Small Wedding in the Spring?

Dear Dara,
My partner and I recently got engaged at Beatles Love Cirque de Soleil in Vegas and are now starting our venture of wedding planning. We are a younger gay couple and are getting married before moving to England in April. We have confirmed our location, the Como Park conservatory, in March, however we are having a hard time coming up with a location for reception. We are planning on a small, intimate wedding, about 35 people, and would like a nice reception at a local restaurant. There are two complications. One: we have to have an early dinner (4-6 p.m.) because of our nieces and nephews. Two: Since one of us is still a poor graduate student finishing up his degree, we’re trying to be cost conscious, and have allocated about $50 a person. Got any suggestions for a restaurant with great food and a great atmosphere?

Sincere Thanks,
Nick and Mike in St. Paul

Hi Nick, Hi Mike!

First off—Congratulations! I love weddings. And a Cirque de Soleil engagement—so cute! You know, I think your criteria should actually give you an enormous amount of flexibility—for most restaurants, a party of 30 that leaves by 6:30 p.m. would be seen as nothing but gravy… So let me give you five options:

1. Mai Village (Vietnamese place on University) does tons of Vietnamese weddings, and has a huge side party room. They’re very accommodating to children, very budget-friendly, and have lots of cute venues for photography. (Mai Village: 394 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-290-2585)

2. Solera (tapas bar in downtown Mpls.) has lots of party rooms of various sizes and styles; famous around here for throwing the best weddings at lower price points, they should be able to do something nice at $30 a head for food and you can use the rest for their (super reasonable) wine. Beer and Cava (spanish bubbly) should be pourable for all at your price point, and the private room allows the little people to run free without stressing anyone out. (Solera: 900 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis,

3. Nick & Eddie, on Loring Park, does a $20-a-person event. Usually they limit it to this one small room they have, but they have this back area that would work for 30 people and if you’re really going to clear out by 6:30, I can’t think why that wouldn’t work. (Nick & Eddie: 1612 Harmon Place, Mpls., 612-486-5800;

4. Miel y Leche, the famous cupcake people, seem to be buying the old Clicquot Club; by March they should be up and going, and you could get your wedding cupcakes and food at the same place!

5. Caterpillar Lounge @ Azia: I’ve had friends throw wedding receptions in the Caterpillar lounge at Azia — it’s classy, not too expensive, and oh so cute. (Azia: 2550 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-813-1200;

6. Peacock Lounge @ Erte: Erte came to mind because I was trying to work in a British theme in anticipation of your move to that green isle, but after deciding that a reception at the Anchor Fish & Chips didn’t make much sense, my mind drifted across the street to the adorable and 30-person sized Peacock lounge attached to noted nouveau supperclub Erte. (Erte: 329 13th Ave. NE 612-623-4211;

7. Honey @ Ginger Hop. And now that my mind has turned to lounges, what about the thing that’s going to grow out of Ginger Hop and take over the old Jitters space (across from Nye’s) that seems like it was exactly designed for events like yours? Should be cute too! (Ginger Hop: 201 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-746-0304

I know I said five and then I listed seven… But my mind goes where it goes.

Speaking of minds that go where they go: Hey, everybody, what did I leave out? Anybody know a better place for an inexpensive, cool, good, kid-friendly early wedding? Please post in the comments—and restaurant owners, don’t be shy! Would you see a $50-a-head, 35-person early Saturday wedding as a problem or pure gravy? Pipe up!

Till then: Big armloads of congratulations you two, and here’s wishing you a lifetime of happiness!