6 Things You Should Never Serve at a Ladies Luncheon

You're hosting? Read these tips before you plan your menu.

The term "ladies luncheon" might make you think of your grandmother's generation—a group of women getting together for dainty finger sandwiches, tomato aspic, and girl talk. But there's nothing old-fashioned about getting together with your friends for a great meal. Whether you're planning lunch for a baby shower, book club, garden group, or just a regular old Saturday afternoon get-together, avoid these common mistakes.

ladies lunch

Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

Strong cocktails. Lunch with friends should feel fun and for some people, that means enjoying a glass or two of wine. But don't go overboard. It's the middle of the day, everyone has to get home and finish the day's to-do list. Skip the serious cocktails and go for a lower alcohol punch or spritzer. Or skip the alcohol altogether and mix up a refreshing Minted Tea Punch or Sunny Spring Lemonade.

Heavy food. Likewise, you don't want to send everyone off feeling weighed down and ready for a nap. If you are going to serve a heavier main dish like fried chicken, or pasta, or steak, make sure the portions are on the smaller side so people can take as much (or as little) as they like. For example, cut chicken into eighths, or slice grilled steak into thin strips.

Hot food. As any Thanksgiving host knows, one of the most stressful parts of serving a meal is figuring out the timing so that all the dishes are still hot when they hit the table. Thankfully, you don't need to serve a whole turkey for lunch (see above). Look for dishes that can be served at room temperature, like roasted chicken, pasta and grain salads, and sandwiches. The exception to this rule is soup, which can be kept warm on the stove, or anything made in a slow cooker, which can be made in advance and rewarmed on "low."

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"Composed" salads. Individually plated salads look pretty, but they're not worth the energy—especially if you're feeding a crowd. If you're serving salad, grab your favorite platter and use it to serve salad family-style.

Fussy desserts. Don't even think about skipping dessert. But choose your battles. If torching individual crème brulees for 30 people gives you joy, by all means, break out the mini blowtorch! For the rest of you, stick to make-ahead desserts. Sheet cakes, pound cakes, cheesecakes, and ice cream are all terrific options that can be made in advance.

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Decaf. Guests might need a little pick-me-up before they hit the road, so have some coffee or tea on hand. Coffee is always a good excuse to linger a bit longer, too—which tends to happen at these sorts of gatherings. It's hard to leave when you're having fun.

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