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need advice on affordable New England wedding venues

Hi. I just got engaged, and I'm already getting discouraged trying to plan a wedding without going broke. Read that the ave. wedding costs $30000. That's ridiculous! I just want something low key but in a beautiful setting. Don't need fancy food, just good quality (don't care if it's bbq, clambake, whatever), but I do want some traditional things like music and open bar. I would LOVE to have it outside, but also have to be cautious about the weather, and I realize that tents are usually quite pricey, so I'd settle for an outdoor ceremony with a reception in a place with lots of windows overlooking a beautiful setting. I know, a lot to ask! I live just south of Boston, so it would be convenient to have it in s.e. MA, but I also love the mountains of NH and would travel there if I found a great site. So, any ideas are welcome. Thanks!

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  1. If you post the number of guests and your anticipated per person budget it will help you get focused replies.

    1. Really all depends on the number of guests. Endicott College in Beverly has an AMAZING venue but seating maxes out around 100...

      6 Replies
      1. re: StriperGuy

        somewhere between 100-150 guests. it'll probably end up being a bit over 100. I'm still trying to figure out a reasonable per person budget, but every place adds it up different. I would like to have a total budget of less than $15000

        1. re: andibh

          With that budget with over 100 people + open bar it will tricky.

          If you do a bit of a "do it yourself" find an outdoorish venue, and hire your own bartenders and provide your own drinks you might swing it.

          Some of the more wedding hall like places that do volume, but you won't get the beautiful venue, could probably also swing it.

          1. re: andibh


            See: Tewksbury Country Club................
            Saturday 5 hour pkg is $50pp incl champagne toast multi course meals, linens, etc

            Lots of reasonable package options, Beautiful views and tasty food.

            I have attended a few functions there and it is a good buy

            Tewksbury Country Club
            1880 Main St, Tewksbury, MA 01876

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Agree it's a great price -- but the wedding party has to be out of there early to make room for presumably a second event. If the bride + groom want to go on into the evening (with dancing etc) the food alone for the meal at the same venue will be at least $100 pp incl tax and tip, which are fairly typical prices.

                I think with that number of guests, a budget of $15k will be a stretch unless they find a venue that allows outside caterers, and you get a reasonable, say, indian/ chinese caterer in, which might come in at $50pp.


              2. re: bagelman01

                I had my wedding here back in 2009 and I loved everything about the venue, the food and the service. Our wedding was in July and the grounds were amazing :-) I highly recommed that you take a look - it may work for your budget.

          2. Needham Golf Club has a reasonable venue. Where are you located?

            1. Skip the open bar which could easily cost you $5-7K. Open bars are really passe because of liability issues. BTW - the average cost per plate, even rubber chicken, would be around $75.

              4 Replies
              1. re: treb

                I dunno, I like open bar at a wedding. What you can do is limit the hours...

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Yah, I've even seen beer & wine only, also there's a lot of waste with open bars as people tend to ditch half finished drinks, not me I even suck the ice dry!

                2. re: treb

                  $5-7K? Really? I am planning a wedding in a month - open bar (and everyone is REALLY positive about that - who wants to pull out their wallet at a wedding? Tacky! And liability issues remain regardless of whether the bride and groom are paying or individual guests...bartenders need to be insured, etc....anyway, I digress...)

                  So my pre-event bill for alcohol is ~$1,200 and the caterer is supplying the bartender. We have about 120 guests planned. It's not a huge drinking crowd so that lowers the numbers a bit.

                  For SE Mass, you might consider Camp Kiwanee in Hanson, MA - they have a really cool wooden lodge overlooking a lake - should be able to fit 100-120 and I think it's pretty cheap to rent.

                  Camp Kiwanee
                  Camp Kiwanee Rd, Hanson, MA 02341

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Bob- where did you guys get married where you could do an open bar for $1,200?

                3. I got marriage at the Killington Grand Hotel in Killington, Vermont. Very affordable food ($30/pp, choice of 2), also their package includes rehearsal dinner space & brunch the next day.

                  1. We're getting married at the Essex Conference Center and Retreat. It's a beautiful outdoor venue and the cost starts at $65pp. We had our tasting a couple months ago, and the food is really good. You also have the option of doing a clambake, but I think that costs a little more. You bring in your own alcohol, which is a great way to save and allow for an open bar. There are a few other places that let you bring in your own alcohol, and that may be something you want to look for. I know Glen Magna in Danvers allows it as well.

                    1. We had our wedding and reception (in 2003) at the Hampshire House right on Beacon Street in Boston. Price was extremely reasonable ($300 for the 3rd floor if we spent at least $2000 on food.) I'm not sure what their prices are like now, but we were very happy with them. They had an excellent wedding coordinator (Michelle) and the food was wonderful.

                      Hampshire House
                      84 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108

                      1. We are getting married next summer at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, which is a gorgeous and affordable venue. Catering will be provided by Wildflour, who is also catering my sister's wedding. We are feeding 150 people for about $9000, which includes extras like a raw bar, as well as labor, etc (that works out to about $60 pp). We are doing limited open bar with beer, wine, and 2 signature cocktails-- the estimate for this from Gordon's liquors was around $2500 (but it's very possible this could go up). Everyone I've worked with so far has been great, and I can't recommend them enough!

                        Cambridge Multicultural Arts
                        41 2nd St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: pdubs

                          We had our wedding here back in 2005. Outdoor ceremony, catering by East Coast Grill, open bar (beer, wine, sangria). It was a fantastic party in a beautiful location. Everyone stayed at the Hotel Marlowe and had a great time. Unfortunately I can't recall the budget numbers, but I'll try to look them up later tonight.

                        2. great place in the white mtns is stonehurst manor in north conway - we stayed for a weekend and was very impressed with the food and the ambiance - here's one of their wedding packages for an afternoon tent reception and pizza buffet -

                          1. You might check out the transportation museum at Larz Anderson park in Brookline.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ruprecht

                              Although the website says it can host 150 inside, I think that may be a squeeze seated -- but heck, they'll know for sure. It's a great venue, but I think they charge a couple of grand to rent the space. The plus side is that they do allow outside caterers, so costs can be kept down with prudent choices.


                              1. re: trueblu

                                Don't limit yourself to caterers from Boston and environs. I worked for a caterer on the Cape and we regularly did functions at the Larz Anderson Park. I don't know what prices were but you might do better with someone from out of the city.

                            2. The Hotel at MIT (corner of Mass Ave and Sidney St near Central Square) has a beautiful roof garden available for weddings (and backup rooms indoors, just in case). The hotel has a new name recently, I think, but it's still there. They were very reasonable in comparison with other venues we looked at, and we were very happy with our wedding there. They also have a nice restaurant ("Sidney's") with private room for a rehearsal dinner. AND the happy couple get to stay in the Presidential Suite (which is really, really nice) after the wedding (nice and roomy for a post-event party, too).

                              1. Go to Cape Cod in the off season - can get a great place and a good deal. A friend had a wedding at the Chatham Bars Inn in January - practically 1/2 the price, beautiful room with windows overlooking Chatham harbor

                                1. I got married on the Mt Washington Boat on Lake Winnie in NH and although it was 9 years ago, it was very reasonable and the captain married us, everyone had a great time (we did not have the boat all to ourself). Another great venue for a wedding is Alpine Grove in Hollis NH, just outside Nashua - I looked at this place for hubby's 50th and their place is very nice, food packages are very reasonable.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                    Regarding the Open Bar, I would suggest having the Open Bar before dinner then a Cash Bar from then on. There is a lot of waste once people are up and dancing. Many people if they are not paying for their drinks will just go to the bar and get another drink instead of tracking down the one they left when they got up to dance.

                                    1. re: edgewater

                                      I think throwing a party and asking guests to pay is atrocious. Personally, I rarely bring cash with me to a wedding (in my bitty little fancy clutch purse) and found myself stuck and embarrassed at the bar realizing I had to pay *after* I already ordered a drink. Thanks goodness for the kindness of strangers!

                                      If you can't afford an open bar the entire evening, better to limit hours or the liquor selection(s). I think there have been a number of wonderful suggestions already posted for venues that allow you to bring your own liquor, which is a huge savings.

                                      1. re: Science Chick

                                        Totally agree. We had wine & beer, and a couple of special cocktails made by the pitcher. We bought it ourselves--some liquor stores will deliver, I think Martinetti's does? And some will buy back what you don't use.

                                        We paid bartenders, had the bar open all night, probably spent somewhere around $1200 for 120 people (though a decent amount of kids and other nondrinkers).

                                        1. re: dulce de leche

                                          We had a really lovely affordable wedding at the Codman Estate in Lincoln. About 100 guests tented, and used the carriage house for music, bar, etc. We were able to split the cost of the tent with the couple getting married the next day, and it ended up being about $1000, IIRC. Catering was by East Coast Grill, which was much more affordable than we'd thought. They brought grills and set up a beautiful buffet- several entrees (including a cuban mahi, pulled pork and short rib) and passed apps for $40ish a person, I think? Open bar with beer, wine and 2 signature cocktails didn't top $1000, similar to the above poster. ECG handled picking up the liquor from the distributor. They were awesome and really great to work with.

                                          East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
                                          1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          1. re: dulce de leche

                                            Martinetti's and Kappy's will deliver the alcohol and pick up the unopened alcohol the next day. They refund you on the unopened drinks. We're doing this at our wedding (mentioned above) and going to Costco to buy the mixers. We're paying bartenders, but the cost of the bartenders and rental glassware is pretty insignificant.

                                          2. re: Science Chick

                                            I disagree. I have never been to a wedding where there was an open bar the entire time. I've been to a few that have open bar at the beginning of the reception while the wedding party is having pictures taken...but the reality is that the OP has a limited budget and shelling out thousands of dollars for an open bar is just unnecessary.

                                            Edgewater makes a great point..when people aren't paying for their drinks there tends to be a tremendous amount of waste.

                                            I second the Stonehurst Manor suggestion.

                                            1. re: BlueMagic

                                              You should have come to my wedding then!

                                              By the way, you responded to a comment from 20 months ago

                                              1. re: L2k

                                                Or my wedding. I know it's a widespread approach and there are lots of people who insist it's all right, but I'm with Science Chick - I don't think it's appropriate to invite people to a party and then make them pay for refreshments. Better to throw the party you can afford and not make guests help pick up the tab for a bigger bash than you can swing on your own.

                                                We had a brunch reception and served wine, beer, and domestic bubbly. I think we also bought some vodka for bloody marys and screwdrivers. Not only was there not "a tremendous amount of waste," but we ended up returning about a case of wine and half a case of the sparkling wine.

                                                1. re: L2k

                                                  Oops..silly me. I guess someone bumped the thread up. I never look at the dates on these things. I assume if it's at the top of the feed it's recent.

                                                  I had an open bar as well..but a smaller side wedding..about 80 people.

                                                  To all that responded..you mean an open bar the entire time of the wedding? It's never happened to me. Every wedding I've been to the open bar has been limited to pre dinner for guests ( although the one's I have been in the wedding party, I've never paid for a drink).
                                                  In fact, I went to one wedding about 6 years ago where there was no alcohol served or allowed ( quirky family member). Of course, my table found a way around that..lol

                                                  1. re: BlueMagic

                                                    It's a very ethnc thing......................
                                                    I was in the catering business years ago. When we did a kosher affair, we had open bars for the full time of the affair, from pre-ceremony cocktails to after dessert cordials. We never had a cash bar at a kosher affair, or a short duration open bar.
                                                    In the same venue, when we did a non-kosher affair (using separate kitchens) open or cash bars and the duration were up to the host and the depth of his/her pocketbook. In 1989, when I left the business we charged $15.95 for the liquor for an open bar at a kosher wedding (5 hours) and $15.95 got 1 1/2 hour open bar at a non-kosher wedding. We found that the guests at a kosher wedding consumed far less alcohol than those at a non-kosher wedding. In fact the average at a kosher wedding was 1.6 alcoholic drinks per guest, while at non kosher weddings the average consumption at the open bar was 2.5 drinks por hour per adult guest. Also, the guests at a non-kosher affair were likely to load up on drinks during the open bar period and take them to thier tables to drink during the remainder of the event.
                                                    Also in those days, we never served beer at a kosher catered affair, but went through plenty at non-kosher affairs.

                                                    Since that time, I have hosted my own wedding (2nd marriage) and made weddings for two of my daughters, all three affairs were open bar from start to finish.

                                                2. re: BlueMagic

                                                  To be honest, I can't recall the last wedding I was at where there wasn't an open bar

                                          3. http://countrygardens.ws/e-weddings.php

                                            339 Tremont Street
                                            Rehoboth, MA 02769
                                            Phone: 508-431-1255

                                            We had our wedding at Country Gardens in Rehobeth 6 years ago and i think our expenses
                                            for 120 ppl cam in right around $15,000. The Owner Ralph was a pleasure to work with, I highly reccomend

                                            website hasn't been updated but: The 2009 cost for a 5 hour wedding package for 100 people is $9,275.

                                            1. If you want a super cheap but beautiful venue, you can rent the grounds of the Olde Manse in Concord for all of 200 bucks. You can't beat the price! I had an awesome going away party there, we had Blue Ribbon deliver and brought a keg. But you can have Gordon's Liquor in Waltham "booze cater" it for you. Heck you might get away under 5 grand. Tom there is a nice guy and super easy to work with. Good luck and happy wedding.

                                              1. Off season anywhere is the best idea. Try golf resorts in the Winter, or if you are south, hotels on the cape in Winter or Late fall (after foliage) We got Married at Killington in June, it was dead but we had the hotel to ourselves and we were catered to hand and foot. The most expensive thing was our giant tent!! We had open bar, beer, wine, tent, live band, and a barbeque dinner..all for a whopping 8 grand!!! so yes, you can do it cheaper if you are willing to do an off-season thing.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: bostonwest

                                                  Where in Killington? We were thinking June or July of 2013 and the original place we liked is $3200 Fridays & Sundays and even more on Saturdays so this 'off-season' thing seems like a good idea

                                                  1. re: Hunny72578

                                                    Hunny, I think bostonwest is referring to the ski resort, Killington.

                                                2. There is a list of Historic venues/function facilities available through the State House, w/ basic descriptions and contact info.for the function sites. There are easily 30-50 places on it, including simple to elegant.

                                                  Some of the many popular boston area places:

                                                  commander's mansion, watertown; habitat, belmont; endicott house, danvers; tupper hall, endicott college, beverly; paine estate and lyman estate, waltham; gore place; camb boat club; arthur griffin museum, winchester; nat'l heritage museum, lexington, The Barn at the Peabody Historical Society, etc etc etc.

                                                  I would advise visiting some spots and getting a feel for what atmosphere appeals to you.

                                                  you'll be dealing w/ lots of decisions including price and capacity of facility and what they include in that cost (some have tables and chairs, others not); cost of tent if you want or need to be outdoors(many historic sites can hold 100 but rarely 150). Function managers at various sites sometimes are in the full-help mode, giving you a sense of what price ranges there are for all the diff aspects of the wedding.Each facility has a list of approved caterers, bands, florists, liquor companies etc.

                                                  once you decide on a location, the rest will begin to fall in place.

                                                  p.s. many many weddings have just wine and beer.and many facilities do not allow cash bars.

                                                  1. We got married at Bittersweet Farm in Westport - nice place, only supports afternoon receptions, food was pretty decent from a wedding perspective..

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                                      Try Lake Pearl Luciano's in Wrentham if that location is at all convenient for anyone looking.
                                                      It is a beautiful location, good food and a very pleasant and professional staff.

                                                      Lake Pearl Luciano's
                                                      Lake Pearl Park, Wrentham, MA 02093

                                                    2. A friend of mine got married at home. It was delightful. She had a tent and catering. You might try finding a site like an orchard or state park with a tent or lodge. Another friend had a beautiful wedding this winter, ceremony at the Old South Meeting house, we walked to the Old State House for a reception. Catering was by Above and Beyond which was nice too. http://www.aboveabc.com

                                                      You also might consider a brunch reception. Other friends had a brunch reception at the Larz Anderson Museum, catering by Blue Ribbon BBQ which was also v. fun.

                                                      Blue Ribbon BBQ
                                                      910 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                                                        1. I have been to weddings at Castle in the Clouds in NH. Looks like the room fees are reasonable and there may be several options for the food.

                                                          1. Good luck saving money and congratulations to you!

                                                            We just did our wedding for about 80 people and used every restaurant and wine industry connection we had getting a lot of things at or below cost, had an open standing beer/champagne/wine reception at the church (we did have an oyster bar, but had insider connections and didn't tell them it was a wedding beforehand), paid a chef to roast a pig and cook some sides (food was at cost), my aunt did the flowers at cost as a gift, a friend did a cake as a gift, we printed our own invites and made our own favors and I think we still managed to spend $6000 easily.

                                                            If you want to save money you will have to do a lot of work yourselves and a wedding is exhausting and stressful as it is with tons of things to consider, so be prepared to be extra exhausted when it is all over. I got so sick afterward I was in bed for a week.

                                                            That being said, it was a great day, we had a lot of fun and our guests did too by all accounts.

                                                            The other posters are absolutely right about just hiring your own bartender ($200-300) and buying your own booze, also a couple of waiters (same price as above for good ones) too to set up, run the party and clean up. Handles of booze offer a significant cost savings. That being said not a single person complained about beer and wine only at our wedding.

                                                            Avoid telling vendors that it is a wedding, just say 'event' or else you will see dollar signs lighting up in their eyes.

                                                            Blue Ribbon BBQ will bring masses of food to you for relatively short money. They ask for a head count, but give you so much food that you could easily estimate at 25% less and everybody will still be stuffed.

                                                            One piece of advice I got from another friend was that by trying to save money and have it on a piece of his parent's land he ended up spending more because he had to create infrastructure (bathrooms, electricity, water) where there wasn't any previously and that ended up costing him much more than it would have to just have it somewhere that was already set up for a wedding. Considering the needs of elderly relatives and small children can also create limitations, so don't forget about them!

                                                            Best of luck!

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: suzysue2

                                                              Suzy - Where did you hold your wedding? My fiance and I are trying to do the same thing (he's a chef here in Boston) but we can't find a venue that will let us have thaaaat much freedom.

                                                              1. re: tpacheco

                                                                do you want to do your own food or a place that supplies it with freedom of choices? Theres a good booklet put out by the agency that is in charge of historical places, but I am having a blip on what its called. but it lists all the places available in the state and what they have and charge.

                                                                1. re: tpacheco

                                                                  tpacheco, if you call the MA State House, they have a list of historic venues. That said, the more conventional places all have Rules- incl the requirements of choosing caterer and bar from an approved list.(which is designed to assure safety of the venue and less work for the site mngr.) So you'd need to look for a venue that does not have these requirements.

                                                                  All of these things change year to year and i am not up to date, but you may want to look into the Girl Scout House in Concord , and/or various churches where you do not have to be a congregation member (i.e. First Church Unitarian, Concord and all other Unit. churches); the Concord Art Assoc., the Arthur Griffin Museum, Winchester; the _____Barn in Peabody(Pbdy Hist Soc.)

                                                                  Another thought is to rent a vacation house for a week where you don't have those rules, and where you (and/or closest friends) could stay over/on after the wedding.
                                                                  Best of luck.

                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                    The Concord Scout House is available to rent - as a matter of fact Jenny Ondioline and I got married there. Here's a link to their current rental information:
                                                                    (As a matter of fact, according to their posted calendar there's a wedding there tomorrow!)

                                                                    One thing that's important to know about the Scout House: at the time we got married they required us to make special arrangements as part of the rental agreement and purchase a special insurance rider in order to serve alcohol there. I've heard rumors since then that they have gone dry, but I can't confirm that.

                                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                                      Gore Place (historic site) in Waltham lets you choose your own caterer.

                                                                      1. re: FinnFPM

                                                                        Pierce House in Lincoln is in a similar class as Gore Place.

                                                                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                          Neither Pierce or Gore or any of the mainstream historical venus- allow self catering or self-bartending etc. Mostly due to their insurance policies. Many rules.

                                                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                            Ditto for Lyman Estates and Stonehurst Mansion in Waltham

                                                                2. I hope she got married already.. the OP was in 2010

                                                                  1. Why are people replying to this three year old post?

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Lmrbest

                                                                      Chowhound is an ongoing conversation geared towards helping a variety of people, not a static conversation geared towards helping the one person who asked the question. Even when the original poster's need has passed, lurkers, searchers and new posters come to the site with the same or similar questions, and threads like this can provide the resources to help find great chow today.

                                                                      We do encourage people to add their chow tips wherever and however they choose- more information means everyone eats better!

                                                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                        This is very true! There are alot of times when I'll come across the name of a place, do a search, and only come up with old posts. So I usually have to start a new one to figure out the latest news. Updating old posts would solve this problem!

                                                                        1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                          Thank you Chowhound Team for making me see "beyond the end of my nose". I wasn't thinking in that direction when I made my post. BTW, Isolda, you could have "helped" instead of the snarky comment AH.

                                                                        2. re: Lmrbest

                                                                          Yes, why are they? I'm sure the OP's wedding was the last one ever in the history of New England. Nothing to see here, people. Just go back to your normal lives.

                                                                        3. Caterers and load-in staff love Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, and it's LEED-platinum certified, and it's a charity, and it's near public transport!

                                                                          Artists for Humanity EpiCenter

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: enhF94

                                                                            Hahahah this place is fucking ridiculously expensive