Everything You Need to Know About Planning an After-Wedding Brunch

According to wedding planners.

brunch crudités board

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Thinking about hosting an after-wedding brunch? It's a great way for couples to extend the celebration and spend extra time with guests before they head home. Luckily, the etiquette for a post-wedding brunch (aka., a farewell brunch) is a bit more relaxed. You have the creative freedom to play with everything, including the post-wedding brunch invitations, dress code, and menu. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, guidance is always welcome, especially when it comes to selecting a venue, sending out RSVPs, and handling the logistics. We consulted with wedding planners Melissa Williams and Heather Piland to create a straightforward guide for who to invite and how to plan your first brunch as a married couple.

Meet the Expert

• Melissa Williams is the owner and creative director of A Charleston Bride, a luxury planning and design firm specializing in weddings.

• Heather Piland is the founder of The Charleston Brunch Co., a Charleston-based event planning company that specializes in brunch-themed weddings and events.

Here’s everything you need to know to plan the perfect post-wedding brunch.

How to Plan the After-Wedding Brunch
 Alison Czinkota/Brides

After-Wedding Brunch Etiquette

Post-wedding brunches bring up a lot of etiquette questions. Who hosts it? Who's invited? And what's expected from you, the newlyweds, during it? Get answers to these questions, plus a few more, below.

Who throws an after-wedding brunch?

While you could delegate this task to your wedding planner, the newly married couple or parents of the bride could also be in charge. Talk to your parents about what makes the most sense.

When do you throw an after-wedding brunch?

A post-wedding brunch is typically held the morning after the wedding. "However, if you had a Friday wedding and know guests plan to stay through the weekend or are in a destination location and know most guests plan to depart a few days after, I would hold off on the post-wedding brunch and let them enjoy their additional time away," says Piland.

Most after-wedding brunches begin at 11 a.m. or noon and last about 2.5 hours, allowing guests to stop in at their leisure. If your wedding is a late-night affair, consider holding your brunch from 1 to 3 p.m. so your guests can rest in the morning. Williams recommends setting up your brunch as a drop-in style event. "Since most of your guests will also be heading home the day of your post-wedding brunch, the range in time and location of the event being a drop-in will allow them to not only stop in and bid you farewell but also to prepare accordingly for the day of travel they have ahead."

Who gets invited to an after-wedding brunch?

If your budget allows it and you want to invite all your wedding guests, awesome! But it's by no means necessary or expected. As a rule of thumb, your immediate family, grandparents, and the wedding party (and their plus-ones) should receive an invite.

Beyond that, use your discretion and be consistent. If you're going to invite extended family members (aunts, uncles, and cousins), do so for both of your families. If you want to add some of your friends to the list, it should be all your friends on both sides as well as your mutual friends. Just like when you’re making the guest list for your wedding, picking and choosing some friends or cousins over others can result in hurt feelings, so consistency is totally key. Of course, if you start to open up the guest list to make sure everyone is fairly represented, you might as well just invite everyone.

What is the newlywed's role at an after-wedding brunch?

After all the excitement from the day prior, the happily married couple should be prepared to mingle with guests and say goodbye to those who traveled near and far to celebrate the occasion. "This post-wedding event allows another chance for a couple to make their rounds and ensure that they were able to spend quality time with everyone before they head back home," says Williams. "The wedding day is packed with overwhelming joy and excitement, but it is not uncommon that there are a handful of your guests you would have liked to have spent a little more time with—this event allows you to do just that, all while reveling in the prior night's festivities."

Should there be a parting gift for attendees?

Guests often get so caught up in the wedding day frenzy that they forget to pick up their wedding favor. "We love to bring the wedding favors from the night before to the post-wedding brunch so any guests who forgot or misplaced their parting gift will have the opportunity to receive one," says Piland. "Most of the guests will already be packed for their departure directly after the brunch, so we don't encourage an additional parting gift for the guests as it may inconvenience them after," she says.

Should your after-wedding brunch have a dress code?

Typically, the dress code for your wedding will set the tone for the after-wedding brunch that follows the next day. When in doubt, be sure to address the desired brunch attire on your invitations. While a drop-in or buffet-style brunch will likely err on the casual side, a garden party–inspired brunch may require guests' Sunday best.

What are some after-wedding brunch menu options?

"Local favorite brunch items are always a must," Piland says. "For instance, in Charleston, we are known for our shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and biscuits. Guests love to get to know the area, and this is a great way to show off some of the special parts of your wedding location."

Another way to diversify your brunch spread is by setting up stations that offer an elevated take on brunch favorites. Williams recommends a biscuit or bagel bar, an interactive omelet or crepe station, or a waffle bar. While coffee and juice are considered essential, she suggests including "a few fun 'adult' options like a build-your-own mimosa bar or Bloody Mary bar."

What are some tips for planning a post-wedding brunch on a budget?

Extending the post-wedding brunch invitation to everyone is a good way to play it safe, but another meal for 100 or more can be expensive, so be selective with offerings to keep the cost low. If your aim is a quick hug before everyone heads to the airport, limit the choices to coffee and tea, juice, pastries, and fresh fruit that your loved ones can easily grab (and even take with them in the car).

For a sit-down meal that’s a little more hearty, that buffet can be tasty without being totally over the top. Scrambled eggs, potatoes, and bacon are crowd-pleasers, and no one will miss the omelet station or freshly made waffles. Skipping the alcohol (sorry, no mimosas!) will also help you limit the costs. If your venue has a bar and offers brunch cocktails, guests could head to the bar to purchase drinks themselves.

How far in advance should you start planning an after-wedding brunch?

"Three to six months in advance is a good rule of thumb for planning any wedding-related events. You will want to make sure you include these details in your invitation suite and on your wedding website," says Piland. "Additionally, you will want to make sure guests have plenty of time to prepare their travel plans around all of the events they hope to attend."

5 Steps to Planning an After-Wedding Brunch 

Once you've decided a post-wedding brunch will be part of your wedding weekend, here's how to start planning it.

1. Put someone in charge of planning the brunch

While the newlyweds are expected to play hostess at their post-wedding brunch, it's up to them if they want to bring in outside help. They may decide to divvy up responsibilities with parents or hire a wedding planner. "While hosting multiple events over the weekend is fun, it can be very taxing if you are not able to depend on someone to assist you," Williams says. "It is so nice to wake up the morning after your wedding and walk right into a turnkey brunch event." A wedding planner will be ready to assist with everything from communication with the venue and caterer to the final guest count and morning-of setup.

If you're unable to hire a wedding planner, consider hosting your brunch at a venue with an in-house event manager who has access to necessary rental items like tables, chairs, linens, china, glassware, and flatware.

2. Decide on a location

As for the setting, you can rent a restaurant, hold it at your wedding hotel or, of course, in a house. Pick a site that allows you to collaborate with an event planner who can help you personalize the menu and decor.

Be sure to select a location that's convenient for family and guests. "Since most of your guests will be stopping into the brunch on their way out of town, make sure the location you choose is either walkable from the hotels you have blocks set up with or even in the hotel that a majority of your guests are staying," Williams says. She suggests "choosing a location that can accommodate at least 75 percent of your overall guest list, not 75 percent of your expected guest list."

3. Select a time for your brunch

Generally speaking, your brunch will take place either early afternoon (if your wedding reception runs late into the night) or late morning (perfect for guests who need to hit the road). "Keeping in mind that many of your guests will need to pack or check out prior to coming to your brunch is courteous, so we suggest a drop-in time of 10 a.m to 12 p.m. to make sure you are appealing to a majority of those who will be traveling," Williams says.

4. Create the guest list

If you're keeping the guest list small, either include an insert in the invitations that are destined for only the guests in question or send out an evite to more easily track RSVPs. Not inviting everyone? Then don't put the brunch on your wedding website. The rest of your guests might assume they’re also invited or will be hurt to find out there’s more to the party and they’re not included. If you’ve got a room block at a hotel with a restaurant, don’t host your brunch in the main dining room. Instead, opt for a private room or have your brunch off-site to avoid any awkward moments when those you didn’t invite show up for breakfast and are dining at the next table.

5. Plan the menu

Whether you opt for a rolling buffet-style brunch, made-to-order entrees, or carb-filled pastries (think a doughnut wall, homemade Pop-Tarts, and flaky croissants), you should have something to satisfy every palate. "We think this is a great time for couples to really showcase their personalities and breakfast/lunch favorites, or even focus on some of the famous regional dishes that may be popular where they are getting married," Williams says.

If you plan to mingle before the actual brunch begins, Piland recommends having a little "snack." "This is also great for any guests that have an earlier flight and need a grab-and-go option."

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