Thanks in part to the natural light that reflects off the lake, Chicago’s skyline has a unique glow that makes it arguably the best cityscape in the country.
Chicago’s motto means “City in a Garden” in Latin, and they’re not kidding. With more than 570 parks totalling upwards of 8,000 acres of municipal green space, Chicago offers plenty of natural respite within the bustling city.
Music lovers flock to Chicago’s vivid music scene year-round for good reason. As the birthplace of house music, a significant site for the history of jazz, a huge influential player in the hip hop industry, and home to one of the best symphony orchestras in the world, a Chicago wedding sounds like music to our ears.
Nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan and between the banks of the Chicago and Calumet rivers, the Windy City has thirty-one sand beaches that stretch across twenty-six sweeping miles of waterfront.
From its renowned theater culture to its preeminent Art Institute to its ubiquitous public art installations — most prominently featuring Anish Kapoor’s "Cloud Gate" — Chicago has an unparalleled arts culture.
Whether you’ve daydreamed of donning a white gown for as long as you can remember, or if you’re more the sort who makes choices in the moment, Chicago bridal shops are ready to put you in The Dress, capital letters included. These local wedding mavens know a great thing when they see it, so leverage their experience and keep your mind open when they hand you the hangers. Though you might know which one is for you the second you look in the mirror, we recommend bringing one or two trusted friends to help confirm which dress suits you best. Once The Dress is on order, make your way to a local wedding ring and jewelry shop to pick out some glitter to go with your ensemble. Why not make a day of it and take your fiancé to find your wedding bands? Matching or not, making this purchase together will make the experience much more meaningful—and memorable. After all, those who shop together, swap (love) together, so bask in the light of your engagement bliss for a little bit longer.
If your wedding isn’t a good enough excuse to get glamorous, then we don’t know what is. The temptation to do your hair and makeup yourself may be strong, but trust us: Chicago wedding makeup artists are at the top of their game and are sure to knock your wedding look out of the park. Knowing you’re in the hands of the professionals will prevent last-minute curling iron disasters and provide serious peace of mind on the day of your wedding (“singed bangs is totally what I had in mind,” said no bride, ever). Try on your wedding style in advance at the salon to make sure you’re on the same page as your stylist—“dark berry lips” might not be as self-explanatory as you might think. A week before your wedding, prepare for the final inning of the planning game with a relaxing massage, steam treatment, or manicure at your local spa, or, to mix sports metaphors, make it a hat trick and go for all three. There is no such thing as too much pre-wedding pampering, so you may as well go all out.
Congratulations! You and your love are ready to say some “I do”s, and you’ve decided Chicago is the prime place for your nuptials. We hope you’re pleased as punch: you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a venue, from stately churches and temples to trendy restaurants and museums. Bonus points for venues that highlight the Chi-town skyline or lakefront. Your wedding should be the ultimate expression of the love you share with your spouse-to-be, so make it great. Once the location is on lock, partner up with a local wedding officiant who can help you get the ball rolling on a ceremony that’s just your style. It’s worth taking the time to find the right person to run the show so that when the day rolls around, your ceremony feels like a fitting declaration of your love. Next, choose your ceremony musicians, the key to an ambient walk down the aisle. Chicago’s maestros of wedding moments are ready to steer you in the right direction, whatever your style.
You’ve done the serious stuff: now let’s plan the party. Chicago is packed to the gills with big city ballrooms and glorious restaurants that would make for top-notch reception spots. Rooms with a view (of Lake Michigan and the city skyline, of course) are popular among most couples, and Chicago wedding photographers are ready to help capture those vistas in stunning detail. Locations with hip industrial architecture are also in, since their versatility lends itself to any style of celebration. No matter where you choose, you’ll need to build up a crew of Chicago professionals—like caterers, florists, and wedding bands or DJs—who will help you realize your reception dreams. You know who else will help? Chicago wedding planners, even if it’s just for day-of stuff. Rest assured that your Windy City wedding professionals will have your back throughout the planning process.
Rejoice, spouses-to-be! You made it through your rehearsal, which means it’s time for dinner with your closest crew. Thankfully, Chicago’s restaurant-scape is just as impressive as its cityscape, if not more so. If you’re looking for spots to wine and dine your nearest and dearest, try Little Goat Diner, the restaurant concept from Top Chef contestant Stephanie Izard. They serve mouth-watering diner food with a twist, like Szechuan pork sausage biscuits and breakfast spaghetti. If you’re into a trendy Mediterranean menu, book your dinner at Ada Street. Their loft-like space also features an outdoor terrace with charming bistro lighting. We trust that wherever you choose, you’re sure to find a Chicago rehearsal dinner spot that suits you and your partner perfectly.
Clink glasses one last time with your wedding guests over a fabulous farewell brunch. In Chicago, brunch is a safe bet, as there are great choices all over the city. If catching up with an intimate group of friends is your plan, head to The Bongo Room in Andersonville or Wicker Park. Both of these locations serve excellent brunch drinks and food that is truly worth the wait (no reservations to be found here, friends). For a larger group of diners, plan well in advance and head to Beatrix. Their family-style catered brunch includes homemade pastries and fresh-squeezed juices. Check out our recommendations below for more local spots with scrumptious spreads that can help you plan brunch for a crowd.
Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. Picture yourself coming home from work, opening the mailbox on the way into the house, and pulling your wedding invitation out from amidst the detritus of bills and magazines. Curiosity, admiration, and anticipation build as they admire the gravitas of the outer envelope, then unearth the contents from their paper cocoon. Finally, revelation: you’re getting married! While all the critical deets are laid out for them, between the lines the message is clear: “this is going to be one thoughtful affair.” An invite is a sign that you’ve made it to the inner circle, the announcement of an important event, a thrilling item to pencil into your schedule. Don’t let your wedding’s paper products be an afterthought: make an appointment with a local invitation and paper goods boutique to get your design squared away. Let the personality of your fête spill onto the page while you inform your nearest and dearest everything they’ll need to know. Are we talking black-tie or cocktail attire? Outdoor ceremony or ballroom soirée? Even your choice of calligraphy and stamps offer insight into the personality of your wedding. Chicago’s experts will help you put together a suite of paper goods that will be equal parts elegant and informative. And really, how often can you say that about something that appears at your doorstep?
Kick off your Windy City wedding thoughtfully by welcoming out-of-town guests with a locally inspired wedding welcome bag. The dearest people in your life have turned up from afar to see you marry, so offer a mixture of helpful printed bits—an annotated map with your favorite eateries circled, a wedding itinerary, a list of cool local attractions—and some Chicago-style goodies to get your guests settled. Consider adding some quintessential Chi-town treats like Garrett’s popcorn or mouthwatering caramels from Floriole for an extra note of sweetness. Amp up your bag with a heartfelt thank you note, maybe on some Chicago skyline stationery. We’ve got loads of suggestions for what to put in your Chicago wedding welcome bags; we’re sure yours will be the talk of the town.
Send your fabulous wedding crew on their way at the end of the night with a thoughtful wedding favor—sourced in Chicago, of course. This is your chance to get creative and meld your style with Chicago’s distinct personality. Order some Puffs of Doom for a sweet or savory take-home treat. Who doesn’t love a little snack at the end of a long night of dancing? Since your guests will surely be thirsty as well, serve Goose Island beer and gift Chicago koozies to keep their hands warm and dry. If you’re looking for more Windy City-inspired hints, we’ve got beaucoup Chicago wedding favor ideas for you to peruse.
Set your guests up for Chicago tourist success by giving them an idea of what sights to see while they’re in town. U.S. News has a solid list of the best things to do in Chicago that can be your guide, but we’ve also pulled together a quick and easy list below of the main hotspots that you can pass along to your loved ones. Make sure to include your favorite stretch of beach and a handful of off-the-beaten-path recommendations to put a personalized spin on things. A few quick tips from you will make sure guests stay busy between wedding activities and make the most out of their trip.
You may have heard that Chicago is best known for its unique pizza and distinct hot dog accoutrement, but the local culinary scene runs deep. There are copious options, from small, family-owned establishments to restaurants run by true culinary rock stars. Set your guests on the right track by recommending some of the best spots in Chi-town. Offer up The Bedford in Wicker Park for utterly delicious American fare in a hip underground space. If your guests would like to try a bit of true blue Chicago style, have them head to Atwood in Millenium Park. Their seasonal American cuisine and craft cocktails are showstoppers. For dinner with a view, suggest that your guests go to the Ukrainian Village for Homestead on the Roof, a farm-to-table spot that sources some of their fare from their rooftop garden. We’ve put together the below list of our favorite places in the area to whet your whistle.
A couple of clever Chi-town sweethearts like yourselves probably have your end of the wedding shenanigans totally pinned down, but what about your guests? Friends and relatives—particularly out-of-towners—can be somewhat at a loss for where to stay when they’re around for your wedding, and you wouldn’t really want your beloved but aging aunt to be staying in Uptown when you wedding is in Englewood. Give your guests a nudge in the right direction by offering up a block of rooms that they can snag as they choose. These are some next-level hospitality hijinks that we’re dealing with, sure, but helping your guests out in advance with some suggestions at different price points can mean the difference between dealing with something four months in advance or four days before your wedding. Fewer guest-induced headaches = a win, we think, and less sleuthing that your guests need to do to book into a great place. Have a look through our suggestions for a sweet spot to stay in Chicago below.
The city of Chicago blends urban wonder with natural beauty, which makes it the perfect backdrop for some stunning engagement photos. Let local wedding photographers be your guide to some of the secret spots around town that make for geat photos. You might want pictures at the famous Navy Pier, on the Magnificent Mile, or down by your local bodega. The beaches of Lake Michigan are yours to explore, as are the nooks and crannies in Logan Square, Irvine, or any other lovable local spot. Check out our list of favorite engagement shoot locations to help you discover some visual gems that will add a bit of extra sparkle to the occasion. We’re sure that wherever you choose, you’ve got some we-broke-Facebook quality engagement photos in your future.
Chicago boasts all the benefits of big-city life with the abundant natural beauty of a more remote area. You can start your day perusing The Art Institute, split a bottle of wine over a gorgeous Italian lunch at Tesori, then wind down the afternoon with mani/pedis and martinis at Polish and Pour. If you’re into the outdoors, kayak Lake Michigan or take an architecture tour by boat. Who says a bachelorette party can’t be educational? (But in case you’re worried: all boats contain a well-stocked, full-service bar.) Spend your evening indulging in the speakeasy trend at The Library under Gilt Bar, where the seats are made of velvet and the cocktails arrive like clockwork. Plan a bachelorette weekend for any kind of bride with our ultimate Chicago bachelorette party guide.
If a bachelor party in Chicago is in the cards for you, gentlemen, then get ready to get down in a serious fashion. Start by picking a home base in a convenient area of the city—across the street from a favorite bar is always a good bet. Once you all arrive and get settled, the city is your oyster: take advantage of the water activities on Lake Michigan, go on a Goose Island Brewery Tour, then hit up Big Star in Wicker Park for whiskey and tacos or Frontier in West Town for chargrilled oysters and fried chicken. End the night at Studio Paris, one of the hippest clubs in the area. If any of this piques your fancy, check out our Chicago bachelor party guide for more great ideas for what to get into while you’re in town.
Chicago maintains a certain level of bustle throughout the year, but some times are busier than others. Between St. Patrick’s Day, the Chicago Marathon, and Lollapalooza, there are lots of events that draw a crowd all year long. It’s best to have these events on your radar when picking a date for your wedding. A little advance reconnaissance on your part will make travel easier for your guests, and it’ll help you book blocks of hotel rooms more easily as well. If you're getting married downtown, double down on your search: there are events every weekend of the year, many of which close off roads you or your guests might have been banking on to make it to your ceremony or reception! To avoid any last-minute traffic hangups, we’ve gone ahead and made a list of major Chicago events so you can gain a sense of the busiest times of year.
Check out some other useful local online resources to get you acquainted with all-things Chicago, from travel guides to the local restaurant scene to great local wedding blogs run by our friends in the industry: