What are some of the best and most unique Chicago wedding venues? (In the humble opinion of a photographer, of course…)
Well, I’ve created a list of what I consider to be the best and most unique Chicago wedding venues and have included some around other parts in Illinois. Usually, when a client comes to me, their wedding date has already been selected. In some places, high-demand Saturdays are already booked out years in advance. This means that clients have signed away with their venue before they even get around to selecting their vendors. At any rate, many Chicago wedding venues have preferred vendors, but you can still choose your own team.
Since I’ve photographed at many Chicago wedding venues; it’s hard to pick such a small list. I’m in the camp of your photographer does not have to have previously shot at your wedding venue. Gasp! Although many venues have their preferred vendor list, every space changes with the details you create for your guests and the day. This means that every photographer brings a different feeling to your wedding images through the complete experience of your day and in tandem with the unique friends and family that fill it.
Here in Chicago, we have a solid selection of rustic warehouses, nearby farmlands, campgrounds in forests, to our popular hotspots in the Windy City with gorgeous cityscapes. Now that I’ve explained some things let’s get down to it. The photos below are mine; I’ve worked at all the venues in this post. Enjoy!
I will update this list with current examples of new spaces or recommendations from new places I’ve been to. Without a doubt, if you have any questions or want to know my thoughts on a particular venue that’s not listed, please reach out.
Table of Contents
- What are the Best and Most Unique Wedding Venues in Chicago?
- Brewery Wedding Venues in Illinois
- Intimate and Alternative Wedding Venues in Chicago, Illinois
- Hotels for Getting Ready in Chicago, Illinois
- Wedding Options Outside of Chicago
So, let’s start! Some of the best, most unique, and alternative Chicago wedding venues I have worked with are as follows. They are not in any particular order.
What are Unique Wedding Venues in Chicago?
It is more than just a fun name for a space. Firstly, it’s an actual firehouse in Edgewater that was fully functioning until recently. There are multiple nearby portrait locations, the venue is gorgeous and has excellent light throughout the day, and the outside garden for a ceremony is dreamy. Furthermore, you can opt to slide down an actual fire station pole as the entrance to your reception. Enough said!
Ravenswood Events Center brings stripped-down warehouse vibes. Obviously, as with almost every venue of this nature, this space is yours to dream up from scratch with brick and beams to start. So, to keep in tune with an industrial feel, bring minimal decor. Unlike many city venues, it’s one of the easier-to-access as it’s outside of traffic filled areas in Chicago. You can opt to host your ceremony in the Loft level of the Event Center; it has many old framed metal windows looking out over the city and Ravenswood. Finally, all these windows make for a perfect way to pour natural light in, but keep the elements out.
3. The Dalcy
Located in Chicago’s newly restored and historic Fulton Market District, The Dalcy is a lovely spot to show off the Windy City alongside the charm and reputation of a Lettuce Entertain You event. Additionally, a substantial benefit of the space is it provides quick, seamless transitions from a fully seated ceremony to a ready-to-go reception. Of course, with windows behind you, your photos will either need flash to compensate for being overexposed, or you’ll have moody shadows, which my clients below preferred.
4. Café Brauer
This large, Prairie School-designed building sits off the South Pond, inside of the Lincoln Park Zoo has a modern interior with green structural beams, high ceilings, and a spacious dance floor. Unquestionably, finding covered, permanent spaces in the city isn’t the easiest. Café Brauer has a darling-covered brick terrace to host your ceremony. It showcases an iconic view of the Chicago skyline that almost everyone wants on their wedding day.
The Galleria Marchetti is another classic Chicago spot that provides an all-in-one location for your event. Unlike many venues in the city, this space boasts large, lush gardens for a cocktail hour. Or, you can have a fully tented space for your reception. Indeed there are various options to customize your event here. It’s in the heart of the city without being in too busy of a neighborhood, and the gardens are quiet little sanctuaries on their property. If the weather is stunning, there’s no need to travel around for outdoor nature portraits, it’s all here.
Some clients dream of visiting the Garfield Park Conservatory for bridal portraits, but you’ll need a permit through the Chicago Park District. Undeniably, the various rooms at the Conservatory are stunning each in its own way. So, if you’re having a wedding here, you have the run of the place, which means an endless number of foliage to explore for taking photos or having guests roam.
7. Columbus Park Refectory
The Chicago Park District offers attractive options, including the Columbus Park Refectory. The Refectory gets frequently overlooked based on its location. In general, few Chicagoans spend time at this park. It’s more of a park for the neighborhood and not a destination location. But, the green metal framing and the open brick courtyard remind me of Café Brauer, just without the high venue rental price and bustling zoo nearby.
South Shore Cultural Center is where Barack and Michelle were married in 1992. Certainly, you will want to host your historic wedding day at this luxurious Chicago Park District space! The South Shore Cultural Center overlooks the water, has multiple fantastically decorated rooms, and has an expansive lawn. Each room is exquisite in its own right, and the proximity to Lake Michigan is unbeatable.
10. Ovation Chicago
In-house vintage photo booth, BYOB!, and a 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud parked in front waiting for you to take some epic photos with, Ovation Chicago is a space that can accommodate a ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception with hardly much turnover time.
11. Greenhouse Loft
While it may be true that Chicago has plenty of green space, finding a city wedding venue with some can be challenging. Greenhouse Loft is a lovely garden location for an outdoor ceremony with a lawn and a separate space for your dinner, reception, and dance party. The inside area is naturally lit with floor-to-ceiling windows. What’s more, is that the loft is owned by the same group that runs Ovation and Style Matters, so you know you’re in good hands.
If you’re looking to set your lighting and tone with a heavy guest list, this is the place. There aren’t any windows to provide natural light, but you can create a dramatic and elegant feel in this unique warehouse space. Unless you have a mad long guest list, everyone you invite will comfortably fit inside here!
13. Stan Mansion
14. River Roast
Want to take a Chicago River Taxi to your wedding? Then River Roast is the place that can make that happen! River Roast provides the epitome of a waterfront Chicago wedding with multiple photo locations off of stops along the river, an excellent dinner, and stunning nighttime views. So, be prepared to wait in line to buy your water taxi tickets to get there. But then, sit back on the patio at River Roast and watch Chicago unfold at night before your eyes.
15. City View Loft
City View Loft has two unique spaces in one location. The first is Kitchen Chicago (photo below of a ceremony in the space), located on the 1st floor, directly below the 2nd-floor reception loft; Kitchen Chicago offers a 3,400 square-foot sunlit event space complete with a 400 square-foot loft area, bridal suite, and a cocktail area. The second space for your loft reception is on the 2nd floor and features 13-foot timber ceilings and picturesque skyline views (see the second photo!).
Look only as far as the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel if you dream of reenvisioning multiple spaces into your ultimate luxury wedding experience. The wedding below was executed top to bottom by Kehoe Designs. Eight rooms were transformed into a wedding unlike any I’d ever witnessed in Chicago. With a space to host a separate ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner reception, and dessert bar, the Blu Aqua is the place for you.
Here’s a contemporary Chicago wedding venue in the Theatre District with panoramic city views from its floor-to-ceiling windows. Unlike most hotels in the area, the space feels hip and modern.
19. The Peninsula Chicago
Sleek and sophisticated, nothing rings truer than a wedding at The Peninsula Chicago. Host a luxurious, intimate ceremony followed by an intimate dinner here. Classic feels with the utmost care is what you can expect for your wedding day.
Intimate and Alternative Wedding Venues in Chicago
So, you’re not hot to trot on popular Chicago wedding venues and would prefer to have more of a unique and intimate Chicago wedding. If that’s the case, peek at the list below to see if any of these satisfy those desires.
Located in a space you wished was your lush backyard, Pilsen’s Secret Garden is the ultimate for not needing a single decoration and going au natural for your wedding. The real lawn gives such a homey feeling that it’s hard not to believe you’re in your friend’s very own Chicago backyard.
Do you want to serve some of the best Chinese food in Uptown? You can look no further than Furama Chicago. Have yourself a dim sum wedding.
Hosting your intimate Chicago wedding dinner at a highly-rated restaurant is the dream for every foodie. Sit back and relax, knowing you have the expertise of Stephanie Izard’s staff to curate your wedding menu.
4. Charcoal Factory Chicago, run by Architectural Artifacts Inc.
The Charcoal Factory Chicago on Ada Street space was stunning for a modern, textured with neutrals by the architecture. In fact, the couple below were architects, which fit with their artistic aesthetic impeccably! Parking here is a breeze, and the access to the whole space is something that many clients are looking for when wanting to get ready on-site and have their ceremony and reception all in one place.
Looking for a quick and easy ceremony? One Saturday per month, the Chicago Cultural Center, through the Marriage and Civil Union Court of Chicago, offers a ceremony for $10 with a judge. The number of licenses are limited, though…
7. Thalia Hall
Are you a couple of live music junkies, those with a penchant for wedding theatre, or both? Thalia Hall has you covered.
An endless variety of rooms and tchotchkes for you and your guests to peruse.
Chicago Hotels for Getting Ready on Your Wedding Day
1. The Emily Hotel is a short distance from many Chicago wedding venues in the West Loop. It’s one hotel that is next to The Dalcy as well. The Emily Hotel’s rooftop view has a gorgeous skyline shot, and the rooms themselves are thoughtfully designed and reasonably spacious to get ready on the morning of your wedding.
2. Airbnb has entire homes for reasonable prices in popular Chicago neighborhoods like Andersonville, Uptown, and Edgewater. Just look at this 5-bedroom beauty my clients booked in Edgewater below. It even had a grand piano in the front room which made for stunning portraits on the day of their wedding.
3. The Robey in Wicker Park
The Robey Chicago is an art deco masterpiece set in the heart of Wicker Park. The rooftop views are unbeatable with their 180-degree views of the city skyline, and the corner suites provide ample natural light for portraits indoors without supplemental lighting.
Brewery Wedding Venues in Illinois
1. Revolution Brewing (Brewers’ Lounge in Logan Square, Chicago)
Beer-loving couples needing deliciously made in-house food, stop now and book your wedding at Revolution Brewing. Each event comes with a brewery tour for you and your guests. The Brewers’ Lounge in Logan Square seats about 100 guests and has quick room reset times.
2. Two Brothers Roundhouse (Warrenville, Illinois)
Chicagoland Wedding Venues (Just a Hop Away)
If you’re looking for something a touch more accessible, that’s outside of the city, but still has the charm of a Chicago wedding venue, and within a better budget, try:
1. Cheney Mansion (Oak Park — West of Chicago)
2. Writers Theatre (Glencoe — North of Chicago)
3. Allerton Mansion (Monticello — Central Illinois, 2.5 hours south of Chicago)
Allerton Mansion has so many options for weddings. It’s almost too hard to choose. With such an extreme variety of options for the setting of your wedding, you can choose to have a wedding out a page of The Great Gatsby in the Georgian-style mansion or dance under the stars by their red rustic barn to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, or more.
4. Independence Grove (Libertyville — NW of Chicago)
5. Morton Arboretum (Lisle — West of Chicago)
6. Prairie Glass House (Urbana — Central Illinois, 2.5 hours south of Chicago)
The Prairie Glass House is set on 17 acres of open wooded space with a stunning private mid-century modern home for your use. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the home are stunning and let in the most beautiful natural light.
7. Camp Wandawega (1.5 hours from O’Hare in Elkhorn, WI) — OK, I haven’t shot here yet. Someone, please make my dream come true!
8. Hudson Farms (2 hours from Chicago in Urbana, IL)
Want to avoid bothering yourself with finding wedding decorations? Hudson Farms can take care of almost any type of decor you could want. They have an entire storage space on-site full of options. With a rustic barn for your ceremony and a separate DIY (or not) renovated shed for your reception of up to 325 people, any of your day of resources can be found here, and you can shuffle around the decor of your own free will.
9. Urbana Country Club (Urbana, Illinois)