What Time Does Brunch Technically Start, Anyway?

updated Jan 10, 2024
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waffles covered with berries on a table with salad, eggs , and potatoes.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Prop Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

When breakfast and lunch meet in the middle, we get the lovely, luxurious (and delicious) portmanteau of “brunch.” Perhaps you’ve arrived to your favorite restaurant on a weekend and are ready for some steak and eggs, or you’re prepping a holiday spread on Christmas morning — but what are you choosing (or calling it), breakfast or brunch? And what time is brunch, anyway?

It’s time to clear this age-old question up. In order for a standard breakfast to become a brunch, these three things have to be true:

1. It’s a weekend.

Brunch is not a Monday-through-Friday event. It’s just not. During the week, you’re either eating breakfast (if it’s before noon) or lunch (if it’s noon or later). Sorry. those are the rules! But that’s what makes brunch extra special when it comes to Saturday and Sunday. Once the weekend rolls around, the rules change and you can officially refer to your midday meal as brunch if you’re eating between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re eating before 11, it’s breakfast. And the idea of lunch on a weekend doesn’t even exist (unless you really want it to).

(Image credit: Erin Wengrovius)

2. Mary and her friend Mimosa are invited.

Okay, so this one isn’t technically required, but it’s pretty important. At breakfast, it’s all about coffee, tea, or OJ. Once the mimosas, bellinis, or Bloody Marys come out, though, that means it’s brunch time. (Of course, the breakfast beverages are still welcome at brunch!).

Drinking spiked juices at breakfast might seem a little weird, but that’s okay because you’re drinking them at brunch (on a weekend). It’s totally different. Cheers to day-drinking! And if your favorite brunch spot can’t sell alcohol until noon on Sundays, don’t worry — it’s still brunch if you wrap up the meal with bubbly OJ or celery-adorned tomato juice, with a kick!

3. It’s an experience.

Realistically, breakfast is something quick, easy, and likely eaten in a rush or on-the-go. It’s there to keep you going until lunch, but you’re not really taking the time to savor the experience.

Brunch, however, is the exact opposite. It’s an experience, a little indulgent (or very), and it’s time on your calendar you intentionally carve out to kick back and revel in. You’re likely to see a luscious spread covering the table with decked-out pancakes, stuffed French toast, hybrids of your favorite lunch item with an unexpected breakfast twist, and the like.

Have all three things ever happened to you at the same time? If so, you were having brunch! And with that, it’s almost Saturday, so get ready to do it again!