Our Complete Guide To Hosting The Ultimate Brunch

Whether you're hosting a dinner, the ultimate pool party, a holiday gathering, or a game night, the importance of gathering together with friends can't be overstated. After all, it's hard to grow and maintain relationships without spending time together, and one of our favorite ways to gather is around a table of food. There's something special about fulfilling your most basic need for nourishment together with friends — it helps break down barriers, is a great facilitator for conversation, and who doesn't love to eat?

Dinner parties are great, but they can be a strain to prepare and hard to fit into everyone's busy schedules. Why not do a brunch gathering instead? Brunch can be so much fun to host for a variety of reasons; not only because the food options are seemingly endless, but also because there doesn't have to be a set end time. If the weather is nice, outdoor brunches are especially delightful. Have we sold you yet? 

Before you start planning your big brunch bash, we'll walk you through everything you should consider to make it a success. So sit back, relax, and let's brunch!

Plan your menu early

One of the first things you should plan is your brunch menu — after all, brunch isn't brunch without food! You'll want to have a variety of dishes and, as the name "brunch" implies, you'll probably want to make them a mixture of breakfast and lunch foods. Having trouble incorporating the lunch part into your brunch plans? Finger sandwiches are a great, easy-to-make option that won't overshadow all the breakfast foods you're excited to display.

Have a variety of food types so all your guests can find something they like. Fresh fruit is a must-have at any brunch, and you can't go wrong with a charcuterie board! When planning a brunch menu, a good rule of thumb is to have at least one of each of the following types of food: fruit, pastries, meats, classics (like pancakes or waffles), and something lunch-y to round it out. If you want, you can make one dish your "signature" brunch dish, like a dutch baby or a yummy breakfast casserole, and plan the rest of your menu around that. Your options truly are endless, but variety is key here, especially if you're inviting over a crowd — everyone should be able to find something they'll enjoy.

Ask your guests about dietary restrictions

While you're planning the menu and making your guest list, don't forget to ask your guests about dietary restrictions! You'd probably be mortified if a gluten-free friend came to a brunch that had pastries galore, or if a vegan friend came to a brunch where everything had eggs and butter in it. A good host always considers the needs of their guests, and dietary restrictions should be at the top of your list of brunch priorities. 

Again, variety is key here. No matter who you have coming to brunch, it's a good rule of thumb to have at least one to two things that could accommodate every dietary restriction. Before you start to freak out, this doesn't mean you have to make a dozen different dishes — after all, diet-accommodating foods can overlap with one another. Have a vegan breakfast casserole available for your vegan and dairy-free friends. For your gluten-free guests, the eggs and bacon you were already planning on serving will probably be perfectly fine, or you could go the extra mile by making (or buying) some gluten-free pastries. You'll probably find that many of the dishes you'd normally make for a brunch will accommodate one dietary restriction or another, which should make your brunch planning less stressful. 

Send out invitations

Sure, you could text your friend group a brunch invite, but aren't personalized invitations so much more meaningful? Plus, who doesn't love receiving an actual physical letter in the mail? You might also find that sending invitations prompts more invited guests to actually commit to coming, which is huge to have as a host — you never want to be wondering how many people will show up at the last minute.

Have fun with your invitations! You can design them yourself on a website like Canva, or you can order ones that are already designed. Remember to include all the crucial information, like the date, time, and address of the brunch, as well as what you want guests to bring (if anything), and a dress code (if you want one). If you want to go the extra mile, you could even include an RSVP card that they can mail back to you — bonus points if you give them a spot to list dietary restrictions. Intent is everything here, and your guests will definitely appreciate seeing the personalized touch that an invitation offers; plus, it'll give them a visual reminder of the upcoming brunch, so they definitely (well, hopefully) won't forget about it.

Prep as much as you can ahead of time

If you want to wake up at 4 a.m. to start prepping for your 10 a.m. brunch, more power to you. We're betting that extra beauty sleep will mean a lot to you on the big day, though. When you're planning your brunch, especially if you're making more than a few dishes, doing some prep ahead of time will make it much easier to pull off well the day of. 

The easiest things to make ahead of time will be any pastries you're preparing. You could easily whip up a batch of muffins the day before, and you could prep any crust you might be making for a quiche. Making a breakfast casserole? If you can, layer all the ingredients in the casserole dish the night before, stick it in the fridge, and bake it the morning of. You'll want to wait until the day of your brunch to make anything that should be served hot, but that doesn't mean you can't prep any of it ahead of time. If a recipe calls for chopped peppers or onions, chop the veggies the night before to save you a step in the morning. You can also mix pancake batter or bread dough the night before, and make them the morning of. Planning is key here — take inventory of everything you have to make and the different steps for each dish, and do as much as you can ahead of time.

Have a friend or two pitch in the day of

No host wants to be running around the day of their party like a chicken with its head cut off. Asking a friend or two to show up early and help the day of your brunch will likely save you lots of headaches, especially if you realize you forgot to get orange juice for mimosas, or something is taking longer than expected to finish cooking.

You'll have a lot to do the day of your brunch, and it's not all cooking. You'll also have a table to set, you'll have to put everything into serving dishes, you'll have guests to greet, and you may even have decorations to place. All of this can seem really overwhelming if you're doing it alone, so enlist a friend to help. Do you have a friend who's really good at design? You could ask them to plan the table settings for your brunch, or even just to come to help you set everything out the day of. Your friend will probably be honored that you asked them to help with an event that means a lot to you, and you'll get an extra bit of time together. Also, don't be afraid to ask friends to stay and help clean, as well! Getting your friends involved will give them a sense of ownership over the brunch, which will help make it more meaningful to them as well.

Don't forget tablescaping

When you're planning your brunch, don't forget to take into consideration the look of your tables. You don't have to go all out with fancy centerpieces and glassware, but at least consider what small touches you could add to amp up the aesthetic appeal of your brunch.

You could dress your table in accordance with the seasons. Flowers and herbs make great centerpieces or accessories for spring and summer tablescapes. In the fall, you might find yourself more drawn to leafy decor and gourds, while the winter might call for cranberries and holly leaves. 

If you want some table decor that you can use over and over again, invest in items that will work in any season, like candles, vases for wildflowers, or even small succulents. Again, whatever you decorate your table with doesn't have to be anything fancy — even a simple table runner and some candlesticks can go a long way in making your table feel more inviting.

To drink or not to drink?

If you're currently planning a brunch, you're probably already considering what type of brunch cocktail to serve, or if you should even serve one at all. Whether or not you serve alcohol at brunch (and what type you serve) may require some thought, though. For example, if an invited guest is a recovering alcoholic, it's probably a kind gesture to not have any alcohol at brunch. 

If you do want to serve a drink or two at brunch, consider what type you want to serve. Mimosas are a popular brunch option, but you could also have bloody marys available, or even a sangria or the fixings for Irish coffee. Decide whether you want to make the drink ahead of time or if you want your guests to make it themselves. Mimosas are a great DIY option — just pop out a couple of bottles of champagne and orange juice! Sangria is something you'd want to make ahead of time, though, as is any other big-batch cocktail you're considering. If you decide to forego the alcohol, that doesn't mean fun drinks are off the table — why not whip up a mocktail or two for your guests?

Consider a dress code

Now, your brunch almost certainly doesn't need a dress code, but it could be a fun idea to have one depending on what kind of vibe you're going for. If you're planning to go all-out with your menu, plating, and tablescaping, you might invite your guests to show up in dressy casual attire. Also, consider any other elements you might have around your brunch, and make sure your guests know to dress accordingly — for example, they may not want to wear a heavy sweater if you'll be playing lawn games outside after.

A dress code is also a creative way to really have fun with your brunch, and you can make it as wacky as you want. Have all your guests show up wearing a hat fit for the Kentucky Derby if you want a good laugh. You could have everyone go get a crazy thrift store outfit to wear to the brunch, or you could tell everyone (even the guys!) to come wearing a sundress and wide-brimmed hat. Your options really are endless and this is a great opportunity to be creative with your gathering and bring people together in new ways. 

Have a blend of sweet and savory dishes

One thing you can be absolutely sure of is that everyone at your brunch will have different preferences when it comes to food. One friend might have a serious sweet tooth, while another constantly craves bacon and potatoes. Make sure you have a fairly even blend of sweet and savory foods on the table to satisfy everyone's particular palate. 

An easy way to incorporate sweet and savory options into the same dish is by offering different kinds of spreads for your dishes. If you're serving toast or croissants, have some sweet jam and butter on hand, and have a savory bacon jam option as well. You could also offer different toppings or fillings for certain dishes — for example, whip up a batch of crepes and serve them alongside toppings like honey, whipped cream, Nutella, baked apples, or even sauteed mushrooms and smoked salmon. Giving your guests customizable options of the same basic dishes will help everyone find something they like, while making sure you're not overwhelmed by the amount of food you have to make.

Decide how you want to serve your guests

One often overlooked aspect of planning any meal-centric party is how the food makes its way to each guest's plate. When it comes to serving considerations, there are three main ways to serve your guests, according to Old Daley Custom Catering: plated, family style, and buffet. Each has its own pros and cons, and which one you choose to use will depend on a variety of factors. 

For your brunch, it probably makes sense to stay away from serving already plated meals, as you want your guests to be able to pick and choose what's on their plate. This leaves family-style and buffet-style serving. With a family-style brunch, all the dishes will be on the table your guests are eating at, and they'll fill their plates at the dining table. A buffet-style brunch will have your food set up in a separate serving area, likely your kitchen, for guests to serve themselves from.

When deciding which to go with, first consider how much room you'll have on your dining table, as it may turn out that you don't have room to put all your dishes on the table; if that's the case, you'll probably default to buffet-style serving. We prefer serving family style when you can, as it keeps your guests from constantly getting up to refill their plates, and allows the conversation to continue uninterrupted. 

Make it personal!

Giving your brunch some personalized touches is where you can really let your creativity shine and show your guests you care about them. After all, who doesn't love showing up to a party and seeing a party favor with their name on it? Something about seeing a gift or other memento that's been created for you and labeled with your name really makes you feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued. 

A super easy way to do this at a brunch is to give everyone name cards for their place at the table. You could also send each guest home with a personalized memento to remind them of the day. If you're using flowers as a centerpiece, why not tie a guest's name around each small bouquet for them to take home after? You could incorporate other personalized takeaways into your brunch, like personalized drinking glasses that each guest can take home with them, or personalized napkins or drinking straws.

You don't have to break the bank with this one, but doing something in your gathering to personalize it to each guest will go a long way in showing them you're thankful for their presence.

Pick the right plates and glassware

One thing you definitely don't want to leave until the last minute when you're planning your brunch is the type of dishes your guests are eating from. Believe it or not, this matters more than you may think — after all, paper plates would look out of place at a fancy brunch, while fine china might not be the best idea for an outdoor brunch.

When you're deciding what dishes to use for your guests, one of the first considerations you'll want to make is how likely the dishes are to fall. Will there be kids at brunch or pets running around? Are you inviting a particularly rambunctious group? Are you eating outside on a patio? Will the plates have to travel far from the food to the table? If any of these apply, you may want to consider shatter-proof dishes. You should also take into consideration what kind of dishes you're serving. If your brunch is comprised mostly of smaller finger foods, you won't need huge plates, and if you're serving dishes like yogurt or grits, you'll want to make sure you have bowls available. Make sure you have enough silverware as well, and run your dishwasher the night before so you're not scrambling to clean some at the last minute.

Consider a seating chart

Whether or not a seating chart makes sense for your brunch will depend solely on who you're inviting. If you're inviting a close-knit group of friends where most people already know each other, you might find that a seating chart isn't necessary. On the other hand, if your brunch guests don't know each other, or even if some of them have conflict with each other, a seating chart could be really helpful in making your brunch a success.

If you do decide to make a seating chart, here are a couple rules of thumb. First, seat yourself with easy access to the kitchen/food prep area in case you need to replenish anything or take care of any issues that may arise. Seat people with differing political views away from each other, and sit people with common interests together. If you have a couple different groups of friends coming, intermingle them — seat people in pairs that you know get along well, and surround them with people you think they may get along with but may not necessarily know yet. Do two of your friends not know each other yet, but both love card games? Seat them together, and give them that as an introduction — with any luck, they'll each have gained a new friend by the end of your gathering.

Have some topics of conversation ready to go

The last thing any host wants, especially at a brunch party, is a lull in conversation. Luckily, conversation isn't just left up to chance, and having some good conversation starters in your back pocket will help keep your brunch free of awkward moments. 

Having conversation starters ready to go doesn't mean you have to carry the whole conversation, either — it just means you're giving your friends a good springboard for conversation. Did a friend just get a new job? Ask them to share with the group about how it's going. Maybe a few of your guests love the same TV show and a new episode just came out that you can talk about. Your conversation starters could also be more intentional in getting to know one another; you could ask everyone to recall a favorite childhood memory or to share something that made them laugh recently. The topics don't have to be complex or mind-blowing as long as they keep the conversation flowing.