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Jan 4, 2008 10:18 PM

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.

      Nice central Union Square location, and has the older, classic feel. Here's a link to a 360 tour:

      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 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.

        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:
              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.