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Wedding Reception Recs on a Budget??

I'm having a difficult time locating a reception for my wedding this fall!!

I'm trying to locate a reception (and possibly a ceremony) site in San Francisco, Napa or Sonoma that can fit up to 150 guests. A yummy catering option would be fabulous! And something within our budget (which is tight, aiming to stay around $15,000 for site & F&B). Is this even possible in the Bay Area? Most of the places I love are pretty expensive just for the location. I'm hoping to reserve a more classic, elegant space rather than contemporary. Does anyone have suggestions or recommendations? Anything would be appreciate!

Thank you!

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  1. That's a huge challenge. "Yummy" food alone for 150 guests can cost you $15k all by itself. Name venues are indeed pricey. If the food part is more important than the venue, you might consider finding a reputable caterer and going with some sort of "hall" that you can decorate up to the preferred ambiance. Went to a great wedding in Stern Grove a while back. Ceremony outside and reception in the lodge. You might look into the prices there and focus your budget on the food (from my own experience, I found guests commenting on the food more than anything when I got married).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Concetta

      Stern Grove is a nice option, went to a wedding there a few years ago. You might also call the San Francisco Elks club for pricing @ 415.421.1404. http://www.sfelks.org/

      Nice central Union Square location, and has the older, classic feel. Here's a link to a 360 tour: http://www.herecomestheguide.com/loca...

      Elks S F Lodge No 3 B P O E
      450 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      1. re: Calvinist

        Funny, Stern Grove leapt to my mind, too. Several years ago, a couple of friends of mine who had been engaged for years got rather spontaneously married on a trip through Las Vegas. So they decided to have a more formal event for their friends and family who didn't happen to be in Vegas with them. They chose Stern Grove and recreated their vows for the assembled group. As for food? These are people of moderate means. It was potluck. Tacky? Nobody seemed to care, and everybody had a good time.

    2. I went to a very cool wedding at Bix. The ceremony was very short and it was all about the reception. It was more of a cocktail party and a very elegant one at that. I have no idea what it cost and I don't think you are charged for the restaurant as long as you meet a certain bar tab amount. The Hors d'oeuvres were lovely..no cake. This was a unconventional wedding which made it fun to attend. So maybe drinks and Hors d'oeuvres only, no sit down you might be able to swing it. Anyway, it was one of the top weddings I have attended. The other one was at Michael's in Santa Monica..Maybe a restaurant would be the way to go.

      1. Would you consider the East Bay? A couple of places that fit your definition of classic and elegant would be the Berkeley City Club and Dunsmuir House in Oakland. They can both handle weddings your size. Personally, I'd check into Dunsmuir House, which is gorgeous and will give you a lot for your money; Blue Heron is very good caterer on their approved list, and they will let you serve your own alcohol with no corkage, which could help keep the costs down. http://www.dunsmuir.org/weddings.htm

        As Concetta said, there are other less expensive options if you look at renting public facilities -- again, Oakand Parks and Rec has a couple of very nice venues that could handle a wedding that size and where your facility costs would be very reasonable. Other cities undoubtedly have similar facilities.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          We got married this past August at the Brazilian Room in Berkeley. Site fee was in the $2000-$2500 range. The ceremony can be held outside in a site with a dramatic tree view, and the reception would be inside the Brazilian Room (very nice as well).

          You have to use a caterer from their approved caterer list. We went with Ann Walker for our 75 or so guests and that came to $6500 or so. Ann Walker's food was amazing and she was easily the best of the four caterers we tried. If you go to Yelp and look up Ann Walker (she's in San Anselmo, CA), you'll find my detailed review and a link to my 70 wedding related reviews (venue (I checked out 11), food, dress, floral designer, DJ, makeup, etc.).

          The Berkeley City Club was our second runner-up in the venue search. It is very classic and the architecture (see stairway and 1st floor garden) would look great in pictures.

          1. re: katya

            Yeah, but am I wrong in remembering that you lucked out on getting the reservation on the Brazilian Room when there was a cancellation? Isn't it usually booked well over a year in advance for weddings?

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Kudos for remembering that, Ruth!

              I didn't see the "this fall" part of the post before. Yes, the Brazilian Room does tend to book a year and a half ahead for weddings, but it doesn't necessarily mean every day is taken or that there won't be cancellations. schnigglebob might have more luck either trying to schedule a Friday or Sunday wedding there (more availability) or just calling every few days to see if there has been any cancellations.

              Yes in our case we were hoping for a wedding slot sometime between August and November. I happened to call the Brazilian Room when they had just received a cancellation. Sweet!

              Another option is the Green Room in San Francisco. The price there is really good, and it's a nice space across the street from City Hall. However, it also books really quickly in advance. I've had two friends book their weddings there and they are really happy with it. One of them hasn't had her wedding yet, but she raves about the extremely well priced and tasty, Thomas John Events in San Carlos.

              There are two other good Brazilian Room caterers that we didn't get to have tastings with because they were booked the day of our wedding: Carrie Dove and Serves You Right (this one is one of the cheapest, too). Both had really great food at the wedding fair and have great reputations.

              Ann Walker Catered Our Wedding and Did a Fantastic Job!

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            For future searches, I just wanted to add that I recently attended an event at a lovely venue I'd never seen before: the community center in Joaquin Miller Park (another Oakland Parks and Rec facility). It seats 160 for dining, and there's a huge deck where you could hold the ceremony. Like all Oakland Parks and Rec facilities I thought the price was reasonable, and they don't have any restrictions on caterers. Despite the "community center" moniker it's very private -- I grew up in that area, my parents live nearby, and I've even driven past it and I never knew it existed.


          3. Looking at the websites for a lot of wineries lately, I was surprised how many have event facilities. I never considered that. I can't tell you which are good or not, but you could take a look at this SF Chronicle link which has the wineries with event facilities noted. Might be fun checking them out.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rworange

              Getting married at a winery is lots of fun! I got married 5 yrs ago at Byington in the Santa Cruz mtns. The cost for facility alone was about $5500 (high season); extras like wine pourers, their wine, dance floor, security, insurance, etc. brought base price up. I checked out north-of-SF wineries at that time and found the base price about $2k higher. All said and done, with above and entertainment, flowers, food, tips, etc. came to about $30k. The wineries also gouge you for things like extra chairs and overtime. We had a great reception there -- stand-up style (big space, including wonderful terrace); picturesque setting. Food for 100 guests for this event was $10k. I would check out the book "here comes the guide" for current winery event and other location data.

            2. I've been doing research about smaller wineries in the Livermore Valley that have some very nice options. Site fees have ranged from $250-$2800 (for a Saturday night 6-hr block), Beverage packages have run from $12-$25/person and Catering 28-$32/person plus 18-20% service and tax. I agree that the East Bay has an array of options, especially in the Berkeley and Oakland Hills that might fit your needs and budget.
              For more info: www.herecomestheguide.com
              I wish you Good Luck! Many of the popular venues may already be booked as the common practice these days is to reserve a year in advance.

              1. I had a wedding for 100 people at a very swanky SF resto for 11k. That included passed appetizers, open bar (and the wines were excellent), amazing food (grilled romaine salad, scallops on celery root puree, alaskan char on lentils, tenderloin over asparagus...the list goes on and on) and desserts.

                Find a smaller neighborhood place-- are they closed on Sundays? Mondays? Have your reception then. How much is it to buy out the place for the evening? Avoid any venue that caters to the wedding crowd-- same old, same old, and you'll pay through the nose.

                7 Replies
                  1. re: rworange

                    rnm. And what i listed was only a quarter of the food we had. People raved.

                    1. re: zunzie

                      Sounds like a great price for Michael Minna.

                      One place to consider might be Treasure Island. It has a little chapel and a lawn outside with sweeping views of the bay. There is also an indoor dining area / kitchen. A few pics and info in this link

                      1. re: rworange

                        I saw that, too. Very pretty, and not terrible expensive. You have to use their caterer, though.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          and be sure not to book it on one of the fall weekends the bay bridge is closed for retrofit work....was a major headache for some group that had a wedding there last Labor Day weekend!

                          1. re: zunzie

                            My daughter was recently married and had her reception at the Great American Music Hall. The price was very reasonable, food was great, setting was fantastic!

                  2. The Fort Mason Log Cabin is a place my Fiancee & I were considering for 150 guests. We couldn't visit last year because they were remodeling, but I believe they are done now. It looked like a beautiful place.

                    I also thought the Mill Valley Community Center was beautiful and could be decorated to suit your style preference. (It would be bautiful without any added decor as well). http://www.circlepix.com/tour.htm?id=...

                    I don't think your price is unreasonable- you just have to keep in mind your priorities/what is most important to you and possibly make tradeoffs accordingly to get the budget you want. My budget is much less (afternoon ceremony, light lunch-like food) and I have found several caterers to work with me on it.

                    1. Check out Dominic's at Oyster Point in South SF. About 35$ per person, good food, buffet with lots of choices. You can get married outside for about $800 extra. The location is right on the bay, awesome view. Got married there last September. Maximum number of guests - 160. They have the cutest hotel right next door for overnight guests.

                      1. i got married at the Marine's memorial club in SF... great location, beautiful classical sight. budget will be right around the price, maybe sligthly higher, but the staff made it completely worry free and provided amazing service and fantastic food options. We did two options, plus a vegetarian, with passed appetizers and sit down dinner. Their coordinators took care of it all. not to mention guests can say there and they give you an amazing suite for the weekend too!

                        1. If you really want to save money, get married in the morning and serve orange juice, coffee, and baked goods at the reception.

                          Then you and your spouse can leave for your honeymoon.

                          San Francisco City Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and it has a parking garage.

                          1. this falls outside of the area you wanted, but the wife and i were married last june in san jose at the california theatre. cost for site & f&b was a little under $15K with an open bar. i was apprehensive at first, due to the fact that it was exclusive catering, but the food was phenomenal. definitely more classic than contemporary...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: northern state

                              Hi, I'm actually interested in just having a wedding ceremony at the California Theatre and then having my reception around the corner at Il Fornaio. Do you think that would be expensice? What part of the theatre was your ceremony in?

                            2. I would second the suggestion of seeing how much it would cost to do it at a restaurant. I have worked in both catering and restaurants for many years and you will definitely get much higher quality food. I would imagine that when all is said an done it will be cost effective. Your room rental, glassware, table cloths, etc.... are nixed. The chefs get to cook in their own kitchen and you get the full attention of the staff.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chefj

                                I third this suggestion. I was just married in May, and although we went with a winery/caterer, I strongly suggest taking the restaurant route if you want high quality food within a budget. All the little costs -- utensils / plates / glassware / chair / tablecloth rentals, server fees, cook fees, tips, etc. -- added a LOT to our budget. When you have that many people and for example, are paying $1.20 per glass rental (five allocated per person), $0.85 per fork (3 per person), and so on, the costs really add up.

                                With 150 people you could definitely do a restaurant buyout. I wanted to go that way but unfortunately our wedding was too large when I called around to the upscale restaurants we were considering.

                              2. Atrium in SF. It only does special events outside of weekday business lunches. A nice venue, with a great price.

                                1. Take a look at the Green Room in the War Memorial. It's a beautiful building, will easily accommodate your group, and has gorgeous views of City Hall from its terrace. It feels very urban and posh, but is quite inexpensive for the space rental. You'll have to find a caterer, but I'm guessing you can find lots of referrals to good caterers on this CH. http://sfwmpac.org/greenroom/gr_index...