There’s no better way to start the day than surrounded by your favorite people, eating sweet and savory breakfast food, and-heck, I’ll say it-sipping a mimosa or two. Brunch is my favorite meal, but I always hesitated to throw one myself, worried that it would mean waking up before dawn and being ready for a nap by the time the guests arrived.
But throwing a brunch can be super low stress and low maintenance. (And way less daunting than a formal dinner party!)
Follow these top tips from the Taste of Home Live professional event-planning crew:
Tip #1: Prep Ahead, and Plan a Mix of Dishes
Let’s get one thing straight: Brunch is all about the food. We like to make sure we have a mix of savory and sweet items. But don’t worry, you won’t need to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare it. Earmark some make-ahead recipes. Pastries like muffins and scones can be frozen ahead. Breakfast casseroles and egg bakes, like our Farmer’s Casserole, can be prepped the night before and baked in the morning, filling your house with an amazing smell. Don’t feel like you have to make everything, either. There’s no shame in setting up a toast-your-own bagel station with bakery bagels.
Tip #2: Keep Your Food Warm
There’s no need to cook your food at the last moment before your guests arrive. Casseroles, pastries and other hot breakfast items can be kept warm in an oven set to 200 degrees until showtime. Most guests like to settle in to chat and have a drink before they start chowing down.
If you want to have guests walk into a dramatic table setting, then place your warm dishes on the table and tent with foil 5 minutes before the party. Just pull off the tents once the first doorbell rings!
Tip #3: Don’t Forget the Drinks!
Fizzy champagne and OJ might be the most iconic brunch-time bevvy, but we’re all for trying new things. Whip up a batch of our Perfect Lemon Martinis or heat things up with a Bloody Maria. One of our very favorite brunch-time drinks is our recipe for Strawberry Mimosas. They’re perfectly sweet and show a gorgeous pink hue. We’re featuring this drink and more of our favorite picks at Taste of Home Live, our traveling cooking show.
And, of course, don’t forget to have coffee ready!
Tip #4: Don’t Forget About the Kiddos
With all the excitement, it might be easy to forget about the kid’s table. If children are on the guest list, offer simple items like cereal and milk. They are more likely to eat what they recognize rather than try new or “fancy” breakfast food.
Tip #5: Set Up a Self-Serve Bar
Our party planners agree that having a themed buffet station gives parties a lighthearted touch. Make space on the counter for a special spread for guests to serve themselves as they mingle. Your party-goers will love being able to customize their snack. Plus, it gives you a chance to make a super-sweet display. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Coffee bar: Start by rounding up coffee essentials like sugar and cream, then go one better by offering flavored syrups, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and an assortment of teas.
- Parfait bar: Divvy out fresh fruit, granola, nuts and a few sweet toppings in separate bowls. Guests can layer their fixings into cups of plain yogurt.
- Toast bar: Plate up sliced bread or bagels and lay out a few jams, jellies, butters and spreads (try out this easy California-Style Butter). Have a toaster ready for people to toast on the go.
Tip #6: Get Creative with Your Serveware
To make your tablescape look top-notch, opt for unexpected serving dishes. Our culinary director, Sarah Thompson, frequently brings out tartlet tins for her brunch-time bash. “You can use them as holders for flatware bundles or fill them with sliced fruit or pastries,” she says. Also, the way you choose to present your dishes can instantly set the mood. Make a kabob out of donut holes and fresh fruit, then set them inside a vase. Presto! You have a whimsical dessert bouquet.
P.S. For a polished look, try not to have any cartons or containers on the table. Transfer syrups to small glass bowls with serving spoons or creamer into a carafe.
Tip #7: Keep Your Centerpiece Fun and Casual
When it comes to decorations, this fantastic quote from the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking still holds true today: “Don’t make your effects so stagey that your guests’ reactions will be ‘she went to a lot of trouble.’ Make them rather say, ‘She had a lot of fun doing it.’ “
We’re all for having fun decor! Brighten up your brunch table by picking out a few colorful mason jars. Fill them up with simple flowers like baby’s breath or hydrangeas. Another easy trick is to incorporate fresh produce naturally throughout the table. Think outside the box by using pretty vegetables such as artichokes or radishes. They’ll make a charming (and budget-friendly) display.
Tip #8: Sneak in Conversation Starters
Your crew probably knows how to gab, but if there are a few newcomers at the table, it’s a good idea to encourage inclusive conversation. Instead of dictating what your guests should say, sprinkle conversation-starters into your table decor. Surprise your guests with a few open-ended questions written on cardboard coasters or DIY paper napkin rings. Here are a few of our favorites:
- What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
- Tell us about your favorite vacation.
- If you won the lottery, what would you spend the money on?
- Describe your perfect day.
Tip #9: Set Up the Night Before
It’s never a good idea to rush things right before guests arrive…So if your party begins in the a.m., it’s especially important to set up your spread the night before. Lay out place settings, hang decorations, and make sure there are plenty of seats to go around. It might seem silly, but take time to jot down a game plan of the steps your need to complete the next day. Think of reminders about reheating muffins, brewing coffee, cleaning last-minute dishes and more. A little extra legwork in advance will ease stress levels the morning of.
Tip #10: Relax, You’ve Got This!
Above all else, remember to have fun. The whole point of having a party is to enjoy the company of your friends and family. So don’t hole yourself up in the kitchen or panic if things aren’t going according to plan. Your guests will feel more encouraged to have a good time if they see you are, too. So grab a drink and get out there to party.
Looking for more ways to spend time with your favorite brunch crew? Come to our cooking show, Taste of Home Live. We’re traveling around the country to showcase our best recipes for brunch, plus showstoppers for dinner and desserts, too. Find out if we’re coming to your neck of the woods, here.