Planning a wedding can be both exhilarating and exasperating. But in the end, it all comes down to one thing: detail—and lots of it. Making sure everything falls into place can be overwhelming. To be sure, every couple wants a say in the final product, but wouldn’t it be great to put someone else in charge of the particulars?
A good place to start is the reception. More and more Main Line couples are opting for a venue with an exclusive on-site caterer and event planner. “Today’s brides are more sophisticated,” says Megan Eberz, banquet director at the Moshulu in Center City. “They’re trading traditional country club settings for venues with greater impact. And because they’re so busy managing careers and other daily responsibilities, the one-stop shopping concept holds a lot of appeal. It’s more convenient and efficient to have one contact person with a lot of knowledge than having to coordinate a lot of different people. There’s also a great comfort level for the chef and the staff when it comes to operating in an exclusive facility—they’re familiar with their surroundings, their equipment, and can respond quickly to any situation.”
In the case of the McBride-Gavatos wedding pictured below, all the particulars fell into place despite some last-minute adversity. A storm forced the couple—and caterer Jeffrey Miller—to change locations the morning of the wedding from Tyler Arboretum to the Baldwin School. But that hardly mattered in this case.
So whether you’re looking for something bucolic or chic, check out the options here. It might just be the first step in taking the “to do” out of “I do.”
1236 Montgomery Ave., Narberth, PA 19072, (610) 667-1900
Contact: Owner George Wakim.
Setting: Victorian house turned private party venue with stained glass windows, a dramatic staircase, separate lounge area, glass-enclosed porch and gorgeous, well-tended gardens.
Chef: Chef Boon.
Culinary concept: Continental—but, as Wakim tells his guests, “the sky’s the limit.”
Menu highlights: Filet mignon with peppercorn brandy sauce and sautéed mushrooms; salmon filet with dill sauce or a ginger teriyaki glaze; crispy duck with lingonberry sauce; medallions of veal with shiitake mushrooms and marsala wine; and, for vegetarians, pasta in a pomodoro sauce.
Best known for: Second weddings and post-elopement celebrations.
Extras: Baby grand piano; menu flexibility; a cozy, intimate feel.
People’s Light & Theatre Company
39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355; (610) 647-1631, peopleslight.org
Contact: Maria McDonald, director of special events.
Capacity: 200 for dinner and dancing, 300 for cocktails.
Setting: Ceremonies held in the stunning garden or upper level of the main-stage lobby, formerly a barn. Outdoor terrace tented for year-round availability; interior features lots of light and neutral décor.
Chef: Drew Johnson of Places! Bistro.
Culinary concept: Regional American with a French influence.
Menu highlights: Wild mushroom ravioli in brown butter basil oil; chicken breast with truffle mushroom risotto in a vermouth demi-glaze; veal tenderloin with Barolo sauce; porcini-crusted lamb tenderloin with red wine demi-glaze; pan-seared halibut with fresh fruit salsa; whole roasted beef tenderloin with classic caper beurre blanc sauce; grilled salmon with tomato saffron coulis.
Best known for: Flexibility and individualized attention; award-winning gardens; relaxed, weekend-in-the-country feel.
Extras: Enormous grill available year round, extending menu options.
1456 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, PA 19333; (610) 647-0160, jimmyduffy.com
Contact: Pol Duffy, president and CEO, Jimmy Duffy & Sons Catering.
Capacity: 340 for seated dinner; 500 for cocktails; 270 for dinner and dancing.
Setting: Lovely gardens in a sublime landscape with an outdoor terrace that can be tented for winter use.
Caterer: Jimmy Duffy & Sons.
Culinary concept: Continental with Asian and regional American influences.
Menu highlights: Copper River poached salmon bites with Thai salsa in Chinese spoons; Mediterranean bruschetta; Korean marinated beef in butter lettuce cups; grilled ostrich with merlot reduction; lobster ceviche with a bouquet of red oak, mâche and thyme; seared loin of veal on a bed of golden beets, lemon asparagus and morels with a veal and morel reduction.
Best known for: Impeccable organization, well-conceived and well-executed themed events, and an emphasis on fresh, local, in-season ingredients. (Duffy partners with local growers and specialized farms.)
Extras: Comprehensive event management.
210 W. Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103; (215) 790-2527, rittenhousehotel.com
Contact: General manager David Benton.
Capacity: 80 in the restaurant, 260 in the ballroom.
Setting: Opulent ballroom features plush wall-to-wall carpeting with rich royal blue, gold and cream accents and floor-to-ceiling windows and drapes. Most ceremonies take place in the grand ballroom before guests are ushered into the Mary Cassatt tea room for cocktails while the ballroom is transformed for dining. Couples also get married in the garden, with its gorgeous trellises, fountains and gazebo—a great backdrop for photos, as is the hotel’s grand staircase and Rittenhouse Park.
Chef: Lacroix’s Matthew Levin, (215) 546-9000.
Culinary concept: Innovative New American, plus vegan, Kosher and international menu. Levin recreates cherished family recipes upon request.
Menu highlights: Crisped Tasmanian sea trout; olive oil rye-crusted Chatham cod; ginger-poached hearts of palm; black truffle chicken wings; grilled scallop and banana soup; tonka bean Scottish langoustine; Blue Fin tuna belly; stuffed black sea bass with shrimp noodles; Cuban-style 24-hour braised pork belly. More complex and diverse tasting and degustation menus also available.
Best known for: Jaw-dropping views of Rittenhouse Square and upscale oven-to-table fare cooked to order and served immediately, bypassing the use of traditional warming boxes.
Extras: Music by Eddie Bruce, décor and on-site flower design by Evantine Design, and cakes by acclaimed pastry chefs Frederick Ortega and Joel Singer; complimentary bridal suite, special room rates for reception guests.
923 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123; (215) 238-5750, cescapheballroom.com
Contact: Owner Joseph Volpe.
Setting: Located in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties section, Cescaphé is the reincarnation of the Imperial Movie Theater. Formal restaurant features a 490-pound chandelier, 35-foot-long mahogany bar and two sets of French doors that lead to a charming, private, gated courtyard. Cocktail room overlooks the 5,000-square-foot grand ballroom through three large balconies accessed via a 15-foot-wide staircase appointed with wrought iron railings.
Culinary concept: Cescaphé’s contemporary Continental cuisine has been described as “out of control” good, its elaborate food stations brimming with cheeses, sushi, pasta, seafood and more—all displayed on marble and granite under towering ice sculptures or giant birds, swans and flowers made of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Menu highlights: Raw bar; roast duck breast; filet mignon au poivre; veal Havana; veal stuffed with jumbo lump crab, shrimp and lobster; sea bass and salmon Napoleon. In season, the outdoor hickory wood-burning fireplace serves as a hibachi station where guests can feast on freshly prepared beef, chicken or seafood kebabs and satay, along with marinated London broil and baby lamb chops served with teriyaki, barbecue, tiger, and raspberry sauces.
Best known for: Over-the-top presentation; a finger on the pulse of hot trends.
Extras: The clever ice sculptures stand out, but service is what counts. Hosting one event per day means the staff is fresh and wedding vendors get the entire day to set up without being rushed. Allowing six hours per reception affords plenty of time to savor the food and the celebration—and couples feel like guests at their own wedding.
401 South Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106; (215) 923-2500, moshulu.com
Contact: Banquet director Megan Eberz.
Setting: This legendary Philly icon is the largest four-masted sailing ship in the world still afloat. A unique spot that’s pleasantly free of kitsch, with stylish décor and an exotic, South Seas-meets-elegant-luxury-liner ambiance.
Chef: Ralph Fernandez.
Culinary concept: New American Continental with Southwestern and French influences; catering packages geared to different palates so couples can customize their menu to reflect their lifestyle and tastes.
Menu highlights: Spit-roasted duck with orange ginger jus; Idaho potato nests with Brie-creamed spinach and sun-dried tomatoes; seafood plateau arranged around an ice sculpture and a vertical display of skewered shrimp and chicken, crispy wontons, sesame asparagus and California rolls.
Best known for: Adventuresome food, interactive stations, dramatic views of the Philly waterfront and skyline.
Extras: The Moshulu’s multi-level decks have adjustable tent sides, adding an open-air element to your reception no matter what the season. Four dining rooms, along with a chef and captain’s table for smaller parties. Excellent photo ops on grand staircase and next to the ship’s wheel. Also available for ceremonies.
Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, PA 19107; (215) 627-5100
Contact: Tom Finley of Finley Catering, Havertown.
Setting: Hand-carved columns, elaborate crown molding, ceiling medallions with crystal chandeliers and warm, refined décor define this historic Philadelphia ballroom.
Culinary concept: Grounded in classical French techniques and presentation, Finley’s continental dishes impart an air of elegance. Menus are tailored to the bride and groom’s tastes, and like Rittenhouse, they’ll re-create favorite family recipes and accommodate special requests and dietary needs.
Menu highlights: Smoked salmon bruschetta with garlic crostini; Ahi tuna crostini with wasabi cream; scallops on horseback; herb-crusted baby lamb chops; sweet-and-sour gingered sea bass; sea salt-crusted tuna with roasted garlic gastrique; chili-crested duck breast; herb-crusted chicken breast with shallot madeira demi-glaze.
Best known for: The staff’s experience and reputation. Finley has an esteemed client list—ranging from well-known Philadelphia and Main Line families to A-list celebrities, U.S. presidents and other White House dignitaries—and long-term relationships with established vendors.
Extras: Monogrammed china; custom calligraphy; hi-tech lighting; access to florists, videographers, photographers, DJs, bands and more.
701 W. Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010; (610) 525-2700, baldwinschool.org
Contact: Facilities manager Craig Zeserman.
Capacity: 280 for sit-down dinner with dancing, 500 for cocktails.
Setting: Originally the Bryn Mawr Hotel, this landmark was designed in 1889 by renowned architect Frank Furness.
Caterer: Jeffrey Miller, Jeffrey Miller Catering, (610) 622-3700.
Culinary concept: Touted as New American, Miller’s upscale fusion dishes are tastefully varied to meet cultural styles. Stationary hors d’oeuvres include elaborate antipasto, fruit and cheeses, and Mediterranean and southwestern spreads—all artfully displayed. Kosher preparation upon request.
Menu highlights: Moroccan calamari and salmon skewers; phyllo purses with Asian pear, goat cheese and caramelized shallots; lamb vindaloo; shiitake tempura, avocado and fennel tartlets; gingered carrot soup “shooters”; braised short ribs; red snapper with ancho pesto; seared seeded tuna steak; roast breast of squab with dried cherry demi-glaze. Trendy libations include frozen cocktails, mulled cider and rum, and a coffee-liquor bar.
Best known for: Premium-quality ingredients, superior tasting, artistically rendered food; innovative customized presentation by catering manager
Extras: Venue amenities include air conditioning; bridal room; indoor and outdoor ceremony space; wrap-around porch for outdoor cocktails; fireplaces in ceremony room and main hall; grand staircase; beautifully landscaped fields with mature trees. Great photo opportunities abound.
Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Main Line Today.