Nothing beats a Chicago wedding. But when it comes to planning a Chicago wedding, well, there are a few big things to keep in mind. Especially when it comes to wedding photography.
From budgeting for permits to scheduling bathroom breaks, here are the 8 photography-related things you should keep in mind while planning your wedding.
Top Tips for Planning a Chicago Wedding
1. Check the Event Calendar
When planning your wedding, you’ll want to take note of any sporting events, concerts, holidays, or other big events happening the weekend of your wedding.
The big events that happen annually are:
But also keep an eye out for any one-off, newsworthy events, like Chicago hosting a NASCAR street race or the 2024 DNC.
Usually, this just means higher hotel rates + extra travel time, but (depending on the event) it could mean some popular photo locations are off-limits (like the Air and Water Show or Lollapalooza).
Don’t stress too much about staying up-to-date. Part of my job as a wedding photographer is keeping an eye out for big events and helping you plan accordingly—especially when it comes to picking photo locations and budgeting enough time for traffic.
2. Pick a Side (of the City)
When it comes to choosing photo locations, I recommend sticking to your ‘side’ of the city—north, south, or west.
Example: if you’re getting ready at Hotel Zachary (Wrigleyville) and getting married at Artifact Events (Ravenswood)… I wouldn’t suggest we head to Chinatown for photos at Ping Tom Park.
If you’ve got your heart set on photos all the way across town, traveling farther isn’t *completely* off the table. It just brings us to our next point…
3. Budget for traffic
Travel time is a huge thing to keep in mind when you’re planning a Chicago wedding. When figuring out travel between locations, always factor in the high-end of Google Maps’ estimation.
If it says it can take 20-45 minutes to travel from Point A to Point B… assume it’ll take 45 minutes. You’d rather have some downtime to relax vs. be stressed out and running late.
Pro Tip: Make sure you switch from “Leave now” to “Depart at” and set the time for the right day of the week and mid-day. That’ll get you the most accurate time range.
4. Always Get Transportation
On paper, if your venue and hotel are a few blocks away, a trolley seems like an unnecessary expense. But here are a few things to consider before completely vetoing transportation:
- Will we want to travel somewhere else for wedding photos?
- Will my wedding party be OK carrying personal items, bouquets, and possibly a cooler in their dress clothes?
- Is everyone going to be okay walking if it’s too rainy, windy, cold, or hot?
Uber seems like a great idea until everyone gets split up + wait times are 10+ minutes. I always recommend at least opting for a sprinter van to get you from point A to B.
5. Stay Realistic About the Weather
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Chicago weather is unpredictable. When picking photo locations, I always make sure my couples come up with a Plan B that they’re happy with.
Check out this list of my favorite indoor/backup locations for wedding photos.
6. Prepare for Permits
Considering it’s freezing cold for half the year, you’d think Chicago would have plenty of free indoor spots for wedding photos. Instead, a majority of places require photography permits.
These permits can range anywhere from $40/hr to over $1000. When planning a Chicago wedding—specifically when putting together your wedding budget—take a peek at that photo list I mentioned in #5. If there are any spots you love the looks of, keep the cost in mind when budgeting for wedding photos.
Even if you have your heart set on skyline photos, it’s always a good idea to prepare for any last-minute photography permits if the weather forecast looks dreary.
7. Plan on Minimal Bathroom Breaks
Wedding photos are all fun and games until the hard seltzers catch up with your bladder.
The city of Chicago is not public bathroom friendly, so when your wedding photographer says “use the bathroom now“, make sure everyone listens. That’s usually code for “we won’t be near a toilet for an hour and a half and I have no sympathy if you start doing the potty dance in 20 minutes”.
8. Be Flexible
To get the most out of your wedding day, be prepared to roll with the punches.
Sometimes, you’ll show up at a photo location and a busker will be in the perfect spot. Or there are 4 other wedding parties waiting to use the same spot. Or maybe a rain cloud pops up. Or a guest shuttle is running late due to traffic.
You get the picture.
In a city this big, things outside your control are bound to happen. But that’s the Chicago we know and love.
That’s why it’s important to hire a team of experienced wedding vendors you trust. That way we can problem-solve while you just grab another glass of champagne and enjoy your wedding day.
If you’re reading over those 8 points going “Chelsea, I don’t need to add more things to my wedding planning plate!”, I’m here to give you some reassurance.
Hiring the right team of vendors means you don’t have to really worry about these things. We’ll help factor these things into your timeline and guide you toward a perfect, stress-free wedding day.
Still in the market for a Chicago Wedding Photographer?
I’d love to chat more about your wedding plans and see if I’m the perfect photography addition to your dream team.