Dear PoPville – Where Should We Get Married?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Dear PoPville,

My finance and I would love to have summer wedding in DC without breaking the bank. Looking for cute, quirky and affordable venue locations for a ceremony and reception (under $5k). Trying to keep the event between 50 to 75 ppl. Not limited to indoor or outdoor. Cost and overall aesthetic are our biggest constraints. I know the average DC wedding cost $30k but that is just not possible for us. Creative suggestions truly appreciated.

Back in Aug. 2010 we looked at some suggestions here. Anyone else have some recs?

111 Comment

  • Under $5k? Maybe get a picnic spot at Rock Creek Park.

  • em

    How flexible are you on day / time of day? We’re having a brunch wedding on a Sunday, which brings down the cost of the food. Other vendors might also give you a break for a Sunday daytime affair.

    As for a venue, check out Yards Park – their website doesn’t have fees listed, but I think I remember it being fairly reasonable.

    • Second to the Yards Park. No idea what their fees are, but I ran by there 2 weeks ago and thought “This is where I’m going to have my wedding. Now just need to find someone to marry…”

      Another possibility from this weekend’s run: Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. Again, no idea what their price is/Catholic requirements are, but damn is that a beautiful building.

    • em

      You might also check out Aria in the Reagan building. Not the cheapest option, but also not the most expensive.

  • Do you have a friend with a nice backyard that would be willing to host? Then you call caterers and get quotes for a “party” NOT a wedding. You will get a very different price (I know from experience).

  • Check out the Tabbard Inn.

    5K if you want food and drink for 50+ people. I had 78 people and it was just under 10k for the day of (not including my dress and all that).

    Or, as recommended…try a private home of a friend and get a BBQ caterer for a party – NOT wedding.

  • Check out the Josephine Butler Parks Center in Columbia Heights. Beautiful recently restored historic building; within your price range; afterwards you can get your pictures taken in Meridian Hill Park across the street:

    • Yeah, you might want to give this place a close inspection. It’s good on the first look, but go back a second time and you’ll see the broken lights (and cheap fluorescents!) in the ballroom, the shoddy repair work that’s been done to doors and moldings, a kitchen that is way too small for catering, and overall a kinda dirty facility.

      • We attended an evening wedding reception at the Parks Center in December 2008 and I don’t remember any of those things, kelly5612. I remember it as a really lovely event.

      • I had my wedding there last February and it was lovely.

  • For 50 people, that’s $100 per person. There are hotels that can do it for that, especially for brunch or dessert/cocktails. The L’Enfant Plaza hotel was pretty affordable when I looked. Aria also was quite affordable, especially for lunch.

    • Also, Bon Air park in Arlington is beautiful (huge rose garden!) and has a picnic shelter that can be rented out. There are other picnic shelters in Arlington parks, too: I don’t know if you can have catering, alcohol, music, etc. there but it’s so pretty.

      And opentable has a search function for large group dining. Depending on what you want the 5k to cover (everything from rings to dresses to invites to the party itself? just food, beverage and room rental?) you can find something to meet your needs. I think Zaytinya would be lovely, and have also looked into Maggiano’s and Carmine’s in the past.

  • I know this is tangential, but I just have to say that I get a kick out of seeing this photo for all things wedding on PoP. These are actually two friends of mine, and their wedding photo has been used for at least 3 different PoP threads.

    Ok, back to the real topic 🙂

  • I once attended a wedding that was on the banks of the tidal basin at dusk. I’m pretty sure all you have to do is get a permit from the Parks service.

    The only issue is with tourists and gawkers. As for the ceremony, maybe try one of the small art galleries? Longview hosts weddings from what i’ve seen, but can’t attest to their pricing.

    • Whoops. Meant you could do a reception at the galleries. Or ceremony, i suppose.

    • the park service will give permits for weddings at two spots – the DC War Memorial and the tidal basin. The permit is only $50 and it’s really easy to get.

      • National Park services vs. State park services are very different in price and places for weddings/events.. Longview is nice, but has a lot of rules and complications.

      • Through the National Park Service, you can also get a permit for a wedding at Columbia Island or Theodore Roosevelt Island. Not exactly in the city, but you could have a wedding at the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, or an overlook at Great Falls. You can also rent out the Spanish Ballroom or Bumper Car space at Glenn Echo, which is just on the other side of the Maryland border. The last two seem to be privately run.

    • Longview starts at $8,000, for a bare-bones space (and not even the outside).

  • not possible. 🙁 or try a friend’s house. and that’s a lot of people for one house’s bathrooms so you might have to bring in port-o-potties and a generator and it won’t get you music, dessert, suit/dress, gifts, photographer, or flowers. our gold plain thin bands cost us $800 alone.

    I say elope or do it in the park with <25 people and then go to a nice restaurant.

    it's a horrible truth, but 5k won't even feed that many people if you're going to get it catered. wait a year and save if you have family that is making you have a big wedding or just go to the JOP.

    my only real advice is to splurge on a photographer. I should have just left the tables blank (instead of cheap arrangements) and sent cheap postcard invites and spent the money on a good photographer for the whole day.

    • you also have to consider parking when doing it at a friends house.. my friend did her wedding at her own house.. and it was disastrous in regards to parking and lots of angry neighbors.. While its nice to think people would metro/taxi to a wedding..most people rather drive.

    • My band cost $66, hubby’s band cost $159, we bought them from a kiosk at the mall in PG. We bought them a year and a half ago. Still shines and it is very plain gold.
      Weddings make you go crazy and makes you want to spend money like stupid.

  • Try the Maison Biltmore in Adams Morgan. Beautiful house that has been renovated to be an event venue.

  • If you’re willing to go Alexandria, try Hollin Hall. I found it reasonably priced.

  • Have your ceremony in Meridian Hill Park and your reception next door at the Josephine Butler House. It is super affordable, and they have rental stuff on site.

    • Josephine Butler house was over $5k rental fee alone if you do it during the wedding season. And if it rains, you’re SOL on the ceremony venue since you can’t set up a tent in the park.

  • Sadly I don’t think you can feed that many people on your budget. Is there any way you can cut your guest list?

  • depending on what exactly do you want for the 5k budget (cake, rings included?) I can tell you that your best bet is going to be cutting off some guests to stay within budget. Try the University of Maryland wedding chapel for your ceremony (there are actually 2 chapels a larger, fancier one and a smaller one) and a restaurant for lunch. Oyamel quoted me about $25-30 pp with a $1200 minimum for a lunch and their private dining room can hold up to 40 guests. No music and no dancing though. Hope this helps.

  • I had a friend get married at Hendry House in Arlington (near Rosslyn metro, but not walkable from it) last year. It was lovely. Her budget was similar to yours.

  • I got married at Mrs. K’s Tollhouse Restaurant in Silver Spring. They have a garden for the ceremony and then you can stay out there or go in for reception. We had 55 ppl.

    • I love that place. Recommend it? Expensive?

    • OMG that place is EXPENSIVE! It is beautiful though, but not in this price range at all.

      • Um, no. It was not expensive in 2007. I had 55 people and was able to keep the budget in the range the original poster was asking about for an afternoon wedding on a Saturday.

  • hill house at the old naval hospital is also a beautiful space

  • We got married at the top of the fountain at Malcolm X Park and had our reception at the Josephine Butler house across the street, catered by Fresh Start, a branch of DC Central Kitchen. Cost was a little over $10K for 100 guests I think, that was 2002

  • Check out the Lincoln Cottage on the Old Soldier’s Home. I know they have a variety of rental packages, some of which might fit your budget.

  • You MUST do it at Tabard Inn. It is absolutely what you are looking for in your description. My wife and I married last October. We had NO COMPLAINTS.

  • I use to work for an art gallery in Old Town Alexandria called The Athenaeum. Nice huge space, beautiful old building, and nice courtyard.

    • and it was pretty affordable

    • I will second the Athaneum in Alexandria. Nice banquet room that includes a small stage and piano, they will give tables and chairs, and they will keep the museum open for you, I think it goes for $300 bucks per hour, so then you will just need to find an affordable caterer.

      At the high end of your budget range, for $5000 you can rent the Torpedo Factory, also in Alexandria, which is an awesome space, but better for a larger wedding (can easily accomodate 200).

    • This is definitely a great place for the OP. On its most expensive day, Saturday, its just below $2000. Good space for this size wedding, and great location. Here is the link…

  • Arlington courthouse, spend the $ saved on a house.

  • The Monastery in Brookland is beautiful and less than $5000.

    • Second on the Franciscan Monastery. It’s gorgeous both inside and out. There should probably be a reception hall, too.

      You may need to be Catholic, tho.

  • My husband and I used the Billingsley House – out near Upper Marlboro. Not exactly DC, but it was GORGEOUS. Historic house overlooks the river, gorgeous lawns that bloom with purple flowers in May. On site catering kitchen, the works. I got it from about noon until 11:00pm on a saturday in may, and I think it was around $900? And that included tables, chairs, and a gorgeous white tent with chandeliers. Bowie Town Center is about 10 miles away for guests.

  • Wait, is $5k your total budget or just for the venue? We got married at Rockwood Manor in Potomac, it was really great: The outdoor spaces are nice for the ceremony and the indoor reception areas are definitely quirky. In a good way.

    Also, if you’re looking for an affordable, delicious caterer, highly recommend Rocklands BBQ. They were AMAZING. They can go formal or informal depending on what you need and your budget.

  • I just went through this 6 months ago! Cheap DC area options: Glen Echo Park, the Athenaeum in Old Town, St. Francis Hall at the Franciscan Monastery, Arts Club of Washington, Mount Vernon Inn, The Comus Inn on Sugarloaf Mountain

    • Glen Echo is gorgeous but a pain in the butt – approved vendor lists mean those approved can charge you more. and it can be REALLY hot/humid. (or cold, conversely)

  • A year ago, the Universalist Church by 16th and S St NW charged $2,500 for a wedding and reception. Love their sanctuary, so pretty.

  • Look into the Heurich House in Dupont Circle. I can’t recall the exact cost but it fits into your price range. We got married there and I can’t say enough good things about the location, the venue, and the caretaker who helped us through the process. We were married in the garden at sunset and had the reception in the ballroom. Our friends still talk about how much they loved the venue two years later.

  • I don’t know how much it would cost now, but my husband and I got married several years ago at Mrs. K’s Tollhouse in Silver Spring. Great staff, great food and service. We got married in the garden (the cost for that was $500), plus we did not have to buy flowers for the ceremony as the garden was in bloom. We did the reception indoors and the cost of the food was just under 5K for about 100 people. I don’t what it would cost now, but it is very affordable and a beautiful, historic restaurant.

  • Shotgun wedding at the Columbia Heights IHOP.

  • I would recommend Chef Geoff’s on New Mexico. They have a lovely patio to have an outdoor wedding and a separate, private dining area for around 50-70 people. The total cost of my 12-3 PM wedding and lunch was around $2,100 = $1,860 on food + $75 patio fee + beverages based on consumption.

    I had a photographer, floral arrangements and a trio as part of my wedding and that added up to another $1,500 give or take a hundred dollars.

  • 3 years ago my now husband and I got married in DC with a 5K budget. We paid $50 for a permit to get married at the DC War Memorial (you can also get a permit to get married on the tidal basin), and a few thousand dollars for an cocktail party reception at Lounge 201 (open bar with passed appetizers and food stations). It was very casual but people still talk about how fun it was. We actually found a few venues that would host our reception for under $5k.

    • I really love this idea. I just wanted to post my best wishes to the OP. I know with so many over-the-top weddings that planning a wedding with a pretty strict budget can seem daunting. I think you can do a meaningful and fantastic wedding that people will really enjoy and remember (for the right reasons).

      By the way, the best and/or most memorable weddings that I (and friends) have been to aren’t the ones that blow everything over-the-top. Not even close.

      Good luck!

  • If you can stand the suburbs, Old Town Hall in Fairfax. Cute place, two levels, gardens out back in the spring, summer, and fall, cost is what you’d expect for a government building (i.e. cheap!). They book up quickly, though.

  • This entire threat is literally upping my heart rate and making me terrified of ever, ever having a wedding. Luckily, this isn’t anything I have to worry about in the near future…

  • I got married at the Josephine Butler Parks Center overlooking Meridian Hill/Malcom X Park. It’s a stunningly gorgeous venue– former embassy building, now owned by a nonprofit that rents out the second floor ballroom for weddings and events. $4,000 Saturday rental includes tables, chairs, access to the kitchen, a sound system, and limited parking out back. And because it’s a nonprofit, a portion of that ($2,500 I believe?) is tax-deductible. That was 2 1/2 years ago, but I imagine it hasn’t changed much in that time.

    • Oh, and we had ~120 people, I believe?

    • I looked at this venue 2 years ago, but unless it was Nov-Feb, the rental cost was $5500. Plus, you have to bring in all kinds of decorations to make the place look suitable. It’s easier and cheaper to find a place where you won’t have to add $2k of flowers to make it look nice.

      I also recommend going with a restaurant/hotel. I’ve never been to a wedding that had outside catering where the food was good. I would’ve been married at the Tabard Inn no question were my guest list not over 100.

  • Wherever you have it, before you buy anything you must read Bridal Bargains. It will save you a fortune and tell you what good prices are for things and what is needed and what isnt.

  • orderedchaos

    We had a wonderful reception at the Mount Vernon Inn, with the ceremony out back in their courtyard/gazebo. It’s a great spot, plus if either of you are history buffs it’s hard to top. The Inn’s staff wear period dress from the 1700s. We had a large-ish wedding with a full open-bar, so accommodating 50-75 wouldn’t be a problem. Give ’em a call:

  • It’s 100% possible and I actually started a blog to help people just like you! Try Artisphere in downtown DC and I second Tabbard Inn … you could also do a dinner boat wedding for cheaper …. if you want more feel free to check out my blog [Capitol Romance] !

  • Josaphine Butler Park building next to malcom x park or Elizabeth’s on L (they will do heavy apps/dessert to save money).

  • One of the nicest weddings I’ve been to in DC was at the American News Women’s Club (near the intersection of Mass/Florida/22). Lovely space, perfect for a wedding of the size you mention — they have one room where everyone can sit for the ceremony, then you can expand into the other rooms (and back into the first after the chairs are folded) for a stand-up or sit-down reception. It’s a nice, intimate space — not the usual cavernous ballroom experience that I find really cold and unpleasant. They don’t provide catering, which means they don’t restrict your options in terms of who you get to do the food. And there are plenty of after-wedding options in Dupont if you (or your guests) want the party to continue after the official reception ends.

    All Souls Unitarian at 16th & Harvard, which has a small ceremony option, for $500 all told. It’s a lovely old building, but you might not want to use the sanctuary as it’s enormous. Book early though!

  • My husband and I were married at Tabard inn. $7,000=48 guests. This included ceremony, cake, food, unlimited wine and beer,valet parking and rental of courtyard and reception area.The place is quirky, historic, and absolutely cute and the staff are outstanding and made for an easy day. You can have more guests.. seated dinner is limit of 56..standing I think is about 100 (I don;t recommend going over 70) You can cut costs by having appetizers instead (look at their event menus on their website) and you can cut costs by having the ceremony in a place like rock creek, but its soo much easier to do it at Tabard. SERIOUSLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE PLACE!!! they have done lots of weddings and are amazing at what they do.

    • Tabard is great – even I recommend it – but you DO have to take in to consideration if you have special needs guests because there is no elevator. I had to nix it from my list because I have a lot of relatives that are old (90+ years old) and I couldn’t have them go up the stairs like that.

      I got married at the Hotel Palomar and they were fantastic to work with and it was inexpensive. And the food was amazing.

      • Not trying to be snarky, but I am genuinely curious. Was the Palomar actually inexpensive? I’ve been there for other reasons, and it always struck me as pretty upscale and pricey. What kind of ballpark figure are we talking about here?

        • Palomar was no expensive to me, after seeing what else DC places cost in my search. For 78 people we have a 3 full course meal (with three main course options), dessert (cake came from outside), 2 stations and 4 passed apps at cocktail hour, a bloody mary and belini bar at cocktail hour (we brought our own wine that we got from a friend of my dad’s winery in CA, so paid a corkcage fee vs. per person which saved us money), and the huuuge suite hotel room for us that night. Oh, and amazing service. Just under $10k total. I think that’s a good deal. The food was exceptional.

  • we looked at josephine bulter when we were planning our wedding.. its overpriced and ugly.. the only thing good about it is meridian park across the street where you can have a beautfiul ceremony for the price of a $200 permit

  • Just want to chime in for a resource that has kept me sane through my wedding planning: Don’t let people tell you you “can’t” have a wedding for $5,000. Maybe you can’t have it at the W or you can’t have a three-course meal, but a wedding can be almost anywhere and anything you want. And no, you don’t have to feed everyone or feel like you owe them something for coming to your wedding. They will come because they love the two of you and want to support your marriage. Resist the “shoulds” and follow your hearts!

  • we loved Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. Very inexpensive and beautiful.

  • We had our wedding at the Mansion on O Street. There is nothing in DC like it. Unforgettable – but perhaps a bit out of your $ range.

  • The wedding can be done on a $5k budget in DC if you limit the list to under 50 guests. The inevitable problem is trying to figure out how you can you limit your guest list to 50 people.

    It would probably be worth it to take on another 10k in debt to avoid the conflicts that will arise from not being able to invite your extended family, not so close friends, or worst of all, your mother’s and in-laws friends.

    If you feel you really can get away with not inviting everyone, then it can be done. Our solution to this problem was planning a wedding in Hawaii. We were able to invite all 200 people on the list, and we are pretty confident only 40-50 will show up. My advice would be to invite everyone, and do a destination to keep the guest list small.

  • Another recommendation for Tabard Inn. My brother and sister-in-law got married there a couple of years ago. Everything was wonderful, and they were able to keep the costs down. The ceremony was in the patio area and the dinner/dancing in the upstairs rooms. There were 55 guests.

  • If you’re willing to have your wedding a little far afield, Jefferson Patterson Park in southern MD has a beautiful restored barn and grounds. Great for both a ceremony under the trees and party in the barn. We spent more money on music and food and had a fantastic wedding there. It was a bargain 6 years ago — not sure if it still is.

  • Check the National Arboretum…not sure of prices but they have some amazing natural spots!

  • Ralphie!

    Look at the Carnegie Institute of Washington; beautiful building with a gorgeous rotunda and not too far from Dupont metro station. We got married there about 2 years ago.

  • I’ve been to plenty of weddings that cost less than $5K with 50-100 guests. It all depends what you want. I’ve been to weddings with potluck dinners, free DIY wildflower arrangements, held in park picnic pavillions, on farms, and in backyards. My friend who recently got married had a BBQ cookout and had her close friends bake batches of different kinds of cupcakes. Another friend baked her own cake (she was my housemate at the time so we got to eat all the test batches!). Another couple had their close friends and relatives each bring a dessert that was special to the couple, and they printed and gave out the recipes to all the guests. Ask your friends to help out. I love feeling like I am part of the wedding and I’m always glad to help.

  • Tabard is great, but if you’d like a different feel, you should consider Sonoma on the Hill. Their 2nd floor lounge area is great, and they’re really flexible with creating a menu. (And since most of their events are weekday business things, they’re REALLY ready to bargain with you for weekend events.) We got married 18 months ago and seriously considered Sonoma, but we ended up wanting something with more outdoor space.

    • Ooo! You should also consider Fathom Creative on 14th St. It’s a very cool design company in a former auto showroom — you can rent the second floor, which has an INCREDIBLE roof deck. You’d have to bring in a caterer, of course. Went to a rehearsal dinner there last fall and it was beautiful.

      • One more thought (can you tell I planned a budget wedding not too long ago?) — Hillyer Art Space in Dupont. The rental fee is cheap — starts at $600 for a weekend event. Downside: You can’t choose what art is hanging on the walls. Upside: Cool little space in a great location right in Dupont.

  • “My finance”… Am I the only one who caught that?? sorry, had to bring it up…

    Anyway, good luck! I thought my wedding was cheap and we spent 20K.

    • You’re probably not the only one who noticed “finance.” I did, too. I just chose not to point it out b/c it seemed clear to me that it was a typo (drop the first “n” and it spells fiance) and not worth pointing out. I assume some other posters noticed it, too, but wanted to help the OP out by putting out helpful suggestions on how they can create a wonderful wedding within their budget. Why rain on someone’s happy parade with a technicality?

  • I had two weddings, one on the east coast (here) and one on the west, together totalling about $10K.
    Biggest cost for the DC wedding food and photographer. Pix were $1,000, food for135 expected guests (about 100 showed) $2500. The caterer was a former chef who served a buffet. We provided the drinks. A neighbor who does cakes, did the cakes. We saved a bunch of money by working with people we knew. Same thing with the band, we knew the lead singer and got a good deal.
    When looking for reception spots I did look at the University of Maryland because we’re alums. If our wedding was earlier in the day we could have tried renting the local rec center, but sadly rec center shut down at night. We were chatting with a charter school but found out my own church owned a property that worked and got a cheapo offer I could not refuse.
    When renting a place make sure you can do some cost saving things there. Some venues will only let you used caterers from a selected list or who are bonded or won’t allow you to BYO booze, so keep that in mind.

    • You found a photographer for $1000? Props. (Who was it?)

      • James Reyes, but he has raised his prices since then. I booked him early and locked in a price. I found him via Craigslist and the price was right. He had just moved from the Atlanta market (and so he wasn’t $$$$$) and I liked his portfolio and he didn’t smell of smoke. I interviewed another photographer who reeked of ciggy smoke.
        Another thing cutting down the price was there were no “getting dressed” photos. I paid for 6 hours. The time between arriving at the church and breaking down the reception location was 6 hours because we weren’t f*ing around at the house taking pictures of shoes and the stock pix of the dress hanging up. Know what you want photographed. I wanted pictures of my friends and family at the reception having a good time. Not my shoes.

  • I got married at the Arts Club of Washington, a historic house in downtown/Farragut North. It’s a beautiful house and you don’t need to spend anything on decor because the house is also an art gallery. They also have their own catering team, tables, linens, dishes, and staff…all included. The locale was $3500 when I got married in 2009; days other than Saturday are less expensive. Food was $75/person for a full dinner, buffet-style – a great deal for DC, and the food was delicious. We also had an open bar which was about $25/person. They have a lovely courtyard so you can have everything outside or inside. So – while I don’t think you could quite manage to get married here for $5K you could for not that much more. It’s one of the best deals in DC for a full-service wedding. I also recommend it if you are trying to get married on a short schedule since they handle everything (catering & decor) for you.

    • We had our small wedding at DC War memorial and a dinner at DC Coast Wine Room followed by dancing on our roof and I loved it. Pricing for memorial was only $35 and Pasion Foods menus are fairly reasonable.

    • We had our small wedding at DC War memorial and a dinner at DC Coast Wine Room followed by dancing on our roof and I loved it. Pricing for memorial was only $35 and Pasion Foods group menus are fairly reasonable.

    • i also got married at the arts club of washington. while affordable for dc and a wonderful venue with amazing staff, great food, etc…you are not gonna be able to get married there for under $5k. if it was just venue + food for 50 ppl, okay – that’s not much over $5k. but presumably you would also tip the wonderful staff at the arts club, pay an officiant, have invitations, a dress, a tux, rings, maybe flowers, a photographer (which is at least a few thousand for a good one), etc. it all adds up. it’s absurd, but it does.

      we also looked at a lot of the suggestions here (josephine butler, glen echo park). if you can get your friends/family to help, a potluck wedding in a park somewhere could be lovely. the bumper car pavilion at glen echo is affordable and covered (so it’s like a built-in tent in the case of bad weather).

      • Yes, you’re definitely right – $5K for the whole wedding won’t be enough. But overall the Arts Club is very reasonable for Washington; you might be able to have a $5K elegant-feeling reception there if you had it on a day other than Saturday. I just posted figuring others with a little more wiggle room than the OP might be looking for suggestions.

  • I scouted out venues on the Eastern Shore for my spring wedding. Lots of waterfront options on Kent Island and near St. Michaels, restaurants, wedding halls, mansions for ren, conference centers…it could make for a fun weekend checking them out.

  • If you want an outdoor wedding, Prince William National Forest near Quantico was fab. They have wonderful cabin camps that can hold up to 200 people for about $500 a day. Huge kitchen, awesome pavillion, and privacy. We reserved a long weekend and our guests had the option of staying in the cabins overnight (since we had an alcohol permit, the cabins were most useful).

  • Check out the Washington International School in Cleveland Park–great outdoor and indoor spaces and I think it’s somewhat within your price range!

  • have you contacted st. anthony’s bridal? they are awesome. bought a dress there for $80 this past saturday. brand new, tags on it, never been worn! if you find a venue for your price, please post it, because hillyer arts is the closest we’ve been able to find.

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