There’s going to be a wedding! Are there more joyous words? If you’re fortunate enough to be the mother of the bride in the aforementioned wedding, you’re certainly joyous, and you also know that the announcement of a wedding is similar to the starting bell at a horse race — they’re both the signal that a lot of frenzied activity is just about to start. Unlike a horse race, the frenzied activity leading up to a wedding generally takes a bit longer than two minutes.
Tucked in amongst the time-consuming building blocks of planning a wedding — where will the wedding be, where will the reception be, how many people will be invited, what will the bride’s dress look like, etc. — is a little jewel of an event: the bridal luncheon.
Several facets make the bridal luncheon a refreshing moment amongst the serious decisions around planning a wedding. One of the most appealing aspects of a bridal luncheon is the lack of hard and fast rules around this event. The original thought behind a bridesmaids’ luncheon was either (take your pick) an opportunity for the bride to thank her bridesmaids or for the bridesmaids to honor the bride. Regardless of who’s thanking or honoring whom, the event was typically a luncheon, and it was typically held on the day before the wedding.
In its prototypical form, the bridesmaids’ luncheon was either hosted by the bride and her mother or by the bridesmaids. Let’s just pause here for a moment and contemplate what we just said — the day before the wedding, either the mother of the bride and the bride are hosting a party, or the bridesmaids are hosting a party. You spotted the flaw right away, didn’t you? That particular group of people is already very busy — one might even say stressed. As a result, the bridal luncheon is often organized a little bit differently these days. The accepted way to organize a bridal luncheon seems to depend more on where you’re from and what the customs are in that community than on an agreed upon, Emily Post vetted, correct format.
In some places a best friend of the bride’s mother might offer to host, but where I grew up, the bridesmaids’ luncheon is hosted by the bride’s aunts. Some families have a greater supply of aunts than others so bringing in female cousins or grandmothers is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the tradition. The focus of the party is on the bride, her bridesmaids, and her close female relatives having some meaningful time together before the festivities start in earnest. It’s also an opportunity for a very girly party.
Whether the luncheon will be in someone’s home, at a club, or in a restaurant, when starting to work out the plan for the event, it’s helpful to start with an overall theme and then fit the details into that theme as you go along. The personality and style of the bride along with the time of year and the setting for the party can be helpful in working out a theme. A winter wedding conjures up images of deep green winter foliage and the sparkling icy reflections of mirrors, whereas a springtime wedding brings to mind gardens and sunshine and the cheerful colors of spring flowers.
Finding an invitation that conveys the feeling of the party is a big step toward setting the stage before the party even begins. It’s worth spending the time to find just the right invitation because once you’ve chosen an invitation, the next steps follow along more quickly. Cocktail napkins come in an endless variety of colors and designs, so an easy next step is to choose one or two designs that underscore the look of the day.
Now that we have an invitation and some pretty napkins, we can start to think about the tables. Between tablecloths, placemats, napkins, china, stemware, and flowers, we have a lot of opportunities to build on the theme that we’ve started with the invitation. Having a little bit of repetition, whether through a single color or a recognizable plant, like magnolia, or a particular image, like a monogram, makes the planning easier and makes the party seem more like an event.
So far, we have a pretty invitation and a pretty table, but we have invited people for lunch after all, so we need to work out the menu. The time of year as well as the fact that this is a ladies’ luncheon will be helpful in making menu decisions. Add in the thought that everyone present needs to be comfortable fitting into a special dress the next day and we can see that roast beef is probably off the menu.
A popular idea is to offer a signature drink or something festive like pink Champagne as guests arrive. One or two small hors d’oeuvres passed while guests are gathering and chatting is also very welcoming. Something seasonal is always a good starting point, and seafood seems to be especially welcome if shellfish or fish allergies are not a problem. Keeping the menu light and simple are good guidelines. Light and simple are just for the main part of the menu, though. We haven’t said anything about dessert, and there’s absolutely no reason at all that dessert should be light or simple. We’re celebrating a wedding for goodness sake! Bring on the cake, the sauces, the ice cream, the whipped cream — we want it all!
While we’re floating away on whipped cream clouds, we might drift down to the islands or even all the way to Europe to consider the entertaining possibilities and responsibilities for a destination wedding. Since all of those present at a destination wedding are by definition out-of-town guests, you have an increased responsibility to care for the people who have made the effort to travel.
The traditional bridesmaids’ luncheon would still be very appropriate, and if needed, another event could be organized for guests who wouldn’t be included in the bridesmaids’ luncheon. It would be a lot of fun to organize all of the destination events because the setting would offer so may possibilities for both decor and menu. Just imagine all the beautiful colors that could be used in a tropical table setting with lots of giant leaves lining the table, or the crisp blues and whites that would be so marvelous on the coast of the Mediterranean. A Rocky Mountain setting or any other destination would offer its own interesting possibilities.
Obviously all entertaining undertaken around a wedding is done in support of the wedding. The overarching theme is the love of the bride and the groom for each other, the love of the family members and friends for the bride and groom, and their support of the marriage and the new family that will be created. Preparing a beautiful party is an act of love and a tangible sign to the bride and groom of the love, support, and good wishes for a strong marriage that the hosts and guests feel.
Bridesmaids’ luncheon wedding cake petits fours
Any sort of pound cake can be the base, whether it’s homemade, from the bakery, or frozen. One frozen pound cake makes four wedding cake petits fours if using small cookie cutters.
The icing can be a simple homemade glaze of boiled 10x sugar and water, or you can heat a thicker variety so that it pours, whether homemade or store-bought.
Slice the pound cake into ¾-inch slices and use the cookie cutters to cut the different sized circles that will be the cake layers. Assemble the layers using something delicious like lemon curd, raspberry jam, or peach jam between the layers. Arrange the cakes on a wire rack sitting on a plate or cookie sheet. Pour thin icing over the cakes and then decorate as desired before the icing dries completely.
For full British Baking Show points, a small well can be made in the middle of the cake and filled with jam or whipped cream before the cakes are iced.