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Rehearsal Dinner - anything under $3000?

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Hi - I'm having a rehearsal dinner in April in the District and am having trouble finding anyplace that will do a basic meal with wine and beer for 30 people that will come in under $3000.

This is taking us a bit by surprise since many of the same restaurants we're contacting have entrees for less than $25. I guess they're padding the prices to make up for the private room and large group service. We just hadn't figured on $100 a head.

Any ideas? We do want a private room and a sit-down affair. Perhaps this is just the going rate.

Dino's looks like they might be able to keep it under $3000.

If I'm gonna splurge and go for an over $3000 joint, I'm liking Zola.

Other thoughts? We could do Maryland too - as our hotel will be in Silver Spring, but Ray's the Classics doesn't have their party room ready yet and the Macaroni Grill isn't really what we had in mind.

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  1. Depends on how formal you want. We had luck with Austin Grill, they opened the entire menu to us. Each site has a diffent seating arrangement. Not sure if you can cut the same kind of deal with new management. Have you tried Mrs K's Tollhouse?

    1. Mrs. K's seems a bit frumpy for us.
      Cubano's is excellent but won't do a Friday night event.
      The Golden Flame would be a decent option if we weren't having Lebanese food the very next day at the wedding.
      So we're looking for something European or American and reasonably fancy with a private room.

      Thanks for the Austin Grill idea.

      1. I would think that Zaytinya might be able to do this in one of their private rooms

        1 Reply
        1. re: jpschust

          If Zaytinya has private rooms (have no idea, I'll trust jpschust knows!), I think that would be a great choice. Lots of fun, lots of variety of foods (something for the vegetarians, the south beachers, the terminally picky and everybody in between). The biggest difficulty might be that you said you're looking for something European/American, and I think this might be leaning a bit too close to Lebanese (which you said you were already doing for the wedding).

          I wouldn't say that the restaurants are padding, even if the restaurant's entrees are routinely under $25. If you assume tax and tip is included in the $100, then you're down to roughly $80/person. I assume you want an appetizer or salad (nothing hand-passed, just sit down?), entree and dessert? That's generally going to set you back $40/person (depending on what you choose for your entree (or, entree selection). If you want to cover the wine and beer, that's what's really going to get you in trouble. In my experience both in catering and in throwing my own wedding, no matter what the situation (whether it's your most intimate friends or a group of strangers at a fundraising dinner for a beloved charity), if the bar is not a cash bar, people liquor up. So, $20/person for liquor (depending on how long the bar is going to be 'open' and whether you're really doing a cocktail hour or not) is not that much. Then, when you remember that you said you want sit down service. To give you decent coverage, they're going to need to dedicate at least two wait staff to your room. And then, of course, they're going to need to provide you with plates, silverware, glasses, linens. All stuff they have in stock, but, essentially, you need to pay to 'rent' them that night. Not to mention the fact that they need to cover the cost of that private room. That's space that they're not giving over to their regular dinner service. It's expensive to have space that may be dead many nights.

          I'm not trying to tell you that you're being cheap (at all), because I don't think you are. More that I think this is the going rate (as you postulated). You can limit costs by limiting the food options that your guests have (don't let them choose from the entire menu--the restaurant should be able to help you with choosing popular items that keep the price in a reasonable range) and by limiting the wine/beer choices. The fewer choices people have, the lower your costs will be (in general). I assume that you've talked with the restaurants you're considering to find out what your options are? Ask them for creative ideas to keep costs down--they can probably help you with that as well.

          Good luck! (Oh, and I agree, Mrs. K's seems frumpy and I have NEVER heard a single good thing about the food there.)

        2. May be a little far but, did rehersal in July at Trapeze in Fulton, just up 29 a bit. It was marvelous. They didn't pad bill, it couldn't have been nicer. Service was out of this world. Food was good, not memorable but; good. The bill came in right around $2000 and this included wine, and open bar. No heavy drinkers though.

          1. It gets a fair amount of abuse on this board, but I have to say the M&S Grill downtown did an excellent job with our rehearsal dinner. We had about that many people and while I don't remember the exact price it was well below $3,000.