25 Brunch Wedding Reception Ideas Early Risers Will Love

Celebrate saying "I do" with pancakes and mimosas.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Weddings Editor
by Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Editor, Real Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah oversees engagement content on The Knot's partner brand How They Asked.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Nov 18, 2021

Who doesn't love brunch? Pancakes, mimosas and good times with loved ones—brunch culture is a much-beloved thing, with good reason. If you're a fan of brunch in day-to-day life, why not translate that interest into your wedding with a daytime brunch wedding reception? Personalizing your wedding comes down to more than just picking unique details, the time you get married, what you serve and your overall theme should all reflect you and your partner's relationship. A brunch wedding is a great way to celebrate a shared love of the meal which boasts a cult following as the concept goes beyond a simple wedding theme. A brunch wedding is a comprehensive atmosphere and is a celebration guests won't soon forget.

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Brunch Wedding Reception vs. Postwedding Brunch

You may be wondering—what exactly is a brunch wedding reception? And how does it differ from a postwedding brunch? Oftentimes, traditional wedding receptions take place in the evening. In recent years, couples have started including multiple events in their wedding weekend and will often plan a postwedding brunch the day after the wedding as a final thank you and farewell to guests. However, that's not the same as a brunch wedding reception, which would take place directly after a morning wedding ceremony on the wedding day. Instead of hosting a wedding ceremony around 5:00 pm with a reception following, some couples may prefer to say "I do" first thing in the morning with a brunch or luncheon to follow.

Essentially, a brunch wedding reception is part of the wedding day, directly following the morning ceremony, while a postwedding brunch is an extra event, in addition to a standard wedding reception, that takes place on a separate day.

How to Plan a Brunch Wedding Reception

Once you've decided that a brunch wedding is the best thing for you and your S.O., it's time to get to work planning out all the details. Beyond the obvious difference in timing, there are quite a few nuances of a brunch wedding that are unlike those of traditional afternoon weddings that you'll need to consider. Hiring an event planner who has extensive experience with brunch wedding reception is a great way to ensure that no detail, no matter how small, is overlooked during the wedding planning process.

Consult With VIPs and Family

As soon as loved ones hear of your engagement, they will likely assume that the wedding will be taking place during the afternoon or evening, as is most common. Hosting a brunch wedding will affect when people can come into town as many people may need to arrive the night before instead of the morning of. As such, make sure to consult with guest list VIPs and your closest family members before settling on a brunch timeframe. And, once you've made the decision to host a brunch event, make sure you clearly communicate that to all parties involved so they know to expect an early-morning affair, even before they see the details laid out in the invitation.

Brunch Wedding Reception Timeline

Beyond affecting guest arrivals, a brunch wedding will totally change your wedding timeline. The wedding party generally begins getting ready for the big day at least five hours prior to the ceremony. And if the ceremony is at 10:00 am then that might mean a 5:00 am, or earlier, wake-up call. Additionally, it may make sense to shorten the amount of time you set aside for family portraits before the ceremony and instead tack some of those onto the tail end of the event.

The difference in timing for photos also means that the sun will be in a different spot in the sky, which makes a big difference for photos. Instead of evening "golden hour" photos, your photographer will be tasked with capturing images under harsh direct sunlight during the morning or early afternoon. "Photographing a brunch wedding is drastically different than photographing a more 'typical' afternoon or evening wedding," explains Amanda Donaho of Amanda Donaho Photography. "Hire a photographer who has extensive experience dealing with harsh mid-day sun who you can fully trust to make your images look beautiful."

The timing of setup for your event will also be affected by the decision to host a brunch. If your reception space is available the night before the event, take advantage of this to get a head start on load-in. "An earlier day ensures a tight turnaround but doesn't make anything impossible—you merely have to keep this in mind while planning," advises Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates "If the space is available the night before to start your decor, take advantage of this. Otherwise, keep in mind you may need to pay for extra labor in many areas to make the short load-in timeframe doable."

Brunch Wedding Reception Menu

The unique menu possibilities are one of the biggest differentiators with a brunch wedding reception. And while the food selection you serve might be different than an evening menu, it's important that you still serve a full meal as guests will arrive hungry. Some to-be-weds might assume that a brunch wedding reception means you can get away with serving light bites, but guests will appreciate ample offerings to fill them up. "Make sure you have filling options for food. Just because it's brunch does not mean people aren't coming hungry," says Maddox. "Get creative with your menu!"

In terms of service style, a brunch reception lends itself well to a variety of unique food and drink stations. To start, think of your favorite breakfast foods and brunch foods, and then collaborate with your caterer on what might be doable. For example, French toast bar with all your favorite toppings is another option that's sure to be a crowd-pleaser. You could even go all-out with a cereal bar that showcases your favorite cereal and milk varieties. Some other yummy options? Waffles, bagels, frittatas, omelets, fresh fruit, doughnuts and croissants are all solid brunch foods.

While Maddox suggests having ample food options, she goes on to note that you needn't have a full bar at a brunch wedding reception. "Keep the bar light—you don't need a full bar for brunch. Should you want to serve alcohol, you can stick with simple mimosas, Bloody Marys, or another brunch cocktail, but there is no need for a full open bar." To give guests flexibility with their beverages, consider stations similar to the food stations you're including. "Coffee is going to be an important part of your menu, and this is a chance to really go for it," says Jamie Chang, destination wedding planner and owner of Mango Muse Events. "So, do the full-blown espresso drinks and coffee station where people can order lattes and other drinks. Your guests will love it, and you can even have your favorite coffee drinks all lined up like you would at a bar." In addition to a customize coffee station, a fruit juice selection for mimosas and bellinis is a fun option. Or if you want something a bit stronger, a Bloody Mary bar or screwdriver bar may be the way to go.

Include What You Want, Skip What You Don't

Candidly, this advice applies to all weddings, not just brunch ones. If there's a wedding element that feels out of place to you for a daytime wedding, or one you simply don't feel like including, then skip it! If you don't feel like hitting the dance floor, consider having games and activities around for guests to enjoy. You may not feel like serving a traditional wedding cake in the middle of the day—then a crepe cake or pancake stack may be the wedding cake alternative for you.

Brunch Wedding Reception Entertainment

While many evening receptions center around dancing, you may want to include alternate entertainment at your brunch wedding reception. "Plan on additional reception entertainment outside of dancing," suggests Nora Sheills, founder of Bridal Bliss. "Guests are more hesitant to dance when it's light out, so consider a caricature artist, live string musicians or lawn games instead."

Brunch Wedding Afterparty

Since the brunch wedding reception will conclude while the day is still young, make the most of the time available to you by hosting a fun afterparty. Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events encourages to-be-weds to "have a plan for afterward. Since a brunch wedding is going to end much earlier in the day than an evening wedding, I suggest having a plan for what happens after. Whether it's keeping the party going at a bar, going out to dinner, or letting everyone know that you're going back to the hotel to crash, don't leave guests wondering, 'what's next?'"

What To Wear to a Brunch Wedding

Deciding on what to wear to a wedding is always a big task, whether you're planning a brunch wedding reception or not. As with all weddings, it's important to settle on a level of formality and go from there when selecting attire. Generally speaking, because of the time of day, a brunch wedding may tend to feel a bit less formal than an evening reception.

Attire for the Couple and Wedding Party

Grand eveningwear may not be the way to go for brunch wedding fashion. A short wedding dress is a good option for a brunch wedding. And don't fret—short wedding dresses can still pack a punch style-wise.

Of course, a brunch wedding doesn't have to be an informal affair. After all, most British royal weddings take place around brunch time and are absolutely regal. When it comes to suiting, consider taking a note from the British and donning a morning coat.

Brunch Wedding Attire Ideas for Guests

Deciphering dress codes as a guest can be tricky. But fear not, daytime weddings offer a bit more flexibility than a rigid black-tie dress code might. If it's a casual brunch wedding, opt for slacks and a sports coat or a patterned dress. If it's a bit more formal, takes things up a notch slightly by adding a tie or some sparkly accessories. Jumpsuits are also a great option for a brunch wedding if a dress isn't quite your speed.

Brunch Wedding Reception Ideas

Now that you have a grasp on how to plan a brunch wedding reception, let these creative brunch wedding ideas inspire your own festive fete. From centerpieces that wow to mouthwatering food displays, these ideas are a great reference point as you get to work planning your own brunch wedding ceremony and reception.

1 . Reception Tea Bar

If coffee isn't quite your thing, then put together a custom tea bar with your favorite varieties.

2. Mini Chicken and Waffles Hors d'Oeuvres

Chicken and waffles are a brunch classic. However, the dish can be a little messy to eat, which is why mini versions as passed appetizers are a great option.

3. Lemon-Themed Wedding Welcome Bag

Citrus is a great motif for a brunch wedding. Give guests a hint at what's to come with a lemon-themed wedding welcome bag.

4. Fresh Fruit Muffins as Wedding Cake Alternative

Instead of ceremonially cutting a cake, this couple sliced into fresh fruit muffins at their morning nuptials.

5. Fresh Bananas and Coconuts as Centerpieces

Even your decor should have a brunch-inspired feel to it. This lounge area was decked out with a decorative tropical fresh fruit platter.

6. Fresh Juice Bar

Whether or not you accompany it with champagne for mimosas and bellinis, fresh fruit juice is a great addition to your brunch bar menu.

7. Açai Bowl

Guests will love an açai bowl bar where they can customize their toppings.

8. Single-Tier Wedding Cake With Lemon Accents

Even if you aren't serving cake at your brunch wedding, chances are you'd still like to ceremonially cut a cake. If that's the case, commission a petite single-tier bake, decorated with on-theme details, for the reception.

9. Citrus Centerpiece

Fresh citrus may be on your menu for eating, but it can also work as vibrant decor.

10. Green-and-Orange Foliage Centerpiece

When it comes to selecting a brunch wedding color palette, focus on cheerful colors that will brighten your morning soiree.

11. Cheerful Yellow Wedding Bouquet

Bright yellow blooms gave this bouquet a sunburst-like feel.

12. Bouquet With Chamomile Blooms

If you're serving tea at your wedding, chamomile may be on the menu. However, the adorable flower would also work nicely in a brunch wedding bouquet.

13. Infused Water Station

Guests at this morning wedding were greeted by an infused water station. They had the choice between cucumber water and lemon-mint water.

14. Bride in Jumpsuit With Cape

A brunch wedding is a perfect excuse to have some fun with your wedding attire. This bride skipped the dress and opted for a white jumpsuit with a cape.

15. Bride in Off-the-Shoulder Blouse and Slacks

Similarly, this bride chose a pant look for her early-morning vow exchange.

16. Doughnut Wall

Make your sugary doughnuts part of the wedding decor by displaying them on a festive wall.

17. Coffee Mug Favors

Guests at this wedding received coffee mugs that acted as both their escort cards (seating assignments were on tags attached to the mugs) and wedding favors.

18. Bride in Short Wedding Dress

Just because you're choosing a short wedding dress doesn't mean you have to skip the veil, just take a cue from this bride.

19. Fresh Oyster Bar

Especially on the East Coast, oysters are a must at brunch. Bonus points if you have the catering team shuck them on-site for guests.

20. Doughnut Tower

If a doughnut wall isn't your thing, go with a doughnut tower like this couple did.

21. Enamel Mug Wedding Favors

Guests at this wedding were given enamel mugs that also doubled as their favors.

22. Fresh Berry Tarts

Bite-sized berry tarts added tasty freshness to the menu at this wedding.

23. Chocolate Milk as Wedding Cake Alternative

Since this couple skipped having a wedding cake, they added a cake topper to glass bottles of chocolate milk instead.

24. Couple Portraits at Backyard Brunch Wedding

This couple focused on pastels and soft hues for their attire to fit the morning timing of their wedding.

25. Homemade Jam Wedding Favors

Guests departed this couple's country-inspired wedding with jars of homemade jam.

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