We’ll take any excuse to celebrate a wedding, from the engagement party and bridal shower to the reception and the morning-after brunch. There’s one pre-wedding party, however, that is often overlooked—but that we think should get added to your calendar ASAP. The bridal luncheon. So what’s the deal with this ladies-only affair and how exactly is it any different from a bridal shower? Our experts have the answers.
What Is a Bridal Luncheon?
Also known as a bridesmaids’ luncheon, a bridal luncheon is a daytime celebration for the bride and her attendants (think bridesmaids and flower girls). It’s totally optional, but it’s a great opportunity to get together with your ‘maids before you head down the aisle. The event is often treated as an opportunity for the bride to thank her bridesmaids for their hard work and support over the course of the wedding planning process. Whether a brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, or even a trip to the salon with champagne, it’s feminine and low key—and there are definitely no boys allowed (unless, of course, you opt for a man of honor).
Who Hosts It?
Because a bridal luncheon isn’t always included in the pre-wedding festivities, the etiquette isn’t quite as clear. There are a few common options for hostess: The mother of the bride, the maid of honor (on behalf of the bridesmaids), or the bride herself.
Who Is Invited?
The bridal luncheon guest list is usually limited to women participating in the ceremony. The list should definitely include all of the bridesmaids, the flower girl (and her mother, especially if she is quite young), the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom, and the soon-to-be newlyweds' sisters. If you’d like to have a larger celebration, you might consider inviting other close female friends, grandmothers, or aunts. The guest list follows many of the same guidelines as a bridal shower, though it’s often more intimate.
What Is Served?
This is totally up to you. Your luncheon could be, well, a luncheon, or it could be a brunch or tea. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
For a classic luncheon:
Sweet Corn Bisque
Nicoise Salad with Seared Tuna
Spinach Salad with Pecan-Crusted Chicken
For a brunch:
Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Preserves
Earl Gray Tea Crème Brûlée
For afternoon tea:
Scones with Chive Crème Fraîche and Smoked Trout
Selection of Finger Sandwiches: Egg Salad, Ham and Mustard, and Cucumber
Individual Berry Pavlovas
Lemon Meringue Tarts
Chocolate Mousse Cups
Looking to shake things up? Turn your “luncheon” into a dinner. Serve tacos and margaritas, pizza and red wine, or whatever combination sounds the most delicious at the time.
When Is It Held?
The bridal luncheon is most often held in the days immediately before the wedding. If the bridesmaids are all in town, hosting the event the day before the wedding is a good way to spread out the celebrations. Consider hosting it in the late morning, followed by a trip to the salon for manicures and pedicures. The luncheon can also be held the morning of the wedding. For an evening wedding, it might take place before preparations have begun, or it can occur as a pause from the morning’s hair and makeup appointments.
Where Should It Take Place?
Again, the location is up to you. If you are hosting the luncheon in advance of your wedding, choose a restaurant in town with a private room or host it somewhere in your hotel. If you are renting a suite for the weekend, the room’s common area could be the perfect spot for an intimate gathering.
If you are having the luncheon the day of your wedding, either have the meal set up in the room where you will be getting ready with your bridesmaids, or choose a location in the hotel so no one has to go too far (and can attend in curlers if need-be).
What Happens During the Event?
The main focus of the event is to acknowledge and thank your bridesmaids for all they’ve done as you’ve planned your wedding. This is the perfect time to distribute any gifts you may have gotten your bridesmaids—especially if you hope they’ll use them on your wedding day. The bride may opt to make a short toast, though this isn’t necessary. Otherwise, use the gathering as an opportunity to relax, enjoy the company of the closest women in your life, and prepare yourself for the celebration to come.