Can I get married without a caterer?
February 24, 2008 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Are there any Chicago-area wedding/reception venues that don’t require you to use their caterer?

Right now we’re focusing on venues that are not religiously affiliated. All of the venues we’ve looked at so far seem to have required caterers. The indiebride Chicago forums make me want to tear out my hair, and googling just gives me a bunch of catering service websites. So I turn to AskMe.

There was a thread pretty recently about cheap Chicago wedding venues, but it didn’t seem to turn up any results regarding places that let you bring in your own catering (like, say, maybe you want to just order a bunch of Chicago deep dish pizza for your reception…). My concern is that the places that seem most affordable ($3K or less for the ceremony and reception) require specific caterers. I don’t want to save money on the rental only to spend several times more on food than I’d planned.

So, do I have any options? Does such a venue exist?
posted by Meg_Murry to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not specific to Chicago, but do you know any veterans that might belong to an American Legion or VFW chapter? Some of them have fantastic reception rooms available for members. We've used the room at my dad's American Legion post on a number of occasions, and have never had to deal with the "mandatory caterer" nonsense.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2008

Along those lines, I've seen a lot of very nice union halls spring up recently out here in the suburbs that have banquet facilities. I've never actually checked if they have their own catering, but it's worth a look. I'm near Joliet, if you'd like some names.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2008

We are renting Glessner House for our wedding in the fall.

They have preferred caterers, not *required* (though we are using one of the preferred caterers). Caterers must be insured etc, and you can do BYO alcohol. Pricing is reasonable IMO (I believe it is $150/hr for both the indoor & outdoor space, or $100/hr for either the indoor or outdoor).

We wanted something a bit different, and budget, and this fit the bill.

My fiancee also recommended Swedish American Museum in Andersonville - she said it's only $800 or so to rent, but no outdoor space. She also mentioned that they might allow you to use whatever caterer you want.
posted by bxg at 1:57 PM on February 24, 2008, on their "kvetch" forums, is a good place to ask questions like this. More people with relevant experience there.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2008

You might ask your preferred venue if they allow outside caterers due to "dietary restrictions." I was able to evade an in-house caterer just by saying I planned to serve Chinese food; the woman told me they had only previously lifted the in-house requirement for a kosher family. So maybe by being kosher, or vegan, or of a particular culture, (or implying that you are) you may be able to skirt the issue.
posted by xo at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2008

Lots of places that have a list of "approved caterers" really only do so to avoid dealing with lots of inept, uncooperative and/or unaccountable service workers. To enforce this, but still allow smaller events to go off without that hassle, most venues will have a rough dollar limit for food and drink, above which you are expected to use one of the firms they trust. For example, Promontory Point gives a figure of $250, beneath which you can do whatever you want. Use this common loophole to your advantage.

Explain your food service plan to the venue's special events coordinator. If they think it's a train wreck waiting to happen, they'll tell you so and say you need a professional caterer. If not, go to town.
posted by kickback at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2008

I was married at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in Waukegan and looked at the Byron Colby Barn.
Both places are just outside of the city, are reasonably priced, have outdoor spaces and allow you to use their own caterers. Be sure you work with caterers that let you bring in your own booze! I also looked at the Wilmette and Winnetka woman's clubs. My brother was married and used his own caterer at the Logan Square Auditorium, which is in the city, and I've heard of people using their own caterers at the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse. Good luck!
posted by natness at 10:20 PM on February 24, 2008

You can do this the reverse way and get a caterer who will then help you find a location. This is no help at all if you want to bring in Pizza :)

You might want to look for listings of locations/studios. These are usually for photo shoots or misc video production, but you can often hire them for events if you seem normal and responsible and it fits a space in their calendar.

Most traditional venues will want you to use an actual caterer with insurance, so the women's clubs are wonderful and will let you use your own caterer, but they'll want it to be a real caterer. This is especially true if you want to serve alcohol.

You may have some flexibility with union halls, Elks, etc. You can also look for community centers or municipal buildings (at parks, etc).

It's a bit outside of the Chicago area, but my favorite wedding I ever attended was at the "church by the side of the road" in Rockton, IL followed by a reception at the Chinese Restaurant across the street. The Church is non-denominational and used only for weddings and such, and it has this fabulous gothic, yet intimate feel.
posted by Mozzie at 3:18 PM on February 25, 2008

I'm not sure if this is any help to you, but we're doing our late-October wedding in one of the county parks outside Pittsburgh, in one of the nice big enclosed (heated!) buildings. I'm not real familiar with Chicago, but you might see if any of the parks in or around the city have a nice-looking building you can use. Ours cost $285 to rent for the entire day, plus another $50 for the permit to have alcohol, but of course YMMV.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 2:42 PM on March 2, 2008

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