A Food Guide for Your Wedding’s Time of Day

An aerial view of a wedding reception table.

What’s in a wedding? (No, seriously. Not a Shakespeare line. People want to know.)

While every soirée is going to vary in terms of fashion, décor, and music, one of the most central aspects for a reception is the food. There should always be something yummy offered to all attendees. However, despite what many newly engaged couples may think, you’re not automatically on the hook for a huge dinner; your choices go beyond the classic buffet or served dinner.

Before officially booking the venue, you and your fiancé should sit down to discuss a whole mess of wedding options, not least of which is the intended time of day. Not all weddings have to be “ceremony-at-late afternoon, reception-into-the-night” kind of parties. For most venues, you have a much wider selection of time slots than you might think. You may be wondering how you make that decision. Why not let your stomach be your guide?

Your reception time (AKA, the time you’ll be serving the food) will really dictate the vibe that you and your beloved will get from your big day. Here’s a general guide to deciding what your wedding’s time-of-day means for your menu!

Breakfast (8am-10am)

Typical Event Vibe: Sleepy-Casual

A morning wedding can be perfect for the early bird couple. These events are typically much more intimate; let’s face it, the chances of getting 150 people to rise with the sun are slim to none. After a short ceremony, consider taking your guests out to a local breakfast joint for a post-vows bite. If you’re looking for something more personal, serving a variety of childhood favorites (mixed with some more sophisticated choices) is a lovely way to customize your menu. Consider your choices of cereal back in the day, along with some savory omelettes, sweet pastries, and a grazing station filled with fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple) as a healthy option. Play on your motif even further with a full stack of pancakes (featuring chocolate chips?) with a healthy pour of syrup to act as your wedding cake…figurine topper and all!

For a breakfast wedding, you can go as simple as a continental breakfast offering…to as complicated as a full morning buffet from a hotel on the Las Vegas strip!

Brunch (10am-2pm)

A brunch buffet at a wedding.

Typical Event Vibe: Morning-Chic

With the cultural popularity spike in the mere concept of brunch, it’s become more common for couples to select this as their wedding “theme.” You won’t have to rouse your guests as early as you would for a breakfast wedding, so you can expect a higher turnout for a mid-morning affair. Brunch weddings are often more sophisticated than breakfast events. Following your ceremony, treat your friends and family to a mimosa bar, or perhaps consider offering spiked coffee beverages (along with non-spiked coffee, of course). Your wedding guests will likely be pretty hungry, so take a page—maybe literally—from your personal favorite brunch spot. Gather up your favorite foods from a local brunch menu and speak with you caterer about putting a few together. Brunch weddings are typically buffet style to encourage folks to nibble on everything from fancy frittatas to breakfast burritos to sweet parfaits.

Keep in mind that brunch can fall during an actual meal time (noon-1pm), so you’ll need plenty of food—or bigger, lunch-sized portions—to satisfy your nearest and dearests’ rumbling stomachs!

Afternoon (2pm-5pm)

Tacos on a platter at a wedding reception.

Typical Event Vibe: Lazy Sunday

Many couples don’t consider the mid-afternoon when planning a wedding—on a day off, it typically serves as the “lost portion” of the day. However, it can be a perfect option for those looking to host a causal reception (that no-one has to get up at the crack of dawn for) after their vows. If you’re into mid-day treats—think: football game faire—this may be the ideal time of day for your wedding. As your celebration won’t fall into a meal time, it’s perfectly acceptable to provide a smattering of comfort food and snacks for your guests. Time to chat with your caterer about everything mini: pizza bagels, pigs-in-a-blanket, maybe even a chips-and-dip station. You can also look into catering options for your favorite local diner or restaurant.

If this doesn’t *quite* fit your vision, consider hosting a “cake and punch” reception by turning your attention to sweet treats and desserts (this option is also best for those looking to have a dry wedding).

Evening and Late Night (5pm+)

Typical Event Vibe: Lively Party/Elegant Fête/Whatever You’d Like!

Perhaps the most classic (and, somehow, the most diverse) of options for your wedding would be the evening event. Hosting your reception at dinner time means the only real food requirement is to provide your friends and family with a filling menu. However, that’s not to say you can’t pull inspiration from the weddings above for your dishes! Having a more casual evening wedding? Why not go with the breakfast-for-dinner option! You and your caterer can play with themed substitutions—such as hash-browns instead of mashed potatoes, polenta with egg instead of rice, and beyond—and feature signature cocktails inspired by Bloody Marys or Irish coffee.

Looking to elevate your reception? Check out our articles on sit-down vs. buffet dinners to decide on the ideal menu for you and your sweetheart! Are you more of a beef Wellington or pan-crusted halibut couple? Maybe you want something with a little more of a kick, like jerk chicken or jumbo shrimp with a wasabi glaze? The starry night sky is truly the limit with a dinner-time wedding!

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