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Brunch 3 Ways
We usually categorize events by how formal they are and how dressed up we need to get. Lunch with parents? Jeans and an inoffensive T-shirt (not that you own an offensive T-shirt to begin with). Company dinner? Conservative cocktail attire. Night out with friends? The outfit you’ve been waiting for an excuse to wear.
But some events aren’t so straightforward. Brunch is one such event. I personally love brunch because it’s usually just an excuse to eat as much as possible in good company. But some people insist on classing it up the banquet with beautiful tablecloth rentals and other stunning décor that makes my wonderful, foodbaby-accommodating sweatpants look even more ridiculous than they already do. Of course, these events and their tone-setting, rented tablecloths are often even more enjoyable than the casual ones, as they generally mark an important occasion—a baby shower, a family reunion, or a milestone event. Since brunch can encompass everything from a slovenly expedition into gluttony to a fancy corporate event, I’ve put together a decoration guide for three specific types of brunches: a casual class reunion event, a bridal shower, and a political fundraiser.
Casual Brunch: The Class Reunion
Many high schools host class reunions over a period of days, and classmates often organize class or group get-togethers independently. Of course, not every social gathering is a white tablecloth event. For those who are still young and child-free (and even for some who are neither), class reunions serve as an opportunity to stay out all night. This makes brunch the ideal get-together. It’s late enough that those who are tired from a night out will be able to attend, but early enough that the more responsible alumni can still enjoy themselves. If you are involved in the planning process, you can usually arrange for vender and venue employees to take care of the delivery and set-up. This will give you leave to be as responsible as you want.
Since it is a somewhat significant event, no matter how casual it is, be sure to book a venue that can accommodate your guest list (you can usually expect between one quarter and one half your class to show up) and is known for doing brunch well. Depending on your class size, this might eliminate some of the better brunch venues, but it will leave you with more room to socialize. Be sure to book as far in advance as possible. Often, organizers begin planning class reunions about one year, or at least six months, in advance. Coordinate and collaborate with any other classmates who are organizing events to make sure there are no overlaps.
I do recommend renting party tablecloths, preferably in your school or class colors. When you rent tablecloths for events like brunch, you should keep in mind that it’s a daytime event. Tablecloths in pretty, rich colors are more than enough by themselves. At most, do one layer of each color and maybe a table runner down the center. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy trying to come up with elaborate décor schemes when a simple banquet tablecloth is enough.
Your décor should evoke nostalgia and school pride. Maybe you want to assign seating by placing a different classmates’ senior photograph at each place setting (or at the check-in station), or maybe you want to use important class trophies and awards as centerpieces. I always like to see collages of past events, but you don’t necessarily need to do one yourself. Instead, look at your old yearbooks, which often contain collages of the senior class. In some cases, yearbook companies offer digital files, making the process much easier. If the budget, venue, and megapixel count allow you to print and hang banners, they are a great talking point and they’ll encourage classmates to walk around.
While guest books are, in my opinion, a bit passé at this point, they do serve as a great opportunity to collect classmate contact information. If you don’t feel like entering several hundred names into a database, though, you can always set up a tablet or laptop instead. Also include fun party favors—a copy of the collage DVD, pen USB drives that evoke school pride (many schools order custom USB drives, and all funds go toward the school), and a few items that evoke your school days. Place favors at each place setting, toward the center of the event tablecloth.
Semiformal Brunch: The Bridal Shower
The bridal shower is an occasion that is in flux. In the bright new era of same sex marriage and grooms taking a far more active role in wedding preparations, I personally see nothing wrong with welcoming men into the mix. So the guest list and festivities are entirely up to you, as is the interpretation of my bridal shower décor guidelines.
At a very basic level, you should try to make the venue call back to the notion of marriage without covering the tables with white tulle wedding tablecloths. If you are planning the bridal shower, you are likely either in the bridal party or a close relative of the affianced. As a result, chances are high that you know every intricate detail of the wedding planning, from the rental price of the wedding tablecloths to the exact composition of the wedding cake. As a result, you know what the wedding colors are, as well as the central themes of décor. My advice is to reference to these items, but don’t replicate them. Chances are high the happy couple is kind of sick of looking at decoration motifs and in need of something a little different.
As an example, I tend to veer away from the wedding colors. For one thing, they don’t always represent the happy couple’s favorite colors. Often, they are simply selected because they look good together. A friend of mine decided to go with turquoise and cream, even though her favorite color is magenta. So when I planned her bridal shower decor, I paired magenta with square lavender tablecloths. It was the girliest looking brunch of all time, and she was more than thrilled to see her preferences reflected throughout. I finished off the look with sparkly magenta-and-lavender sea glass and aquarium glass scattered across the banquet tablecloth runners (her wedding had a nautical theme, as you can tell from her color selection) and in vases that held damask roses. The final look was cost-effective and a nice deviation from her wedding.
In that instance, the only thing that truly called back to her wedding was the aquarium glass, but nobody stopped to say, “Hey, what does this have to do with her wedding?” The décor I selected reflected her as a person—as someone unabashedly girly who loves flowers, but also goes skin-diving with her fiancé at least once a month. I handed out white chocolate raspberry starfish as favors to complete the “magenta nautical” theme.
I didn’t ask my guests to dress in any particular way—the name of the venue implied something between casual and semiformal attire. I set up a square table covered with a magenta tablecloth for gifts and cards and a slideshow of the happy couple on the restaurant’s televisions for convenience and visual interest.
Formal Brunch: Political Fundraiser
I use the term “formal” loosely here, as you certainly won’t expect your guests to dress in evening gowns and tuxedoes for a brunch. It is far more likely that you would see business suits for both genders and the occasional dress. While we usually associate fundraisers with dinner, a candidate’s busy schedule will sometimes call for a daytime fundraiser. You can expect to take a few months planning such events, as you’ll need to book a banquet hall, rent tablecloths and other linen, find a trustworthy caterer, sell tickets, coordinate with volunteers and campaign workers, work with the A/V equipment, market the event, and otherwise do a million things at once.
Since the stakes are a bit higher, you’ll need as much help as you can get. This can be difficult if you are traveling with the candidate in question, but in most cases you can locate supporters in the area who are more than happy to help. Working with local vendors is a good choice, as it shows an investment in the community. Local florists in particular are a good bet, as they will be able to deliver incredibly fresh flowers and will be available for consultation.
While some feel that you should rent tablecloths for political events only in your party’s or country’s colors, I see nothing wrong with choosing colors that are simply pleasing to the eye—muted greens like sage, neutrals like beige, or even basic rectangular white tablecloths. Keep décor as attractive, and classic as you can—nobody will expect you to be creative at a political fundraiser, after all. Flowers are essential—you can place large vases in the center of the table and connect them with garlands of ferns and flowers if you wish.
Because guests will likely be expected to remain seated during speeches and the like, I recommend against a buffet brunch. Instead, include a menu selection on the tickets and provide beverage service. This will ensure that most guests remain seated and that elderly guests (who are often the most reliable political contributors) won’t be inconvenienced.