Why you should consider having a Brunch Reception

Why not celebrate while the sun shines?

While evening is the most popular time of day for a wedding, morning and mid-day weddings can be just as stylish and just as romantic. Earlier-in-the-day weddings have some real advantages, too.

First of all, you will save money. Lunchtime affairs are less costly simply because the foods offered for brunch generally cost less money per person and, just as important, liquor costs will be minimal. After all, how many Bloody Marys can Uncle Bob consume in the middle of the day?

An early reception also can take advantage of the warming rays of the sun and give a cheery countenance to the event. Friends and relatives won't have to drive back home or to their lodging in the dark and you might be able to book your favorite venue at a late date.

Most popular wedding spots are booked a year and even two years in advance, but when you ask for an earlier time spot, they will probably have a more open calendar. If you have dreamed of having your wedding at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel or the Mountain View Grand Resort, you don't have to ask for the ballroom.

Every hotel has smaller rooms and special settings like verandas with vistas that make an impressive spot for both the ceremony and the reception.

Innkeeper Janel Martin says that when she was a wedding planner at a large Hyatt Hotel in D.C. she sold the luxurious lobby for a wedding. Work with your wedding planner and you may be surprised at what is available.

Having the ceremony on-site is key to having a brunch reception work well. Most large venues have created environments for hosting a wedding from vows to reception. If you prefer a more intimate setting, a wedding at a bed and breakfast inn can work out nicely. Most have a special spot in a garden or near a pond for the ceremony. With a short ceremony you would only need a few chairs for those who really need them and then guests can wander inside for brunch or perhaps a tent can provide shelter from the sun and weather.

The Inn on Newfound Lake has remodeled their barn for hosting weddings. The roomy space has a rustic, but upscale feel, complete with a deer horn antler chandelier. Owners Larry Delangis and Phelps Boyce suggest having guests mingle under a tent right after the ceremony for appetizers to get some food in their stomachs – especially if the meal is not the first thing on the agenda at the reception. You don't want people drinking mimosas on an empty stomach.

Instead of a full open bar it may be enough to have a make-it-yourself Bloody Mary station with premium vodka. Mimosas made with fresh-squeezed orange juice are sure to be a hit. Offering green, herbal and flavored teas or international coffees can also add variety to the drink menu.

Even with an earlier gathering you still have several options for food service. A brunch can be a sit-down affair with a light three-course menu or it can be a traditional buffet brunch where guests fill their plates and then sit at tables. A more popular option is offering serving stations.

When guests are standing at high-top tables and grazing from a variety of stations and passed hors d'oeuvres, you are inviting them to mingle. And that is what a wedding is about – opportunities to share the experience with distant relatives who have a chance to reconnect and you, the bride, will be free to roam from one group to the next. There is no need for the wedding party to be tethered to the head table for a good deal of the reception.

As with the style of service, the food items can vary a great deal. Chef/owner Karen Melanie LaRocco at the Ammonoosuc Inn in Lisbon suggests a variety of egg dishes, chicken marsala and sweet and savory breads. Janel Martin at the Wakefield Inn is another innkeeper/chef. She thinks of handmade pasta stations, rustic tarts or thin-crust pizzas with caramelized onions and bleu cheese. A towering display of finger sandwiches will please even the most finicky guests.

Chef Martin LeGay at the Crowne Plaza Nashua suggests offering chef-made omelet stations that may offer a breakfast burrito, too. A chef slicing tenderloin of beef with a horseradish cream with a roasted garlic honey butter on sliced baguettes is another of his suggestions. For fish LeGay suggests a coriander-grilled whole salmon with a cucumber fennel dill relish with assorted bagels and cream cheese. A salad station could offer baby spinach, baby greens, grape tomatoes, figs, Mandarin oranges, almond, cucumber, Bermuda onions, carrot gaufrettes, goat cheese hummus, grilled asparagus, sweet peppers along with champagne and white balsamic chive vinaigrettes.

If you decide on an earlier time slot, LeGay also suggests pecan cornflake- encrusted French toast with a Bananas Foster sauce served with New Hampshire maple syrup, home fries, applewood-smoked bacon and sausage. Breakfast is a lot of folks' favorite meal anyway, so a grand breakfast would make them really happy.

Often the inn or hotel can provide the cake too, but there are other options. A small cake can be put on display and then guests are offered slices from a sheet cake adorned with a side of mousse or fresh strawberries. Or the cake can be a towering display of cupcakes available for the taking.

Weddings at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield for the summer of 2010 are pretty much booked, but by having an early ceremony on either the broad expanse of lawn in front of the hotel with breathtaking views of the Presidential mountain range or the Grand Terrace with a gazebo and water feature, you can still provide your guests a fabulous setting. A brunch buffet menu could be offered in the Club House for up to 120 guests. Costs would be just $14 per person plus an additional $5 pp for each station. A dedicated chef ($85 fee) could be serving up hot waffles, fresh smoothies or the perfect omelet.

An afternoon reception at Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln may be preceded by a summit ceremony via the gondola. To give you an idea of cost at this venue, a selection of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, cheeses, a fresh fruit display along with a cake from Jacques Fine European Pastries would run around $52 pp for about 50 or more people.

If you would like to offer passed hors d'oeuvres with a sophisticated touch, The Hanover Inn at Dartmouth College charges by the piece per hundred. For example, eggplant caviar on toast points with pickled onions would be $150 or tuna tartar on sesame cracker would run $250. Other ideas include displays of food including sushi platters, poached wild shrimp or cucumber stuffed with gorgonzola ranging from $95 to $300 per 50 guests. Their covered porch with views of the Dartmouth College Green is available for receptions in addition to the Daniel Webster Room and the Hanover Lounge.

If you have already found the perfect site for the ceremony and reception, but need to cater the event, a brunch-style menu could still fill the bill. Galley Hatch Catering in Hampton can run an omelet station ($150 to run one station) and offer sliced tenderloin and an accompaniment of salads. Custom wedding cakes can be ordered from their bakery or the bakery of Popovers On the Square in Portsmouth. Costs for off-site catering run more because it includes the price of rental for linens and service ware and the additional time it takes to set up a mobile kitchen. Galley Hatch Catering prepares most of the food on site as opposed to bringing in food in hot boxes, says Kevin Sullivan, their catering specialist. Fifty dollars per person would be an average bill for an afternoon event, he adds. The company has catered weddings on the M/V Thomas Leighton, Odiorne Point and Rye Harbor State Park.

In the end, if you are on strict budget, you can save money with a brunch reception and maybe even book the venue you have dreamed of. As long as the service style pleases you, your guests should be happy, too. After all, they didn't come to eat lavishly, but rather to enjoy the happy occasion of your marriage. Consider starting your marriage with a mimosa toast!

Categories: Cakes & Cocktails, Planning Tips & Advice