Your Chicago Wedding Planning Checklist


Planning a destination wedding? Make it Chicago—a perfect place to host your special day! Not only does it provide countless fabulous venues, but Chicago also has all you need to make your wedding day as special as you have always dreamed it could be. Here is a simple wedding checklist to help you with your preparations.


Before You Start

Planning a wedding means ensuring you have a task list under control. And before you get near discussions on wedding dresses, who to invite, the theme for your wedding, and where you will be spending your honeymoon, probably the first thing you should have is a budget in mind for your wedding. It sounds simple enough, but when you consider all the extras that come along as part of a wedding event, you’ll want to be sure that you don’t overspend. This doesn’t mean you have to be cheap. Having a budget – at least a dollar figure that marks the maximum you wish to spend – enables you to plan without worrying whether you can afford an item. A budget gives you a framework to fit in everything related to your wedding. It also reduces stress levels considerably!

Item 1 – Take Care of The Big Decisions First

Now that you have your budget in place, start working on the big decisions related to your wedding. These include picking the date of your event and where you plan to have it hosted. In Chicago, you have a definite wedding season that seems to run from May to October. That is, if you’re planning an outdoor wedding. Indoor weddings are perfect most any time of year, but winter may restrict travel if you are expecting a lot of out-of-town relatives in attendance. Chicago has hundreds of places of worship to choose from. If you are stepping outside of the box and moving away from traditional venues, you still have a huge selection ranging from the Bridgeport Art Centre and the Adler Planetarium to Hotel Allegro, The Newberry Library, and Chicago’s First Lady Cruises to name a few. Your budget and sense of adventure should give you guidance on where your wedding would be best located.

Item 2 – Start Working On Smaller Details

Your wedding theme, if you have one, will help you a great deal at this point in the checklist. That’s because you’ll have to choose and organize such things as wedding attire, decorations, flowers, etc. that tie into your specific wedding theme. You may also be able to build your theme from the Chicagoland venue that you choose. For example, if you are marrying on a cruise ship on Lake Michigan, your theme can include nautical elements, the city skyline, the endless blue of the lake, or the stunning sunset behind the skyline. A more formal theme may work best in a setting like the Ivy Room At Tree Studios or Lyric Opera House’s art deco and art nouveau spaces. At this point, you’ll be sorting out your guest list. Try to keep it simple and follow the rule that family comes first, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, old school mates, and others follow. Set a limit (keep your budget in mind) and make your first draft guest list. Leave it alone for a few days and come back to it and review the names on it. Can you leave someone out, or do you need to add someone else?

Item 3 – Hire the Right DJ and Other Essential Vendors

This may sound like an easy one, but your wedding theme will play a role in the decisions related to the music (DJ or live band), the wedding cake, and securing the officiant. If you and your finances are having a non-church wedding and would prefer to not have a pastor or other religious leader conduct the ceremony, you may want to look into your alternatives at this point in the checklist. In Chicago, you have a long list of choices which include judges (active or retired), a county clerk (if the county has a population of at least 2-million, like Cook County), a public official whose duties include performing weddings, and a mayor or president of a city, village, or town (City of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as an example). 

Many independent venues provide lists of caterers, entertainment options, decorators and so on. Take advantage of what your venue managers already know—these are great choices for you in the space you’re using for your wedding!

Item 4 – The Honeymoon

You can’t forget to work on a plan for your first official getaway as a married couple. It isn’t unusual for couples these days to hold off on this part of the wedding plan. Work tends to be the main reason for this. However, if your budget allows for a short vacation immediately after the wedding dinner reception, then now is the time to work out the plans for that with a larger honeymoon planned for whenever you can fit it in.

Item 5 – The Parties

When you get to this point, you deserve an opportunity to let your hair down and just go out and play. Yes, you guessed it—we are talking about the bachelor or bachelorette parties. They do serve a purpose in the planning of your Chicago wedding because it is a time to spend with friends and not be concerned about wedding planning. You can have your party in the home of a good friend, or why not take in some of Chicago’s nightlife? You could visit Game Night Out, The Hideout, Surreal Nightlife and Bottle Service, or just the local neighborhood pub. Your choices here are endless.

Item 6 – Find A Well-Located Rehearsal Dinner Venue

By the time you get to this point on your checklist, your wedding should be just days away. This is the time to conduct wedding rehearsals to ensure that everything goes without a hitch. If you are doing Chicago rehearsal dinner venue research, this list from Party Slate is a good starting point.


Weddings are not meant to be scary or stressful. However, the preparations leading up to them often are. All you need to do is set a budget, stick to it, and follow a few easy steps and before you know it, it will be your wedding day. Hopefully, if your wedding is an outdoor one in Chicago, the weather cooperates. Didn’t someone say that rain on your wedding day is good luck?