Chicago weddings are practically synonymous with ballrooms and cityscapes, but that doesn’t mean this type of environment is right for every couple. As a natural light film photographer, I love working with couples who think outside of the “traditional” Chicago wedding box. In addition to the skyscrapers our city is known for, Chicago boasts hidden pockets of scenic beauty, sophisticated estates, and unique event spaces that are ideal for garden weddings and tent weddings. Are you interested in saying “I do” in a different type of venue? Then read on to discover my five favorite Chicago wedding venues. Hands down, these are the best Chicago wedding venues for the couple with a non-ballroom wedding in mind!       

1. The Chicago Botanic Garden | Garden Wedding Venue in Chicago

I love photographing weddings with lots of natural light. With that said, what could be more light-filled than a summer wedding at the Chicago Botanic Garden? The beautiful grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden provide a great ballroom alternative for couples who want to be surrounded by nature on their wedding day. A variety of ceremony backdrops are available, including the Old World inspired English Walled Garden. And don’t forget about the serene Japanese Garden, where romantic bridges and weeping willow trees set the scene for dreamy wedding portraits. Speaking of romance, I can’t help but mention the roses in the three-acre Krasberg Rose Garden. More than 5,000 roses fill this garden. It’s such a treat to sit on a bench and soak in the shimmering colors and incredible fragrance on a beautiful morning…not to mention a wedding day!

If you are looking for incredible engagement portraits and wedding images, the Chicago Botanic Garden does not disappoint. The grounds offer plenty of room for a lovely tented reception, too. Get inspired by this real wedding photographed at the Chicago Botanic Garden!

Bride and groom on their wedding day at the Chicago Botanic Garden

2. The Rookery | Historic Wedding Venue in Chicago

When I think of The Rookery, I think of a very stylish wedding venue exploding with architectural details. The Rookery is a true masterpiece and is widely recognized as one of the most historically significant buildings in Chicago! I simply love the open area in front of the staircase at The Rookery. This space is ideal for setting up a ceremony that can later be flipped into a reception scene. It’s also completely versatile, and can be transformed with different lighting effects to create whatever atmosphere you wish. Eye-catching details including gold-flecked marble tiles and an industrial upper bridge make The Rookery a very special place to get married.

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, The Rookery is an ideal venue for stylish and classy couples. No doubt about it: your guests will enjoy an unforgettable city experience if you host your wedding here! Thanks to the natural light that peeks through the glass rooftop, photographing Chicago weddings at this iconic venue is always a treat. Find ideas for your own wedding day by exploring all of the details from this gorgeous real wedding at The Rookery!

Grand staircase at The Rookery, one of the best wedding venues in Chicago

3. The Armour House | Classic Wedding Venue in Chicago 

Like the Rookery, the Armour House Mansion & Gardens at Lake Forest Academy offers loads of natural light and marble detailing. This classic Chicago wedding venue also has gorgeous exterior spaces, including a lovely lake and a sprawling outdoor ceremony area covered by a pavilion. Once owned by Jonathan Ogden Armour, the Armor House mansion reflects the best of European architecture. The eye-catching interior features finishes imported from Paris, Vienna, and London. 

One of my favorite spots at the Armour House is the grand staircase and attached room. This space contains an incredible fountain element on a stucco wall. Legend tells us that the curved marble staircase in the mansion was built with Mr. Armour’s daughter, Lolita Ogden Armour, in mind. He pictured her descending the stairway on her wedding day. Now, Chicago brides seeking a timeless and elegant “I do” can do the same! As a Chicago wedding photographer, I can’t rave enough about this classic venue. If you have a grand wedding with royal flair in mind, this is the venue for you!

4. Revel Motor Row | Industrial Wedding Venue in Chicago

Revel Motor Row is a Chicago landmark that has been transformed into a premier event space. The venue’s grand courtyard provides an impressive backdrop suited for any vision, while an abundance of natural light ensures that your wedding portraits turn out beautifully. As a fine art film photographer, I simply love this grand space. The courtyard transforms easily and is suited for hosting exquisite outdoor weddings and receptions. The building’s impressive windows only add to the dramatic effect of the courtyard. I always love to come back to Revel Motor Row and look forward to seeing the creative wedding visions my couples come up with next!

5. Chicago Illuminating Company | Tent Wedding Venue in Chicago 

If you are looking for a non-traditional Chicago wedding, then the Chicago Illuminating Company is for you. The venue’s pretty tent sets the scene for truly unique ceremonies and receptions. This indoor/outdoor venue can be transformed in a variety of ways. Also, the way the light filters through the tent is enchanting—it really makes detail shots come alive. Since tented weddings and receptions are some of my favorite events to photograph, I can’t recommend the Chicago Illuminating Company enough for a classic yet wholly original Chicago wedding!

I hope you enjoyed my guide to the best wedding venues in Chicago! If you are planning a wedding at one of these fine Chicago venues, I would be honored to capture your wedding on film. Share details about your special day with me right here. I look forward to hearing from you!