Chicago is and has become one of the more popular destinations for couples to elope over the past couple of years, and it’s easy to see why! Between the architecture, the culture, and the overall experience Chicago has SO much to offer couples hoping to elope. Though elopements do tend to be more on the simple side, believe it or not, there is still a good amount of preparation that goes into eloping, and the process of eloping is not the same from city to city. That’s why we are doing a deep dive into exactly what goes into an elopement as well as some of my favorite spots for one in the lovely Windy City!
First, let’s start with the basics. What is an elopement? Eloping is no longer a secretive act where you and your partner run away to get married without telling friends and family. These days, more often than not, elopements are just as big of a celebration of your marriage as standard large weddings are! Instead of gathering everyone you know to celebrate though, you and your partner spend a day prioritizing you, and your best interests and preferences.
By industry standard, an elopement is a marriage ceremony with between zero and 20 or so guests. This number is fairly fluid with intimate wedding head counts, but typically, once your headcount hits 20, your wedding day is no longer considered an elopement. Over the past decade or so, couples have been getting more and more creative when celebrating their elopements/marriages. Climbing mountains to exchange vows, traveling to a different country, having ceremonies on boats or in their favorite restaurants, to say I’m in LOVE with elopements would be an understatement! That’s why when my couples decide they want to elope in Chicago I get so excited because there is SO much to love about the city!
Chicago is the home to some of the best food, architecture and experiences in the US. So many unique venues, spaces and experiences to incorporate into your elopement day. PLUS there are endless vendors that want to be a part of your wedding day experience. There’s something for everyone in Chicago. Are you fans of the fast paced downtown vibes? Plan out a City Hall elopement and explore downtown Chicago after. Looking for something with a bit more nature to it? Head to one of the many beautiful parks in the city. Or are you looking for a venue that fits your personal style? Choose from one of the MANY incredible and unique intimate venues that the city has to offer. Whatever you’re looking for on your elopement day, Chicago has you covered!
Make a plan. Yes, you can just elope on a whim in the city, but you’re going to more than likely want to do some research and at least create a rough plan for your elopement day. Plan out your day by thinking about the experience you want to have. What do you want to do on your elopement day, who do you all want there, what vendors do you need to make your day happen, and what style of venue do you see yourselves eloping at?
Typically, when planning out your elopement you will want to have a photographer with you to document your day, along with an officiant if you don’t want to elope at the courthouse. You can hire an officiant online or have a friend or family member officiate your day. Past that though your elopement day can be whatever you want it to be and that’s what makes them so great!
When it comes to the actual act of getting married in Chicago, Cook County is one of the easier counties in the state of Illinois to get married in. First things first, you need to fill out and sign a marriage application. You must present valid identification and proof of age, and pay a marriage license fee of $60. The great thing about getting married in Chicago is that there is no waiting period. You can make an appointment with the Cook County Clerk’s office, walk in engaged and walk out married. You can bring your own officiant or make an appointment with a Cook County judge and get married! No witnesses are needed, but you do have to be married within 60 days of obtaining your license, so keep that in mind when planning your elopement in Chicago.
One of the great things about eloping in Chicago is that there’s something to love about every season in the city, so plan your elopement around the experience you’re hoping to have. Fall is great as the cooler temps make the city a bit less crowded so you’ll have more time and space to yourselves for your elopement day. For a winter elopement definitely plan on an indoor location to stay warm, but we can head outside intermittently for some amazing photos in the snow! Spring is gorgeous in the parks around Chicago as everything is starting to bloom and come back to life after the winter, rain is a likely possibility that you should prepare for though. And lastly, summer has amazing temperatures and that classic summertime in the city feels for your elopement day, but everyone will be out and about in the summer.
Like I mentioned earlier an elopement can be just the two of you or you can have up to 20 guests, and anything in between. When planning your elopement in Chicago talk with your honey about what you both want your day to be like. Who do you want there and what kind of experience are you hoping to have? Eloping does NOT mean you can’t include your family. There are SO many different ways to incorporate your loved ones into your Chicago elopement! Put together a must-haves list and start your plans to cater to your guest count.
There are SO many beautiful places and venues to plan your Chicago elopement. The possibilities really are endless. When choosing your elopement location you will want to think about the experience you hope to have for your wedding day. Do you want adventure, do you want to have a low key evening, do you want to spend the night with your friends and family? Whatever you’re looking to do and experience here are a few location ideas to get you thinking and help you along your planning process.
Talk about iconic architecture in Chicago! City Hall is located in the loop close to some of the most iconic locations throughout the city. The Art Institute, the Chicago Board of Trade Building, the Riverwalk, and SO many other beautiful city views. It’s a perfect central location to elope and soak up the city views. Start off your day tying the knot and spend your afternoon exploring all of the beautiful spaces throughout the loop with your honey!
Along with architecture, Chicago is also known for being right on the edge of lake Michigan! Lining the city of Chicago there are so many beautiful spots to plan your intimate elopement ceremony with your partner. Places like Promontory Point, North avenue Beach, Belmont Harbor, and Fullerton Beach are just some of the beautiful lakefront locations that are PERFECT for your intimate day.
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, the Art Institute Gardens, and the Lincoln Park honeycomb are just the start of the MANY Chicago locations that can host your elopement ceremony. The city is full of these iconic and unique landmarks that would be perfect for an elopement. These places are typically a little more popular due to them being tourist locations so plan your elopement there with that in mind, or at times when crowds are a little lighter like sunrise or during the fall.
If you’re looking to host your elopement with some of your closest friends or celebrate with them later in the day, there are SO many cool venues throughout Chicago that are perfect for your intimate celebration. Places like the Lytle House, North Pond, Public Hotel, Promontory Point are just the start of all the cool places that Chicago holds. There are so many unique and fun venues in the city perfect for elopements that you are bound to find something that speaks to you and fits the style of your day perfectly.
There are a TON of unique restaurants throughout the city and many of them are able to host smaller intimate events like your Chicago elopement! Elope with your partner and then host your closest friends and family at one of these cool and unique locations throughout the city! Places like Bixi Beer, The Little Goat(the Hidden Goat), Carnival, Duseks are just a few great spots on this never ending list of great restaurants throughout Chicago that could be the host to your evening.
Rent a private yacht with your friends and family with one of Chicago’s many boat rental companies. Eloping out on the waters of Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline in the background is one of the coolest experiences you can have and makes for an incredible evening experience! Definitely plan for a warmer part of the year if you plan to go this route as it can get incredibly cold on the water in the fall and early spring months!
When planning an elopement there is a LOT going through your mind and it’s easy to overlook certain things! Keep these in mind when planning your elopement in Chicago to make sure you set yourselves up for the best day possible. If you plan to have a handful of guests, opt for a week-day wedding to cut costs and have a more intimate experience for your day by avoiding weekend crowds. Plan out transportation for the day, whether that be public transit, services like Uber and Lyft, or driving yourselves and planning for parking. Lastly, remember to have fun when planning! This is your elopement day, don’t stress yourselves out and enjoy this incredible time of your lives that you find yourselves in!
Like I said there is a lot that goes into planning an elopement in Chicago! Keep these things in mind when you start to plan your elopement day. Remember to build the day around you and your honey and the day you both want to have, and if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask your photographer for their advice as they’ve been through this process before. Speaking of which, if you need a photographer for your elopement head over to my contact page here so we can get to chatting!