Are you engaged? Congrats! If you’re thinking about getting married in the Windy City, refer to this Chicago wedding guide to help you get started planning.
Getting married in Chicago is a memorable experience. A historic city with stunning architecture, museums and waterfront restaurants, Chicago is a diverse and welcoming place for all kinds of wedding celebrations.
Where to Have a Wedding in Chicago
You might be trying to decide where to get married in Chicago or where to host a wedding reception that best fits your theme and aesthetics. Chicago is a large city with numerous possibilities for memorable wedding venues. Some of the best locations to get married in Chicago are listed below:
Being surrounded by art gives an indoor venue a uniquely beautiful setting, making galleries some of the best places to hold a wedding in Chicago. Galleries display the latest art and popular culture trends, and several Chicago galleries book spaces for events like wedding receptions. Some venues, like Floating World Gallery and the Zhou B Art Center, also have ceremony spaces, letting you tie the knot and jump right into celebrating the beginning of your new life in the same place.
You can opt for lavish or minimalistic decor for your gallery wedding, as most gallery venues will work with you to bring your wedding vision to life.
Chicago is home to a multitude of museums that host both public and private events. You’re sure to find a venue that suits the interests you and your partner share, whether you enjoy art, culture, history, science or astrology.
Depending on the facilities, you might be able to book a ceremony room and hold the reception in the same building. Some venues also offer outdoor options, like the picturesque sculpture garden with its view of Lake Michigan at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
If you’ve always dreamed of your wedding reception featuring a U-505 submarine, the Museum of Science and Industry has you covered. Few venues other than a museum would allow you to host your reception in a copper-domed rotunda with a historic locomotive and airplane.
If you’re looking for a romantic, relaxing atmosphere, organize your wedding at a winery or brewing company where your guests can enjoy the dining room and in-house drinks. Some venues double as restaurants, like the Moody Tongue Brewing Company, where you can hold a reception with a banquet menu and options for plated fine dining.
Other wineries have stunning outdoor spaces that make great opportunities to take wedding pictures or hold the ceremony. Find a venue with customization options like City Winery, where you can hold the ceremony and reception with in-house wines and chef-prepared food.
4. Industrial Spaces
With their open-concept floorplans and high ceilings, a converted warehouse can make a romantic space for a special ceremony. Each repurposed industrial building retains a part of the city’s past, making this an excellent option for history buffs. This venue is also ideal for larger wedding receptions, though some will hold more guests than others.
Some venues have a rustic aesthetic, like Firehouse Chicago with its antique furniture and reclaimed barnwood. Others, like Assemblea, have a sleek, modern look. Industrial buildings used as wedding venues typically also include a professionally landscaped outdoor space. If you’re unsure after viewing the pictures, ask the venue director.
5. Historic Mansions
For a traditional backdrop with a touch of culture, look for an older estate open for private events where guests can admire the historical architecture and charm. This type of venue typically has the space and staff to accommodate large events — the Stan Mansion can hold up to 300 guests and has recently added a bridal suite.
An estate wedding can have everything from a naturally beautiful outdoor picture area to an array of seating options. If you’re looking for a venue with a fairytale atmosphere, a historic mansion is a reliable option.
The cruise venues that run along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan offer waterfront views with the cityscape as a backdrop. Hosting a nautical wedding is a fun way to kick off your first real adventure as a married couple.
Cruise ships like Chicago’s First Lady fleet offer wedding packages that allow you to hold both the ceremony and reception onboard. If you’re looking for the best first look locations in Chicago, cruises are one of your most eye-catching options. You’ll love to look back on your wedding video and see you and your partner coasting along the water with your guests, the city skyline behind you.
Which Season Is Best to Get Married?
Now that you have some venue ideas, you’re probably wondering what dates you should book. The best time to get married in Chicago depends on one thing: which time of year is your absolute favorite? Chicago experiences all four seasons, and you can discover unique traditions happening during each one.
The weather will vary depending on the month you choose, and you should plan accordingly. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect during each of the seasons.
Chicago’s fall months boasts cool but relatively mild temperatures and local trees that become a riot of vibrant colors. The weather is fair enough to spend time outdoors, and traffic tends to be less crowded than it is later in the year.
If you’re interested in a fall ceremony, October is the best month to get married in Chicago. The trees are changing, and the temperatures are still fairly temperate. Ceremonies with fall colors and harvest fruits can be held outside, with temperatures ranging from the 70s down to the 40s.
Some of the busiest times of fall are the week of Halloween and the Chicago Marathon.
With holiday festivities and the increase in traffic to large retail areas, winter in the Windy City is a busy time. Chicago winters bring light displays, carriage rides and a good amount of snowfall. Temperatures average in the mid-20s, with high winds and foggy mornings. If the magic of the season appeals, the right venue and wardrobe can compensate for the low temperatures.
The week of Christmas and the start of the new year are some of the busiest in Chicago, as winter draws crowds that rival summer tourism despite the colder temperatures.
Spring’s budding foliage and increase in mild weather make it the beginning of nature walks and other outdoor activities for the year. It also brings the start of baseball season and the St. Patrick’s Day parade. By March, temperatures begin to climb into the 50s and increase into the 70s by May.
Chicago is bustling the week of St. Patrick’s Day, when a parade takes place downtown and the city temporarily dyes the Chicago River green.
The summer weather brings increased hotel costs, busier nightlife and warmer temperatures from the 70s to 90s, with a cool wind rolling off of Lake Michigan. Tourism is common during the summer months when the city opens its beaches and plays host to seasonal music festivals.
Some of the busiest times of the summer are during the Taste of Chicago Food Festival and Lollapalooza.
Best Places to Take Wedding Pictures in Chicago
Chicago is home to several breathtaking locations, some iconic and others less well-known. Some of the best places to take wedding pictures — and some of the best places to get married in Chicago — are:
- Chicago Riverwalk pedestrian trail: Waterfront locations are some of the best for pictures, but The Public Art Program has also lined this walkway with displays of local art. Photos along the Chicago Riverwalk will be set against a collection of 3D and 2D art integrated with the city’s diverse culture.
- Navy Pier: Also called the People’s Pier, this is a popular location due to the shopping and restaurants, along with many yearly events and other attractions. It’s a busy location at any time of the year, but you are sure to find a place to take some outstanding pictures here.
- North Avenue Beach: As one of the most popular beaches in the city, couples frequently visit to get lively pictures on the lakefront recreational trail and at the beach house. With its portholes and decks, the beach house’s design makes it an excellent place for photos with a nautical theme.
- Millennium Park: This park features the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, commonly called “The Bean.” You can get some incredible views of the cityscape and skyline here as well. The park is relatively busy year-round, as The Bean is an enormous draw for photographers and tourists alike, but the trip is worthwhile to complete your big-city wedding look.
- Adler Planetarium: This museum of astronomy and astrophysics is also home to the Doane Observatory, science exhibitions, theaters, the Gemini 12 capsule and a picturesque outdoor picnic area. There are plenty of sights to see here, and this can be a romantic spot if you and your partner share a love of astronomy.
- Lincoln Park Zoo: This 35-acre zoo allows free admissions and features hundreds of animals. The zoo can be an excellent opportunity for animal-loving couples to include their favorites in their wedding pictures.
- Olive Park: This quiet park is near the bustling Navy Pier but is more rarely explored. If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway for your wedding party to get photos, Olive Park can deliver. The fountains and nature trails make it a beautiful location for a photo shoot at any time of the year, and it’s also within convenient walking distance of the Ohio Street Beach.
Chicago Wedding Vendors
With so many great vendors to choose from, finding the best possible match can be a little overwhelming. Try narrowing down your search by looking for vendors you can make the most use of. Some of the most commonly employed are:
- The venue: When you’re working on your budget, it’s probably best to check off the venue before considering any other expenses. After wardrobe costs, booking a location is often the most expensive aspect of planning your wedding.
- Caterers: The food is what most of your guests will remember most.
- The cake: Whether you want a traditional cake or easier-to-handle cupcakes, this is the centerpiece of your reception. One perk of hosting your wedding in Chicago is the number of highly-rated local bakeries and pastry chefs you can hire for the occasion.
- Florists: The floral arrangements set the mood, and it takes careful planning to ensure the flowers look fresh for the ceremony.
- The photographer: Your wedding pictures serve as important memories that you can cherish for the years to come.
- The videography team: While a photographer captures still images, a videographer’s job is to capture live footage of your special day. They’ll take the best clips and create a highlight reel for you to have as a keepsake and share on social media.
- Beauty professionals: A makeup artist can help the members of your wedding party look their best.
- A band or DJ: Music is a vital part of the atmosphere at both the ceremony and reception.
How to Get Legally Married in Illinois
Wondering how to get married in Chicago despite being from another city or state? It’s a simple process!
Local, non-local and out-of-state couples getting a marriage license in Chicago or a civil union in Cook County should go to the nearest Cook County clerk’s office. The only requirements for getting married in the state of Illinois are that:
- You are both 18 years of age or older.
- You are both unmarried.
- You are unrelated by blood.
What Getting Your Marriage License Involves
To get your marriage license, you and your spouse will need to:
- Visit one of the Cook County clerk’s six Vital Records locations. Even if you begin the application process online, you must still visit the physical location to complete it.
- Present photo IDs with proof of your ages.
- Fill out the application together. Both of you must sign your names in person.
- Pay the fee for your marriage license.
Marriage licenses for Chicago and Cook County are valid the same day you receive them and are only valid in Chicago and suburban Cook County.
Where to Get Your Chicago Marriage License
Once you have completed your ceremony, you can sign your marriage license at any of six Cook County clerk’s offices to legally confirm your marriage. The county clerk will then issue a certified copy, also known as a marriage certificate. Your Chicago marriage certificate will be valid in any other state.
Book Wedding Videography Services with Shutter and Sound
We hope you found this guide helpful! If you’re looking for a Chicago wedding videographer, Shutter and Sound’s professional team of filmmakers is ready to work with you. We can produce a highlights reel that captures all of your wedding’s most beautiful moments and fits the tone and style of your special day. Please reach out if you’re looking for a wedding videographer for your Chicago wedding!