Ah, the Windy City—famous for its politicians, but also for its impossibly cold and breezy winters. As the third largest city in America, it should come as no surprise that Chicago contains multitudes that make it great for an elopement. Each of the city’s many urban neighborhoods provides a totally unique experience—from the nightlife in Boystown, to the vintage shops and coffeehouses in Wicker Park, to the excellent dining in Little Italy.
Architecturally, Chicago is gorgeous, filled with Art Deco skyscrapers and brownstone rowhouses that’ll make stunning cityscape backdrops for your portraits. Plus, there's plenty of refurbished industrial spots, spectacular boutique hotels, and cool downtown restaurants to explore once that marriage license is signed. Then, of course, there’s the fact that Chicago really gives you the best of both worlds: a dense, urban setting paired with stretches of natural landscape, thanks to the parks and beaches preserved along Lake Shore Drive; the city’s massive Millennium Park; and the Chicago Riverwalk.
As for entertainment, in addition to dining at Chicago’s many Michelin-starred restaurants, the city is home to a world-class orchestra, opera, and museums (the Art Institute and the Field Museum are must-sees), excellent shopping along the Magnificent Mile, plus a chock-full calendar of street festivals during the warmer months.
Best Time of Year to Visit
June - October
While in most of the U.S. spring starts in late March, Chicago winters stretch far later into the year. (It’s not all that uncommon for snow to fall in May. Yes, May.) If you don’t mind being so bitterly, painfully cold that everything hurts, then sure, go ahead and visit in January. Otherwise, stick to June through October, when the bright summer sun warms the city only to be cooled down by the pleasant lakefront breezes. (Seriously—if hot, sticky summers are not your thing, Chicago is actually delightful during its hottest months.)
Pro tip: In late September, thousands of runners will 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. Should you brave it out to visit in March, keep in mind that Chicago goes big for St. Patty’s Day with a huge parade and a green-dyed Chicago River. And 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).
Weddings by Mylene is an officiant service founded by Mylene Moraes, who has more than a decade of experience marrying couples—in three different languages. Originally from Brazil, Mylene spent 24 years in Miami before relocating outside Chicago, and is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, with extensive experience conducting bilingual ceremonies.
Her elopement package includes a thorough consultation (in-person or virtual), a pre-written ceremony, and allows for up to six guests. Moraes also offers weeknight availability, which is a unique and convenient option for those looking to get married a bit, shall we say, quickly, because hey, sometimes love just can’t wait. And isn’t eloping all about about breaking tradition anyway?
To connect with Mylene and learn more about her bilingual services and flexible availability, click the blue button above. ¡Felicidades!
A lily pond! A waterfall! What could be more romantic than this natural, beautifully landscaped setting? Located inside the 1,200-acre Lincoln Park, this National Historic Landmark was restored in 2002. Designed by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in 1936, the Lily Pond is surrounded by a walking path, with a pavilion overlooking the water where you can hold an hour-long ceremony (and take some truly stunning portraits). The Lincoln Park Conservancy requires that all weddings and professional photographers obtain a permit to use the space, and they offer two options: a simple standing ceremony with up to 16 present total ($350 fee), or a more elaborate, full-service ceremony with up to 22 guests seated, 30 standing ($1,000 fee).
For all the Anglofiles and Jane Austen romantics out there, you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop than the Chicago Botanic Garden. Located on Chicago’s north side, this large preserve of natural elements and carefully manicured gardens feels like a setting straight out of London. Situated on the banks of the Skokie Lagoons (and just south of the Cook County border), the Chicago Botanic Garden contains multiple venues in one location. While they are equipped to host huge, 500-person events, for a more intimate evening, we recommend booking the English Walled Garden, which was designed by British landscape architect John Brookes and is made up of six different organic “rooms.” In one you’ll find overflowing fruits and vegetables, and in another, a wisteria-draped pergola. Pro tip: Book the garden on a weekday evening, Monday through Thursday, for $1,500, when it’s less than half the price of a Saturday night.
For a downtown wedding that’s right in the thick of the action, head to McCormick Bridgehouse, a five-story mini-tower located right on the end of one of Chicago’s famous moving bridges. From inside the museum, you’ll get 360-degree views of the Chicago River and surrounding city. Their by-the-hour rental fees allow you to book the 1,200-square-foot industrial space inside the museum (think: lots of exposed bricks and steel beams), which also come with access to the museum’s private riverwalk plaza. If the weather is playing nice, you can say your vows on the plaza in the open air, then retreat to the museum for a celebratory drink afterwards. The rental fees are $350 an hour Monday through Thursday and $375 per hour on weekends.
If you’re a pair that likes living on the edge—literally—and you’re not afraid of heights, you can book Chicago’s magnificent 103rd-floor observation deck for your pop-up ceremony. Use the Ledge—that tourist-favorite glass box that juts out the side of the skyscraper—as the spot to say your vows, or for one-of-a-kind wedding portraits, and then toast to your new commitment while looking out at sweeping views of the city below. While the venue can host as many as 300 guests, you can keep things small and simple by booking your ceremony for a morning, when a three-hour venue rental starts at $3,500. Bonus: Afterwards, you can head to brunch at Francois Frankie a few blocks north of the tower. What better way to celebrate than with mimosas and caviar-topped omelets?
In order to obtain a marriage license, both partners must be present at one of the six Cook County Clerk’s Office locations to complete the application (you can save time at the office by beginning the process online). You’ll both need identification that proves your age (18 years is youngest you can marry in Illinois without the approval of a parent or guardian). The marriage license will run you $60, and it’s valid starting one day after you’ve obtained it and remains valid for up to 60 days. And good to know— license isn’t usable state-wide—it only grants you the ability to wed in Chicago or the surrounding Cook County suburbs.
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 run you just $10 on top of your marriage license.