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Aug 6, 2012 12:05 PM

The cheapest possible wedding reception in DC... Help please :)


We are looking for a cheap (but of course as nice as possible) wedding reception in the DC area. We are willing to travel a bit out of the city if the deal is right. (I'd say Germantown, Columbia, Woodbridge, Fairfax, Annapolis, Waldorf would roughly be our boundaries).

For reference we know people who have done:

30 person brunch at the Mad Hatter chicken/salmon for around $500
30 person dinner at Alfio's lasagna around $700

We are planning for 70 people (her fault not his) and would like to do it for $600. (He personally thinks $400 would be great lol)

We were thinking that a cocktail option might be best for us. If it matters, almost all of our attendees are non-drinkers so alcohol isn't necessary and we might even prefer a dry reception (don't judge lol)

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time/suggestions in advance.

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  1. if most of your guests are non-drinkers, I'd say officially dry would be ok, but see if a cash bar or even BYOB is an option to consider. as a drinker myself I wouldn't mind either and alcohol even for just a few can add a hefty charge. I would let those who indulge know of the situation however you decide.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      Thanks. We may literally have 4 drinkers out of 70 people. (Large church crowd.) So we probably will do dry and definitely allow byol in discrete containers lol.

      1. re: brokeinlove

        4 out of 70? I'd add 5 more to that list and then just encourage hip flasks if they feel it's really needed.

        there have been threads about us drinkers getting our noses out of joint over this issue, but those folks are just silly.

        it's you're day baby. we (the drinkers) can get drunk later. spend the money on the food and room and all the other stuff.

        (<edit> sorry I called ya baby before I realized you're the groom posting, ehh still sort of works in a Sinatra way)

    2. See about renting the Tea House in Gambrill State Park near Frederick, MD. It's on top of Braddock Mountain with a 40-mile view, costs about $200 to rent for a day. It has a full kitchen and barbecues. $400 would buy plenty of groceries to feed 70 people.

      1. If you guys are okay with doing some of the work yourself (or with the help of friends/family), you can rent some nice community rooms in Reston that have a kitchen, tables, chairs for super cheap ($25-35 an hour). You would want to decorate it though. For food, you can take appetizers from Costco/Trader Joe's and mix that with some fresh stuff (cheese plates, fruit, etc.).

        2 Replies
        1. re: lovinglocalinReston

          Thanks. Do you know any of these community rooms specifically? We'd prefer a venue but we're open to handling it ourselves.

          1. re: brokeinlove

            Reston's main community center--you can find it at the Reston HOA pages. They have increased their rates for people who do not live or work in Reston, but they are still pretty reasonable. I think the main art room at Lake Anne's community center in Reston might barely fit 70 for a stand-up reception.

        2. Check with the folks at the Penn Ave. Pour House on Capitol Hill. Their upstairs room - "Top of the Hill" is an OK space for your budget. Ask for prices on Heavey Apps (warning you are going to be getting "bar food" preperations), open bar soft drinks, and cash bar.

          Do not try to compete with Football on Saturday or Sundays. I would recomend that you try for a late afternoon/early evening gig and limit it to 2 hours.

          Don't forget you need to figure in a gratuity into the final cost - even if your guests tip as they go along.

          FYI - Top of the hill is not wheel chair accesible, there is one flight of seriously steep stairs. So you need to have somebody walk with the older folks.

          However, like others have suggested, for less than $10 a head you are definitely looking at a self-catered affair.

          1 Reply
          1. re: drewpbalzac

            Thanks for the input. I'm actually familiar with the Pour House. I'm one of the 4 drinkers who will be in attendance (lol) so I've been over there for a drink or two. I'll check give them a call but it might be on a football Saturday (Go Blue!) I'll check if our reception date is flexible...

            Self-catered is out. I've told her that to stay near what I'd like to pay, we might have to prepare our own food. I even suggested a "pot luck" event (some of the church ladies can throw down) lol... She's not having it.

            She wants a room in a restaurant/bar type venue where we eat prepared food (at least Orderves <-- Spelling? lmao)

            She's telling me her friend did Chicken/Salmon at the Mad Hatter. I told her I've been to the Mad Hatter and it struck me as a dive bar. But I looked at the web site and they actually have a nice space for rent that I've never seen. However, I think the room that I liked is too small for our group and wasn't particularly fond of the larger room.

            As far as my vision, I'd prefer to do the cocktail reception thing with Pepsi products in place of Grey Goose lol. Have it be in a commercial establishment be it restaurant, bar, or catered reception call. I think the cocktail thing would actually be more fun for people than a sit down meal.

            I am thinking based on the input thus far I have to rephrase the question to "WHAT IS THE CHEAPEST COMMERCIAL VENUE THAT SERVES FOOD?"

            If we can't do it for $10 you can't blame a guy for trying. I could probably afford up to $16 if that's what it's going to take to do it at a commercial location to the satisfaction of the bride to be and her trillion guests (sigh)...

            I still appreciate input from any one on suggestions of places. So far I'm going to call:

            Pour House
            Mad Hatter (just to check it out)

          2. It's "hors 'd ouvres" and you're absolutely right not to want to spend a whole lot of money on a wedding reception. It really ought to be snacks, and not a feast. Between the ceremony and the reception you send people off for their dinners and then have them come back for desserts that match the theme of your wedding cake. Be sure to tell them that they're not to expect dinner at the reception...but also expect them to stay pretty late, depending on the crowd.

            The way you sell this to your bride-to-be is that you tell her that people won't all want the same kind of foods anyway, and the grown-ups will want a chance to drop off their kids with the sitter.

            Have coffee and tea in big urns, and a banquet table with little tiny dessert plates. Then cake, 3 cheesecakes, petit fours (that's little chocolates), cherries, grapes, jordan almonds, pistachios, dried apricots and other bulk food stuff that looks good. Keep it chill and play some jazz. I think this is a better option than serving people tunafish salad on toast. You can even see if you can borrow the dishes from those same church ladies since you're really laying out a bunch of candy dishes.

            Oh, and probably never let her see this post. Congratulations and good luck!

            8 Replies
            1. re: PirateICE

              LOL she knows how I am by now... poor girl's chosen to subject herself to it...

              Thanks for the well wishes!

              1. re: PirateICE

                The dessert buffet is a very good suggestion, because I couldn't even begin to wrap my head around the idea of trying to feed 70 ppl @ $5 a head, I don't think a McDonald's happy meal would come in under budget...You will either need to DIY, increase your budget, or reduce your guest list...

                1. re: thistle5

                  I can do $16 a head if that's the basement of the market rate... But I'd prefer the best balance of economics and quality possible.

                  Just looking for the lowest priced commercial venues.

                  If need be we can call Olive Garden a day in advance and let them know we're coming and just have the guests all order from the "2 for $20" menu... lol

                  1. re: brokeinlove

                    I didn't mean to sound discouraging, first off, congrats on your upcoming nuptials, the important thing is celebrating w/ friends & family...if your budget is limited (my wedding was on a small budget), you just have to get very creative. The problem w/ lowest priced commercial venues is that they don't usually say 'wedding'. I had lunch at a Chinese buffet today w/ my kids, $8.99 pp, it was a good lunch, but despite the abundance of mostly decent food, I couldn't see it as a wedding venue, w/out tweaking. If you can find a moderately priced place, that you can add a few personal touches to, you can have a great wedding....

                  2. re: thistle5

                    I actually think a dessert reception is a great idea! You can get a couple of cakes, pies, candies etc. Even buying at Costco could work. No lie they have an AMAZING chocolate cake that I would prefer to any crappy expensive wedding cake I've had. Serve with coffee and tea, maybe even a champagne toast for the 4 people who like champagne (sparkling cider for the rest). It can be a very classy affair if you chose the right location. The Pour House actually might not be a bad idea if you can do a dessert reception there. They have seating up there (which is important if you are doing it non-sit down style. My Mom just went to a cocktail wedding reception and complained that there was no seating). The cool thing is you can do pictures around the Hill beforehand.

                    I'm not at all sure how much this would cost, but maybe see if Bistro D'Oc can do a dessert reception within your price-range. The upstairs area is really nice and if you are planning a Fall wedding, they can build a fire in the fireplace.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      Thanks I'll add them to the contact list!

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        If you have a pro photographer, heads up that you need a permit in a lot of DC locations. Some don't care and will risk it, but around the Capitol, there are so many cops that it is not something I'd recommend w/o a permit....just an FYI

                        and PS, that chocolate cake from Costco is the BEST cake. My wedding cake was amazing, but that cake will put you in a delicious coma :)