Awards ceremony sounds like a couple of things might be expected. Speakers, perhaps at lecterns; presentations (might be as few as two people, might be more - your friend should have some idea), portrait shots of recipients, group photos. I just shot in a small chapel tonight with a D600. I bailed from the 85mm almost immediately. In order to get lots of face, I would have had to be very much in theirs. My experience, trying to get head and shoulders shots at 10~15 feet suggests you would be well served taking not only the 24-85 VR for groups, large and small, but the 70-300 (and a monopod, if you can scrape one up) for portraits. I was using the 70-200 VR1 and was very glad to have it. Take the 50, too, but don't count on it doing much for you unless it's majorly, horrendously dark. It was only horrendously dark in the chapel tonight - how does 1/80, f3.5, iso 6400 sound? The answer is just barely adequate to get skin up to middle tones. I have tried shooting in this venue with the D90 and D300 in the past and felt stymied by the light. Am I pleased with the D600? No, not pleased, absolutely delighted. Small file (jpg, 283kb). Same file, full size (jpg, click on 'original' for full size - 7.5mb). Other than rendering to jpg and downsizing in LR, no processing, no sharpening, no cropping, no nothing. In sum, go get 'em!