Congratulations on your engagement! Now comes the fun and exciting time of planning your wedding! But where do you start? When planning a wedding in Chicago or the suburbs of the city there are so many different aspects that you’ll need to consider and plan for. It honestly can be a little overwhelming, which is what led to the creation of this blog. So let’s not waste any time and get right into the process of planning your wedding day in Chicago!
When deciding on a venue for your wedding day in Chicago it’s SO important that you choose one that you love the look and feel of. Your wedding venue quite literally sets the tone for your wedding photos after all. You’ll want to choose somewhere that lets you celebrate while also giving you a space for photos and portraits that look as good as you do on your wedding day. I am personally ALL about the all inclusive wedding venues. Finding a venue that has a getting ready space, your ceremony space, a space for cocktail hour, and a reception space is a dream come true. Traveling to separate locations is of course possible and a must for some venues, but I always recommend traveling as little as possible. You want to spend your wedding day celebrating your love, not traveling back and forth from place to place!
Finding a venue for your Chicago wedding is one thing, finding and choosing a date is another equally important part of the planning process. Keep in mind that a lot of venues in Chicago book out their most popular dates at least a year in advance. If you’re fine with a weekday or off-season wedding day you can get away with booking them closer to the actual date, but as a general rule of thumb the earlier you book the better. Keep in mind that the city hosts a lot of different events throughout the year that will affect travel times for you and your guests drastically. Things like Lollapalooza, the Air and Water Show, and home sports games only start to cover the list and are all things that you’ll have to take into account when booking and planning your Chicago wedding day.
I told you we’d talk a bit about planning a wedding in the suburbs of Chicago, and this won’t be the only section to do so! When comparing a wedding day from the burbs to actually being in the city there are a couple key differences. The first and most obvious is the cost. There’s no way around it, everything is more expensive in Chicago. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as a lot of times the price is warranted for the experience you receive, it is something couples need to be aware of though and budget for as they plan their wedding day.
The next is ease of travel. Chicago traffic, even without any crazy events in the city, is always worse than it is out in the suburbs. On the flipside though, finding things for your guests to do outside of celebrate your wedding is a much simpler task in the city than it is in the suburbs, which is huge if you have family traveling in for the weekend.
The very first part of every wedding day is you and your partner getting ready before the rest of the festivities begin. Of course you’ll have some time in the morning to mingle with your family and members of your wedding party, but this is the first real event of the day. Being the first part of the day, and it being the jumping off point for the rest of the day, means that it is SO important to set yourself up for success when it comes to getting ready.
We talked a little about getting ready spaces on the site of your wedding venue. If that is the case then you are one step ahead and you can do everything there with no worry of travel! If you do have to get ready at a different location you’ll likely want to do everything other than put on your wedding attire there and then change once you arrive at your venue. Most weddings in Chicago my couples will either get ready at home, a salon in the city, an Airbnb, or a friend’s house before making their way to the venue.
Something I LOVE about weddings in Chicago is that while yes the venues are beautiful and make for wonderful backdrops for your photos, there are so many other spots throughout the city that are perfect for wedding portraits. This will likely add some travel time into your day, but it can be so worth it for some of these photo opportunities. There are a few things to consider though as you plan out which location to use.
First off I of course have to mention permits. Popular locations like North Avenue Beach and Lincoln Park require photo permits in order to take wedding portraits on location. While this isn’t an outright deal breaker, it is something that needs to be taken care of prior to your wedding day. The last thing you want on the day of your wedding is to get slapped by a hefty fine from the city!
What time you have your wedding portraits taken likely depends heavily on the timing of your reception and your ceremony. Ideally you’ll want to take portraits around sunset for the best lighting. This likely means that we’re going to be sneaking out during your reception which is simple enough for newlywed portraits, but can be more challenging if you’re looking to take portraits with your wedding parties then as well. Sunset will also bring out the largest crowd for photos which can make things a bit more difficult as well. If you do opt for earlier portraits between your ceremony and reception at a location away from your venue you’ll likely deal with smaller crowds but more harsh lighting on a typical sunny day.
With the amount of fun and unique wedding venues throughout Chicago, there is now a rush at certain locations on the weekends for wedding party portraits to be taken there. This means that depending on the timing and location you may have to wait in line for photos. As long as you plan for it into your wedding day timeline this really isn’t an issue, but it is something you should be aware of!
Chicago has SO much character as do its neighborhoods that each wedding venue is a part of. There are so many beautiful spaces, nooks and crannies, that you do not actually have to rush around the city to get good portraits! Many venues are gorgeous and unique in their own right, and have so much history and character to them. This means there are almost always spaces where you can take wedding portraits in and around your venue when planning a wedding in Chicago, again avoiding as much travel time as possible!
If you are looking to take your portraits and wedding party photos at another location in the city there are a ton to choose from! Chicago really does spoil people with options! Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites.
Amazingly there is no cost or permit required for taking photos in the art institute or in their gardens! The only thing they ask is to not be disruptive to the other guests and the facilities as a whole. The institute itself is filled with some incredible displays and the gardens are beautiful which make these spaces great options for portraits.
Even though a permit is needed the Lincoln Park Boardwalk is an easy top pick as a portrait location in the city. With its beautiful natural landscapes combined with the stunning views of the city it is easy to see why!
Photos at the Chicago Tribune Building give your portraits that real authentic Chicago feel to them. The architecture of the skyscrapers and the sheer scale of them up close make for some of the coolest backdrops the city has to offer.
The Chicago River is just as iconic as any of the other locations in the city, making the Riverwalk an awesome choice for your wedding day portraits. And with the Tribune Building so close to it we may just be able to hit both spots!
Talk about bringing the colossal feel of the city to your wedding portraits! While it can be a bit of a challenge getting on the street to take photos in front of the Chicago Board of Trade building, the photos are SO worth it!
A bit more on the southern side of the city you’ll find Promontory Point. While its distance from the heart of the city can make it a bit more of a challenge to get to, if your venue is reasonably close to it the park is a wonderful space for your wedding portraits thanks to its views of the city and Lake Michigan.
Last but not least is Museum Campus which has SO much going for it. There are multiple spaces to choose from and each has their own unique backdrop to them. The space is usually busy but there is a lot more space to work with which helps even things out a bit!
The city has so much character outside of its iconic locations! From its bars, ice cream shops, breweries, and so much more there are some really fun and personal locations you can head to for your wedding day portraits. Whether the two of you want to sneak out during your reception to get some portraits in your favorite record store, or you and your wedding party want to head to a bar for a drink during your cocktail hour, the options are virtually endless in Chicago!
If you do plan on heading out into the city to one of its iconic locations, or to a special spot that means something to the two of you, planning out your transportation is crucial. For locations like the Art Institute or the Tribune Building, parking is basically non-existent. For solo portraits having a designated driver or renting a driving service can work for these harder to reach locations. If you are planning on taking large groups like your wedding parties out into the streets of Chicago for portraits I HIGHLY recommend renting something like a wedding trolley to get around. Not only is it more common for them to stop and pull over at these locations making things super simple for you, they also are a TON of fun!
With all of this in mind you’re just about ready to start planning out your very own dream wedding day in Chicago. There’s just one last thing I want to cover though and that’s some of my favorite wedding venues! The venues I chose have so much history and so many beautiful spaces in and around the venue perfect for wedding day portraits and an overall wonderful experience. Keep in mind that Chicago and its suburbs are MASSIVE, so while this list has some stellar venues on it, there are still more out there. This is just as much about showing you these incredible venues as it is about getting your brain flowing on what to look for in your search for a wedding venue!
Salvage one is rich both in history and its unique style and take on a wedding venue. The old warehouse is filled to the brim with vintage furniture and decor, giving you so many different photo opportunities within the venue. The venue also has an outdoor space for photos and is in the lovely neighborhood of West Town, giving you nearby photo opportunities as well as ease of access to the rest of the city!
If you’re looking for an industrial yet modern feel to your wedding day then look no further than Greenhouse Loft! Just north of Bucktown you’ll find this exceptional wedding venue with tons of natural lighting, a unique feel to enjoy, and plenty nearby in terms of photo opportunities. The venue is also right next to Chicago’s I-90 highway which makes getting to the heart of the city a breeze.
On the north end of Chicago in its Edgewater neighborhood you’ll find the wonderful intimate wedding venue Firehouse Chicago! The venue is situated inside of an old firehouse, hence the name, and keeps all of its original charm and character intact from its previous life. This venue is further removed from the heart of downtown so traveling to some of the locations will be harder, that being said there are still plenty of nearby locations that are amazing for photos!
Salvatore’s Chicago is next on our list, and this classic venue is the perfect spot for you to host your wedding festivities in the city. The venue gives you such a classy feel for your wedding day, and their service is incredible. While we definitely won’t need to leave the location for portraits as it is so beautiful, we easily can as Lincoln Park is almost directly next door! Check out Lexi and Timmy’s wedding here to see more of what makes this venue so awesome.
Union Station in the suburb of Joliet is an amazing wedding venue that combines its historic feel with a fun atmosphere. The grounds outside the station are gorgeous and perfect for portraits, but the interior is the real draw of this location. The architecture is gorgeous from every angle and perfect for your wedding day.
In Carpentersville you’ll find the fabulous Brix on the Fox, our next wedding venue in the Chicago suburbs. The venue’s name is a pretty good tell at the venue’s best features, with beautiful brick walls making up the interior of the space, and the Fox river being right next door provides ample portrait opportunities for you and your wedding parties.
Also found on the Fox river is the stunning Riverside Receptions. Found in Geneva, this classy venue features an outdoor receptions space, plenty of windows for natural lighting, and a view of the Fox river for you and your guests to enjoy. Geneva itself offers plenty of portrait opportunities in addition to those at Riverside Receptions and along the Fox river.
Last on our list we have Warehouse 109 in Plainfield Illinois, a wedding venue that is a vintage lover’s dream. Complete with a wall of motorcycles, yes you read that right, the venue has so many fun bits of personality to it that tie back to its original warehouse roots. With plenty of spaces both inside and out for portraits Warehouse 109 is an easy wedding venue to consider for your day!
Whether you plan to have your wedding in the city of Chicago, or in one of its numerous suburbs, there is a lot you need to consider. Luckily with the help of this article you’ll be well on your way to planning the Windy City wedding you’ve been dreaming of! For a look at some more of my favorite Chicagoland wedding venues check out this blog here, or head over to my blog page for a look at some of my other wedding planning resources. Ready to book me as your photographer? Head to my contact page to send me an inquiry!