The word brunch might evoke images of clinking teacups and quiet conversation, but sometimes even this midday meal can become an all-out bash. When you and 40 of your nearest and dearest get together—maybe you’re hosting the send-off meal the day after a friend’s wedding or kicking off the season with your softball league—things can get pretty lively. Whatever the occasion, the easier-than-it-looks menu and tips that follow will help you step up your entertaining game.
Food and Drinks Stations
Unless you have the budget to hire servers, don’t even think about a sit-down meal for this many people! Plan your menu around dishes you can prepare ahead and just bake or warm at the last minute; arrange food and drink buffet-style, and let guests serve themselves.
This fizzy cocktail is like a party in a glass. Set out the essentials and let guests customize their own. You’ll need:
- A variety of fresh juices
- Champagne and/or prosecco (Italian sparkline wine)
- Fresh fruit for garnish
- Champagne flutes
- Ice buckets to keep everything cold
This station should cover all the other beverage bases. Set out coffee, soft drinks and—if you want to go all out—Bloody Mary fixings.
- Coffee, in urns or thermal carafes
- Milk, creamer and sweeteners
- Pitchers of ice water (and/or bottles of sparkling water)
- Fresh fruit juice
- Pitchers of Bloody Marys, pre-mixed
- Celery stalks, lemon slices and other garnishes
- Ice buckets, tall glasses, short juice glasses, mugs and stirrers
French Toast Station
Sweet breakfast classics like pancakes and French toast are always crowd-pleasing, but sweating over a griddle for hours is the surest way to wreck your own good time. The solution: make-ahead French toast that needs only to be popped in the oven before the party. Scale the recipe to make as many batches as you need to feed the crowd.
- Oven-baked French toast
- Various fruit toppings and syrup
- Plates, napkins and utensils
- Serving spoons, spatulas and spoon rests/plates to catch drips
Savory Foods Station
If French toast is the sweet focal point of the meal, you’ll need a good variety of savory supporting players: a hearty meat that can be sliced to serve, a veggie-packed main and a bright salad.
Ice Cream Bar
It doesn’t matter if your guest list includes kids or just kids at heart—an ice cream bar is always a hit. And it doesn’t take a lot of advance prep, either. Just keep the ice cream in the freezer until dessert time, then transfer it to coolers for serving (especially if you’ll be outdoors). You’ll want:
- Good-quality ice cream in a few flavors
- Toppings such as fudge sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles
- Small bowls or sundae cups and spoons
- Coolers with ice/dry ice
- Ice cream scoops, serving spoons and plates to catch drips
Take It Outside
One of the best ways to contain the sprawl of a big party is to not contain it at all. Open your doors and move the celebration to your backyard. Cover borrowed or rented party tables with bright cloths in coordinating colors to unify the look. Throw some picnic blankets on the ground in shady spots to encourage lounging. Bonus: You can set out some big pitchers of flowers for a casually festive look, but the yard itself takes care of the atmosphere—so you don’t need to do a lot of decorating!
Jazz and brunch just seem to go together. If you really want to make a splash, hire a local quartet to play at the party (or coax some friends to play in exchange for all the French toast and mimosas they want). Or just turn on one of the many jazz stations on Pandora—like smooth jazz or big band—and turn up your speakers.
Want your guests to take their happy memories with them? Set up a makeshift photo booth—it can be as easy as tossing a canvas or sheet over a tree branch as a backdrop, or attaching it between two doors in a spot with good light—then set up a tripod and assign someone to be official photographer. Guests can wander over alone or in groups throughout the party to have their portraits snapped. You can later upload the pics to a photo-sharing website to show them off in all their charming, goofy glory.