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Jan 5, 2011 04:03 AM

HELP-Wedding nightmare...

The restaurant we had booked almost a year ago for our upcoming wedding in September has unexpectedly closed for business....we are now scrambling to find another available alternative. Somewhat casual, high fun wedding for aprox 130 ppl. We are trying to stay within a tight BYOBs and or other non traditional places would be great. We love mexican and other ethnic foods and were hoping for a private dining room that would allow us space for some dancing after dinner is through. OK...CHOWHOUNDERS.... tell me your thoughts. A HUGE thank you in advance!

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  1. What is the approx budget and where in Chicago/Chicagoland is preferable? I had two friends get married in the Irish American Heritage Center. You have to get the alcohol from them but they are very reasonable (budget was under $1000 for both weddings). You can also bring in your own food/caterer and they'll help set it up.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lbs

      lbs...I actually called them this morning, and left a message. Our budget is aprox $30 p/person, not including alcohol. We just want something with a little soul. Lettuce Entertain you spots are an option..but we were hoping for something a bit more genuine...and a bit less corporate.

      1. re: kristin76

        First of all, take a deep breath and relax. I know it seems like a catastrophe, but you have eight months, and that's plenty of time to find a place and make all the arrangements. I think it's great to get going on finding a replacement place, but there's no need to get overly stressed at this point.

        >> We just want something with a little soul. Lettuce Entertain you spots are an option..but we were hoping for something a bit more genuine...and a bit less corporate.

        Well, you need to be careful about that thought. What you really need is a place that can accommodate your reception without any major problems, and that's usually more important than how "genuine" a place is. Lots of people want to avoid events that seem like wedding receptions, but you really need to contract with a vendor that has a lot of experience with banquets/private parties. It may be a hotel's banquet department or it may be a restaurant with a private room large enough for your group (some have it, others don't) or it may be a caterer working in a venue other than a restaurant, but the experience is key. I've arranged many such dinners on behalf of a group, and the first time I tried doing it at a restaurant without such experience, it was an absolute disaster because the kitchen was not accustomed to having food for that number of people come out at the same time; it took well over an hour for each course to be served. And of course that's what everyone remembered, not the atmosphere (it was a non-chain place that you could call "genuine") or the quality of the food. That's when I learned that a place that has done it oodles of times before, such as Lettuce Entertain You's private parties group, has some distinct advantages over standalone restaurants that have little to no experience doing this.

        You don't mention where everyone is coming from or where out-of-towners are staying. This can be a major convenience factor for your group. For example, if most of your friends and relatives are coming from the North Shore, it will make it a whole lot easier on everyone to have it in that area, rather than downtown or the more distant suburbs. It's not just the time factor, but also the convenience/complexity factor. You don't want to choose a place that is not nearby, and risk a bunch of people getting lost on the way or being late because of the traveling time. If you can give us an idea of what part of the city/suburbs everyone will be coming from, it will help us guide you to places in the vicinity.

        Give some vendors/places a call. There is no initial charge when you first contact a place, only when you sign a contract, so there is nothing to lose by having these discussions with such places. Their people do this for a living and they are accustomed to walking through all the decisions with customers who have never done this before. You will learn how it all works and all the things to decide. Their first questions will be how many people, what date you're looking for, and what your target budget is. So get on the phone and call some places! Again, don't get too upset, and good luck with the arrangements!

        1. re: nsxtasy

          nsxtasy...almost all of our guests are out of towners...but they won't all be staying in one hotel, so we are open to anywhere in the city. still searching and open to ideas...

          1. re: kristin76

            If you'd consider having the wedding at a hotel, many hotels will negotiate favorable banquet rates as well as favorable group rates on rooms for your guests. It's not the "non traditional" angle you're looking for, but again, hotels often have the experience that may be more important.

            Regardless of whether you hold the wedding at a hotel, there are nice hotels for your guests in the city and in the suburbs. If you hold the wedding in the city, they will want to stay at hotels in the city; if it's in the suburbs, they will want to stay at a nearby hotel. If you have it in the city, you may want to focus your attention on the area often referred to as "downtown Chicago", within a mile of the lake and extending from roughly Division Street (1200N) on the north to Roosevelt Road (1200S) on the south. This is where most of the nicer hotels in the city are located, so it is probably where most of your guests would be staying, and having the wedding nearby will make it convenient for your guests. This area also has a huge concentration of restaurants, some with private rooms.

        2. re: kristin76

          Somebody suggested Greek Islands on another post. Check their website.

      2. Honestly, I tried to find a restaurant for a wedding about the same size but on a bigger budget and it was difficult. Most places have minimums, with $10k being rare to find. Most places were $15k and up. So with your count, that would be more than $100 per person. My advice would be to look for a smaller private space and then cater something less expensive in so you don't have to hit the restaurant minimums.
        I can't think of any BYOB's but I really considered Petterino's and Quartino that had lower minimums and could hold that many. Good luck!

        626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

        150 North Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60601

        1. Hi, I'm planning a big family party, too, and recently looked into a couple of restaurants that are lovely and might suit your needs:
          - Campagnola in Evanston has a second floor,
          - You mentioned you like ethnic food, Le Colonial is so elegant and I've eaten there so many times, the Vietnamese food is excellent:
          - Very funky venue: Catalyst Ranch,
          - Not sure if it's in your budget, but check out New Leaf,, you'd have to have it catered. Went to a party there once, very modern, and they are floral experts!
          - Also, Chicago Park District Special Event venues can be surprisingly economical to rent, and some are really gorgeous and unique:
          but be careful, you have to pay for extras (caterers, security, valet, insurance, etc.).

          I'm going for a Lettuce Entertain You for the very reason a previous poster mentioned: I don't want any aggravation, I want to deal with people who are experienced. So far the people have been wonderful to work with, very accommodating, and as far as the guests go, I think everybody more or less likes the food at these places; we'll personalize with flowers, music and friends. It sounds like you've already been through enough, I hope whatever you choose is smooth sailing. Good luck!

          1. Oh! Also look at Prairie Moon Restaurant in Evanston,
            I've been to events there, and it is definitely somewhat casual but still very nice. You can't really tell by the website, but they have a lovely spacious area, a tasty, eclectic menu with southwestern flair, but very Midwestern/prairie flavor in decor. I know they do a lot of events as well, I've been to a couple, they "clean up nicely" for their special affairs. Just right outside the north side of Chicago, the menu is less than $30 a person, and it is surrounded by hotels for out-of-town guests. They have a nice bar right there with a lot on draft (to my understanding, I don't drink), maybe instead of BYOB folks can buy their own drinks.

            You can also check out reviews for all of these places on

            1. Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro. It's located in the NorthCenter neighborhood at 3905 N. Lincoln Ave. It is really reasonably priced and the food, staff and atmosphere are all fantastic. They have a beautiful space upstairs for private events. Check it out. Jaime (the event coordinator) is really easy to work with. No minimum for the space either! You can have a really nice wedding there for 130 guests for $5,000 or less.