Here's How to Have an Amazing Reception Brunch

For some couples, breakfast is always the best meal of the day—especially on their wedding day.
by The Knot
Wedding reception brunch waffles
photo by Gideon Photography

Are you a morning person? Looking for a unique wedding twist? Consider a brunch reception! Be it a sunrise ceremony, your passion for breakfast, or a way to get a jump on your honeymoon, a brunch reception is a delicious, low-key and crowd-pleasing choice.

Timing Is Everything

A brunch reception usually takes place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you'd like it to be more of a breakfast 9 a.m. is usually the earliest starting time to consider. According to Rosemary Howe, a New York City caterer, your guests' stomachs may not be ready to handle heavy food right away. She suggests serving juices, coffee and cocktails along with some light, fruity nibbles before moving onto the main course, to avoid overwhelming guests who may still be wiping sleep from their eyes. Then, of course, comes coffee, dessert and wedding cake. Brunch is best served buffet style or as a seated meal (or a combination of the two). The other alternative is a cocktail brunch, where guests enjoy passed delicacies hors d'oeuvres-style (think scrambled egg tartlets and mini French toast) and cocktails like mimosas, bellinis, champagne and punch, as they mingle and celebrate.

Festive vs. Formal

Morning naturally sets a more mellow tone. A brunch can still be festive (think brightly colored flowers and mimosas), but it probably won't include a crazy dance party. Satisfy friends and family with a bountiful buffet and fresh juice bar. Fancy a formal atmosphere? Go for fine china, champagne and a three-course meal. Also consider the time of year. If your big day falls during leaf-turning season, choose an ideal space where windows frame the colorful mosaic of gold and red hues. Planning a winter wedding? Consider a cozy brunch by a roaring fire. A tented springtime soiree in an English garden is a beautiful way to celebrate nature. When choosing a brunch spot, remember to see it during the time of day you are planning your reception—ask yourself, is it dark and depressing due to a lack of windows? Does the sun beat down during the day, making the room sweltering hot? This will help you notice any potential issues before it's too late.

Brunch Budgets

A brunch is one of the most cost-effective receptions you can have: Brunches can range in price from $17 to $85 per head, depending on the menu and the site you choose. Your liquor costs will be much lower than an evening affair and you won't have to shell out money for a band. Plus, reception sites are often less expensive to rent in the daytime.

Brunch Food Trends

One word: Frittatas. According to Rocco DiSpirito, the chef at Union Pacific in New York City, this Italian vegetable-and-egg dish is all the rage. "The frittata feels lighter yet substantial without being rich. It's full of vegetables so it appeals to the health conscious and can be prepared with delicious cheeses and herbs." Want to forgo the eggs altogether? Grilled veggies are a tasty alternative, according to Word of Mouth catering in New York City. Another hot brunch bite? "Smoked things," says Dispirito. "Not just salmon and sable, but tuna bacon and salmon bacon, smoked tuna and smoked meats, and even smoked vegetables, which are great for late morning or early afternoon." Asian foods are invading the brunch bash as well, with delectable dim sum. "People like these well-seasoned bites of food with a surprise inside," says New York City caterer Karen Lee, who serves up these steamed buns and dumplings on stylish bamboo steamers. To add some spice to the soiree, some caterers are serving up familiar foods with a twist. Word of Mouth offers creative variations such as grilled chicken salad wraps, open-face sandwiches made on homemade dill sponge bread, and smoked salmon wraps instead of the traditional bagels and lox. Another hot trend is food stations, a lively (and less crowded) alternative to the standard buffet. Consider an omelet station, French toast station a crepe/pancake station (both with various toppings and syrups).

Tasty Tidbits

These days, people are definitely prioritizing a healthy diet more than ever, so scrambled eggs with cheese and sausage shouldn't be the only dish on the buffet table. Consider more abundant healthful or vegetarian offerings, like fruit yogurt, egg-white omelets, gourmet pizza, poached salmon, vegetable tarts, grilled veggie sandwiches, whole grain baked goods and salad nicoise. And to add a little flair, think beyond the ordinary. Instead of muffins and croissants, feature orange-scented scones and walnut banana bread. And just because it's before noon doesn't mean you can't have a wedding cake. You may opt for a lighter confection, such as carrot, lemon, angel food cake, or cheesecake, rather than a heavy fudge-covered cake. Or cut into a Mexican wedding cake—it's a more forgiving treat made with nuts and powdered sugar. The easiest way to lighten up the midday wedding cake is to top it with fresh fruit.

Think Drinks

Go light on the liquor, and if you'd like to serve it, consider offering it after some food has been eaten. And don't forget morning-time cocktails like bloody marys, mimosas, screwdrivers, mint juleps, punch, tequila sunrise (grenadine, tequila, and orange juice), bellinis or champagne with a few berries dropped in. And, of course, include delicious non-alcoholic breakfast beverages such as coffee (American, cafe au lait, espresso with lemon zest, cappuccino or Thai iced coffee), tea, (black, green, mint, spiced, chamomile, Earl Gray and English breakfast), fresh juices, hot chocolate, and fruit smoothies. For a southern affair, think iced tea with lemon, peach tea, fresh strawberry or watermelon lemonade and raspberry ginger ale punch.

Resources: Rocco DiSpirito, Chef, Union Pacific, New York, NY | Rosemary Howe, Caterer, Barraud Caterers, New York, NY | Karen Lee, Caterer, Karen Lee, New York, NY | Melissa Paston, Catering Sales Manager, W New York, New York, NY | Tim Patton, Caterer, Southern Seasonings Catering, Atlanta, GA | Alicia Reinish, Caterer, Word of Mouth Catering, New York, NY | Marti Schwartz, Serves You Right Catering, Los Angeles, CA; (818) | Monique Teichman, Catering Sales Manager, Bold American Food Company, Atlanta, GA

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