8 Tips That Will Help You Own Your Brunch Wedding


Nighttime isn't always the right time, you know?

by Erin Strop

bride holding a drink

Bacon, Bloody Marys, and bagels? Natural light, (sometimes) cheaper venue prices, and a more casual vibe? Girl, brunch weddings have so much going for them! But… as you begin planning a morning wedding, it’s worth keeping in mind that daytime weddings often happen on, shall we say, compact timelines. Also? Just because it’s a brunch wedding doesn’t mean it’s going to be inexpensive—which is something that Meg (who had a morning wedding) noted in the APW planner:

Although morning weddings can be cost effective in a variety of ways, the lunch or brunch meal doesn’t always save you the fortune that is sometimes promised. Lunch lets you skip lobster with fewer people noticing, and it will definitely lower your alcohol bill. But the food alone won’t tend to save you enough to justify moving your wedding to earlier in the day.

But having said that, a brunch wedding can be the best! I even had one myself. Of course, they do come with their own learning curve. With that in mind, here are the eight lessons I wish I’d learned before my 5:30am wake-up call and 11am start time.

1. you actually start prepping your brunch wedding the day before it happens

Everything you need to do on the day of an evening wedding needs to happen the day before for a brunch wedding. Be aware of hidden to-do lists and reserve some flex time before the parade of scheduled appointments begins. You know all the things you do to prepare for a houseguest? I did all of the tasks (setting out linens, writing a note with cat care instructions) in about four minutes while also stuffing my wedding dress into a bag and calling a cab, already late for the first of seven appointments I had leading up to the rehearsal dinner. I’d failed to merge my “prepare for houseguest” to-do list into my master to-do list. And because I’d forgotten to roll out the welcome mat, my guest ended up texting me questions about our Wi-Fi password and air conditioner right as I was coordinating a bouquet-making team under a tight deadline.

To avoid stress bombs like that one, get all the essential tasks onto a single list. Don’t forget that your actual life needs to continue while you celebrate. Is someone coming to feed the goldfish? Is your rent check due? Merge ho-hum tasks into your morning wedding to-do list so they don’t crop up right when you’re at your busiest. On the day of a brunch wedding, all you have time for is the wedding itself; get whatever else that needs to be done hammered out the day before.

2. cocktail hour isn’t always an actual hour

When it comes to a brunch wedding, your cocktail hour isn’t always an hour, which may mean less time for photos. If you’re planning on getting photos done during that cocktail (half hour), make sure you’ve worked out a speedy plan with your photographer. My sister’s jovial wedding photographer worked at warp speed, hailing a group of people and allowing them to naturally gather into a pose. He kept us laughing, resulting in formal photos that were both posed and organic at the same time — and painlessly fast. That’s what you want, not a photographer who micro-manages the angle of every shoulder and chin, as your brunch wedding speeds by.

3. you should schedule anything that happens pre-ceremony

The moment when his grandma, spinning around the dance floor in her wheelchair, grabbed my beer so she could pretend she was chugging it for a photo? Spontaneously adorable! But other adorable moments are more predictable — but can still be tricky to fit into a compact schedule. Lesson learned: If a particular moment is important to you, put it on the timeline, even if that seems wooden or forced.

Pausing for a moment of gratitude was essential to me, so I spent time the week before the wedding writing a heartfelt card and selecting a small gift for each of the three moms and three bridesmaids who got ready with me. But I never directly communicated to them or the photographer that we needed a two-minute window for gift distribution and hugs during the flurry of hair and makeup prep that morning. I figured it would organically happen in that natural, sweet way I’d seen in photos of other weddings — not realizing those were probably evening weddings with ample pre-ceremony downtime. I should have squeezed “sit down for two minutes for something special” onto the timeline so all six women would be better prepared to gather and grin in between mascara applications and zipper-related crises.

4. brunch weddings are short, but you’ll probably get to dance

You know it’s a good wedding when you’re on the dance floor and bemoan the arrival of the last song. But “Oh man, I can’t believe it’s already the last song!” is a good feeling, not a bad one. It means you’re probably two songs away from actually collapsing and the wedding is ending right on time, not too soon!

We arranged our timeline to maximize time on the dance floor. We let our friends know that even though the sun was still up, we were hoping they’d bust a move. (They did!) But as we headed into the last forty-five minutes of dancing, I realized I only had about five more minutes (or maybe six if Beyoncé came on) of shaking my groove thing left in me. We could have had a more relaxed pace earlier in the day for the ceremony and toasts and still had plenty of time to boogie.

Like Halloween candy, dancing is often best when you have just a tiny bit less than you think you want. After waking up mega early to prep, you may feel satisfied with less dancing than you’d want on a regular Saturday night. You’ll end the day with blisters from those adorable shoes no matter what, so don’t rush some of those sweet moments early in the day!

5. plan to pack up your brunch wedding easily

We needed to be out at exactly 3 p.m. Not just the guests, but all our stuff. Sturdy, clearly labeled containers were clutch as a dozen pre-assigned friends packed up everything from thrift store vases to framed photos of grandma and grandpa on the memory table. The divided boxes in which wine glasses are sold at Ikea were a great way to contain and compartmentalize delicate items (such as votives) for transit. Save some extra bubble wrap from your Amazon purchases and have a few rolls of tape within reach. Ideally, get all this planned so that you can head out and your friends can pack up.

6. casual after parties are where it’s at (Unless You Wanna Go Get Laid)

When your wedding ends at 3 p.m., it’s a great excuse to day drink. It’s also a great excuse for wedding night day sex. You know, the kind that your friends with evening weddings said they were too tired to have? So pick your poison, or do both, but enjoy the hell out the rest of your wedding day.

Whatever you pick, the sun’s still up, Uber isn’t surging with the late-night bar crowd, and your hair is still lookin’ good thanks to those forty-seven bobby pins.

So whip your timeline into shape, plan for a painless exit, talk through tricky questions with your photographer, and enjoy your morning bliss! I know we did!

did you plan a brunch wedding? how did it go? what would you change, and what would you keep the same?


The Info:

Photography by Kelly Benvenuto Photography

Erin Strop

Erin Strop is a museum educator who lives in Washington, D.C. She and her husband got married in Alexandria, Virginia, in September 2016.

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  • Emily

    Our brunch wedding was excellent–but please, please, please listen to rules 1 and 5. It did not really occur to me when planning that someone was going to have to set up our space, and since we intended to be in the space by 11am, that meant doing it on Friday, or in my case at 7am, before my wedding, in the pouring rain with 2 hungover bridesmaids.

    • rg223

      I had the set-up covered, but got pretty slammed with the take-down and had random family members putting things into cars at the end. Thanks family!!

  • Amy March

    My favorite brunch wedding detail is coffee, tea, and a tray of mini breakfast pastries on arrival. Not a giant display or anything, just something in the corner for anyone who arrives early, starving, or hungover.

    And be realistic. It’s not okay to expect your people really be ready for hair and makeup at 6 am so you can start photos at 8 and walk down the aisle at 10:30. You might need to be flexible on how “done” people are and how much time you can take for photos.

    • Katharine Parker

      Especially if you have a rehearsal dinner the night before, be realistic about your wedding party and how early they will be available. Although I was recently at a wedding where one groomsman got so drunk the night before that he didn’t make it to the 4pm ceremony, so sometimes you can’t win for trying.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      The brunch wedding I went to had heart-shaped donuts in lieu of cake. It was adorable.

    • Keeks

      To your second point: let your wedding party make their own arrangements for hair & makeup or do their own. On my wedding day, everyone in my wedding party arrived late (even later than my unstated buffer time) and it threw the whole schedule off… meaning my hair stylist did a great job on my MOH’s hair but rushed through mine and I got very few bridal portraits because we were rushing out the door for a 10:00am ceremony.

      • nutbrownrose

        That seems like your stylist prioritized hair wrong, especially since I assume you weren’t as late as everyone else? Like, do the bride up first so she can go off with the photographer if she wants. No big if a bridesmaid’s hair is a bit rushed, but kind of a big deal for bride…

    • Scalliwag

      We had a brunch wedding and did have an early “hair and make up start”, around 6am so that we could do photos from 9ish-10:30 before 10:45 official ceremony start at the church. However, it was helped by sharing the timeline in advance so everyone knew what they were in for, as well as having hair and make up folks come to the house as we were all getting ready.

      I haven’t been to other morning weddings, but I was in a wedding where I had a 7am hair/make up start even though the ceremony wasn’t until 3pm, and there was some big downtime because of it. So this scheduling concern is not just limited to brunch weddings.

      We did have breakfast foods and coffee/tea available at the church before noon museum reception start time and it wasn’t a lot of extra cost (catered from local grocery store) but it was definitely appreciated, so second that call out!

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        I was in an afternoon wedding with a really early hair appointment and serious downtime after. The night before the wedding the bride rented out an entire B&B for the wedding party. The hosts made us breakfast before the sun was up, and various family members bussed us all to the salon, which was a 45 min drive away. I didn’t love the early morning wake-up call or all the time sitting around waiting, but the bride and her family made it as convenient as possible, and the ladies’ sleepover was fun.

    • CMT

      I think you could easily have a “brunch” wedding — in that you have breakfast-y foods and mimosas and bloody marys — start at a lunch time! That would ease up the timeline a bit.

    • sofar

      I’ve had 6am bridesmaid hair appointments for EVENING weddings lol.

      The last brunch wedding I was in, hair/makeup were at 4 AM! I agree, if you do a brunch wedding, professional hair/make-up shouldn’t be mandatory.

      • Amy March

        4. AM. What is wrong with people?!?

    • 5am two days in a row for my sister’s wedding. The artists weren’t phased because that’s normal for them for UK weddings(not the two days, but the early start – UK weddings often run 12:00-00:00), but it was no fun for those of us participating!

  • Eenie

    I’m here for all the brunch foods!! We had chicken and waffles at our wedding. For logistical reasons we weren’t quite able to succeed in having the breakfast for dinner buffet that I originally wanted.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Only 47 bobby pins? You amature! I kid, I kid.Srsly, though, shout-out to the post-reception afternoon bar crawl. Go out for dinner to sober up and get home to bed at a normal-ish hour.

    • CMT

      This sounds like the perfect party to me, but I normally go to bed before 9 and I have serious trouble staying up past 11, even on a weekend.

    • AmandaBee

      I chuckled at this too, though I know it wasn’t literal. It took well over 100 bobby pins to keep my hair in its updo. I tried to count, but was too tipsy and also lost a whole bunch in my hair which I found over the course of the following day…or two.

  • AmandaBee

    I loved our brunch wedding, not least because husband and I LOVE breakfast foods. It also felt automatically more laid back, which was our goal, though you could certainly make a brunch fancy. Our families seemed to really enjoy it, in part because the people who wanted to be home by dinner could and the people who wanted to party all night just met us at a bar afterward (but we’re lame, so “all night” still ended at 8pm, ahaha).

    I will cosign all of Meg’s tips. A few tips I’d add:

    – When interviewing stylists (if you’re getting hair/makeup done), ask specifically about how early they’re willing to go. Then work out a timeline before you book them. Once we mapped out our timeline I realized I needed my hair/makeup started at 8am, which meant my stylist had to actually open the salon early that day. I actually wanted to start earlier to leave myself some cushion, but that wasn’t happening. So I ended up rushing to get into my dress in < 10 minutes, which was totally fine but slightly less fun than the leisurely getting-dressed experience I'd envisioned.

    TL/DR: get your timeline, run it by any stylists, leave yourself some cushion.

    – #1 is solid advice. Talk to your venue about setup, and then talk to your people about getting help. We could not set up the decorations the day before, so I had to ask a team of friends to do it in the morning while I was getting ready. Luckily my friends are awesome people and we didn't have a ton of decor, but talk to your venue to see what your options are. Do not think for one second that you will have time for this in the morning.

    – If you're doing an afterparty/post-reception hangout, that can easily slide into hosting a SECOND reception if you aren't careful. We felt WIC-induced pressure to make it MORE than just hanging out at the bar, and had to remind ourselves that we'd literally just provided brunch for people and did not need to also make a bit deal about the after-reception party.

    – EAT BREAKFAST. At least a banana or something. If you're a coffee drinker, have a plan to make that happen. It's easy to forget but you do not want to be hangry or getting hit with a caffeine withdrawal headache right as your ceremony starts.

    • Scalliwag

      We made our after party just at a bar, starting around 9pm, and it was mostly the young folks that came out, as anticipated. The wedding had gone from 12-5pm and people spread out and had light dinners at local restaurants before meeting up at the bar. It was awesome to be able to hang and chat more with people, but they were all buying us drinks instead of “second reception.”

      Also super fun to be in the bar in wedding dress and then walk back from there, definitely a benefit of the public, low key after party. Not private, but lots of well wishes.

  • rg223

    Brunch weddings FTW! Another +1 – brunch weddings being “shorter” is great for introverts (my husband will attest). And addendum to #5: we also did an after party where we watched the Super Bowl at a bar! And I got laid afterwards! (Though we did leave the party at halftime). It’s possible to do both if you have the energy!

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      So you enjoyed the halftime show? ;)

      • rg223

        *cackles delightedly*

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  • Amandala

    Echoing the check with your stylist advice. I didn’t quite realize how early we’d need to get started to have enough time for mom and me. Also, I ended up getting dressed at the salon because it would have taken too much time to get back to the hotel. Luckily, I really didn’t care about getting ready photos.

    We had an 11:30 church ceremony with a lunch reception that ended by 5. Our dance floor was always going. Our older relatives and family friends loved it because they got to dance and celebrate and then go home at a (to them) reasonable time. Even eight months later, we still get compliments on the timing.

    We stayed to the end and then went back to the hotel, had a “nap”, went to dinner just the two of us and then we were in bed by 9:30. For two non-late night people, it was perfect.

    • AmandaBee

      We also got a lot of compliments on the timing from people who loved that they could go to the whole wedding and reception, and still be home by dinner. Ironically, we were worried people wouldn’t like the timing, and it ended up being one of the things people seemed to like the most (granted, we don’t roll with a late-night crowd either).

      I love the idea of having a personal dinner afterward, too. We went the afterparty route, but it seems like it’d be really nice to just enjoy each other’s company after a whole day of being surrounded by people.

  • PeaceIsTheWay

    We had a lunch reception! Same time as brunch, but with a dinner-esque food menu, not breakfast-esque. Our timing was 9:30 am church ceremony, followed by 11 am – 3 pm restaurant reception. We also hosted food (not alcohol) for the ‘rehearsal dinner’ (all guests invited) the night before and for the after party at our hotel the night of the wedding. For our restaurant venue, the minimum buy-out amount was literally twice the amount for dinner as for lunch, so the original motivator to go with a lunch wedding was very much cost. A huge unanticipated plus was that it made our wedding day seem so much longer! To me, my wedding was over when I went to sleep at night; when I woke up the next day, it was the day after my wedding. A 9:30 am ceremony meant I was in my dress by 8:00 am, and I stayed in it until nearly midnight :) Our after party was super laid back; my husband was in a t-shirt. But I regretted that it’s not socially acceptable to wear a giant ball gown in the days following your wedding :( So the extended celebrations were a surprise advantage of our lunch wedding. The biggest unhappy surprise was how early my crew had to start hair and makeup: first appointment at 5 am!! I was not expecting that. Luckily, my mom took the first appointment, and then my MIL, and then my sister in law, so my bridesmaids didn’t have to show up until 6-7, which is still way earlier than I would have thought. The super early preparations were super fun for me (and my mom) but I did feel bad for the bridesmaids who wanted their hair and makeup done.

  • Shiloh

    We had a brunch wedding and it was amazing! Wedding and reception both at our church, with a “coffee hour” instead of a happy hour in between while wedding party did photos. We had a local coffee company come in and do French press coffee and my mom and maid of honor spent the week before the wedding baking up a ton of scones and muffins for with the coffee. (we also hand wrote recipe cards for the scones as the wedding favors) Our church reception room opened out onto a back lawn, and the weather cooperated, so we had lawn games and a floral crown station (leftovers from arranging our own flowers and bouquets) outside, which gave people another option for activities during the post ceremony happy hour (plus better entertainment for the kids). We had to be out by three, but we had an after party at a local pub (we rented out a big game room with pool tables and darts and things), which was also a nice way to open it up to local friends and acquaintances who we wanted to celebrate with, but who weren’t close enough to merit an invitation to the smaller ceremony. And the food was AMAZING!!! Brunch is and always will be my favorite meal :)

  • clarkesara

    I’m ten days out from my brunch wedding!

    The thing about scheduling is really smart. My initial plan was to have the week before the wedding off of work, and to spend the two days prior to the wedding taking care of all sorts of things: decorating the venue with all kinds of cute little touches, DIY flower arranging, a nail appointment with my mom, etc. Then I got booked on a job I couldn’t afford to turn down (honeymoon $$$$$$!), and I am now working that whole week. I’m going to leave work fifteen minutes before my rehearsal dinner starts! So many of those relaxing little tasks got either rescheduled, farmed out to a vendor, or delegated to my FH. Nails will now happen this weekend, sans mom, and I need to just be real careful/not too precious about it. Flowers were the one thing I wanted to DIY (I’ve worked as a floral designer before), but now we have a florist. My FH just got a crash course in venue decor. If it can be ordered on Amazon Prime, it’s being ordered on Amazon Prime.

    Otherwise, in terms of the day, the main thing I can recommend is as few moving pieces as possible. Our wedding is small, and I don’t know how any of this would work if that weren’t the case. Literally the only appointment I have besides a front porch first look and walking down the aisle is getting my hair done. I have no idea how any of this would work if we had a huge photo package, bridesmaids and groomsmen, or if my dress wasn’t from BHLDN and if I hadn’t had the train lopped off.

    • Amy March

      Gel! This situation calls for a gel manicure for sure.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Bonus: If you have a plain gel manicure, you can add embellishments with regular nail polish over top and remove/change as desired.

      • idkmybffjill

        THIS.

    • ML

      Props to you for rolling with the punches!

  • Essssss

    We did a brunch wedding with ceremony at 11 and reception right after! We got up at 8 and had light breakfast and did hair and make up at home very low key- had packed everything we needed the night before. We got to the site by 9:30 and did as many family and couple photos as we could before the ceremony. After the ceremony we did more couple photos and had a little downtime while our guests had mimosas, bloodies, coffee, and savory apps. There was daylight dancing, lawn games, crepes, and a lot of toasts. We were the last out around 5pm and we’re able to have our own time for a “nap”. We ordered take out and opened presents and went to bed on time, perfect for us. I don’t think I could have handled a morning start if our getting ready was more complicated, but I loved having a daytime brunch wedding!

  • Sheena Walsh

    We had an 11 am wedding, partly because my husband wanted to wear a morning suit, and partly because it was easier for all my friends who had small children. The hair and makeup thing was a sticking point, and my solution was – we used more than one hair saloon so that the two bridesmaids and I could get our hair done at the same time. My two bridesmaids did their makeup themselves, and my makeup person came to the house. It turned out that my husband broke a few ribs and fractured several vertebrae the week of the wedding, so skipping the dance floor was fine. Our best decision was to have the reception at the resort where we spent our honeymoon, so we walked out of the reception and down to our little beach hut.

  • cpostrophe

    we had a little more play in our brunch wedding: 11am invite time, 11:30 ceremony start, 12-1 cocktail hour, 1-2 brunch, 2:30 dance party, guests out by 4pm. And I’m also really into pre-setup and after party It was key for us to have family staying in a hotel two blocks away from the venue and for us to pre-stage decorations there on the day before. What was also great were other out-of-town friends who enjoy volunteering and would just show up at the venue early to help out. Our Best Lady forgot her shoes at home, and there was a volunteer who could be a runner to just head back there and get them. Another volunteer worked with our florist to distribute and pin corsages to the wedding party. Other volunteers helped setup the tent.

    As a cautious suggestion to add to the notion of an after party stretching out the day’s festivities, if you want to go for extra credit, you can also incorporate a pre-wedding event. Since a brunch wedding was, in our case, less expensive than an evening wedding, we took some of the budget that we had saved and applied it to buying a bunch of drink tickets at the restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner. So, basically: rehearsal dinner > pre-wedding cocktails for all invited guests > sleep > brunch wedding > open house after party > collaaaaaapse.

    What we liked about this format is that it gave a lot of our friends multiple options and opportunities for socializing. A lot of our guests had met when they came to Boston for grad school or an early job and then moved to another city, so the wedding was, in many ways, also a reunion; and many of our guests told us later about how it was just so nice to be able to reconnect over the course of a nice weekend instead of a few hours. “Basically,” one of them said, “you had a destination wedding in your home city.”

    Though, one last note about the early start time — even if you don’t do a pre-wedding party, you’re probably going to be hyped up on the anticipation and excitement of getting married tomorrow, so you may find it harder to sleep than normal. And so you may find yourself up at 6am after a night of laying awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering who’s fucking bright idea was it to get married at noon? Take precautions, whether it’s melatonin, an earlier than usual sleep time, no caffeine for the day and a hard early evening workout to get you tired. Whatever — be extra sure you get your sleep and hydrate like a boss. You’ll need it even more when you don’t have a whole day of runway for napping or sleeping in.

    • Brynna

      This is such a great point and why we chose to do a brunch/morning wedding. We have lots of people coming from out of town and wanted to be able to spend the day with them, rather than simply spending a whole day getting ready and then seeing guests for only a couple of hours.

  • Lindsey d.

    We loved our brunch wedding!

    Key for us was having Friday to set up our ceremony and reception spaces. Luckily, we were able to return Sunday to take down the ceremony space (including chuppah). Plus 1 to the clearly labeled bins. They really helped our family clear up the reception space after we left.

    We saved money by offering two cocktails and wine and beer. The brunch theme/time was perfect for having mimosas and Bloody Marys.

    We got a great band and the dance floor was hopping. Know your audience there. I knew my family would dance at any time of day.

    Plus 1 to an after party. My in-laws hosted a crawfish boil the night of our wedding. It was awesome to get to spend extra time with the out-of-towners we otherwise wouldn’t have seen as much of.

  • dlizah

    Reading this and reading the comments is making me nervous! We’re also having a brunch wedding starting at 11am until 4pm. Staying at a hotel across the street the night before, however we can’t get to the venue to set up until 8am. I have 6 bridesmaids and I’m a little worried about hair (we’re not doing professional makeup, or not all of us at least) and being able to do pics at a nearby park (we were planning on starting this around 10:30 until 11) and having time for set up! I guess I’m going to have to put my peeps to work that morning! :D