By Chef Jill McCollum, CC

A bridal luncheon, also often called a "bridesmaids' luncheon" or "bridal tea" is a party thrown in honor of bridesmaids. The bride hosts the meal as a way of saying "thank you" to all her maids. She often uses the event as an opportunity to present them each with a gift as well. Though the luncheon is all about giving thanks, they also give all the bridesmaids-particularly those who may live out of town or not know each other very well-the opportunity to get to know each other better before the big day.
Historically, the bridal luncheon was an informal gathering that took place the day before the wedding. The bride would simply invite her bridesmaids to have lunch or tea with her-no big fuss, no major party preparations. These days, the luncheons can take place anywhere and at any time. Often they're not luncheons at all. They can be beach bashes, formal dinners, picnics in the park, or just about anything else you can imagine.
Host: The bride - often the bride's mom will co-host.
Who's invited: All of the bridesmaids must be invited. Some brides choose to also invite other women who have played an important role in helping them with their day. But keep the guest list small. Bridal luncheons are meant to be intimate gatherings and will lose their meaning if you invite too many people.
When: Traditionally bridesmaids' luncheons are informal gatherings thrown the day before the wedding. These days, however, it's not uncommon to have the event as much as two weeks before the wedding.
Where: For low-key affairs, the brides' - or her parents' - home is a great location for a light lunch or a tea party. For something more extravagant, a restaurant is the perfect locale. Some brides like to do something a bit more interactive. Treating the girls to spa treatments is one popular outing-they can all chat while getting pedicures for the big day.
What to serve: This can vary depending on the time and location of the event. Tiny finger sandwiches, mini muffins, and scones with jam are great treats to serve at a tea. Try a heartier meal if you're hosting a luncheon or dinner. A variety of cheeses would be divine at a wine-tasting party.

I was so fortunate to be able to work with a fellow high school graduate, Kristen Mullins Woodard, owner and operator of Rose Cottage located at 813 Oak Street on selecting the perfect setting and extras for a bridesmaids' luncheon. Kristen was so helpful in picking out just the perfect serving pieces and dishes for our bridesmaid luncheon; all items shown are available at her store.
Cream Cheese Cucumber Sandwiches

1 small cucumber
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
36 thin slices bread
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup chopped fresh parsley

With a fork, score cucumber lengthwise; puree in food processor, set aside. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion and Worcestershire sauce, add cucumber. Cut bread into desired shape (rectangles, cookie cutters of flowers, hearts, etc). Spread each with cucumber, cream cheese mixture. Spread the outside of each sandwich with softened butter and then roll them in chopped parsley.

Simple Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg

In food processor combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Slowly add butter 'til it flakes. Add sour cream, eggs, and fruit till it forms a ball. Place on a floured surface and pat into a 7 to 8 inch circle about ¾ inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry-Orange Scones

Follow recipe for simple scones, adding 1 teaspoon orange rind to dry ingredients and substituting dried cranberries for the blueberries.

Cherry Almond Scones

Follow the recipe for simple scones, adding ½ teaspoon almond extract to the sour cream and substituting dried cherries for the blueberries.

Sparkling Punch

2 (750 milliliter) bottles sparkling apple cider
1 litter carbonated water
3 large oranges
2 lemons
1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon white sugar

Thinly slice the lemons and the oranges and place in a large punch bowl. Pour in the thawed lemonade. Gently stir in the seltzer water and the sparkling apple cider. Add sugar to taste. Add fresh berries for extra garnish.