We all know the Market as a great place for breakfast or lunch, for people-watching and to source ingredients for a gourmet dinner. It’s also, increasingly and perhaps surprisingly, a place where couples come to pledge their undying love for fruits, vegetables, meat and each other.
Reading Terminal catering director Sarah Morrison says about 30 percent of the 50 special events held in the Market annually are wedding receptions; and that an additional 20 to 30 percent are wedding rehearsal dinners. In price and complexity, they range from the 500-guest, 40-vendor wedding blow-out Tootsie Salad Express employee/heiress Maria D’Ambrosio staged in June 2013, to the brief, free standup ceremonies conducted by Judge Jeffrey Minehart every Valentine’s Day.
In this month of weddings, we reached out to a few of the women who have celebrated their marriages in the Market, people whom Morrison characterizes as “not ballroom brides. These are people who are looking for a fun party.”
In fact, Kaitlin Berlin, 31, of South Philly says her main criteria for a venue for her June 2013 wedding for 207 was “a fun place that could accommodate a lot of people” that was also emblematic of Philadelphia “because Philadelphia was where my husband and I first dated and fell in love.” Ultimately Reading Terminal won out over the Mummers Museum because, “My husband is a huge foodie” and “we knew it would be a place where people would be able to eat well, drink well and be comfortable.”
Kaity and Matthew Berlin’s Market ceremony was preceded by a cocktail hour featuring food from Kamal’s, The Creperie and Pearl’s and followed by dinner from Tootsie’s, Beck’s, Hershel’s, the Original Turkey and DiNic’s (sans lines!), all centered around a white-light-outlined Center Court, giving the block-long building an intimacy and elegance that would probably surprise people who only visit the Market during the day.
In fact, one thing that the Berlins’ wedding has in common with all the weddings (and most other special events) held at the Market: They’re all held at night. That’s because the Market is open until at least 5 p.m. seven days a week, and it takes at least an hour to transform it from bustling marketplace to party venue.
All big Friday and Saturday night parties are also subject to the base $4,500 rental fee to cover the cost of planning the party and setting up and staffing the space, including Market table and chairs. On the other hand, the Market does not charge the standard 20 percent service charge or hotel tax, and offers almost limitless options when it comes to food and food costs (although Morrison says the typical fee is $40 to $60 per person, or half to a quarter what most Philly venues charge).
“We can do anything from a cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeuvres to a formal sit-down dinner” although Morrison says she thinks “the Market is ideally suited to a roaming (“grazing”) party, where people walk around and get the food they want and mingle.”
This was the format of Jessica Neff and Jason Siebert’s October 2012 Market wedding. And while Neff says it was far from the “prime rib, salad and string beans with almonds” that wedding guests have come to expect, “not one person complained about the food.” Unless you count the smiling woman who after her third trip to Bassetts came up to Jessica to report that “she was feeling sick.”
Adds Jessica: “Even my husband said it was a great party, and how often do husbands say that about a wedding?”
The Terminal was also Juan Ibanez’s favorite of all the venue options he and his fiancé, Elizabeth Moore, considered for the reception that followed their January 2014 church wedding. They also chose a grazing format, featuring upscale choices like roasted baby lamb chops from Molloy Malloy’s, a vegetarian pasta dish from Mezze, crawfish etouffee from Beck’s Cajun Cafe and mini schnitzel with spaetzle from Wursthaus Schmitz as well as 11 p.m. snacks of Spataro’s French fries and mini DiNic’s roast pork sandwiches for late-night dancers. Says Elizabeth, “At most weddings food is just a side thing; here it was part of the main event. And the variety that the vendors were able to offer meant that there really was something for everyone, without the food being boring.”
The reception also gave the Ibanezes a chance to share a piece of Philadelphia history with their many out-of-town guests. “That they got to dance in a Philadelphia landmark at night is something that I know our guests will be talking about for a long time.”
Elizabeth says she suspects the wedding experience will add a whole new dimension to her Market shopping trips and also shares her fear that she has just signed up for a lifetime of “the cheapest wedding anniversary dates ever.”
Engaged couples interested in holding their wedding or wedding party at the Market should contact Market catering director Sarah Morrison at All About Events at www.allaboutevents.us/the-reading-terminal-market or 215-922-2317 X105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.