You’ve seen the pandemic weddings on Instagram: a couple alone in a grassy field, a single slice of cake, maybe a masked officiant in the background. That was 2020, when COVID-19 didn’t just shut down regular restaurant service — it also blocked private events, including weddings and engagement parties, which represent a huge chunk of some restaurants’ overall business.
Now people are making up for lost party time, as 2021 shapes up to be the year of weddings. And restaurants couldn’t be more ready.
Take, for example, Brennan’s, New Orleans’s classic Creole restaurant. According to sales managers Ashley Hill and Melissa Aucoin, wedding-related business is booked every weekend for the next year, most Saturdays through 2022, and some dates even through 2024. Almost 75 percent of event inquiries have to do with weddings — double or triple the usual amount.
Some couples have rebooked multiple times throughout the year as local and federal guidelines shifted. The team has also seen requests for non-traditional days, such as Thursdays or Fridays, since venues are booked solid on the weekends. Non-traditional times are fair game, too: Brennan’s recently hosted three weddings (morning, afternoon, and evening), each of a different size and scale.
In anticipation of a busy summer, restaurants are pulling out all the stops to wow soon-to-be newlyweds. Here are 11 restaurants around the U.S. and Canada to celebrate your big day with knockout food and drink.
AOC (Los Angeles, California)
In the space: Equal parts cozy and sophisticated, familiar and innovative, James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin’s pioneering wine bar epitomizes L.A. cool, making it an attractive venue for locals and visitors alike. For smaller groups, book the wine room, flanked by wood-paneled cabinets showcasing the massive wine collection. The outdoor patio, dotted with laurel trees and an open hearth, can accommodate seated meals for 70 or cocktail receptions for 80. Welcoming a crowd? Reserve the patio plus the whole dining room, complete with cozy banquettes and a charcuterie bar, for 120 seated or 150 standing.
On the menu: Mediterranean-inspired small and family-style plates reign at A.O.C. In addition to cheese and charcuterie boards, picture little gem salads with radish and mint, whole grilled fish with cavolo nero or currant-studded farro, and roasted chicken over panzanella.
Barndiva (Healdsburg, California)
In the space: Situated right on Healdsburg’s charming main square, where tasting rooms border boutiques and art galleries, this restaurant and wine bar gives tourists a proper wine country welcome. As Barndiva’s name suggests, a huge red barn surrounded by gardens creates a rustic indoor-outdoor experience, lending itself to seated dinners under a fairy light awning or an indoor lounge with a full sound and screen system for late-night dancing.
On the menu: In true wine country fashion, Barndiva is all about local, seasonal, and fresh. Enjoy salads from farms a stone’s throw away, cod with seasonal sugar peas and morels, and housemade pastas dusted with grated bottarga. While wine is the star of the show, hosts may also offer bespoke cocktails. Finally, guests can choose entrées at the table the night of the event for a restaurant-worthy experience.
Brennan’s (New Orleans, Louisiana)
In the space: The iconic pink building with a grand archway. Whimsical murals inspired by 19th-century parade floats adorning tufted green banquettes. An open-air French Quarter garden courtyard. In the heart of the Big Easy, Brennan’s promises a “one-of-a-kind New Orleans moment” for couples to tie the knot, starting with a historical setting (the building dates back to 1795). True to the city’s reputation for conviviality, it’s ideal for large parties: The outdoor space accommodates 150 guests and can be booked in combination with the rooms upstairs.
On the menu: Creole traditions meet contemporary New Orleans with passed appetizers such as remoulade-topped crab cakes and pork rillettes with pickled onion. Buffets feature a beef tenderloin carving station and seafood filé gumbo, while guests can enjoy seared gulf fish and bananas foster at a seated dinner.
L’Abattoir (Vancouver, BC)
In the space: Classic French meets West Coast casual at this refined yet casual restaurant located on the historic site of Vancouver’s first jail, butchery, and meatpacking district (abattoir translates literally to “slaughterhouse”). The refurbished brick and beam building combines classic French tile work with industrial fixtures and natural wood in a bright and elevated space. The private dining room offers 1,200 square feet of seating, which can be divided in half to accommodate groups of different sizes (noise-reducing barrier included); in total, the venue seats up to 50 people and can accommodate 70 for a standing reception. Private rooms also offer audiovisual setup for music and presentations, as well as a coat check for guests.
On the menu: A sample menu boasts an innovative bread service (bacon brioche, spiced flatbread) followed by starters of beet carpaccio and baked oysters, with steak Diane or gnocchi à la parisienne as the main events.
River Café (Brooklyn, New York)
In the space: For the ultimate New York City wedding, say “I do” at this Michelin-starred restaurant, nestled directly below the Brooklyn Bridge and gazing out at the city skyline, including the Statue of Liberty. The private Terrace Room accommodates 20 to 80 guests, though custom floor plans are available for smaller or larger groups, and events include passed hors d’oeuvres and a seated four-course tasting menu. Finally, the venue boasts an annual floral budget exceeding $1 million, which tells you everything you know about the table arrangements.
On the menu: For the passed selections, choose between scallop ceviche, foie gras roulade, and tempura vegetable skewers. A summer menu might begin with lobster consommé or handmade cavatelli, followed by Colorado rack of lamb over couscous or miso-dusted black cod.
Canoe (Atlanta, Georgia)
In the space: “Tucked away, not far away” is an apt description for this picturesque venue, which sits along the bank of the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta’s Vinings neighborhood. The grounds offer a tranquil waterfront, colorful gardens, and meandering walkways for after-dinner strolls, while inside, exposed brick walls and ironwork create a warm and rustic vibe. Book the Wine Room or Paces Room for smaller parties (up to 35 guests), or the River Garden and tent, which highlights the natural backdrop and makes room for a live band (up to 140).
On the menu: Choose between buffet service or a three-course meal, plus passed hors d’oeuvres. Snacks include smoked salmon flatbread and deconstructed deviled eggs, and menus feature vegetables (think chopped asparagus with creamy chive vinaigrette), potatoes and pasta (roasted pepper couscous), and entrées (crusted rib eye with pecan lavender sauce).
Peninsula Grill (Charleston, South Carolina)
In the space: This fine dining restaurant sits in the historic district of one of the country’s top wedding destinations, so the setting delivers: Picture tea lights flickering above a courtyard garden, historic brick path, and a restored 1844 building with interiors worthy of Architectural Digest. Book the Charleston Room (32 seated guests, 50 cocktail), the courtyard (100 guests), or the Garden Room (80 seated, 120 cocktail). At dusk, watch a vested staff member light the garden’s carriage lanterns by hand, one by one, as part of a longstanding tradition.
On the menu: At Peninsula, the star is the 12-layer coconut cake, which has been lauded as one of the country’s best. But first, enjoy the restaurant’s signature oysters, followed by Low country-inspired dishes such as She Crab soup, sea scallops, and chicken with field peas and tasso ham.
Ninety Acres (Peapack, New Jersey)
In the space: Ninety Acres is part of Natirar, a 1,000-acre property established in 1905 on the Raritan River (“Natirar” is Raritan spelled backward). Now owned by Somerset County, the premises are home to a sustainable farm, cooking school, and restored mansion, in addition to the restaurant. Here, weddings take advantage of the sprawling countryside. While the Mansion hosts larger events (225 guests), Ninety Acres packages may be quaint (18 to 120 guests, depending on the room), allowing couples to exchange vows in the original carriage house garden.
On the menu: From buffets to seated dinners, menus at Ninety Acres feature meat and produce from the estate farm. Seasonal pizzettes and miniature lobster rolls round out the hors d’oeuvres, while a main course might feature dry-aged beef or truffle pasta.
District Winery (Washington, D.C.)
In the space: For a wine-themed wedding more cosmopolitan than rustic, seek out D.C.’s first urban winery, located in the city’s Navy Yard neighborhood. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a wrap-around terrace look out on the Anacostia River (hello, sunset views), and a midcentury modern interior provides a backdrop for dining, dancing, and mingling. Access to the production space and barrel room means guests can see where the magic happens as they sip wines made onsite. District Winery welcomes events for up to 200 guests.
On the menu: Complement small-batch wines with a seated dinner, either family-style or plated, featuring mushroom tartlets, watercress salad, baked mac and cheese, or roasted rack of lamb with black olive jus, to name a few stars. Couples can also add on a raw bar.
Greens (San Francisco, California)
In the space: Since its opening in 1979, Greens has revolutionized how Americans think about vegetarian food — and the restaurant’s thriving events program exemplifies that shift. Here, menus highlight vegetables, local and organic farms, and the seasons through dishes worthy of a special occasion. If not every wedding guest is an herbivore, don’t fear: The website’s FAQ promises that “Can you believe this is all vegetarian?” is a frequently overheard mantra. Plus, the sustainably designed warehouse dining room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, showing off panorama views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and Marina.
On the menu: Choose from a variety of service styles (plated or family style), and expect plates inspired by Greens’s famously local and seasonal menu: pristine baby lettuces, risotto cakes, wild mushroom tartlets, vegetable tagines, and more.
The Hidden Goat and The Underground Goat (Chicago, Illinois)
In the space: Fans of acclaimed Chicago chef Stephanie Izard can book two of her private dining venues for their big day: The Hidden Goat, a warm, inviting space just upstairs from Little Goat Diner (up to 26 seated guests), or The Underground Goat, the cozy room nestled below Girl and the Goat (up to 40 seated, 70 for a reception). Both lend themselves to casual and intimate experiences in the heart of the West Loop’s Restaurant Row, giving tourists to the Windy City a front-row seat to the best local eats. Plus, the Hidden Goat’s open-concept kitchen puts food front and center of every celebration.
On the menu: Yes, there will be goat — meatballs with yogurt, or flaky empanadas — but there’s much more than that. Think passed bites of chilly chile noodles, followed by crispy beef short ribs and Mediterranean sea bass with pickled rhubarb.
Little Goat Diner Reservations
Girl and the Goat Reservations