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Help me find a wedding reception restaurant! (Pasadena & surrounding areas)

He finally popped the question this weekend! and I said "YES!" ...the official wedding planning is on!

We have been thinking through planning for several months before making it official, and have always been completely stumped on a reception venue.

There are many great spaces in the area, but the ones that have appealed to us require all sorts of rentals, permits, setup, cleanup and catering limitations. Because of this - I don't want to go that route.

What I'd like to do is rent out a restaurant for the evening (where food, tables/setup is already there). My ideal celebration would a cocktail party - amazing apps, flowing drinks, music, dance floor. But, with the right restaurant, would be fine with a seated dinner, too (if they required it). Additionally, I'd like it to be an indoor setting (planning for May/June and don't want to deal with weather issues (heat/rain)).

Do any great restaurants come to mind? Perhaps something unconventional for a wedding where you've attended a private party or the like? Where the food was outstanding??

Budget is not unlimited, the more economical, the better. If money was no object, I'd rent out Cicada... but that's not going to happen. I threw out the idea for a Chinese banquet, but that idea was nixed.

We did a preliminary list and the space would need to accommodate at least 120 people but hopefully up to 200.

The ceremony will be in Pasadena, so I'd like the reception to be no more than a 15 minute drive.

Now do you see why we're stumped?

I'm going to inquire at:
Madeline's (although, I've never eaten there)
Parkway Grill (anyone know if they do private parties)?

Please help me add to my list!! I care more about the food and making it a fun, 'party', celebratory feel than anything else.


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  1. Hi -
    I had the same idea as well and spoke to BoHo. If this interests you. I can send you my quote for 75. They were willing to close the restaurant on a Sunday morning until 4:30P!
    I was also able to choose my own menu items and looked at both Sunday brunch and the dinner menus. What about Firefly Bistro in S.Pas???

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kitchen Queen

      Thanks, KQ! Yes, I would be curious to see what BoHo provided. I recently went there and really liked the food. It's a little further out than I wanted folks to travel, but it certainly doesn't hurt to look! Hope your planning is going well!

    2. Congrats!

      Here are some options:

      The Athenaeum at Caltech. If you need an alum connection to get in, drop me a line and I might be able to help you out.

      Also consider, Magnolia on Lake, which has a pretty cool indoor/outdoor feel and would be great for apps and/or a light dinner. www.magnoliaonlake.com

      Again, congrats and keep us updated on your wedding plans!

      13 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        We had our rehearsal dinner at the Atheneaum, and it was very classy. You should take ipsedixit up on the offer, and at least look into it. (good idea ipse.)

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Thank you, ipsedixit. I dined at the Athenaeum once and really loved the food. I don't remember the space as much, but I recall it being spacious. Thank you also for the offer to see if you can get me in - I may just take you up on that in the near future!

          1. re: The Oracle

            Cal-Tech Ath also gets my vote and A second in if you need it Oracle.

            1. re: SeaCook


              Was reading your and Ipse's recommendations of the Ath as a wedding venue. Would love to talk to you about it. Am a Pasadena-raised gal living in NYC now, and planning a wedding from across the country! Pls let me know if you can offer any help getting in. Thx!!

          2. re: ipsedixit

            I attended a reception at the Athenaeum at Cal Tech ~~ one word, FABULOUS

            1. re: laliz

              We walked around the grounds of Cal Tech and the rooms of the Athenaeum this weekend... unfortunately and much to my surprise - neither of us were particularly drawn to the space. Granted, it wasn't really 'setup' for a wedding - there were tables/chairs on the patio and lawn and the Ath was set up as it would be for lunch. I'm still keeping this option in my 'back pocket', because I know the food will not disappoint. The hunt continues!

              1. re: The Oracle

                Does Cal Tech actually cater the food?

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  Yes they do. Or an outside catere can be brought in.

                  1. re: SeaCook

                    Really, is it like, college dorm food or decent? Just curious, I used to live two blocks from them and had no idea they catered and hosted weddings & such.

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      The Ath (as we members call it) is Cal-Tech's faculty club. The restaurant is 3 star and only operates Monday -Friday. This is because on the weeknds it's book for weddings Bar Mitizvahs etc. They have tasting dinners for differnt countries or regions od countries, also tasting of wines and spirits like single malt.

                      There is also a hotel with 28 room 4 suites one that is called the Einstien Suite because it is where Albert Einstein and his wife would stay when he was in town.

                      This is all for members and there guests. I am member because I work at the Huntington Library and the Library has a sister institutional relationship with Cal-Tech.
                      I love sharing the place with people I like (that means you lot ;-) ) which is why I offered to help The Oracle. :-)

                      P.S. Let's get back to the topic at hand. :-)

                      1. re: SeaCook

                        Just wonderin', thanks for the time.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              Would appreciate any help you can offer connecting me to the Ath. I was raised in Pasadena but left for college and have been living in NY for way too long to have any CalTech connections anymore! Pls drop me a line if you can, and Thx in advance!

              1. re: DART


                Could you please help DART out? I do not have a public e-mail address

            3. congratulations Oracle! having read your posts for years and understanding your food sensibility a bit, you might want to think about renting CASTLE GREEN, then a caterer and i would highly recommend SHARLENE GRIFFITH as an event coordinator. her connections are amazing and the pricing of her vendors is unlike any i've seen.


              good yelp reviews too.

              2 Replies
              1. re: revets2

                That is really helpful, revets - thank you for the rec and for Sharlene's info.

                As a Pasadena native, I've adored Castle Green. I've been to a wedding there (years ago) and it seemed a little cramped (but I also don't recall how big of a wedding it was). I will check it out, for sure.

                1. re: The Oracle

                  good luck, oracle. she is doing an event for us right now and she is truly a godsend. what i also love about her is that she knows good food.

              2. I haven't lived in Pasadena in about 7 years, so forgive me if any of these are outdated!

                Have you talked to Twin Palms? Used to be a great bar & decent food, could probably handle your numbers.

                We also really liked Maison Akira, and I saw it was still there as of 3 months ago. I'm assuming the RC Huntington (Langham, or whatever it's called now) is either booked or out of budget?

                Good luck and congrats!

                2 Replies
                  1. For the first time in it's ilustrious history, The Huntington Gardens are allowing weddings on the grounds. This is BRAND NEW. There are only a few wedding coordinators who have the exclusive to do events there, call Honeysweet Productions, Erick Weiss.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Senzinina

                      yes, they have! and the site cost will set you back $100,000 not including rentals, caterer, event coordination, etc.

                      1. re: revets2

                        My wife and I had our wedding reception at the Twin Palms with a crowd of 325 people, and it was marvelous. They charged us no room rental fee and no service charge,and we got a four course meal for around $35-45 a person (but it was lunch, and wife knows much better about exact price). We only had to pay for an in-house sound engineer and rental of a TV screen to have a slide show run continuously. So many guests commented about how shocked they were by the excellent quality of food. Each guest got a hangar steak with teriyaki sauce and a lemon-dill salmon slice with potatoes au gratin and grilled asparagus. Also, we had JJ Bakery make 325 strawberry east-west style mochi, and Twin Palms plated it for free. With a baby green salad to start, and an appetizer plate of mini pollo asado empanadas, stuffed mushrooms, and thai beef nachos, and a huge serving of high quality ice cream and a piece of wedding cake afterward, about 50-100 guests asked for to-go boxes from the staff... and this was a wedding!! Only problem was the parking situation. 3 people in wedding party ended up getting tickets.
                        Oh...Madeleine's is a great place and the best restaurant I've discovered this summer. The place could hold 150, but they would have to be divided amongst five different rooms, and I don't think that you would want that for a wedding reception.
                        Maison Akira is the same as Madeleine's. Great food, but the space would be more suited for a rehearsal dinner than a wedding reception.

                        1. re: revets2

                          Yes, that price is so. They are looking for super exclusive weddings. If you have the bucks; it's exquisite.

                      2. Not a restaurant....but a great caterer with some lovely venues in that area. Auntie Em's.
                        They do all sorts of food....lots of weddings....and really work with you to come up with the kind of event you want. I've been to lots of their parties....and they never fail to impress.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: perk

                          I did get some quotes from Auntie Em's for my wedding and did see in their portfolio of events that they catered a wedding on the rooftop of the Pasadena Museum of California Art. It looked very nice. I did have Auntie Em's red velvet at my wedding and it was fantastic!


                        2. I had mine at Twin Palms back in March 2007. I had about 130 guests with plenty of room to add more guests.
                          They closed down the restaurant and we had the place from 11am-4pm. We brought in a band and Twin Palms really worked with our theme!
                          We were coffee and chocolate addicts, so we had barrista's come in and use one of their bars and had a "coffee" bar - which served different types of coffee, espresso, smoothies, etc...and we had a chocolate bar, which had several glass jars filled with chocolate and a 25 pound brick of belgium milk chocolate and we called that the "pick a piece of chocolate bar" - with an actual mini pick axe to pick at the chocolate. Little cellophane bags by the side for guests to grab some goodies...there was also a host bar...
                          The food was yummy, but we did not follow their suggested menu, we were able to customize it to our needs...
                          It was a great reception...

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: truetraveler

                            I took the fiance to Twin Palms this weekend to look at the space. I've been there on a few occasions in the past and it was his first time. Granted, it was at night when they were doing their Saturday night 'club', but it was looking a bit worn down. I was so disappointed, because I thought it would be the perfect spot (he wasn't excited about it at all). I still have it on my list and need to take him back during the day - I think that's when the place really shines.

                            Thank you, truetraveler, for your recap - love the touches you had at your wedding and that you were pleased with how it turned out. I love how flexible it appears they will/can be.

                            1. re: The Oracle

                              Check it out during their sunday brunch, since that will be the time of day that you'll have your reception. You can add draping and everything else to it, they really are very flexible.
                              You can also check out Villa del Sol d'Oro in Sierra Madre, my brother had his wedding there. It's an old Italian villa in the heart of Sierra Madre. It was beautiful the way my brother and his fiance decorated it on their wedding day! Any other questions just ask...

                              1. re: truetraveler

                                Do you remember the food from the Villa? They have exclusive catering rights with Santa Anita Gardens Catering. Love the space!

                                1. re: The Oracle

                                  My brother did use them, but he customized it. From what I can remember it was good (people are still talking about the food - so I guess it was good), but my brother and his wife added to the menu and they hired bartenders and they designed several drinks in honor of the bride and groom. We are Filipino and he had a traditional Filipinana wedding, with the strolling rondollia's ( I think that's how you spell it, but anyway...) he also added traditional food from 2 whole roasted pigs and other foods/desserts...he had the traditional dancers as well to entertain his guests and a live 9 piece Latin band... we were all in traditional dress as well - it was great. The space is very beautiful - I hope you get a chance to see it...

                          2. My friend got married at this Garden in Pasadena owned by a great caterer. They will deal with rentals and everything. It is outside but its so lovely you might want to try it. The food was excellent. If you want to check the space and food out they serve lunch Monday to Friday.


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: PurpleTeeth

                              Thanks, PurpleTeeth - they were on my short list (heard a lot of raves from folks that recently attended event there). At the same time, was randomly looking at Pasadena Health Dept grades and they recently scored very poorly - which was a big turn off.

                            2. Try Cravens estate - my friend is getting married there in September there and they chose a local caterer - we just had the tasting today and it was incredible - a really fun elegant spanish menu. I am so full I might bust open! You may want to check them out - The Spot Gourmet - supposedly they are the up and comers - from what a hear a pretty good value

                              1. congrats! you do sound like you're a bit stuck given the parameters. if you rent out a restaurant most places will have a room so there goes your dance floor and music. but you say you don't mind a sit down dinner either but 150-200 would definitely call for closing down a restaurant. hmm....

                                if you do happen to change your mind you can rent out either the asia pacific museum or the pasadena museum of california art and get it catered by kitchens for exploring food, elements, or auntie em's. i mention these 3 (and the latter of the three being most economical) b/c they do events at these places pretty often. I know this isn't economical but my friend went to a reception at the Langham recently and she said it was awesome.

                                another tip is to get a zagats and they list all zagat rated places with private rooms or will do private parties. good luck!

                                1. UPDATE: Thanks everyone for all your great suggestions and especially to those that offered their Cal Tech connections. I really appreciate it!!!

                                  After much hunting and decision making, we decided to go the all inclusive route. There are some great venues that would have potential weather issues that allow you to bring in your own catering, etc... but we decided to go with Occidental College. Who would have thought it would work out for a wedding venue - but it was great! The grounds are very well maintained and the price point was reasonable. It worked for everything we were looking for. There is an extensive menu to choose from and a lot of flexibility. Hopefully, it will all work out great!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: The Oracle

                                    @ Oracle - I am currently looking for a wedding venue for my 2011 event and I have been looking into Occidental College. I was curious how your wedding turned out? Any details and tips you could provide would be appreciated. Thank you :)

                                    Congratulation on your wedding!