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wedding reception basics

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Reception Food: Throwing a Reception Brunch

Are you a morning person? Looking for a unique wedding twist? Consider a brunch reception. Be it a sunrise ceremony, your passion for breakfast, or a way to get a jump on your honeymoon, a brunch reception can be a delicious, low-key, and inspired choice.

Timing Is Everything

A brunch reception usually takes place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you'd like it to be more of a breakfast, 9:00 a.m. is usually the earliest starting time to consider. According to Rosemary Howe, a New York City caterer, your guests' stomachs may not be ready to handle heavy food right away. She suggests serving juices, coffee, and cocktails along with some light, fruity nibbles before moving onto the main course, to avoid overwhelming guests who may still be wiping sleep from their eyes. Then, of course, comes coffee, dessert, and wedding cake. Brunch is best served buffet style or as a seated meal (or a combination of the two). The other alternative is a cocktail brunch, where guests enjoy passed delicacies hors d'oeuvres-style (think scrambled egg tartlets and mini French toast) and cocktails (such as mimosas, bellinis, champagne, and punch) as they stand and chat, cheer, and celebrate.

Festive vs. Formal

Morning naturally sets a more mellow tone. A brunch can still be festive (think brightly colored flowers and mimosas), but it's probably not going to contain any rock star-style partying. Satisfy friends and family with a bountiful buffet and fresh juice bar. Fancy a formal atmosphere? Go for fine china, champagne, and a three-course meal. Also consider the time of year. If your big day falls during leaf-turning season, choose an ideal space where windows frame the colorful mosaic of gold and red hues. Planning a winter wedding? Consider a cozy brunch by a roaring fire. A tented springtime soiree in an English garden is a beautiful way to celebrate nature. When choosing a brunch spot, remember to see it during the time of day you are planning your reception -- ask yourself, is it dark and depressing due to a lack of windows? Does the sun beat down during the day, making the temperature inside boiling? It's important to see all of the room's blemishes.

Brunch Budgets

A brunch is one of the most cost-effective receptions you can have: Brunches can range in price from $17 to $85 per head, depending on the menu and the site you choose. Your liquor costs will be much lower than an evening affair (guests drink less alcohol in the morning); you won't have to shell out money for a band (although a string quartet is always nice in the early morning hours); and oftentimes reception sites are less expensive to rent in the daytime.

Brunch Food Trends

One word: Frittatas. According to Rocco DiSpirito, the chef at Union Pacific in New York City, this Italian vegetable-and-egg dish is all the rage. "The frittata feels lighter yet substantial without being rich. It's full of vegetables so it appeals to the health conscious and can be prepared with delicious cheese and herbs." Want to forgo the eggs altogether? Grilled veggies are a tasty alternative, according to Word of Mouth catering in New York City. Another hot brunch bite? "Smoked things," says Dispirito. "Not just salmon and sable -- but tuna bacon and salmon bacon, smoked tuna and smoked meats, and even smoked vegetables, which are great for late morning or early afternoon." Asian foods are invading the brunch bash as well, with delectable dim sum. "People like these well-seasoned bites of food with a surprise inside," says New York City caterer Karen Lee, who serves up these steamed buns and dumplings on stylish bamboo steamers. To add some spice to the soiree, some caterers are serving up familiar foods with a twist. Word of Mouth offers creative variations such as grilled chicken salad wraps, open-face sandwiches made on homemade dill sponge bread, and smoked salmon wraps instead of the traditional bagels and lox. Another hot trend is food stations, a lively (and less crowded) alternative to the standard buffet. One recent brunch reception we heard about featured an omelet station, a French toast station, and a crepe/pancake station (both with various toppings and syrups).

Tasty Tidbits

  • When planning the menu, be certain to have more than just a fruit salad as the only vegetarian or healthy offering. These days, with so many people watching their cholesterol and fat intake, scrambled eggs with cheese and sausage shouldn't be the only dish on the buffet table. Consider fruit yogurt, egg-white omelets, gourmet pizza, poached salmon, vegetable tarts, grilled veggie sandwiches, and salad nicoise.

  • To add a little flair, think beyond the ordinary. Instead of muffins and croissants, feature orange-scented scones and walnut banana bread.

  • Can you serve wedding cake in the morning? Sure, why not? You may opt for a lighter cake, such as carrot, lemon, angel food cake, or cheesecake, rather than a heavy fudge-covered cake. Or cut into a Mexican wedding cake -- a lighter confection made with nuts and powdered sugar. Another way to lighten up the mid-day wedding cake: Top it with fresh fruit.

Think Drinks

Go light on the liquor -- it may not even be noon! If you'd like to serve wine, consider offering it after some food has been eaten. And don't forget morning-time cocktails like bloody marys, mimosas, screwdrivers, mint juleps, punch, tequila sunrise (grenadine, tequila, and orange juice), bellinis (fresh sliced peaches or peach juice and sparkling wine or champagne) or champagne with a few raspberries dropped in. And, of course, include delicious non-alcoholic breakfast beverages such as coffee (think American, cafe au lait, espresso with lemon zest, cappuccino, Thai iced coffee), tea, (think black, green, mint, spiced, chamomile, Earl Gray, English breakfast), fresh juices (watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, or a grapefruit/orange/cranberry blend), hot chocolate (Mexican, cinnamon, marshmallow-drenched), and fruit smoothies (blueberry, banana, strawberries mixed with apple juice or non-fat yogurt). For a southern affair, think iced tea with lemon, peach tea, fresh strawberry or watermelon lemonade, and raspberry ginger ale punch.

Resources: Rocco DiSpirito, Chef, Union Pacific, New York, NY; (212) 995-8500
Rosemary Howe, Caterer, Barraud Caterers, New York, NY; (212) 925-1334
Karen Lee, Caterer, Karen Lee, New York, NY; (212) 787-2227
Melissa Paston, Catering Sales Manager, W New York, New York, NY; (212) 407-2935
Tim Patton, Caterer, Southern Seasonings Catering, Atlanta, GA; (770) 642-1727
Alicia Reinish, Caterer, Word of Mouth Catering, New York, NY; (212) 734-9483
Marti Schwartz, Serves You Right Catering, Los Angeles, CA; (818) 785-9339
Monique Teichman, Catering Sales Manager, Bold American Food Company, Atlanta, GA (404) 815-1178

-- The Knot

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