It’s true: You and your friends have been to one ballroom wedding after another. Now, it’s time to experience something different — and unforgettable. We love how non-traditional wedding venues reimagine both ceremony and reception with extraordinary backdrops, immersive activities, and an emphasis on creativity.
We at PartySlate searched through hundreds of unique Chicago wedding venues to find our top 15 spaces for a totally original (and wow-worthy) celebration. Step aboard a luxe Chicago yacht to sail for an ever-changing view or stand beneath the wing of an airplane while raising a toast. We know 15 ways to take your wedding to new heights — all with the perfect venue.
Unique Museum & Cultural Venues
For artistic photo ops and breathtaking architecture…
- The Art Institute of Chicago offers one gorgeous photo op after another with thousands of iconic paintings and artworks — not to mention, visually-exquisite and distinct venue spaces such as galleries, auditoriums, gardens, and more
- We especially love the Terzo Piano space for its breathtaking panoramic views and versatile floorplan that easily accommodates any aesthetic; combine this stunning space with gallery viewings to create a wow-worthy celebration that flows from one room to another
- The Art Institute of Chicago Capacity: up to 1,000
For an immersive experience set in an underwater wonderland…
- Shedd Aquarium, one of Chicago’s most beloved attractions with over 32,000 animals and ten permanent exhibits, is also a majestic backdrop for wedding celebrations and events; designed in the Beaux-Arts style, this world-renowned museum evokes a neoclassical white marble temple (with unique details such as real marine fossils in the limestone floor)
- For a truly unique wedding, consider exchanging vows at the Abbott Oceanarium as dolphins and beluga whales frolic in the backdrop; Caribbean Reef & Aquarium Galleries also make a stunning backdrop for a wedding reception with a signature 90,000-gallon Caribbean Reef exhibit; for outdoor celebrations, we recommend the North Terrace with its sweeping lakefront and skyline views
- Shedd Aquarium Capacity: up to 600 (seated)
For a transformative event that celebrates innovation and discovery…
- Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, with its large Ionic columns and Beaux Arts style, is the only remaining structure from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; it boasts thousands of unique exhibits and endless photo ops — along with one-of-a-kind, engaging activities such as dining beneath the wing of an airplane
- For a truly dazzling wedding experience, we recommend the Rotunda space for its soaring 120-foot copper dome ceiling and unique décor elements such as real 727 airplane and steam locomotive; the U-505 Submarine is a two-story exhibit for a dramatic wedding reception dinner that includes hands-on experiences, dramatic lighting, and a customized soundtrack
- Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Capacity: up to 12,000
For a celebration rich in history and lavish in detail…
- Field Museum, in addition to be home to the world’s largest dinosaur and featuring 4.5 billion years of history, is the perfect venue for an original and customizable wedding complete with a dedicated event staff and both beautiful indoor and outdoor event spaces
- It’s impossible to pick a favorite event space at this premier museum: Stanley Field Hall wows with two levels of dining and reception space with access to permanent museum galleries; SUE Gallery turns your intimate celebration into a historic adventure that goes 67 million years back in time with a 40-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex; we also adore the Outdoor Terraces for picturesque ceremonies and receptions that overlook Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline
- Field Museum Capacity: over 1,000
For opulent architectural details set amidst lush outdoor landscapes…
- Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo is a historic, Prairie School-style landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places; we especially adore The Great Hall which immediately wins guests over with it soaring skylit roof, stained glass windows and chandeliers, tile mosaics, and curved outdoor loggias that offer stunning views of Lincoln Park Zoo and the city skyline
- Consider People’s Gas Pavilion (a dazzling, overarching honeycombed structure set against the Chicago skyline) for outdoor ceremonies, first looks, and original photo ops; guests will love strolling through the nearby Nature Boardwalk — a lush Midwestern prairie ecosystem
- Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo Capacity: up to 250 seated
For a picturesque oasis tucked inside the vibrant city of Chicago…
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, situated on a lush prairie landscape set against the tranquil blue waters of Lake Michigan, offers everything from a dedicated events team to exquisite natural exhibits like the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven featuring more than 1,000 butterflies for a unique wedding backdrop
- Exchange vows before the picturesque North Pond; let guests explore the museum’s verdant exhibits during a chic cocktail hour; and host a romantic wedding reception in the beautiful indoor spaces that feature floor-to-ceiling windows and spectacular skyline views
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Capacity: up to 1,200
For an imaginative celebration where art is larger than life…
- Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, conveniently located near Water Place Downtown, is one of the world’s largest contemporary art museums with individually-curated exhibits and innovative architectural details that capture the imagination
- The Museum offers a variety of unique and versatile event spaces such as the dramatic Kovler Atrium & Kern Terrace with access to the main floor galleries and outdoor terrace that offers views of the sculpture garden and Lake Michigan
- Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Capacity: up to 230
Unique Library Venues
For grand backdrops that will have your photographer swooning…
- The Newberry Library is an independent research library that doubles as a unique wedding and event venue; its location across from Washington Square Park (the city’s oldest public park) and just steps away from Chicago’s historic Water Tower Campus on Michigan Mile make it a favorite for first looks
- The Lobby is an all-time favorite for couples: Make a dramatic entrance on the lobby’s grand marble staircase; enjoy the beauty of 19th-century décor (think restored mosaic floors and ornate columns) with modern amenities and comforts; combine rooms for greater capacity or a flowing reception
- The Newberry Library Capacity: up to 200
For a sophisticated wedding set in a bygone era…
- The Library at 190 South LaSalle, set in a post-modernist building located in the heart of the financial district, offers 7,000 square-feet of event space for a stunning wedding or event; over 50,000 volumes of law books offer an intellectual backdrop to a sophisticated celebration
- Couples love how the soaring Palladian windows (with awe-inspiring views of Lake Michigan and the wondrous statue of Ceres), dramatic chandeliers, and two-story-high book-lined walls of The Library space bring an air of elegance and refinement to ceremonies and receptions
- The Library at 190 South LaSalle Capacity: up to 130 (seated)
Unique Theatre Venues
For picturesque views and epic entertainment opportunities
- Theater on the Lake is set in a historic, Prairie-style building that boasts sweeping steel arched pavilions, dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows with dazzling skyline and lakefront views, and a spacious outdoor patio that’s perfect for a ceremony or transitional cocktail hour
- Couples and guests alike love the versatile, pillar-free event space that includes access to the onsite restaurant and theater space — bringing dining and dynamic entertainment (with epic staging) to the forefront of your celebration
- Theater on the Lake Capacity: up to 1,500
For a glamorous Art Deco setting that you and your band will love…
- Mayne Stage, opened in 1912 in Rogers Park as a vaudeville and movie house, captures the bygone glamour of its Art Deco past while offering state-of-the-art audio and visual systems
- This multi-purpose venue features an impressive theater space with balcony seating, two green rooms, dramatic staging — with The Mezzanine Level that’s perfect for a transitional cocktail hour
- Mayne Stage Capacity: up to 220
Other Unique Wedding Venues
For vintage opulence in a versatile event space…
- The Builders BLDG, built in 1972, wows with Art Deco-style and exquisite details; with its grand architectural design, this wedding space is magnificent on its own while also serving as a blank canvas for unique wedding styles of all kinds
- The Main Ballroom features a soaring, four-story glass ceiling and iconic stairwell that doubles as a processional entrance or ceremony focal point; we especially love how uplighting and projection mapping can transform this opulent venue into the dreamscape of your choice
- The Builders BLDG Capacity: up to 300
For a unique venue with an ever-changing view…
- Adeline’s Sea Moose is a 68-foot yacht docked in Chicago’s Burnham Harbor; this spacious venue offers multiple decks with panoramic views along with indoor and outdoor entertaining spaces; a professionally-trained crew and office front staff are there to help curate your unique wedding
- Go beyond the wedding arch and let grand Chicago scenery such as Buckingham Fountain, the iconic Chicago skyline, or Navy Pier serve as the backdrop for your exchange of vows; Adeline’s Sea Moose is also perfect for unique bachelor and bachelorette parties and engagement photos
- Adeline’s Sea Moose Capacity: up to 45
For a garden oasis inside the city…
- Glessner House is one of seven remaining original mansions located in the heart of the Prairie Avenue Historic District of Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood; this National Historic Landmark combines the old-school glamour of bygone days with the sumptuous comforts of home
- We especially recommend the Courtyard for outdoor ceremonies and cocktail receptions; this intimate garden oasis features a stunning, ivy-covered brick wall that’s perfect for a ceremonial backdrop and first looks
- Glessner House Capacity: up to 150 (seated)
For a celebration that puts art (and love) first…
- Ignite Glass Studios is a premier glass-making studio and event venue set in an industrial, loft-like space in Chicago’s vibrant West Loop neighborhood; gallery spaces boast rotating exhibits from renowned glass artists as well as current residents
- This unique Chicago wedding venue features multiple photo-worthy event spaces such as the colorful Urban Garden (where guests can enjoy a team of artists shaping molten glass) or spacious Rooftop Deck with edgy urban views
- Ignite Glass Studios Capacity: 220
People Also Ask…
What are Non-Traditional Venues?
Think outside the ballroom with unique wedding venues that challenge your conception of space and amenities. We especially love venues that offer immersive and experiential activities such as museum and gallery spaces. Moreover, don’t forget to rethink your four standard walls. Hire a yacht for an ever-changing view or rent out a sculpture garden for both natural and artistic appeal.
PartySlate is here to connect you with non-traditional venues near you. Head to our curated directory to find additional venues beyond our short list. Search by venue type to find museums, galleries, studios, and more.
Where Can I Have a Small Wedding in Chicago?
Micro weddings are more popular than ever — and for good reason. Even as in-person events resume and social-distancing restrictions are lifted, couples are deciding to celebrate with their closest friends and family, while still going big on style.
Use PartySlate’s curated venue directory to find small wedding venues for your specific guest count. Make sure to use the filters to narrow your search by guest count and venue type. It’s time to check that first “to-do” item off your list.
Where Can I Find Wedding Vendors for my Chicago Wedding?
Finding wedding vendors doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. After you’ve decided on your venue, it’s time to select a wedding planner, photographer, florist, and other event professionals that will curate your unique wedding celebration.
Use PartySlate’s curated vendor directory to begin assembling your dream team. Pro tip: Start with a wedding planner. Your planner can make recommendations on vendors, wedding style, and so much more.