How to Plan the Perfect Brunch Wedding

Here's everything you need to know, from the timing to the attire.

Photo: Greg Peterson

If a bride and groom are early birds, they may choose to have a morning wedding and brunch reception. Brunch weddings can be more cost effective and relaxed than evening celebrations, but they still require the same level of creative planning. Here's your guide to throwing the perfect morning ceremony.

Trendy and Fun Wedding Brunch Ideas

The Timing

According to Kristin Doggett, co-founder and creative director of Bellafare, a boutique event and wedding planning company, brunch receptions are typically scheduled between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the ceremony happening right before. Doggett recommends walking down the aisle no earlier than 10 a.m., though, since not all guests will love the early morning wake-up call. To make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome, set up a coffee cart, pastry trays, or other treats to "ease guests into the morning," she says.

The Venue

Brunch weddings are typically smaller and more casual than evening celebrations, so the bride and groom can be flexible with the venue. Popular locations include gardens, greenhouses, an outdoor patio at a restaurant, or your very own backyard, says Doggett. Something rustic and picnic-esque works well for an early afternoon party, which will make the event feel like a formal BBQ. A word of advice: Before booking a venue, visit it during the scheduled time of your reception. Make sure the shadows and lighting lend themselves to good morning photographs. Also look into the venue's other events on the day of your wedding. According to Lindsay Landman of Lindsay Landman Events, "Unless you're doing it at home or at a venue with no time restrictions, a daytime event has to end at a certain time. There's a high likelihood the venue has scheduled an evening event."

The Dress Code

Although the bride and groom make the final call on the dress code, morning wedding ceremonies and brunch receptions are inherently more casual. A floor-length gown or fancy cocktail dress would look strange before noon. Doggett says a safe clothing choice would be a floral sundress for women and slacks with a shirt for men. Even the bride might choose to don a more relaxed gown, with a shorter length, minimal train, or more casual fabric. Men tend to wear lighter colored suits for daytime ceremonies as well, although Landman stresses that the dress code really depends on the couple's preference.


The Drinks

Since most guests will drink less at brunch receptions, a full open bar isn't necessary (but it's totally acceptable, if the couple wants one). Instead, a couple can serve typical brunch-style cocktails, like mimosas, Bloody Mary's, screwdrivers, and sangria. Landman suggests having a Bloody Mary bar or a "bubble bar," which offers different types of champagne with berries.

Make sure to have drink options for guests who don't want alcohol so early in the day. Consider having a coffee or iced tea bar, espresso shots, a lemonade stand, or a juice and smoothie station. Also, cutting down on hard liquor at your reception is a great way to save money.

The Menu

At a brunch wedding, brides and grooms can get creative with the menu. Guests probably don't want a hearty meal only hours after waking up, so instead serve a light buffet with a mix of different breakfast and lunch foods. Classic breakfast staples like bacon, smoked salmon, and scrambled eggs are always popular choices, but a brunch wedding opens itself up to fun items; consider having an omelette or waffle station, mini breakfast sandwiches, a cereal bar, or French toast dippers. The lunch items can be similar to finger foods at an evening reception. "Some of the things that are popular at night can still work in the morning," says Landman, mentioning sliders and chicken fingers as good options.

Instead of a buffet, the bride and groom can also choose to have a sit-down meal. The menu items should still reflect the brunch atmosphere. "Usually for a brunch meal, if there are two entrée options, we tend to do one that is definitely breakfast," says Landman. "And something that tends to be a little more lunchy, like a light chicken dish or a light fish dish."

The Cake

No matter the time of day, a couple should have a traditional wedding cake if they want one. However, if you want something a bit more non-traditional, you can also choose to serve a breakfast-friendly dessert. Angel food cakes, fruit cakes, and naked cakes (served without frosting) are lighter options. More creative treats include donuts, a waffle or crepe cake, and a pastry tower.

The Music

Brunch receptions typically feature less dancing than evening celebrations, since it's hard to get a rowdy dance crowd at before noon. But music is still a necessity. "Small-piece live music is a more fitting option," says Doggett, who suggests "more casual entertainment rather than a 10-piece band." Consider hiring a Bluegrass band, string quartet, or jazz band, which are more fitting for the time of day than a loud DJ. Couples can still have first dance, mother-son dance, and father-daughter dance.

The Festivities

Since an early celebration probably won't center around dancing, the couple needs to plan other activities to fill the time. Doggett suggests having lawn games, like bocce ball, croquet, cornhole, and horseshoes. Most typical wedding reception festivities, like a fun photo booth, will be just as fun at noon as at midnight.


The Budget

One of the benefits of a brunch reception is the reasonable price tag. Venues may give reduced rates because your event isn't during "peak time." Eliminating the full bar and band cuts down on additional costs. You'll also save on food, since breakfast fare is much cheaper than traditional dinner options like steak and seafood.

Other Considerations

Besides the reasonable budget, brunch weddings have many other perks. For example, the natural morning lighting makes for great pictures, and the photographer won't need to take grainy nighttime shots. Since the reception will end at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., you'll have the rest of the day ahead of you. Take advantage of this extra time to prep for your honeymoon, have dinner with your new husband, or plan an activity with family. Plus, "you don't need to sleep for three days following your wedding," says Doggett.

Above everything else, make sure to embrace your brunch reception. Landman advises not to pretend the event is an evening ceremony, where you'll dance until the wee hours of the morning and ride off into the darkness. Take your wedding for what it is, and you'll create lasting memories for years to come.

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