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Small wedding--looking for private room or restaurant to rent

Hi all,
I'm trying to plan a small wedding (up to 50 people but more likely 25-40...I know this is a large range so the location might somewhat dictate the size) in the Philadelphia area in September/October. I realize this is just around the corner, though this will not be a traditional wedding so it might be easier to think of it as a dinner party or event than a wedding. Anyway, I'm trying to find either a restaurant with a private space that ideally has some character (and ideally feels very separate from the rest of the restaurant) or a small restaurant, likely BYOB, that would allow us to have the entire restaurant. I'm guessing the only way we could take a full restaurant would be if we had the event on a Sunday at a restaurant not typically open on Sundays, so while a Friday night or Saturday would be our preference, Sundays are also open to consideration. I've googled around and am not finding many restaurants with private spaces that sound good. And, I'm a bit stumped regarding which BYOBs might be willing to let us have the whole place and are capable of catering to this type of event without getting totally overwhelmed. I've emailed back and forth with Osteria but am just not sure that what you get would be worth the price (though the food/drink minimum is significantly less expensive on a Sunday than a Saturday), nor that it is the type of food I'd want for this. Any thoughts on other options? While I want to emphasize that this won't "look" like a traditional wedding, I'm posting here because quality of food is super important if we are forgoing other aspects of a traditional wedding like music/dancing, flowers, etc. My preference would be to keep this under $5000 (price per head would vary depending on the size of the guest list) and ideally would love to be closer to $3000-$4000 before tax/tip. I think this is more likely with a BYOB. For a frame of reference, Osteria was quoting prices at $75, $90, or $100 per person, pre-alcohol, depending on whether you got the 3, 4, or 5 course family style meal. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

p.s. When I say Philadelphia area I'm pretty open to spots within 30-60 minutes of the city. Local guests will be coming from the Main Line and South Jersey, but I'm not opposed to having them drive a little bit of a distance if we can find a spot we really like.

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  1. You might try Davios in Center City, they have a number of private rooms near the top of their building as well as an outdoor terrace. Amount of space / cost can be customized to the number of attendees.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tmarzolf

      Thanks! I've always heard good things about Davios and am very, very interested in the idea of an outdoor space. I will most certainly look into this!

      1. re: Laura D.

        We have an appointment to see Davio's tomorrow and I'm excited, as it seems (at least on paper) like a great option. Hopefully the space will seem as nice in person as it does online. Thanks again!

        1. re: Laura D.

          Unfortunately Davio's didn't seem to be what we were looking for. We were excited by the outdoor space, but it wasn't quite as special as we had pictured, and we felt like the indoor space wasn't as what we had hoped (for reasons that are difficult to articulate). Thank you again for the suggestion, though!

    2. You might look at the Mask and Wig club which is associated with Penn. Gorgeous facility and you can work with your own caterer or one they recommend.

      http://maskandwigrentals.wordpress.com/

      8 Replies
      1. re: cwdonald

        Thanks for the recommendation! I assumed that the combination of the site fee and the catering would put us over budget, but I honestly don't know what the site fee is so perhaps this was an unfair assumption. I've just emailed the event planner there to get a sense of pricing.

        Thanks again!

        1. re: Laura D.

          On the second page on facilities they quote the starting cost as 950 for the site fee. I assume you would just be using the grille room if you are in the 40 person range. So that would leave you 4k if your budget is 5k. Lunch obviously should be cheaper than dinner, and depending on what you do with alcohol you might be in the range. Anyway congratulations, and we look forward to hearing where you choose, and how the event goes.

          1. re: cwdonald

            Thanks! I wasn't sure what the $950 applied to but hopefully they'll get back to me soon with some additional pricing information.

            1. re: Laura D.

              I spoke with Kate at the Mask and Wig Club yesterday and we're hoping to go see the site towards the end of the week, as they are getting their floors refinished this week. On paper it sounds great. For anyone interested in pricing information it sounds like the downstairs has a site fee of $995 and the upstairs (which includes the downstairs) is $1995. They only hold one event at a time so there won't be an event upstairs if the downstairs is rented. They provide the booze which is charged on consumption. You are required to pay for a doorman ($100) for all events, and bartender are $195 each (with both prices seeming totally reasonable for me). Anyway, we're really excited to see the place and hope that it has the indescribable "interesting" factor that we've been looking for so we can go ahead and book it. Thanks again for this suggestion!

        2. re: cwdonald

          Excellent thought: the Mask and Wig Club is certainly a memorable venue. The food was good enough to make it a very enjoyable event.

          1. re: Edwardrae

            Thanks! Still haven't heard back from the so I'll circle back again on Monday if they haven't responded to my inquiry. Any idea who catered the event you attended there?

            1. re: Laura D.

              Laura it is summer and a lot of Penn may be on break. I would call and leave a message.

              1. re: cwdonald

                Good idea and one that I'll likely pursue if I don't get follow-up by Monday. I actually work at Penn, though, and there are still plenty of us here! :)

        3. Paradiso on Passyunk Avenue has a private upstairs room that will easily fit 50+ people. They offer sit-down and buffet options. If you contact them, they will email the menus.

          http://www.paradisophilly.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: Philly Ray

            Thank you! I do not know much about this restaurant and excited to look into it!

          2. We did an office event this past winter upstairs at Anthony's Italian in Haddon Heights. They have two rooms upstairs and are byob. Both the food and service were very good. Might work for you even on a Friday or Saturday.

            I've also used the upstairs space at Casona in Collingswood. Renting the second floor gives you the third floor room as well. Also byob. Was 4 years ago so can't vouch for current quality.
            Just 2 south jersey suggestions.

            1. What about the Joseph Ambler Inn in North Wales? We got married there 6 years ago and I highly recommend it. They have a private dining room separate from the main restaurant area, as well as guest rooms for anyone who wants to stay over and celebrate. There are several different menu options. We did not book the wedding dinner menu package, just a regular dinner (which included apps/cocktail hour) + added bar service. http://www.josephamblerinn.com/wedmen... (eg Lafayette Dinner at around $65 pp not including alcohol). The event coordinator there was great to work with, and the food was delicious. I don't think we paid extra for the private room, it was just included as part of the dinner fees.

              One side note, you didn't specify whether you would be getting married at the same place, but we had our ceremony there too, outdoors on the lawn, and it was beautiful. :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: truman

                Hi,
                I attended a wedding a few years ago at Joseph Ambler Inn and was a bit underwhelmed by the food. Perhaps that was simply due to the menu selection, though. I will definitely look into it!

                Thanks!
                -Laura

              2. Look into Fayette Street Grill in Conshohocken.
                We took over the restaurant and had a lovely wedding rehearsal dinner there for 30-40 people. No one else was permitted that evening. (I think it was a Thursday)
                We brought our own liquors and wines.
                The service was warm, the food was delicious and the chef-owner aims to please.
                Bon appetit.

                http://www.fayettestreetgrille.com/

                1 Reply
                1. re: arepo

                  Thank you! This is not a place I ever would have considered (I've never been there and don't really know much about it) but with your suggestion I will definitely look into it.

                  Thanks!

                2. Laura,

                  I couldn't imagine that Sabrina's Cafe in the Italian market wouldn't be an amazing fit for this.

                  They're a BYOB / They close at 5pm everyday and open the space up for rent after that time (any day of the week) / They offer catering at very reasonable rates / The food is awesome! / They have a speaker system that i'm sure you'd be able to take control of since you'd be the only ones in the space / talk about a restaurant with character / I believe they can accommodate upwards of 98 people.

                  http://sabrinascafe.com/catering/

                  Check them out, I hope this helps.

                  1. valley green inn at valley green near chestnut hill. have seen wedding there.

                    1. We held our wedding at the Morris House Hotel/M Restaurant. Beautiful setting with lots of options (inside & outside). The wedding coordinator was very helpful selecting vendors.

                      http://morrishousehotel.com/

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: slandin

                        Totally missed this place as a hotel and/or restaurant. Thanks for the link. Looks like a great place and has been moved to position ONE on our must-go-to-list.

                        1. re: Bacchus101

                          Bacchus, it has been quite some time since I have been there, but the outdoor garden at M is in my opinion of the top outdoor dining experiences in the city.

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            CW, thanks for the added comment. Big fan here of al fresco especially in semi-private gardens and courtyards. Top of the list for sure now.

                      2. You might want to look into the Stone Barn in southern Chester County. http://www.thestonebarn.com/ceremonie... They have an event venue that's separate from the restaurant and the ceremony can be outdoors. It's in a very pretty setting and fairly convenient to the Main Line. The food is quite good and it's BYO.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: CindyJ

                          Hey Cindy I am Laura's Mom and you and I have been in touch before mainly about Talula's which I still have never been able to visit. Anyway, I may be incorrect about this but I thought someone had posted a less than positive review her wedding there which is probably why we haven't considered it. Maybe it was a oddity or maybe not. If I am wrong I will delete this.

                          Cindy - have you ever been to a wedding there?

                          1. re: FayeD

                            Yes - it was the Stone Barn that has a number of less than positive reviews on Wedding Wire. It sounds like the restaurant itself is fine but that a number of brides have had significant issues related to their wedding there.

                            If it was just one, I could understand but there are several, and hopefully someone only gets married once so this is a super important day.

                            This isn't any reflection on the Stone Barn as a restaurant but just a warning about it as a potential wedding site.

                            Thanks for posting Cindy.

                            1. re: FayeD

                              Hi Faye -- Yes, I remember you. (Didn't we have a Chinese New Year dinner together some years ago?) I must admit I've never been to a wedding at the Stone Barn. I've been to the Foxfire at the Stone Barn restaurant a few times and found the chef to to a good job -- nicely prepared, fresh foods, well-presented. I don't know, however, if the same chef does the cooking for special events. I know they do weddings there so maybe I jumped to an incorrect conclusion, and if the online wedding reviews are overwhelmingly bad, well, that speaks volumes.

                          2. Zahav is excellent and they have private dining. I've done a small dinner party there (12) and it was terrific.

                            1. Have you looked into Zinc? Here is their party menu.
                              http://www.zincbarphilly.com/images/p...

                              1. I once accidentally attended a wedding in the bar at XIX ... it's a lovely spot with a fireplace to gather in front of.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Meann

                                  <accidentally attended>
                                  Love that!

                                2. Spring Mill Cafe in Conchy.

                                  1. Hi,
                                    I'm in the same boat and since I'm planning the wedding from the West Coast, it's harder for me to visit the venues myself. I was wondering, since your requirements are similar to mine, if you might tell me which place you ended up going with? Thanks.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: easterbun

                                      Hi easterbun,

                                      Well, we still haven't picked anything. Before we went to visit Davio's we really thought it was going to be "the one," but upon going in we were a bit disappointed with the somewhat awkward space (it felt more like a corporate meeting room) and most importantly the outdoor terrace. I'm sure it is really nice when it is decorated for an event, but it was underwhelming in person, and the view was less than spectacular. My fiance really, really loved The Mask and Wig Club. Kate, the event manager, is super nice. And, I think the space is really interesting, and a great bargain for what it is. But, the downstairs, which is the only space we would rent, really is like a giant tavern/pub. I even went back for a 2nd visit to try to convince myself to choose it, but I just couldn't picture something there. We had also considered Osteria but ruled them out because it seemed like a lot of money for what is essentially a dinner in a restaurant. They do have good food, though. We also visited the Black Bass Hotel in Bucks County. I really liked this space but we were concerned about how far away it was from public transportation, and how those who were drinking would safely get home. This isn't a huge concern when you are having a large wedding and already planning to run shuttles, but when having a small wedding it seems like an expense that is harder to justify yet something you need to plan for nonetheless. So, for right now we don't know what we're going to do. We're still considering some inns outside of the city, though they aren't always laid out in such a way that makes a cocktail wedding work. It's very possible we'll elope as, quite frankly, I never wanted to deal with wedding planning to begin with and have accepted the fact that I am overly picky while being very indecisive, i.e. I don't know what I want but do know when I find something that isn't it! I hope you have better luck!

                                      1. re: Laura D.

                                        Hi Laura D, thank you so much for your thoughts. I hope you managed to find the venue and had the wedding you wanted in the end.

                                        We finally booked our wedding venue and I thought I should include it here for others who might find it useful. We booked the General Warren Inne in Malvern which has a package that caters to parties of up to 50. We thought it was very pretty and liked that we could have a small outdoor wedding ceremony for less than $200. It's 45 minutes by car from the city and accessible by local rail. They have multiple weddings a day but that doesn't bother us. We haven't settled on food and beverage prices yet, but it looks like it will easily come under the $5000 budget.

                                        The other things do add up though. They don't provide an area for getting dressed and there aren't many public restrooms so we booked one of the sleeping rooms. We blocked hotel rooms at the Marriott hotel close by and shuttles to and fro will cost us $200 plus tax.

                                        Other places that were on the shortlist were Davio's and Paradiso. Davio's said they could do $5700 all inclusive for a 3 hour event. Paradiso said they could work with a $5000 all inclusive budget.

                                    2. We had a lovely small wedding at Fleischer Memorial.

                                      1. Have you looked at Evviva in Narberth (right on Montgomery Avenue)? I've been to several functions there, and helped a friend plan her daughter's wedding as well.

                                        http://www.evvivarestaurant.com/

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: susan1353

                                          Thanks for the recommendation! I've been to Evviva a few times. It's very nice and super convenient to us, but I'm a bit dissuaded by the fact that they seem to have multiple weddings/parties going on at once. I worry that any venue hosting multiple events at once can be perceived as more of a wedding/event "mill" than anything else, which falls into the banquet hall realm I'm really trying to avoid. I completely realize this sounds irrational and overly picky, and definitely do appreciate the suggestion (perhaps it will help Easterbun!).

                                          Thanks!

                                        2. I walked by Mercato on a Friday night recently and it seemed as if there was a wedding reception using the entire restaurant.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: urbanfabric

                                            I'm going there for restaurant week in 2 weeks. If it seems promising from a food perspective perhaps it's a spot to consider. I know there aren't a lot of restaurants that you can rent out in full on a Friday or Saturday night so it would be interesting if this turned out to be one of the few. Thanks!

                                          2. May be outside your geographic area; however, this is a lovely spot that says they do weddings:

                                            http://theinnatsaintpeters.com/

                                            1. Though it is months later than I expected when posting this initially, I just thought I would circle back to say that we decided to book a cocktail style reception at The General Warren Inne for a daytime event in June. While we would have preferred night, we were too large for the private space that is offered for nighttime events. The nice thing about a daytime event is that we can truly use the entire Inne, inside and out, so we don't have to worry about scrambling if the weather is bad, or if our guest lists expands unexpectedly. We are very excited to nail down the details of the event and hope that it will exceed our expectations. Thanks to all who provided suggestions!

                                              1. Just as a post-wedding follow-up, I wanted to circle back regarding The General Warren Inne. Overall we were very happy with the venue. We planned our wedding for 60 in about 3 1/2 months, so we didn't have much time to stress about some of the little details that keep many brides-to-be up at night. We had a cocktail style reception mid-day (you cannot book a night-time event of this size at the inn, unless you wish to book it on a Sunday). We had heavy appetizers and then 2 entree stations, before an assortment or desserts and our cake came out. While the price for food (without the wedding cake, which we supplied) was about $50-$60pp, when you add in liquor charged upon consumption, a small ($250) ceremony fee, a small fee for chairs, tax, tip, gratuity, etc. the price per person was 100+, though obviously how much alcohol your guests consume factors in extensively. We lucked out with a beautiful day and were able to have the entire event outside, though we had access to the entire inn as well. Leading up to the event the owner, who was also the day-of coordinator, was fairly responsive to emails, though he was so busy planning other events and running the restaurant that it sometimes took a while to get a response from him. We didn't receive our contract with final menu edits until 1 week before the wedding. It all worked out in the end but was occasionally frustrating in the moment, though the reality is that he served as a day-of coordinator for free, so it's hard to complain too much. All of the guests seems to like the food, and I liked what little of it I had. While the entree stations weren't exactly what I had expected in terms of how interactive they were (I was expecting a chef-like figure to be there, mixing/sauteeing/plating to order, and instead it was really a server who dished something onto your plate and had you do the rest of the customization yourself) they were still different from the norm. So, overall, I felt like this was a very nice, somewhat non-traditional, reasonably priced option for a smaller group and would recommend it to others planning similar events. Thanks!