Are you thinking about getting married in Chicago? Affectionately called “The Second City,” the biggest town in Illinois is a metropolitan hub of life and excitement. With countless things to see and do, Chicago is an unforgettable place to celebrate your big day. To get started with your plans, look no further than this comprehensive Chicago wedding guide.
Tying the knot in Chicago will give you and your guests access to the bustling city, historic architecture, impressive museums, breathtaking waterfront views, and restaurants galore. Full of diverse communities, Chicago is a welcoming location for all types of love. Same-sex couples will find a welcoming atmosphere when planning their nuptials, and the city offers venues and styles for everyone.
We know—there’s so much to do! With everything from invites to logistics, wedding planning can be a stressful process. That’s why, for couples with Chicago on their minds, we put together this guide to walk you through each step of the way. From COVID-19 considerations and the marriage license process to local vendors and navigating the city, our guide will help inspire you to say “I Do” in The Windy City.
Use our jump-to links below to navigate this guide:
As one of the biggest cities in the country, Chicago has tons of gorgeous venues to choose from. Even if you have ideas in mind, venues can be so hard to narrow down! How do you pick the venue that’s right for you?
Our list of wedding venues in Chicago will help you find your perfect wedding location. With hundreds of venues to choose from, our collection lets you filter by availability, price, capacity, venue type, setting, and service level. No matter your preferences, the city has a beautiful wedding environment that you’ll love. Here are some popular venue types in Chicago:
To get legally married in Chicago, you first need to get a wedding license. Thankfully, this only takes a few simple steps, but it’s important to be familiar with the process. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
To get married in Illinois, your marriage license must be issued in the same county where you plan to get married. For Chicago and the closest surrounding suburbs, that’s Cook County. This applies even if you’re an international traveler or out of state.
There are six County Clerk’s records offices in Cook County, so you can get your marriage license issued at any one of them. It’s recommended to start the application process online, but to complete the process and receive your license, you and your partner must appear at one of the clerk’s offices together.
After applying at the county clerk’s office, the marriage license will be issued to you immediately.
Even though you receive your license right after applying, it’s not valid until 1 day later. So, plan to save your “I Do’s” for at least 24 hours after you get your license. Once you receive it, the license is valid for up to 60 days.
If you’re ready to tie the knot right away, there’s always a City Hall Chicago marriage to consider. For only $10, couples can enjoy a quick and intimate ceremony in the Marriage and Civil Union Court located in City Hall. When planning your City Hall wedding, it’s a good idea to call or check online to confirm the court’s hours.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, getting married at City Hall currently has a few additional regulations. Phone appointments are now required, so make sure to call ahead. Currently, only two additional guests are allowed to attend the ceremony, and all attendees must wear masks or face coverings while inside the building.
Whether you’re planning an elegant traditional ceremony, aiming for a folksy, rustic theme, or hoping to channel some glitz and glam on your big day, you can make it happen in Chicago. Lavish party or an intimate gathering, the Second City is diverse enough to allow you to create just about any trendy or personable wedding theme.
COVID-19’s impact won’t be lost on this year’s wedding trends. Specifically, we expect to see more flexibility and off-peak weddings, potentially allowing couples to save on vendor costs. There will also be more emphasis on locally-sourced food, sustainability, and meaningful, personal touches incorporated into your wedding decor.
For more about the most recent trends, check out our full list of 2021 wedding predictions.
Of course, wedding costs will vary widely depending on factors like venue, the size of the guest list, wedding date, and location. However, as the third-largest city in the U.S, Chicago can undoubtedly be an expensive place to get married.
Usually, the venue is by far the most costly aspect of a Chicago wedding. However, if you’re looking to save money, consider holding your wedding in one of the Chicago suburbs instead of the heart of the city. In the suburbs, venues are likely to be less pricey.
Your wedding day experience will differ greatly depending on the month and weather in Chicago, so it’s worth putting some thought into the best time to go. Here are a couple of factors to consider for each season.
Fall: September, October, November
One of the most popular times to visit, fall in Chicago certainly has its upsides. More manageable crowds, golden-yellow leaves, and cool (but not freezing) weather will make outdoor events somewhat chilly but still enjoyable. In fall, the temperature can range from a chilly mid-40s to a comfortable 70°F.
Spring: March, April, May
The warming weather of a Chicago spring will bring blooming flowers and outdoor activities in the city’s parks and beaches. While there are slightly fewer crowds than in summer, you’ll see lots of hype from sports fans when baseball season begins. Temperatures range from the 50s in early spring up to 70°F in May. If you’re here for St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll get to catch the annual parade and see the river turn bright emerald green.
Summer: June, July, August
Summer is a popular time to visit, with warm weather between the high 70s to low 90s. Even in the heat, areas near Lake Michigan will get cool breezes. A Chicago summer is full of lively crowds and overflowing restaurant patios. You might lounge on a lakefront beach or catch a music festival. Hotel rates can get quite expensive in the summer, so make sure to book several months in advance.
Winter: December, January, February
Chicago might be known for its freezing winters, with average highs in the 30s and windy days that can dip below the 20s but don’t discredit a winter wedding just yet. Even though this is the least popular time of year to get married, it’s also the least expensive. Plus, if you’re a fan of snow, you’ll get to see the city blanketed in white and decorated with beautiful holiday lights.
If you don’t mind the freezing temperatures, you can marvel at the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo or enjoy a holiday parade. January and February are the coldest months and tend to get the most snow, so make sure to plan your wardrobe accordingly.
Even though you’ll find Chicago lively at all times of year, there are some key city-specific dates to keep in mind if you don’t want to run into enormous crowds and astronomical hotel prices. When choosing your wedding date, here are some annual events to keep in mind:
Because COVID-19 is an ever-evolving situation, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest news and regulations regarding gatherings in Chicago. Currently, gatherings are limited to just 10 people and a travel order requires visitors from certain states to quarantine upon arrival, among other restrictions.
If a microwedding is up your alley, you may be able to hold your ceremony safely while adhering to current regulations. However, if not, there’s nothing wrong with making your dream Chicago wedding more of a long-term plan.
Need help picturing your dreamy day in Chicago? We have countless photos on our inspiration page to spark your imagination. For a glimpse of city-specific vendors, wedding ceremonies, and unique themes, we have a collection of real Chicago weddings to help spur some ideas, too.
In the meantime, here are just a few of our favorites. St. Patrick's Day Wedding at The Crystal Gardens Exchange I Do’s surrounded by the greenery of nature as well as the green-dyed Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day.
Glamorous Summer Wedding Channel the timeless elegance of a traditional black tie/white tie wedding. Don’t miss out on the gorgeous summer photo ops near the Chicago Riverwalk.
Elegant Downtown Wedding Modern, spring weddings will let you enjoy the perfect outdoor weather and a breathtaking view of the city skyline.
Chicago boasts an array of beautiful statues and stunning skyscrapers that can serve as the dramatic backdrop to your wedding photos. Here are some of the city’s most iconic spots for wedding photography:
Home to massive Pride Month celebrations and Boystown, the oldest LGBTQIA neighborhood in the country, Chicago is known for being an inclusive and welcoming city for LGBTQIA weddings. Andersonville and Rogers Park offer unique slices of LGBTQIA history, while the Pride Festival in June is one of the largest in the country.
In Illinois, Marriage Equality has been the law since it was signed by governor Governor Pat Quinn in November of 2013 and went into effect the following year.
Finding vendors for so many different aspects of your wedding can be overwhelming, but our list of local Chicago vendors has you covered during your planning process. You can sort each category by price, venue style, wedding theme, and more:
When it comes to traveling to The Windy City, your guests may need some guidance. Here we’ll talk about how to get to Chicago, the best neighborhoods to stay in, and some notable attractions to visit while in town for a wedding.
Chicago has been called the city of neighborhoods for good reason: there are a huge number of different community areas, all with their own unique personalities. So, now that you know how to get to the city, which area is the best place to stay?
With so many diverse areas to choose from, we couldn’t pin down just one. Here are several of the best Chicago neighborhoods for you and your wedding guests:
Chicago is a melting pot of arts and culture with endless attractions and diverse neighborhoods, so it’s safe to say that there’s something here for everyone. For those in town for a wedding who have an extra day or two, it’s worth it to go out and explore. We couldn’t fit in everything, but here’s a quick list of some of the best bucket-list activities to do in Chicago:
We hope that with this guide in hand, you’ll have all the confidence and resources you need to start planning your marvelous Chicago wedding. At Zola, we have everything from Expert Advice to invites to registry resources to help you shape your perfect day. Whatever planning stage you’re in, we’re here to help bring the wedding of your dreams to life.