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Posted at 9:25 AM ET, 09/10/2008

The Dinner Before the Dinner

By Julia Beizer
Wedding Week 2008: Click for Special Report

Got oenophiles in your wedding party? Cork could be the answer to your rehearsal dinner prayers. (Michael Temchine for The Washington Post)

Right before our eyes, the modern wedding has become a three-day affair. With welcome dinners and drinks on Friday and farewell brunches on Sunday, the wedding itself is hardly the only event to plan. Obviously, not everyone chooses to celebrate nuptials with such bacchanalia, but for those who do, finding a rehearsal dinner venue can be a daunting task. Former Guru Erin Hartigan made an especially comprehensive list last year, so I just wanted to add some restaurant newcomers -- and some old favorites -- into the mix.

Bethesda's Grapeseed has two private rooms, but the larger one, which seats up to 36, is probably best for the rehearsal-dinner set. The room is outfitted with AV amenities like a flat-screen television and iPod hookups, so happy couples can bring in their own music and play slideshows of their favorite photos. For groups larger than 20, three-course meals are $50 per person and four-course meals are $60 per person. On Fridays and Saturdays, the minimum food and beverage charge is $2,300 ($1,800 the rest of the week).

For a decidedly mid-Atlantic affair, give Mike's Crab House a try. The waterside dive is known for crabs by the dozen and cold beer by the pitcher on picnic-style tables on the South River, but it can also host private functions, from crab feasts on the deck to private buffet dinners in the banquet room, which overlooks the river. Prices range between $26.95 per person and $55 per person, but I'd opt for a messy, all-you-can eat crab feast (with ribs, corn and fried chicken) for $38 per person.

Wine lovers in your party? Cork could work for a smaller affair. The owners rent out the loft space for parties up to 16 and the back area for parties up to 24. You can order off the regular menu or work with the restaurant to design a menu with wine pairings for your guests. The minimum charges range from $1,500 on weekdays to $3,000 on weekends.

The upstairs dining room at Vermilion is available for private groups up to 50. The minimum food and beverage charges for Friday and Saturday nights are $7,500; $3,500 on Sundays through Thursdays. The restaurant waives its minimum charge for seated, multi-course dinners and lunches completed before 6:30 p.m.

Olives offers various rooms for different size parties. Up to 20 guests can dine on modern Mediterranean fare in the restaurant's private Wine Room, which requires a $1,000 minimum charge. The Lamp Room, a curtained-off space on the restaurant's bottom floor, can accommodate 60 people for a seated dinner (75 people for a cocktail-style event). The full bottom level, seating 150 guests, can be rented for an $8,000 minimum food and beverage charge. Minimum prices change slightly with the seasons, but since dinner menus range between $75 and $105 per person (not including tax, gratuity and a 3 percent fee), hitting the minimum shouldn't be tough. Lunch menus are available for $45-$65 per person.

The Source has a private room in its basement that can fit up to 45 people. Groups smaller than 20 must meet a minimum food and beverage charge of $2,000; groups between 20 and 45 people pay $100 per person. Brides and grooms have also held rehearsal dinners in the Source's main dining room, where parties of 10 or more must meet a $100-per-person minimum.

Bistro Lepic's Wine Room can accommodate 14 people for a minimum food and beverage charge of $800. The restaurant's Wine Bar could be home to a 50-person cocktail-style affair. The food-and-beverage minimum charge for that room is $3,500 on Fridays and Saturdays ($3,000 other days).

Celebrate in the open air with a dinner on the Beacon Bar & Grill's rooftop. The hotel can accommodate 50 guests for a seated dinner, and between Wednesday and Saturday, the minimum charge is $4,000. The minimum is $2,000 from Sunday through Tuesday.

Fifty people can eat, drink and be mindful of their diets in the Club Room at Rock Creek at Mazza, a restaurant that creates upscale meals with nutrition in mind. The price is $65 per person. A smaller private dining room at the space can accommodate 12 people for a $750 food-and-beverage minimum.

For something completely different, what about taking guests to Chinatown's Lucky Strike Lanes? For parties up to 24, packages range from $54.95-$69.95 per person, and those prices include a food and drink package and two hours of bowling and shoes. The bowling-and-billiards bar can also accommodate groups of 50 to 180 in its private room. On Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m., the fee for the room is $700 per hour, including shoe rental for all guests and unlimited bowling. Food and beverage packages are additional.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | September 10, 2008; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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