you might want to take this opportunity to provide each with a small gift in thanks for their support.

Make Room for Cake.

One charming tradition associated with the luncheon is the bridesmaids' cake. The details vary in the telling, but the cake is often pink and contains a coin, thimble or ring, baked in. The cake is cut and a slice is distributed to each maid. Whoever finds the trinket in her slice is thought to be "blessed in affairs of the heart" -- possibly the next to wed. Another version of this tradition, dating from Victorian times, involves six different charms, with ribbons attached, baked into the cake. Before cutting, each bridesmaid pulls one charm from the cake. Each charm foretells a certain kind of luck.

It's Up to You.

Even if your wedding is the picture of formality and convention, there is no reason you can't break the rules with your bridesmaids' luncheon. Why not consider these ideas when planning your special time with the girls:

  • An afternoon of manicures and pedicures at the local spa.
  • A picnic in the park.
  • A tasting menu at your favorite restaurant -- 10 to 12 courses with just a bite or two per course.
  • Movie night -- two or three favorite videos and an assortment of yummy snacks.
  • A group outing to a great new art exhibit.
  • A co-ed attendants' event with your fiancé and his groomsmen.

Whether you choose to host a traditional event or something wild and unconventional, the bridesmaids' luncheon is a wonderful opportunity to thank those special women in your life for all their cooperation and support during this busy time in your life. They mean the world to you -- here's your chance to let them know.

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