So you want to elope in Chicago but you have no idea how to even begin planning. Insert, this blog. Look no further, I have compiled all the information into this one blog post just for you! In this post we will cover not only how to elope in Chicago, but also how to decide on your vision for your elopement, your budget, when to elope in Chicago – by month -, my favorite elopement locations, vendors and how to legally elope! This blog is jam packed with so much goodness and information and I cannot wait to dive into it all with you! Let’s go!
The best way to start planning your elopement is by first creating a vision of how you imagine your day. Think about what it feels like, looks like, smells like, etc. Once you have a vision in mind, it will be so much easier to plan and communicate with your elopement vendors what you have in mind so that you can make sure everyone is not only on the same page but also a good fit for you! Now you may be wondering, how the heck do I even start to come up with this vision? The best way to do this is to sit down with your partner and have an honest conversation about what your perfect wedding day looks like! You can use Pinterest and Instagram to help you out with this part as well, but keep in mind that nothing you see online is going to be exactly how your elopement will be. Pro tip: you can even make this into a date night to make it fun for both of you! You can cook dinner together, have a glass (or bottle) of wine, and get to dreaming about how you want to start a new chapter of your life together. Remember that both of your ideas and visions are valuable and important.
Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set a budget. You definitely don’t have to spend as much money as you would a traditional wedding, but you should still have at least a ballpark range as to what you want to spend. This goes hand in hand with creating your elopement vision because you can figure out what activities align with your budget. Some couples choose to have a super simple elopement and only have their photographer there to document, and some couples decide to go a little more “all out” with decor, a private chef, a few guests, etc. The choice is truly yours! Make sure to factor in your attire, accessories (if any), transportation, lodging if needed, etc.
When you should elope in Chicago is dependent on what you plan on doing for your elopement. This ties us back to the vision for your day. If you plan on eloping outdoors, you’ll want to make sure you’re not planning during a season when it’s more likely to rain. The best time of year to elope would be June-October. Here’s some general tips/info on what the weather looks like in Chicago throughout the year
Spring is when the flowers are in bloom, the weather starts to get warmer, and there’s generally more outdoor activity, especially around the parks and lakes. Early March is still pretty freakin’ cold in Chicago, with temps in the morning hovering around 20 degrees F and making their way to the 40s in the afternoons. April is said to be the windiest month of the year, along with some spring showers here and there that you should be aware of. May is typically the least humid month, but still not super warm with the average high around 70 degrees F
Naturally, summer is when it really starts to warm up in Chicago! The average highs for June, July, and August all hover around 80 to 85 degrees, so definitely not unbearable heat depending on where you’re coming from. Summer in Chicago is also very humid. Early August is when the city hits its peak humidity, so maybe don’t plan an outdoor elopement in that timeframe.
Of course you start to see some beautiful autumn colors during this season, and the temperatures drop month by month. The average temps range from 70 degrees dropping all the way down to 40 degrees getting close to winter. October is usually the driest month, so that would be a great time to elope outdoors since it’s not so hot or humid, but you still won’t have to worry about winter weather yet.
Winters in Chicago can be pretty brutal, but some couples love having snowy winter elopements here! The temperatures are around 30 degrees during the day in the winter months, which is definitely not for everyone. There are many beautiful and picturesque light shows and unique holiday traditions in Chicago in the winter that would be a lovely experience for you and your love to enjoy as a newlywed couple after your elopement. Chicago usually gets the most snow in February.
Pro tip: In late September, thousands of runners take over Lake Shore Drive for the Chicago Half Marathon, and in mid-October, be prepared for lots of street closures to accommodate the Chicago Marathon. In March Chicago goes all out for St. Patty’s Day with a huge parade and a green-dyed Chicago River. In early August, the massive annual music festival Lollapalooza takes over Grant Park, hosting around 400,000 attendees annually, so be prepared for the crowds (and high demand on hotel rooms with possible raised prices due to the event and demand).
Here are a few of my favorite Chicago elopement venues! I also have an entire blog posted where I talk about the 19 most romantic Chicago elopement locations.
If you know me you know that I am all about being as green as possible as well as recycling. One of the best things about this venue is that it’s as sustainable as it can get. They’re a part of the Green Wedding Alliance, as well as have an entire page dedicated to all the ways they’re doing their part to stay green. This 3,600 sq foot space is completely customizable, and offers a clean/simple backdrop so you can tailor it to the style of your elopement . The ceilings are 16 ft tall, and you have floor to ceiling windows for tons of beautiful Chicago natural light! Which I LOVE! When you have your Chicago elopement here at the Greenhouse Loft, you get exclusive access to the indoor space, the outdoor sky garden, and the art gallery space (perfect for cocktail hour if you’re having one). There is also a green room/wedding party space that can be used as a getting ready suite, with tons of natural light so you can get stunning pre-elopement photos if you choose to prep here at the venue. Although this venue is pretty large, they can create an intimate setting for groups as small as 25 people.
Big Delicious Planet is actually a catering company for weddings and events! They have an urban farm so they grow all of their own crops/ingredients onsite which I LOVE! You may be wondering why a caterer is on this list BUT, they now host elopements and intimate weddings on the urban farm! It’s truly a hidden gem of Chicago, because there’s not many venues quite like this one! When you and your guests enter the farm, you’ll walk through their garden beds leading right up the farm table underneath the pergola. You can technically have your ceremony anywhere at Big Delicious Planet, but most couples choose to have it right against the Ivy Wall because of how picturesque it is. If you know me, you know I am a sucker for an ivy wall! Before and after your elopement, you and your guests are more than welcome to roam the farm/gardens to your heart’s desire! They have a specified Intimate Wedding Package, which includes 3 hours of event time, a team of wedding producers to help you coordinate, and a four course farm-to-table meal. Seriously adore this option for an elopement or intimate wedding.
If you follow the link by clicking the beach name above there’s not a ton of info on it. This beach is on the list because it’s one of the most private ones in Chicago, and there’s also a venue called 63rd St. Beach House that you can rent out for your elopement if you want! There are a ton of really pretty, yet popular beaches in Chicago. If you’re eloping and want privacy for you and your guests this may be the perfect beach for you. Other beaches can get pretty busy and hectic. As for the 63RD ST. BEACH HOUSE, there’s a little bit of info we can include for that! It’s available from June through September, so perfect for a summer elopement in Chicago. It literally sits right on the sands of Lake Michigan, so you can have your ceremony on the water and then head back to the house for your reception, how dreamy!
If you are looking for a beautiful rooftop venue, you will want to check this one out. J. Parker sits right above Hotel Lincoln with views of the skyline and of Lake Michigan. You can also buy out the Atrium for your elopement, or you can buy out the entire rooftop for the utmost privacy. Just in case there’s inclement weather, the outdoor space has a completely retractable glass roof to keep you and your guests dry and warm, and it’s also stunning! If you don’t wanna get wild and crazy and buy out the entire atrium or rooftop, you can make a semi-private group reservation for up to 60 people to celebrate your elopement! Of course if you elope here there is a food & beverage minimum since this is a restaurant, and the food is presented reception style, they don’t do seated dinners. You can either choose a bar package for your guests if you want to serve alcohol or you can offer a consumption bar (no cash bars here).
This mansion is SO beautiful! Perfect for intimate elopements. If your guests are comfortable sharing beds, this Airbnb can sleep up to 10. Otherwise, they recommend having 5-6 guests in total. This location was built in 1848 and used to be an inn, now it’s a luxurious estate that serves as a vacation spot or elopement location. The mansion is 7,000 sq feet in total, lavishly decorated and exudes elegance. You can technically have up to 100 guests in attendance, but only a few to stay the night. Grand staircases, marble kitchen, skylights, tons of natural light, and just overall a very luxurious looking/feeling space!
Like we mentioned earlier, depending on how you want your elopement day to go, there may not be very many vendors you need to hire at all. Here is a list that you’ll want to consider:
Hair and makeup artist
Caterer (if you’re having guests/a gathering after or just want to share a snack during your elopement)
Baker (if you’re having guests/a gathering after or just want to share a sweet treat together)
Pro tip: If you have a weekday elopement, there’s a much higher chance that your preferred vendors will have availability! With COVID, many vendors are booked months, even years out, so reach out to your preferred ones as soon as you have a date in mind. In the case with your photographer, some couples already have one in mind that they really love and know they want to work with so you want to make sure you reach out as soon as you know your date for eloping! If you find a photographer that’s non-negotiable for you, you can reach out to them and ask what dates they have available to ensure you get to have them for your elopement.
In order to legally get married in Chicago, you have to apply for and obtain a marriage license at the Cook County Clerk’s office. You can begin your license application online and then go to the office and finish, or you can do it from start to finish at the office. Here are some important things to note:
Both parties must present valid identification with proof of age
You must also pay the fee of $60
There is a one day waiting period before your license is valid and can be officiated, so try obtaining it as soon as you can to play it safe
There are no marriage witness laws in Illinois, so you’re free to elope just the two of you if you want
You’ll need to get married by a judge or officiant, but if you don’t have one, you can head to the Marriage and Civil Union Court in City Hall for the OG elopement experience. Here, ceremonies are performed six days a week by a Cook County judge. The service is first-come, first-served, and it’ll cost you just $10 on top of your marriage license.
Phew! You made it! I know that was a lot but now you are fully equipped to plan your dream Chicago elopement! I hope you are fired up and beginning to dream about your adventure to marriage with your person!
If you are still on the hunt for an elopement photographer and want someone that is truly invested in your love story, focuses on getting to know you so they can capture your unique love story as authentically as possible, and someone who thrives on candid, raw, intimate moments. Then I am your girl and I would love to work with you! I would love to chat more about your love story and vision for your day! If you want to see more of my work and connect with me on social media you can follow along on Instagram! Thank you so much for reading!