Planning your wedding reception? I had to take many deep breaths when I was planning mine, trying to marry my fairy tale vision of this perfect party with the reality of a limited budget. After extensive research, countless phone calls and numerous disappointments, I finally settled on a venue that has all the things that are very important to me and my fiancé– a Russian Restaurant in Brookline, MA.
If you are smiling and thinking, my guests will be eating borscht and pirojkis for dinner, you may be surprised to learn that Russian Restaurants in major metropolitan areas across the US offer an extensive catering menu of high quality European food, great function space, music, alcohol and a number of other major perks that allow you to have a memorable event for only a fraction of what it would cost at an American venue.
Here are all the perks you and your guests would enjoy:
NO NEED TO BOOK 6 MONTHS IN ADVANCE
I started calling different venues around Boston and Cape Cod about 4 months before my wedding (June 16, 2013). 15 out of 20 places I called told me they were booked for the entire summer of 2013, and that I should have called at least 6 months in advance. When I started calling Russian restaurants in the area, they all told me I could book as late as 6 weeks prior to the date of the party. What a relief!
SO MUCH FOOD, YOU WILL NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH LEFT OVERS
Every time I have gone to a wedding at an American venue (mind you these were all weddings that cost around $15,000-20,000), I found the same situation with food: appetizers are always delicious, but they disappear in a blink of an eye, and the main course (which you are always forced to choose ahead of time) is typically mediocre quality at best. All of this comes with no small price tag attached: all the venues I called gave me a price estimate of $250-400 (excluding tax and gratuity) per guest. We have a small wedding of 50 guests, which means that we would have to spend between $12,500-20,000 just for food (alcohol, entertainment, decorations would all be extra). This was simply unaffordable for us, as our maximum budget, which includes everything is $8,000.
By contrast, at a Russian restaurant you have a sit-down six course meal: first come the cold appetizers, then the hot appetizers, and then you have 3 different main-course dishes (which are brought out one after another), then fruits and cake. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, and a variety of juices are also served.
The food has a European flair, but everything fresh, cooked on premised and is absolutely delicious. Some of my personal favorites are: Roasted Eel Salad, Almond Crusted Trout Poached in Champagne, Grilled New Zeland Lamb Chops, and many more awesome items to choose from. The menu I chose will have 15 cold appetizers, 5 hot appetizers and fish, chicken and beef for the three main course dishes. All of this will cost me only $90 + 18% gratuity per guest. With taxes this amounts to $5,640, which is less then half of what I would be paying at the cheapest American venue I contacted! What seals the deal is that alcohol and entertainment are also included in this price tag (see details below).
Typically Russian restaurants will offer a few different party menu options depending on your preferences and budget. At Vernissage Restaurant where I will have my reception, there is a $75, 80, 90, and 110/per guest menu. The best part is that you can select anything you want from all of these menus and create your own at no extra charge. Additionally, Russian restaurants allow you to bring in your own food to supplement their menu, which is not allowed in most American venues, as they force you to only use their approved caterers. This flexibility means a lot to me, as I love sushi and will be able to order it from my favorite restaurant for the party.
The main reason why we decided not to go with an American venue was their alcohol policies. All the venues have a NO EXCEPTIONS policy that you either buy the budget alcohol option (which is very limited) or the open bar options which costs at least $3,000-5,000 extra depending on your alcohol preferences. You are not allowed to buy and bring your own alcohol. In addition to the fact that this is a huge expense, for my fiancé, the deal breaker was the fact that alcohol cannot stand freely on the diner tables and can only be served at the bar. Our friends like to drink when they party, so the idea of people wasting their time standing in line for a refill instead of dancing just didn’t make sense.
With regard to alcohol, Russian restaurants are a real savior. First, alcohol is included in the price of the food. At the restaurant where we are having our reception, we are getting 1 bottle of either red or white wine for 5 people and 750 grams of vodka for 10 people. Second, all the wine and hard liquor bottles are on tables and people serve themselves at their convenience. But the best part is that you can bring as much of your own alcohol as you want! This translates into a fun night for everyone involved, and thousands of dollars saved on alcohol in our pocket – an unbeatable deal.
Another way you save a lot of money at a Russian Restaurant is that the entertainment is also included in the standard price. Granted, it is Russian-speaking singers who will be singing Russian music, but what you can do (this is what we did) is compile a list of songs that you want played and they will play them for you, acting as a free DJ. If you don’t have a lot of extra cash, this is a great way to have your favorite music without spending a fortune on hiring an outside DJ. However, that option is available, if you want to bring your own entertainment, the restaurants will allow you to do that as well.
Unlike empty function halls that you have to decorate from start to finish yourself, or hire someone to do it for you, Russian restaurants offer a charming atmosphere with a romantic European flair. Typically there are at least two large rooms, which means that you can use one for the reception and the other for the wedding ceremony. You can bring in additional wedding decorations such as balloons, candles, flowers and really anything else you want to create the perfect setting for your special day.