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8 Unique Wedding Experiences in Chicago

Chicago's First Lady Cruises | Angela Renee Photography

Sure, you want a beautiful wedding, but you also want an experience. We’ve rounded up spots with charm and unique fun. Imagine a museum scavenger hunt during cocktail hour, anchoring in Lake Michigan under fireworks, or exchanging vows with the entire city below your feet. Whether you’re looking for an iconic spot like the stage of a well-known blues or opera venue or an inventive twist on familiar locales like cocktails on a carousel or at the feet of the world’s largest dinosaur, we’ve pulled together a list of creative, unique wedding experiences to astound and delight you — and your guests.

Exchange Vows on the Chicago River

First Lady Cruises | Becky Brown Photography

Why settle for one view of the city, when you can have them all? Chicago’s First Lady Cruises offers six floating private venues — all with open air decks for dancing and enjoying the views. They’ve had their fair share of specific requests for unique nuptials. For one bride and groom, they parked their watercraft in front of a Chicago building that was meaningful to the couple so they could have their ceremony with that skyscraper as backdrop. Their largest vessel, Chicago’s Leading Lady, was transformed by one host with vintage carpets, weathered leather Chesterfield sofas and a long table for an intimate dinner for 13 as they cruised the lit city at night. And with some regularity, the captain is asked to pause in Lake Michigan under the looming Navy Pier fireworks for nuptials, photos, or just reception fun. In addition to the personal nature of cruising past all of a couple’s favorite city spots, the experience is fun for out-of-town guests.

Varying Capacities on 6 boats: 2 – 250

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Choose Your Sky

Adler Planetarium | Carasco Photography

Imagine your ceremony or reception under a starry sky with the moon hung just right or dancing the night away with more starlights under your heels — all without concern for weather or time of day. The 36-foot high domed ceiling in the Adler Planetarium’s Grainger Sky Theater can be customized to coordinate with the design of your event, to provide a gorgeous starry surround, or even to project a monogram or map (perhaps of places you’ve visited as a couple). It’s a 360-degree immersive environment that includes built-in uplighting from the floor to complete the experience. The Planetarium offers several other unique spots: the outdoor Sundial Plaza where couples can exchange nuptials against unparalleled views of the skyline and the Solarium — a glassed-in space with perfect indoor city views. The projection system in the Welcome Gallery allows a photo or video montage to play on four screens at once. Adler has also had wedding guests engage in a laser tag cocktail party throughout the museum and a Star Wars-style battle in the Planet X exhibit.

Grainger Sky Theater Capacity: 199 (seated) – 400 (standing)

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Get Married Where Your Favorite Rock Star Once Stood

House of Blues Chicago | Photographer: Averyhouse

Music lovers? Home of the infamous Gospel Brunch and concerts galore, Chicago’s House of Blues also offers you the opportunity to exchange vows on the same Music Hall stage that has held rock and blues icons. Say “I do” flanked by gorgeous balconies and the stage’s ornate surround then cede the spot to your wedding band and party on the dance floor for the rest of the night. The House of Blues can even print official concert tickets to your wedding to include with your invitations for a fun way to set the scene and get guests excited. For more intimate affairs, their VIP Foundation Room is an opulent and exclusive spot. Take advantage of unique photo spots at the venue like in front of the statement-making fireplace in the Foundation Room, in front of the marquee, on one of the many beautiful balconies and, of course, on stage.

Music Hall Capacity: 250 (seated) – 1000 (standing)

Foundation Room Capacity: 55 (seated) – 100 (standing)

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Make an Entrance...By Boat

River Roast Social House | K & M Photography

One of the beautifully-defining characteristics of the city is the Chicago river flowing through the downtown with 45 moveable bridges spanning it. A wedding reception at River Roast Social House allows the added benefit of the bride and groom (or entire wedding party!) making a sensational entrance via the waterway. Arrive on one of Chicago’s bright yellow river taxis as your guests watch from River Roast’s terrace, cocktails in hand. Disembark directly at the venue which features stunning views of not only the water, but also of the city. The historical landmark space offers six industrial-chic rooms for flexible entertaining.

The Veranda Capacity: 300

Other River Roast rooms Capacity: from 80-450

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Take the Floor Out from Under You

Willis Tower Skydeck | Jai Girard Photography

For an intimate, but memorable affair, you can marry while standing suspended on a glass balcony extending a full four feet out from the 2nd tallest building in the United States, Chicago’s Willis Tower. The Skydeck offers a view of four states and two balconies — the Tower’s most frequent wedding request is a photo from one ledge to the other of the newlyweds with the cityscape dramatically stretched below them. It’s also a popular spot for proposals, with almost a thousand having taken place on the ledge so far. Often couples marrying on the Skydeck will host a champagne toast in the spot then move to the Metropolitan Club in the building for a seated dinner and cocktails while enjoying the view. For larger receptions, the 99th floor offers 360° views and optional VIP access to The Ledge for guests and much more space for celebrating.

Skydeck on 103rd Floor Capacity: up to 20

99th Floor Capacity: 200 (seated) – 325 (standing)

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Celebrate at the Feet of the World’s Largest Dinosaur

Field Museum | Photo courtesy of HMR

In June 2018, the Field Museum will be welcoming their newest dinosaur to their collection — a titanosaur (world’s largest dinosaur!) will be taking Sue the T Rex’s place in Stanley Field Hall. The classic grand hall will also be outfitted with gorgeous hanging greenery gardens inspired by plants that lived alongside dinosaurs like ferns, cycads and arums. The gardens will be a complete living ecosystem and can be raised or lowered to incorporate or complement wedding decor and accented with florals or lights as preferred. In the past, wedding couples at the Field Museum have opted to marry near specific dioramas, host cocktails in Rice Hall near the Lions of Savo, incorporate a museum scavenger hunt into their festivities and encourage guests to snap and tag instagram pictures at specific exhibits. A Chicago mainstay for more than a century, the museum offers outstanding city views as well as a five event spaces to choose from as well as a gorgeous photo spot on their front steps.

Stanley Field Hall Capacity: 1500 (seated) – 7500 (standing)

Rice Hall Capacity: 140 (seated) – 300 (standing)

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Take Your Guests to the Opera

Lyric Opera | Kent Drake Photography | HMR

Built in 1929 and fully restored in 1996, the Lyric Opera House is a hybrid of art nouveau and art deco designs, a majestic setting for entertaining. Its Ardis Krainik Theatre is the offers the largest stage in downtown Chicago, perfect for nuptials or reception celebrations. Entertain your guests with a performance by flourishing opera singers then watch the backdrop rise to reveal your banquet onstage. The view from the stage is nothing short of spectacular with lush red seating and ornate gold detailing accented by beautiful uplighting. State-of-the-art lighting, sound and scenery provide endless creative options to customize your event and the acoustics are great for musical merrymaking and dancing all night. The venue offers six spots for celebrating with intimate or large groups for 50 to 3500 guests.

Ardis Krainik Theater Capacity: 1000 (seated) – 3563 (standing)

Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer Capacity: 356 (seated) – 700 (standing)

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Cocktail on a Carousel and Dine with Lions

Lincoln Park Zoo - AT&T Endangered Species Carousel

Sip champagne while sitting on a swan or savor your Cosmopolitan with a ring-tailed lemur at your side on the carousel at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The AT&T Endangered Species Carousel is a fun choice for wedding reception cocktails. It features 48 artisan-crafted wooden animals representing rare and endangered species, and the colors and lights make for gorgeous photos. Then move into the Kovler Lion House for dinner and dancing. Majestics beasts in modern glass enclosures will roam and roar on both sides of your gathering. In addition to the ambiance added by the exquisite big cats, the lion house itself has beautiful style with a grand vaulted ceiling and vintage design flourishes like a Guastavino-tile ceiling.

AT&T Endangered Species Carousel and Adjacent Terrace Capacity: 75 (seated) – 200 (standing)

Kovler Lion House Capacity: 200 (seated) – 400 (standing)

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