Eloping in Chicago
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Eloping in Chicago – The Ultimate Guide (2024)

Eloping in Chicago is becoming an increasingly popular trend for couples who want to have an intimate wedding experience without the stress and cost of a traditional wedding.

And with its beautiful architecture, scenic parks, and bustling city life, Chicago offers endless possibilities for a memorable elopement.

Whether you’re a local or a destination couple, eloping in Chicago can be an exciting and unique way to celebrate your love.

In this in depth guide to eloping in Chicago, we’ll cover everything from how to elope in Chicago, to the cost involved, to tips on finding the best location and vendors.

And be sure to check our guide on eloping in Illinois for more ideas across the state!

Let’s get to it!

The Pros and Cons of eloping in Chicago

There are many advantages and disadvantages of choosing to have an elopement in Chicago.

And while elopements in general can be fun and intimate, there are elements of more traditional weddings that couples might miss.

Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of eloping in Chicago.

The Pros of Chicago elopements

  • Stunning Scenery

Chicago has a diverse range of stunning locations that make for perfect backdrops for your elopement.

From the picturesque beaches of Lake Michigan to the architectural beauty of downtown Chicago, the city offers a range of options to choose from.

  • Affordable

Compared to traditional weddings, eloping can be a more affordable option.

Couples can save on venue, catering, and other costs associated with a larger event.

  • Intimate Experience

An elopement allows for a more intimate and personal experience, without the pressure of entertaining a large group of guests.

Couples can focus on each other and their love, and make the day all about themselves.

  • Unique and Memorable

Eloping in Chicago can be a unique and memorable experience, as the city offers many unconventional wedding venues and locations that will make your day stand out.

  • Less Stressful

Planning a large traditional wedding can be stressful, and eloping can take the pressure off.

With fewer guests to entertain and fewer details to worry about, couples can focus on each other and enjoy the day stress-free.

The Cons of an elopement in Chicago

  • Weather

Chicago weather can be unpredictable, which can be a disadvantage for an outdoor elopement.

There’s a reason it’s called “The Windy City”!

While there are indoor options, couples who dream of an outdoor wedding may need to be prepared for potential weather changes.

  • Limited Guest List

One of the biggest cons of eloping is the limited guest list.

If you choose to elope, you’ll likely only have a few people present, which can be disappointing for those who would have liked to attend.

  • Lack of Traditional Wedding Elements

If you’re someone who dreams of the traditional wedding elements like the bouquet toss, first dance, or cutting the cake, eloping may not be for you.

  • No Reception

Often elopements have no reception to celebrate the marriage of the couple.

While some couples choose to have a dinner or small celebration after their ceremony, it won’t be the same as a larger traditional wedding reception.

  • Less Formal

For some couples, a formal wedding is important.

An elopement can be less formal and less structured, which may not appeal to everyone.

How to elope in Chicago – A Step-by-Step guide

So what do you need to elope in Chicago?

While many couples choose to take out a Chicago elopement package in order to take the stress out of planning the day and have their elopement for a set cost, some couples choose to plan their own wedding.

If you like the idea of putting together your own elopement, you might be wondering exactly how to elope in Chicago.

In order to make the process as simple as possible, we’ve prepared this brief step-by-step guide to make it as easy as possible!

We will cover these topics in-depth in the next section, so be sure to read on so that you don’t miss anything important!

1. Pick the Date and Time

The first step in planning your elopement is to pick the date and time.

Consider factors like weather, availability of vendors, and your work schedule when choosing a date.

Also, think about whether you want to get married in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

2. Set the Budget

Determine your budget and how much you want to spend on your elopement.

This will help you decide on vendors and venues that fit within your budget.

See the section below on how to budget a Chicago elopement.

3. Legal Requirements

Make sure you have all the necessary legal requirements in order, including obtaining a marriage license and any permits required for your chosen location.

You can apply for a marriage license at the Cook County Clerk’s Office in downtown Chicago.

4. Choose a Location

Chicago has a variety of stunning locations for elopements, including parks, beaches, and architectural landmarks.

Choose a location that is meaningful to you and your partner or one that fits your aesthetic preferences.

5. Find an Elopement Officiant

You will need an officiant to perform your wedding ceremony.

Look for an officiant who specializes in elopements and has experience performing intimate ceremonies.

6. Plan the Guest List

Determine who you want to invite to your elopement. Keep in mind that elopements are typically intimate affairs with a limited guest list.

7. Hire Vendors

Depending on your budget and preferences, you may want to hire a photographer, florist, and other vendors to help make your elopement special.

Look for vendors who specialize in elopements or intimate weddings.

8. Plan the Ceremony

Work with your officiant to plan the details of your ceremony, including the vows, readings, and any rituals you want to include.

Read more on planning the ceremony in our ultimate guide on how to elope.

9. Plan the Reception

After your ceremony, you may want to celebrate with a small reception or dinner.

Choose a venue that fits your budget and guest list, and work with vendors to plan the details.

10. Book Accommodation and Travel

If you are traveling to Chicago for your elopement, book your accommodation and travel arrangements in advance.

11. Have the Ceremony

On the day of your elopement, arrive at your chosen location with your officiant and any guests.

Exchange vows and celebrate your love in a meaningful way.

12. Things to Do After the Wedding

After your elopement, take some time to explore Chicago and celebrate your marriage.

Take a romantic stroll along Lake Michigan, try some of Chicago’s famous cuisine, or take in some of the city’s iconic landmarks.

13. Have Fun

Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy your elopement in Chicago.

This is your special day, so make it a memorable one.

If, after reading this list, it seems like it might be a bit much to plan your own elopement style wedding, you might want to consider getting Chicago elopement package to make the process easy and for a set price.

If, however, you still want to go ahead with planning your own day (and why should you not?!), let’s take a look at some important in-depth pointers on the steps above.

How to elope in Chicago – In-depth pointers

Hopefully you are no longer wondering “how do you elope in Chicago?”

But there are certainly some other things to consider that go further than the simple points above.

It’s important to look more in-depth at some of these points so that your elopement day goes smoothly.

So let’s look further in to how you get eloped in Chicago.

How much does it cost to elope in Chicago?

Eloping in Chicago can cost between $500 to $5,000.

The figure is a broad range because it really depends on the style of elopement you have, how many guests you invite, the services you choose to have, the venue you decide to elope in, and the time of year you choose to hold it.

There are some costs you should consider when thinking about eloping.

Again, these will vary depending on your tastes and requirements.

Let’s get in to them below.

Budgeting an elopement in Chicago

Here are some costs you should bear in mind when budgeting your Chicago elopement:

  • Marriage license fee

In Chicago, the fee for a marriage license is $60.

  • Officiant fee

You may need to hire an officiant to perform the ceremony, and their fee can range from $100 to $500.

  • Venue fee

If you plan to have your ceremony at a venue, you will need to pay a rental fee, which can range from $50 to $1,500.

Those considering holding their elopement in a public space will need to apply for and pay for a permit.

  • Photographer fee

If you want to capture your special day with photographs, you may need to hire an elopement photographer.

Their fee can range from $200 to $3,000, depending on the level of their experience.

  • Flowers and decorations

Adding flowers or other decorations to your elopement ceremony and/or reception will increase costs.

You should budget between $50 and $500, depending on how many flowers and decorations you plan to have.

  • Catering

If you are planning to have a reception after your ceremony, you will need to pay for catering.

The cost of catering can vary depending on the number of guests, the type of food you choose, and the level of service you require.

On average, catering for a small elopement can cost anywhere from $50 per head at the lower end to $200 per head at the higher end.

  • Travel

Couples traveling from out of town to elope in Chicago will need to budget for transportation costs.

This could include airfare, rental cars, or gas money if you plan to drive.

The cost of travel will depend on your starting location, the distance to Chicago, and the type of transport you take.

  • Accommodation

You will need to find a place to stay while in Chicago for your elopement.

The cost of accommodation will depend on the location, the time of year, and the level of comfort you require.

On average, a hotel room in Chicago can cost anywhere from $100 to $400 per night.

  • Makeup and hair

If you want to have your hair and makeup professionally done for your elopement, you will need to budget for this expense.

The cost of makeup and hair services can range from $100 to $500, depending on the level of service you require.

  • Attire

You will need to purchase or rent attire for your elopement, including a wedding dress, suit, or other formal wear.

The cost of attire will depend on your personal style and budget, but can range from $100 to $1,000 or more.

  • Wedding rings

Wedding rings are an important part of any wedding, including an elopement.

The cost of wedding rings can vary widely depending on the style, material, and quality you choose.

The average cost of wedding rings in the United States is around $5,500 for a pair.

However, you can find more affordable options that fall around $500 for a pair, or you can spend significantly more on high-end or custom-made rings that can cost $10,000 or more.

To read more about how much it costs to elope, be sure to check out our guide here.

Tips to reduce costs when eloping in Chicago

Here are some tips to help you reduce the cost of an elopement in Chicago:

  • Choose an off-season date and an off-peak time

Elopements that take place during the off-season (November to March) can be less expensive than peak-season weddings.

Many venues and vendors offer discounts during this time, so you may be able to save money by choosing an off-season date.

Choosing to elope during off-peak times, such as weekdays or evenings, can help you save money.

Many venues and vendors offer discounts during these times.

  • Keep the guest list small

Elopements are typically small, intimate affairs, so keeping the guest list to a minimum can help you save money on catering, rentals, and other expenses.

  • Opt for a public location

Public locations such as parks, beaches, and gardens can be a great choice for elopements.

They are often free or low-cost to use and can provide a beautiful backdrop for your ceremony and photos.

  • DIY decorations

Making your own decorations can help you save money and add a personal touch to your elopement.

Simple DIY projects, such as making your own bouquet or creating centerpieces, can be fun and cost-effective.

  • Use local vendors

Working with local vendors can help you save money on transportation costs and may result in better prices.

Research vendors in the Chicago area and ask for recommendations from friends and family.

  • Tips for reducing Chicago elopement photography costs

Hiring a photographer can be expensive, but opting for a shorter photography package can help you save money if the photographer only has to work for a few hours.

You can also ask for digital copies of the photos instead of prints to save on printing costs.

Finally, you can seek out a new photographer who might work for a discounted rate in order to bolster their portfolio.

  • Skip the reception

Since elopements are typically small affairs, you may want to skip the reception altogether or opt for a simple celebration with a cake and champagne.

This can help you save money on catering, rentals, and other reception-related costs..

  • Keep the cost of wedding rings down

Do you really need a platinum or gold wedding ring, or could a pewter wedding ring equally remind you of your bond to each other?

When choosing your wedding rings, it’s important to consider your budget and personal preferences.

You may want to shop around and compare prices at different jewelers to find the best value for your money.

Additionally, some jewelers may offer discounts or promotions for wedding rings, so it’s worth asking about any special deals they may have.

Can you elope in Chicago? – How to legally elope in Chicago

If you have skipped straight to this section and are wondering whether you can you get eloped in Chicago, the answer is “yes!”

But there are certain rules and regulations you need to follow in order to make sure it’s legal.

Here are the steps to legally elope in Chicago:

1. Obtain a Marriage License

Before you can legally elope in Chicago, you must obtain a marriage license from the Cook County Clerk’s Office.

You and your partner must appear in person at one of the Clerk’s six locations in Cook County to apply for the license.

You will need to bring a valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, and pay a fee ($60).

The Clerk’s Office will issue the license immediately after processing your application, and it will be valid for 60 days.

2. Choose a Location

Once you have your marriage license, you can choose a location for your elopement ceremony. Chicago offers many beautiful venues, such as parks, beaches, museums, and landmarks.

Be sure to check the venue’s availability, fees, and requirements, such as permits or reservations.

See more on the best locations to elope in Chicago below.

3. Find an Officiant

You will need an officiant to perform your elopement ceremony and sign your marriage license.

You can choose a religious or secular officiant, such as a minister, judge, or friend who is ordained online.

Be sure to discuss the ceremony details, such as vows, readings, and music, with your officiant beforehand.

4. Obtain Witnesses (Optional)

In Illinois, you are not required to have witnesses to your marriage ceremony, but you may choose to have one or two witnesses to sign your marriage license.

The witnesses can be anyone over the age of 18 who is not related to you by blood or marriage.

5. Have the Ceremony

On the day of your elopement ceremony, dress up, exchange rings and vows, and enjoy the moment with your partner.

Your officiant will guide you through the ceremony and sign your marriage license afterward.

6. File the Marriage License

After the ceremony, you must file your signed marriage license with the Cook County Clerk’s Office within 10 days.

You can do this in person or by mail.

The Clerk’s Office will process the license and issue a certified copy for your records.

Congratulations, you’re legally married!

Where to elope in Chicago

Next, you might be wondering where you can get eloped in Chicago.

Chicago has many great locations for beautiful, energetic, intimate, and cultured elopements.

It’s a fantastic city with all different styles of buildings, public places, parks, waterfront areas, and more.

In fact, it has so many great possible elopement venues that it can be hard to narrow down where exactly to hold your elopement!!

Fortunately, we have done the work for you and compiled this list of the best places to elope in Chicago!

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a popular location for elopement ceremonies in Chicago.

It features several stunning spots, such as the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Cloud Gate (aka the “Bean”), and the Lurie Garden.

The park’s lush greenery, sparkling water features, and iconic architecture make for unforgettable photos.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is another picturesque destination for elopements in Chicago.

It boasts 1,200 acres of nature, art, and history, including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, and the North Pond Nature Sanctuary.

The park’s varied landscapes, from beaches to gardens to forests, offer a range of backdrops for your ceremony.

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is a magnificent building that serves as a free public venue for the arts and events.

It features impressive stained glass domes, marble staircases, and ornate mosaics that create a grand ambiance for your elopement ceremony.

You can choose from several rooms, such as the Preston Bradley Hall or the G.A.R. Rotunda, depending on your style and size.

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is a hidden gem in Chicago that offers a tropical escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

It boasts 2 acres of indoor gardens, including palm trees, orchids, and cacti, as well as outdoor spaces like the Monet Garden and the Sugar from the Sun Prairie.

The conservatory’s lush colors, scents, and sounds make for a dreamy elopement ceremony.

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium is a unique and romantic setting for elopement ceremonies in Chicago.

It offers stunning views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline, as well as interactive exhibits on astronomy and space exploration.

You can exchange your vows under the stars, in the Sky Pavilion, or in the Grainger Sky Theater, which features a state-of-the-art dome projection system.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States.

It houses over 300,000 works of art, from ancient to modern times, including famous masterpieces like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”.

You can elope in one of the museum’s elegant galleries or gardens, such as the South Garden or the Nichols Bridgeway, surrounded by art and history.

Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is a scenic promenade that spans 1.25 miles along the Chicago River.

It features several bridges, cafes, and public art installations, as well as access to water taxis and boat tours.

You can elope on one of the riverfront plazas, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza or the Jetty, with the city skyline as your backdrop.

What is the best time of year for an elopement in Chicago?

The best time of year to elope in Chicago can be dictated slightly by things such as your availability, availability of key guests, your budget, and the availability of any must-have venues or vendors.

However, here are some general pros and cons of each season:

  • Spring (March – May)

Spring is a beautiful time in Chicago, when the city awakens from winter and blooms with cherry blossoms, tulips, and daffodils.

The weather can be mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from the 50s to the 70s Fahrenheit.

However, spring can also be unpredictable, with occasional rain showers and chilly winds.

You may also face higher demand and prices for venues and vendors, as many couples choose to marry in the spring.

  • Summer (June – August)

Summer is the peak season for weddings and elopements in Chicago, thanks to its sunny skies, warm temperatures, and festive atmosphere.

The city hosts numerous outdoor events and festivals, such as the Taste of Chicago and the Chicago Air and Water Show, which can add to your celebration.

However, summer can also be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching the 80s or 90s Fahrenheit.

You may need to plan for shade, hydration, and insect repellent, especially if you choose an outdoor location.

  • Fall (September – November)

Fall is a popular season for elopements in Chicago, thanks to its mild weather, vibrant foliage, and cozy ambiance.

The city’s parks and gardens turn into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows, providing a stunning backdrop for your ceremony.

The temperatures can range from the 50s to the 70s Fahrenheit, but may start to drop in November.

However, fall can also be brief and unpredictable, with sudden rain or windstorms. You may need to plan for a backup plan or indoor venue, just in case.

  • Winter (December – February)

Winter is a magical time in Chicago, when the city transforms into a winter wonderland with snowflakes, lights, and holiday decorations.

The temperatures can be cold and snowy, ranging from the 20s to the 40s Fahrenheit, but you can still find warmth and charm indoors.

Numerous indoor venues, such as museums, hotels, and restaurants, can provide a cozy and elegant setting for a winter elopement in Chicago.

However, the winter can also be a challenging time for transportation and logistics, especially if you have guests or vendors coming from afar.

You may need to plan for extra time, safety measures, and accommodation.

Should I elope in Chicago?

Eloping in Chicago can be a wonderful and memorable experience for couples who want to do something a little different than a traditional wedding.

With its diverse neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, and stunning natural settings, Chicago offers a wide range of options for elopement ceremonies.

From rooftop vistas, to beachfront parks, to historic courthouses, Chicago has many great elopement location options for all couples.

By eloping, couples can avoid the stress, expense, and expectations of a traditional wedding, and focus on their love and promises of committment to each other.

By following the tips and suggestions in this guide, you can create a unique and unforgettable elopement in Chicago that reflects your personalities, values, and dreams, and creates wonderful lasting memories for years to come!

Other Resources

Don’t forget to check our in-depth guide on eloping in Illinois to get some more ideas that cover the whole state!

Be sure to check out our guide on how to elope to go in to even more detail on planning an elopement, such as designing the elopement ceremony and choosing vendors.

We also cover the cost of eloping more in this guide.

Still thinking of other places to elope?

Why not consider…

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