How to Elope in Chicago | Full Chicago Elopement Guide

June 23, 2023

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We usually talk about adventure elopements out in epic national & state parks, but we also freaking LOVE city elopements – especially in one of our favorite cities, Chicago! There’s something so fun about urban elopements and getting to explore the big city on your big day, with tons of activities, shops, & restaurants easily accessible. In this Chicago elopement guide, we’ve included all the most important info you need to know to elope in Chicago including the best elopement locations, how to get your Chicago marriage license, where to stay, & more. Ready to learn about all of the rad places + activities that Chi-town has to offer?

Why Elope in Chicago?

If you’ve never been to Chicago, then you’re probably wondering right off the bat WHY you would even want to elope there. We get it – adventure elopements are the big trend right now (and we’re obsessed with them, obviously), but we want you to know that city elopements are an awesome option that is totally available to you! 

Chicago is one of the largest cities in the U.S., and is best known for its stunning city skyline, massive skyscrapers, and iconic architecture that you’ve probably seen photos of at some point in your life. Also known as the Windy City, Chicago is seriously one of the best cities for tourists thanks to its many museums, shopping areas, top-notch cuisine, and its gorgeous parks + views of the water. If you elope in Chicago, you will seriously never run out of things to do or places to go, which also makes it an awesome place to elope with guests – the options you have for a day in the city or a night out are ENDLESS!

Another reason we love Chicago as an elopement location is because there are options for any kind & any size of elopement. 

If you want to elope just the two of you and your officiant, great! You can easily find a park or a random spot downtown to say your vows and make it official. 

Want to elope with a few of your friends & fam? Awesome! There are tons of places around the city and just outside the city where you can bring a few guests and have an intimate ceremony.

Or maybe you want to have a slightly larger elopement/intimate wedding/whatever you prefer to call it – Chicago has plenty of venues that work perfectly for small weddings and receptions! You could have your ceremony downtown with just a couple of your BFF’s, then rent a venue for an intimate evening celebration with the rest of your guests. The city is your oyster when it comes to creating YOUR unique, one-of-a-kind day!🤩

Best Time of Year to Elope in Chicago

Choosing when to elope in Chicago is almost as important as choosing where to elope in Chicago – which we’ll be going over in the next section. When you’re planning the time of year you want to elope, here are the main things you should take into consideration:

  • Weather
  • Tourists/crowds
  • City traffic
  • Travel costs
  • Accommodation costs
  • Venue costs

In general, we’d say that the best time to elope in Chicago is late spring, between April-May, or fall, between September-October

From April-May, temperatures are still a little chilly (highs typically ranging between 56°F-66°F), but they’re manageable – especially if you’re not spending all day outside! Crowds typically aren’t as crazy during late spring as they get in the summer, so you’re trading slightly warmer weather for fewer tourists. Same for fall, from September-October: you’ll see fewer crowds than the summer and slightly cooler temperatures, plus gorgeous fall colors and cozy fall activities! 

However, if your main priority is saving money, then the best time to elope in Chicago would be winter since that’s when travel + accommodation costs are the cheapest – but be aware of the freaking coldddd weather and snow!

12 Best Chicago Elopement Locations

Now let’s get into one of the most exciting parts of planning: choosing WHERE to elope! We’ve compiled a list of the 12 best Chicago elopement locations, with a variety of locations both inside & outside of the city. Some locations will be great for just elopement portraits of the two of you, some will be perfect for small ceremonies, and others are venues that are awesome for small weddings & receptions/post-elopement parties! If you’re not quite sure where you want to elope, or how to choose the location(s) you want to visit on your big day, don’t worry – we’ll totally help you out with that when we start planning with ya.

1. North Avenue Beach

Best for: Elopement portraits of just the two of you, with the Chicago skyline behind you

Not good for: Ceremonies

Important notes: Parking is tricky, usually busy/crowded

2. Chicago Riverwalk

Best for: Elopement portraits of just the two of you right in the city

Not good for: Ceremonies, group portraits with more than 5 people

Important notes: Usually busy/crowded

3. Navy Pier

Best for: Waterfront portraits of just the two of you

Not good for: Ceremonies, group portraits with more than 5 people

Important notes: Usually busy/crowded

4. Humboldt Park

Best for: Elopement portraits a little outside of downtown, wedding party photos

Not good for: Ceremonies, permit required for ceremonies

5. Millennium Park

Best for: Classic Chicago elopement portraits in front of the iconic Bean (Cloud Gate)

Not good for: Ceremonies, group portraits with more than 5 people

Important notes: Very crowded!

6. Lincoln Park

Best for: Elopement portraits, small ceremonies, wedding party photos

Not good for: Large ceremonies

Important notes: Two of the best spots to check out are the Honeycomb & the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, permit required for ceremonies

7. Garfield Park Conservatory

Best for: Elopement portraits, ceremonies, receptions

Important notes: Permit required for professional wedding photos

8. Yacht Club

Best for: Elopements & weddings of any size, classy & upscale celebrations

Not good for: Adventurous/outdoor elopements

9. Haley Mansion

Best for: Elopements & weddings of any size, elegant & upscale celebrations

Not good for: Adventurous/outdoor elopements

10. Indiana Dunes National Park

Best for: Outdoor elopements, elopement portraits, small ceremonies

Not good for: Large weddings, receptions, couples who want to be in the city

Important notes: About an hour’s drive from Chicago, Special Use Permit required

11. Illinois Beach State Park

Best for: Outdoor elopements, elopement portraits, small ceremonies

Not good for: Large weddings, receptions, couples who want to be in the city

Important notes: About an hour & a half drive from Chicago

12. Channahon State Park

Best for: Outdoor elopements, elopement portraits, small ceremonies

Not good for: Large weddings, receptions, couples who want to be in the city

Important notes: About an hour’s drive from Chicago

Legalities of Eloping in Chicago

How do you legally get married in Chicago? You’ll need to get an Illinois marriage license, as well as any permits required at your ceremony location. Here’s a summary of the legal stuff you need to know!

Getting your Chicago marriage license

First, let’s do a quick rundown of Illinois marriage laws. In order to legally get married in the state of Illinois, you need to be at least 18 years old, or 16 years old with special consent. You do not need to be an Illinois resident, so you can get married in Chicago even if you’re from out of state. Illinois does not require witnesses, which means you can have a private ceremony without anybody present besides your officiant (and your photographer & videographer, of course) – easy peasy! 

Once you get your Illinois marriage license, there’s only a 1-day waiting period, which means your license will become effective 1 day after it was issued. It’ll be valid for 60 days from that day, so if you don’t get married within that time frame then you’ll have to get a new license.

To get married in Chicago, you’ll need to get your marriage license through the Cook County Clerk, and your license will only be effective in Chicago & suburban Cook County. The fee to get a marriage license in Cook County is $60, and all you need to do is go to one of the Cook County Clerk’s six locations, fill out a marriage license application, present valid photo ID, and pay the fee!

Chicago elopement permits

In addition to getting your Illinois marriage license for your Chicago elopement, you’ll also need to get any permits required by the locations you’ll be visiting! 

If you’re eloping in a national park near Chicago (like Illinois Sand Dunes National Park), a Special Use Permit is required for your ceremony. You can get this permit through the National Park Service!

If you’re eloping OR taking wedding photos at a public park or beach in Chicago managed by the Chicago Park District, you may need to get a ceremony permit as well as a photography permit. The permit you need depends on whether you’re having a simple ceremony, or a ceremony and a reception, as well as how many guests you have + what you want to set up. You can find all the info here!

If you’re eloping or taking wedding photos at any of the below locations, you should call them directly for info as they are independently managed outside of the Chicago Park District! You can find contact info here.

  • Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Maggie Daley Park & Cancer Survivors Garden
  • Millennium Park
  • Olive Park

Best Places to Stay for Your Chicago Elopement

Chicago is well-known for its centrally-located, upscale hotels, so if you’re looking for luxurious accommodations right in the city, you’ve come to the right place! However, there are also plenty of Airbnbs & rental homes both in the city and a little further out in the suburbs, where you could easily stay with your guests. Below are some of the best Airbnbs both downtown & in the suburbs, and a few of Chicago’s top-rated, gorgeous hotels.

Airbnbs Near Downtown Chicago

Hotels in Downtown Chicago

Airbnbs Outside of Chicago

10 Fun Things to Do for Your Chicago Elopement

Once again: there are SO MANY THINGS to do in Chicago, no matter what your interests are or what kinds of activities you want to do! You could spend a day exploring the city and all the shops, restaurants, & museums it has to offer, then spend the next day hiking at a nearby park and enjoying some quality time outdoors. And whether you’re eloping on your own or you’re bringing guests along, you can easily find activities that will be romantic for the two of you, or activities that EVERYONE in your group will love. Here are 10 fun Chicago elopement ideas to help you get started planning your itinerary!

1. Enjoy the city skyline from a boat tour on Lake Michigan

2. Visit the famous 360 Chicago Observation Deck

3. Take a stroll through the Chicago Botanic Garden

4. Go kayaking along the Chicago River

5. Take in the city views from above in a helicopter

6. Bike along the Lakefront Trail

7. Go hiking in Starved Rock State Park

8. Walk around the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

9. Go horseback riding at Indiana Sand Dunes National Park

10. Take a day trip to Grand Rapids, MI

Chicago Elopement Photographer + Videographer

Hey friend! We’re T & Corey, a Chicago elopement photo + video duo. We freakin’ love helping couples elope in Chicago and taking them around to all the best spots, from restaurants we love downtown to areas a little further out in the suburbs. If you’re looking for a nerdy husband & wife pair who’s ready to help you plan your elopement, guide you through a stress-free day, and capture your authentic love through awesome photos + videos, we think you’ll like our vibe 😉

Head over to our pricing page to learn more about where our Chicago elopement packages start, then hit us up here if you feel like we’re going to be a kickass fit & you’re ready to start planning your dream Chicago elopement. We’d be so stoked to help you make it happen and document it all!

More Midwest Elopement Inspiration + Resources

We have been killin’ it with our blog posts recently, so if you’re looking for more Midwest elopement inspiration or resources, we have plenty for you to check out. We’ve linked three of our recent favorites below, but make sure to also keep your eye on the blog for new content😎

Ultimate Iowa Elopement Guide for 2023-2024

25 Best Iowa Wedding Venues + Vendors

How to Plan an Epic Post-Elopement Party