As much as I love celebrating Valentine's Day with my boyfriend, VDay serves another purpose for me. I like to use this time every year to let the important ladies in my life know how much they mean to me. Usually I do this in the form of a handwritten Valentine's Day card, but this year I partnered with Kate from Kate McCann Photography to throw a Galentine's Day brunch for a handful of our friends! Unfamiliar with the term Galentine's Day? Let Leslie Knope tell you all about it.
Check out my tips and tricks for throwing a simple, stress-free Galentine's Day brunch!
Don't Bake Everything Yourself
Hosting a party, no matter the size, can quickly become overwhelming and stressful if you decide to make everything yourself. I'm here to tell you it isn't worth it. Whether you ask your guests to bring something—potluck style—or not, your brunch should be a mix of homemade dishes and purchased items. Bagels, pastries, and even desserts are sometimes best made by professionals. And your anxiety will thank you when all you have to do is open a box and arrange them on a plate.
Of the 6 or 7 brunch dishes we served, we picked up beautiful pastries from Philadelphia bakery Cake Life, used local cheeses for a quick cheeseboard, and poured one of my favorite bloody mary mixes into a carafe instead of making our own. Even having those few things ready to go helped.
Prep What You Can
Along with a mix of homemade and purchased dishes, you'll want to include many dishes that can be made ahead of time. You'll go crazy if you attempt to bake 5 dishes before your guests arrive at 10am. Create a menu that includes things like salads and casseroles that can be baked the night before and just need to be heated prior to serving. Prep batters for waffles or pancakes, mix large batch cocktails and store in the fridge, cut up fruit, and even get your dessert options squared away. Anything you do ahead of time will help your morning go more smoothly.
The day/night before our brunch, we cut up all the fruit for fruit salads and toppings, baked a Citrus Upside Down Cake, mixed a pitcher of cocktails, and cooked some breakfast sausage that just needed to be reheated the morning of. Before our guests arrived that morning, Kate made a mushroom and leek frittata and we made waffles and coffee for everyone.
Booze Booze Booze
I know not everyone agrees, but cocktails/mocktails are kind of a brunch staple for me. They just make brunch feel a little more special. But I also didn't want to spend the entire morning making complicated drinks for everyone. The keys for a successful cocktail area are simple drinks with easy to remember ratios that guests to make themselves. Large batch cocktails are perfect for this, as well as something that can be made in advance.
I wanted something traditional (bloody marys) and something a little different (blood orange spritz). I arranged a cocktail area that had everything our guests would need to make their drinks. For the blood orange spritz, I had a pitcher filled with blood orange juice, gin and elderflower liquor that guests poured into glasses and then added champagne. For the bloody marys, guests added vodka or tequila to a glass and topped it with bloody mary mix and whatever fixins they wanted. Recipes from both the Blood Orange Spritz and the Bloody Mary Bar will be posted in the coming weeks!
Toppings and Fixins
A great way to create the appearance of tons of options at a brunch is with one dish and a handful of different toppings. We made a large batch of waffles while our guests were hanging out eating pastries and cheese, and then offered whipped cream, different berries, pomegranate seeds, chocolate chips and syrup. Create your own adventure waffle!
I knew I wanted to do a cocktail bar the minute we decided to host a brunch. Similar to a mimosa bar, we decided to set up all the things a guest might want in their bloody mary. Different types of booze, pickles, pickled veggies, celery, tiny peppers, limes, paprika salt for the rim, and worcestershire and sriracha to add in. Everyone can make whatever drink they want and not make the same drink twice. For a similar idea, you could do a mimosa bar (champagne, citrus juices, and fresh fruit) or even a bellini bar (champagne, fruit purees, and fresh fruit).
Set a Simple Table
Especially with Valentine's Day, it's easy to go overboard with heart-shaped decorations and tons of pink and red all over the place. But in my opinion, it takes a lot of creativity and $$$ to make that type of table setting look good. I'm all about the simple, practical, and pretty table setting.
If you don't have anything that fits your brunch theme but want to decorate your table inexpensively, pick one item that will be the focal piece, splurge on that, and then use what you have or shop basic. Having one focal piece can also help tie together other mix and matched pieces. We used matching white dinner plates ($2/each from Target!), pink salad/dessert plates (our slurge item), and gold flatware with miss and matched cloth napkins and whatever platters we already had. Our glasses were a mix of cocktail glasses I already owned as well. Besides the table setting, our table had a low floral arrangement (from From Blossoms) and we added platters of food to the table and shared everything family-style.
Quick Gifts Go a Long Way
What better way to celebrate your friends than with a little gift. As a last minute idea, I decided to throw together these little gift boxes to place on everyone's plate. I found the boxes on sale at Homegoods, bought a bag of chocolate, a package of cute temporary tattoos, and Vaseline rose lip therapy. I wanted them to be something easy that didn't cost very much and everything inside could be used or eaten. And everyone likes a gift, no matter how small it is.
And that's it! I hope these tips and tricks help when you're planning your next brunch (or even a dinner party). Planning and prep is key to making sure your guests leave happy and full, and you get to sit down and enjoy yourself as well. And stay tuned for several follow up posts with recipes for both cocktails and that Citrus Upside Down Cake!
Anyone else throwing a Galentine's Day Brunch?? Happy brunching! <3
All photos in this blog post were taken by Kate McCann Photography and more photos can be found over on her blog. Thank you so much for partnering with me!