If you’re going to be hosting a brunch and want some ideas for pulling it off without causing yourself too much stress, these tips will definitely help.
Whether you’re having your family over for the holidays, celebrating Mother’s Day or throwing a bridal shower, hosting a meal is a great way to bring people together.
But it can also be stressful.
And being too stressed out to enjoy everyone’s company kind of defeats the purpose!
Which is why I like to host a brunch.
It’s less work than a full dinner, and gives you a lot of flexibility with the type of food you can serve.
It’s also very easy to serve buffet-style. Which greatly cuts down the amount of running around you have to do since you don’t have to serve people. (And anything that decreases the amount of work to do also decreases stress levels.)
So here are the lessons I have learned for hosting a stress-free brunch.
1 | Set Your Table Ahead of Time
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Set your table the night before (or even two nights before).
If you end up being crunched for time on brunch day, it’s much easier to be finishing up your cooking while people are arriving, than it is to be trying to get your table to look just right.
And since you won’t be rushing to get the table done, you can take the time to make the table look its best.
2 | Don’t Worry If Your Dishes Don’t Match
Since I always seem to have more people than I have place settings of any one china pattern, mixing and matching dishes is the only way to go.
Pick plates with coordinating colors and layer them on top of each other to create your place settings.
The table ends up looking interesting, you get to put your dishes to use and you end up with more place settings.
I had to use dishes from 3 different dish sets to get this look.
3 | Use Simple Center Pieces
Using a single rose inside a round glass lets you have flowers on the table that are low enough for everyone to see across.
And they’re really easy to make! Which means you won’t have to spend a bunch of time (or money) creating them.
The roses last just as long this way as they do with a longer stem, so don’t worry about putting them out a day ahead of time.
This simple centerpiece ends up looking really elegant.
The rose in a glass trick is very easy to do.
1. Fill the glass half full with water.
2. Cut the rose stem shorter than the water level (so that the rose can float in the glass).
3. Put the rose in the glass.
Since you probably have a few glasses that are the same, it’s an easy way to create a unified centerpiece that stretches the length of the table.
Or you could use different sizes and shapes of glasses if you want a more eclectic look.
Alternating the flowers with candles adds a little more interest. And I always like to have candles as part of the centerpiece.
4 | Add Some Extra Tables
If you have more people than your dining table will hold, use other tables covered with a tablecloth to add more seating space.
The tables themselves don’t have to look good since they are covered (I have even used card tables for this purpose).
And you don’t even need to have matching tablecloths.
This gives you an excuse to use more dishes.
The other table at this brunch had a pink, purple and gold as the theme. Which is completely different from the white, blue and silver color scheme of the first table.
5 | Be Prepared for Extra People
It never fails (at least at my brunches). Everyone is already sitting down to eat, and then a couple of unexpected guests drop by.
To prevent myself from getting flustered, I always have some extra cutlery, plates, and napkins available and easy to get to.
Then any stragglers can help themselves to the buffet and sit at the kitchen island (or anywhere else for that matter). And I don’t have to interrupt everyone else’s meal to get them settled.
6 | Use Outdoor Decorations That Can Get Rained On
If the weather is nice, you might want to plan on having some people outside.
As with any outdoor party, you will need to have a Plan B in case it rains. And it is much easier to go to plan B if you don’t have to run around bringing all those outdoor decorations in if mother nature doesn’t cooperate.
You can group together a few mix-and-match vases (such as these blue and white ones) as a simple outdoor centerpiece.
Then if it does start to rain, you won’t have to worry about them getting wet.
7 | Serve Food That Can Be Made Ahead of Time
Brunch is flexible because you can serve breakfast and lunch food.
Even better? A lot of these foods can be made ahead of time.
This lets you get the food ready before your guests arrive and leaves you free to meet and greet.
Not having to cook while you are getting drinks and serving people always decreases your stress level.
Brunch can also include lunch-type food such as shrimp cocktail, quiche, salad, deviled eggs, and make-your-own-sandwiches with ham, cheese, and biscuits (or any other type of sandwich trimmings you like)…all of which are easy to prepare ahead of time.
When I’m serving salads, I try to serve the dressing on the side and provide a selection of different options. That way people can choose what kind of dressing they want.
Since there’s no dressing to make it go soggy, it also means you can make the salad ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to put it out.
For the people with a sweet tooth, pastries are always a good brunch option. These maple pecan scones can be made the day before (no last minute cooking!)
I try to keep the desserts pretty light since everyone is usually full by the time they have finished with the regular brunch food (and I don’t want to be left with a bunch of sweets that I’ll end up eating myself).
8 | Use Warming Dishes And Crock Pots To Keep Food Warm
Most traditional breakfast foods (such as scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns, and biscuits) do well in warming dishes*. Which is why the big hotel brunches always include these staples.
I like to have a couple of these 3-dish servers these 3-dish servers. They provide lots of space for serving different dishes.
Or you can remove the top part altogether and use it as a warming tray.
Chafing dishes* with burner fuel are another great option, especially if you don’t have an electrical outlet near by.
9 | Have Your Guests Make Their Own Food
Setting up a do-it-yourself waffle station lets your guests do some of the work, and gets people mingling.
Mix up the waffle batter and put it in an easy-to-access location along with a waffle iron*, and your favorite waffle toppings.
Most people really enjoy the interactive nature of making their own food, and it takes a lot of the pressure off you!
10 | Limit the Drink Options
Traditional brunch cocktails such as Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s (or in this case Bloody Caesar’s) go over very well at brunch.
I set up my bar cart with the Mimosa ingredients and mixed Bloody Mary’s.
It adds to the decor and lets my guests can help themselves.
Mimosas are easy to mix. You can find the recipe and all my tips on making Mimosas HERE.
Bloody Caesar’s are a lighter version of a Bloody Mary that uses Clamato juice instead of tomato juice. Click HERE to see my favorite Caesar recipe (if you would rather have Bloody Mary’s, just replace the Clamato juice with tomato juice).
Sangria is also a popular choice for Sunday brunch.
It can be made a day ahead (and actually tastes better if it sits for a while).
Serving it in a drink dispenser makes it easy for guests to help themselves. Click HERE to find my favorite Sangria recipe.
Standards like coffee and tea (or sweet tea if you live in the south) are also a good idea to have on hand for a brunch.
11 | Bonus Tip: Turn On Some Music
I know I said there were only 10 tips and this is number 11. But you can’t forget about the background music…
Background music really helps to set the tone for your brunch.
I am a big fan of Pandora when it comes to music for pretty much any type of get-together.
You can have it play any kind of music you want, and you don’t have to worry about getting up to change CD’s or having to listen to too many ads.
Since people are generally talking at brunch, I usually pick something that’s not too loud but still has some energy to it (like the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong channel).
It’s also a good idea to turn it on right when you get up. If you do get a little rushed for time, the music seems to be the thing that gets forgotten. And not having it really makes a difference to the mood of your meal.
The last secret to hosting a stress-free brunch is to have fun! When you’re having a good time, your guests will too, and everyone will remember what a great meal it was.
Other brunch ideas you might like
Have comments or questions on our tips for hosting a brunch (stress-free)? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on April 17, 2017 but was updated with new content on January 21, 2024.