Chicago is an absolutely amazing city and offers a huge variety when it comes to places that you can elope at, but how do you go about planning your own intimate city elopement? There are so many different factors to consider that it can feel a bit overwhelming to try and get everything set up just the way you want. That’s why I decided to put this guide together on all the ins and outs of planning your own Chicago elopement, let’s get into it!
Yes, you can have guests at your intimate elopement! Maxing out at about 15 people most elopement days do have a couple of guests on each side of their family for their wedding day. Couples also typically have a photographer and an officiant to perform the ceremony.
Based on how many people you choose to have at your elopement will help you to determine where to have your ceremony and dinner. The more people you have, the more organized ahead of time you will have to be. I have a list of my top locations in Chicago to elope at which you can check out here. The best part about elopements is that they can happen almost anywhere!
My elopement packages max out at 5 hours typically starting at the ceremony location and ending with a cocktail hour or the start of dinner. Every elopement is different so I make sure to work with you to try and create an experience for your day that you’ll love. Talk with your soon-to-be spouse and figure out what you both would like your elopement day to look like and what parts of your day you want me to capture.
Every elopement timeline typically includes:
-First look or arrival to the ceremony space
-Family photos (if applicable)
In order to get your marriage license, you and your partner must both be present at one of the Cook County Clerk’s Office locations to apply. There are six locations throughout Cook County where you can obtain your marriage license, their open hours vary by location. Some locations also require an appointment for you two to show up so be sure to call ahead and ask any questions you may have so you’re ready to go when you do show up to apply.
When applying, be sure that you apply for your marriage license in the county you plan to have your ceremony in. With the Chicago suburbs so close together it is very important to clarify what county you plan to elope in and then apply in said county.
When applying you must have proof of age and identity along with $60 to pay your application fee. Your marriage license will be issued while you wait after submitting your application at the courthouse. IMPORTANT: The Marriage License will be valid one day after you apply, so make your plans accordingly. Once your marriage license is valid it will remain valid for up to 60 days. Past the 60-day mark, of your license, is not submitted you will have to reapply for an updated license.
With your license, you must have your wedding done by an officiant in the city of Chicago or the Suburban Cook County.
When filling out your marriage application while there are plenty of questions you will know offhand, there are many you might not. Questions like your parent’s birthplace or their current address are often asked, as well as if you were in a previous marriage, the date, and state in which it was dissolved. If you can, plan to have your parents on call for any of the information you may need, otherwise give the county you plan to get married in a call ahead of time to ask about the information you will need to have on hand.
In Cook County and the state of Illinois the following people are able to officiate your wedding:
-Judges or retired judges
-a county clerk in a county having at least 2,000,000 people
-a public official whose duties include performing weddings
-”In accordance with the prescriptions of any religious denomination”
-A friend, family member or trusted person over the age of 18 who is ordained
If you plan to have someone you know perform your marriage ceremony for the two of you, they can become ordained through the Universal Life Church if they are over 18 years of age . Their responsibilities will include performing the marriage ceremony, as well as turning in your marriage license within 60 days of your application date.
Becoming Ordained through the ULC has a very simple process. The Ordination form on the ULC website takes 10 minutes tops to fill out and then takes 1 to 2 weeks to send over the paperwork proving your ordination. Make sure to plan ahead with your minister so that they are ready to go for your wedding day.
There are a TON of awesome locations to elope in Chicago, so you really can’t go wrong there! Locations like the Botanical Garden, Lincoln Park Zoo and some other public parks do require a photo permit in order for any professional photography to be done there. This is super important to check on and be on top of, the last thing you want is to get your whole elopement day planned out to the T only to find out you’re unable to have your photographer take your elopement photos. Check-in with your Venue to see if they require a permit for photography and if they do get that done!
The Midwest and Chicago are no stranger to sudden changes in weather, especially in the Fall and Spring months, so it’s best to plan for some different weather possibilities for your elopement day. Pack some warmer clothes for sudden cold fronts or a cooler evening, maybe some extra umbrellas in case of a stray rainstorm, you can really never be too careful in the Midwest! If you are having your elopement in the late fall or early winter make sure your toes/feet are warm, they are the first thing to go if wearing open-toe shoes.
Make sure you keep an eye on the weather as your date approaches to get a better idea of what you’ll be dealing with, and keep anyone else involved in your elopement in the loop in case of any changes. If the weather does prove to be wild, there are a number of indoor locations including a number of Chicago restaurants that have private spaces perfect for a smaller ceremony.
When it comes to parking in Chicago it can be a bit of a headache, especially if you or someone involved in your elopement is unfamiliar with the city or the part of town you’re in. It’s always a good idea to plan out some nearby parking places to your venue so that you don’t have to stress about finding a spot to park at the last minute. If you’re looking to skip the hassle of parking altogether, Public Transit, as well as rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, are also an option. You may just not get the same amount of privacy before your big day as you may have planned on.
So you see there really is A LOT that goes into planning an elopement in Chicago, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you from doing it. Elopements in the city are some of my absolute favorite experiences to be a part of, and if you’re hoping to have your own city elopement you should definitely go for it. I hope this list helps in your planning process, and if you need a photographer and are looking for some more planning advice check out my contact page and let’s get to talking!