How to Get Married in Chicago: A Complete Guide

To get married in Chicago, you’ll first need a marriage license. Curious what else goes into planning a wedding in Chicago? Our guide covers everything you need to know, from venues to COVID-19 restrictions and more.

How to Get Married in Chicago
Photo by Zola

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:

Where to Get Married in Chicago

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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:

  • Industrial spaces: Complete with brick walls and tall, exposed-rafter ceilings, the charm of a repurposed warehouse or loft makes for a splendid open-concept space for any wedding. Serving as a blank slate for your wedding theme, you can transform an industrial space into an elegant backdrop or casual setting for your big day.
  • Historic estates and mansions: Perfect for the couple dreaming of a classic ceremony, a refined mansion will surround your celebration with a little history. Chicago’s famous architecture and rich heritage come to life in its enchanting estates. You’ll say your vows surrounded by the opulence of a vintage home, the romance of an old fireplace, or the glam of a grand ballroom.
  • Museums and galleries: When it comes to museums, Chicago has no shortage to choose from. From the intrigue of a science museum to the sophisticated, sleek minimalism of an art gallery or exhibition space, museums are ideal for any couple looking for a modern touch.
  • Beaches and waterfront settings: If you’re a fan of nautical-style weddings or just want a waterfront view to feature in your big day, you can’t go wrong with a cruise on the Chicago River. You’ll wow your guests with the open-air deck of a yacht overlooking the city skyline. Alternatively, choosing a venue along Navy Pier will give your ceremony a stunning view of Lake Michigan.

How to Obtain a Chicago Wedding License

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:

  • Prepare your paperwork: Both parties will need to present one or more forms of valid identification with proof of age, such as a driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate.
  • Appear together at a county clerk’s office: When applying for a marriage license, Cook County requires that both parties appear together at one of the six County Clerk’s vital records offices with their valid forms of ID.
  • Fill out a license application: You can start the application process online, but you must finish it in-person at one of the County Clerk’s offices. If you’ve had a divorce, you need to provide the date the divorce was finalized. If the divorce was in the last six months, it’s required to present a copy of the divorce decree.
  • Pay the marriage license fee: It costs $60 to obtain a marriage license in Chicago.
  • Get married within the designated time frame: In Chicago, a marriage license takes effect the day after it was issued. Therefore, you’re required to wait 24 hours from when you obtain your wedding license to when you wed. The license is then valid for 60 days, so plan to get married within that time frame.
  • Return the signed license to the clerk’s office: After the ceremony, your officiant has 10 days to sign and complete the bottom portion of the marriage license and mail or deliver it back to a clerk’s office. Once this step is complete, you’re all done—it’s official! If you want, you can then request your own copy of the marriage certificate.

Do I Need a Chicago Wedding License?

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.

Where to Get Your Marriage License

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.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Marriage License in Chicago?

After applying at the county clerk’s office, the marriage license will be issued to you immediately.

Can I Get Married the Same Day in Chicago?

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.

Chicago City Hall

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.

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Chicago Wedding Trends

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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.

Average Cost of a Wedding in Chicago

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.

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Best Times of Year for Weddings in Chicago

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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.

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Busiest Weeks in Chicago

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:

  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade (March)
  • Pride Parade and Celebrations (June)
  • Chicago Blues Festival (June)
  • Taste of Chicago Food Festival (July)
  • Chicago Air and Water Show (August)
  • Lollapalooza Music Festival (August)
  • Jazz Festival (Labor Day, September)
  • Chicago Marathon (October)
  • ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo (November-December)

Chicago Weddings and COVID-19

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.

Real Chicago Weddings

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. real-chicago-weddings-1 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.

real-chicago-weddings-2 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.

real-chicago-weddings-3 Elegant Downtown Wedding Modern, spring weddings will let you enjoy the perfect outdoor weather and a breathtaking view of the city skyline.

Best Spots for Wedding Photos in Chicago

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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:

LGBTQIA Chicago Wedding Information

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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.

How to Find Local Chicago Vendors

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:

Chicago Wedding Guest Guide

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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.

How to Get to Chicago

  1. Getting here by plane: There are two major Chicago airports you can fly into. Upon arrival, you can call a taxi or ride-sharing service to get to your destination, or make use of the convenient Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) ‘L’ Trains.
  1. Getting here by train: For those living in surrounding areas and neighboring states, a train ride can be the perfect way to enter the city.
  • Metra Rail: If you’re staying or living in the suburbs, this commuter train will take you straight to downtown Chicago.
  • Amtrak: With 300 high-speed trains to hundreds of daily destinations, Amtrak could be your way to go.
  • South Shore Line: This train line runs from Millennium Station in Downtown Chicago to South Bend in northern Indiana. If you’re located around that area, the South Shore Line is a great option to get to the city.
  1. Getting here by bus: Traveling by bus can be an affordable and convenient option. Greyhound has many express routes to major cities as well as five locations in Chicagoland.
  2. Getting here by car: Chicago is accessible via several major interstates. While finding and paying for parking in the city can prove to be a hassle, sites like SpotHero and iParkit will help.
  3. Traveling around the city: The CTA, the country’s second-largest public transportation system, will make navigating Chicago a breeze. The Blue and Red ‘L’ Lines run 24/7, connecting all areas of the city. The CTA also has several bus routes, some offering late Night Owl services.

Best Neighborhoods for Out-of-Town Guests

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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:

  • The Loop: Perfect for a classic, heart-of-the-city experience, The Loop is the downtown section of Chicago surrounded by elevated train lines. Home to countless shops, theatres, and museums, you’ll find you’re just a walk away from many of the city’s biggest attractions, like Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Gold Coast: Just north of The Loop, this upscale area is full of fancy boutiques, luxury hotels, high-rise apartments, and prominent mansions.
  • Lincoln Park: Located in northern Chicago, Lincoln Park is a great place to stay for families as well as those who enjoy a bit of nature. With the free admission of Lincoln Park Zoo as well as the walkable parks and lakefront views, you can’t go wrong with this neighborhood.
  • Wrigleyville: A local favorite, Wrigleyville is the center of Chicago baseball as well as a peaceful area to catch live music, go shopping, or check out the bars.
  • Hyde Park: Home to the University of Chicago and other cultural institutions, Hyde Park is an excellent area to experience both history and nature, with vintage hotels and luscious gardens.

10 Fun Things to Do in Chicago

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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:

  1. Take a stroll Through Millennium Park: No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to Millennium Park, a beautiful, 25-acre stretch of gardens, pavilions, walking paths, and fountains. Don’t forget to take photos with the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, better known as The Bean.
  2. Go to a Cubs Game: If you’re in Chicago during baseball season, you’ll definitely want to catch a game at Wrigley Field. Afterward, check out the sports bars and shops in Wrigleyville.
  3. Walk Down the Magnificent Mile: If you’re looking to explore an array of shops, look no further than Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. This upscale, 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue runs from the Chicago River to Oak Street and is home to hundreds of stores, restaurants, hotels, and more.
  4. Sit Back and Enjoy a River Cruise: For an educational experience with a view, consider an architecture boat tour. You’ll glide along the river for a stunning look at the city’s most famous skyscrapers, all while listening to an expert guide’s account of history.
  5. Wander Along the River Walk: For a taste of nature, consider taking a leisurely walk along the Chicago River. The 1.25-mile riverwalk offers beautiful views of the surrounding architecture as well as close proximity to greenery and the glittering waterfront.
  6. Visit Lincoln Park Zoo: Looking for an activity with free admission? The Lincoln Park Zoo is always free to the public, making it a great stop for groups and those with kids. Located just minutes from downtown, the zoo has everything from an impressive great ape house to hippos and rhinos.
  7. Climb Up Willis (Sears) Tower: Make sure to check out this famous Chicago landmark before your stay is over. While there, you won’t want to miss The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, a glass balcony offering a 360-degree view of the city. By the way: don’t let the locals hear you call it Willis Tower—it will always be Sears Tower to some!
  8. Marvel at the Art Institute of Chicago: Displaying famous pieces from all over the world, the Art Institute of Chicago will stun you with the largest Impressionist painting collection outside Paris.
  9. Take an Excursion to the Field Museum: Home of SUE the T-Rex, the Field Museum also houses an astonishing 26 million historical artifacts. Check out this famous natural history museum to escape the city and ponder over ancient relics.
  10. Look Down from 360 Chicago Observation Deck: Towering above the city, the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center will take your breath away with the best view of Chicago. If that’s not enough of a thrill, check out TILT, the platform that literally tilts you over the edge of the building.

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.

Sources: Choose Chicago | Trip Advisor | Cook County Clerk's Office