Your Guide to Getting Married in Chicago

By Gwendolyn Purdom | April 18, 2016 | Lifestyle Feature

For couples ready to say “I do,” Chicago's bridal scene is in full bloom for spring.

Where to Say I Do

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With its flush of rejuvenating warmth and the promise of new beginnings, spring is a season exceptionally suited for weddings in the Windy City. “Everyone is just feeling healthier and lighter and springier,” says Kelly Cavanaugh of Clementine Custom Events (833 W. Chicago Ave., 773-961-8335). As Chicagoans make their way outside again, Cavanaugh says, embracing the welcome fresh air and sunshine with an outdoor ceremony or cocktail hour—or by bringing the outdoors in—is a must. At the super-sleek Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (221 N. Columbus Dr., 312-565-5258), for instance, wedding guests in the Atlantic Ballroom can take in the city’s splendor thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows offering an in-the-heart-of- the-city vantage point. And for those less balmy days, lighter materials and colorful blooms (such as the ever-popular blossoming branches) make a similar statement despite cooler temps, Cavanaugh says. Complement springtime’s crisp air with a fresh, clean menu, like the custom iterations sure to satisfy all parties at Park Hyatt Chicago (800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-335-1234). Think a spread of garden vegetables like spring peas and beans, and cheeses such as Brie and fourme d’Ambert; roasted lamb chops; and strawberry rhubarb pie. After all, as Cavanaugh says, “People want to embrace [the season].”

An Opulent Wedding

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Gown, J. Mendel (price on request). Belle Vie Bridal Couture, 34 E. Oak St., Second Fl., 312-751-2222. Ivis veil with Swarovski rhinestones, Sara Gabriel ($297). The Left Bank, 1155 W. Webster Ave., 773-929-7422. The Peninsula’s Grand Ballroom makes for a lovely, light-filled reception space.

At The Peninsula Chicago, spring weddings can make the most of milder weather by featuring a reception on the outdoor terrace. Overlooking the Magnificent Mile, the tucked-away courtyard pairs the posh city pulse with a lush garden brimming with tulips, daffodils, and greenery galore. “Even if it wasn’t nice outside, when you walk into the reception area in the ballroom, you can see all the flowers through the floor-to-ceiling windows,” says the Peninsula’s associate director of weddings, Jennifer Clarke. Couples who think outside the traditional ballroom box can also take advantage of a supportive staff when it comes to original dining requests. Designing sumptuous food stations that reflect the cuisine the bride and groom shared on their first date, for instance, or nixing a standard seated dinner in favor of one whose atmosphere is reminiscent of the couple’s engagement night is no trouble for the Peninsula team. “Couples come up with all these fun ideas,” Clarke observes. “At the end of the day, the chefs are as excited as the clients are about it.” 108 E. Superior St., 312-337-2888

A Romantic Wedding

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 18k white-gold 2.02 carat asher center-cut diamond ring with a diamond halo, Razny Bridal Collection (price on request). Centennial Plaza, 1501 W. Lake St., Addison, 630-932-4900; 0.47 carat diamond drop earrings, A. Link & Co. ($1,970). C.D. Peacock, 172 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, 630-571-5355; balcony at the Thompson Hotel; Lace and silk gown, Lela Rose ($4,995). Belle Vie Bridal Couture, 34 E. Oak St., Second Fl., 312-751-2222; Rox suede pump, Jimmy Choo ($3,750). 114 E. Oak St., 312-255-1170

The shimmering champagne walls and neutral décor in the Thompson Hotel’s ballroom grant brides and grooms license to add plenty of personality. “It really allows our guests to use any color palette that they want,” says assistant director of catering Mimi Lopez. “That’s huge, because you go to a lot of venues and you may be stuck with something because [otherwise] it’s going to clash with the curtains or the carpet.” The wallpaper isn’t the only thing that encourages couples at the Thompson to get creative. Chicago foodies will appreciate the Thompson’s cutting-edge culinary program, overseen by the in-house eatery, Nico Osteria, and its One Off Hospitality sister concepts: Late-night taco stations from Big Star and custom cocktails from Violet Hour served alongside Nico’s seasonal fare have become wedding favorites, notes Lopez. Beyond the ballroom, bridal parties can opt for one or more of the hotel’s six bi-level penthouse suites as part of their wedding package—and with pool tables in select suites and others offering outdoor terraces, the playful perks are particularly appealing as the days (and nights) get sultry. 21 E. Bellevue Pl., 312-266-2100

A French-Inspired Wedding

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Grand Ballroom; view from the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower; 18k white-gold 0.26 carat micro pavé emerald-cut center diamond ring, A.Jaffe ($2,330). James & Sons, 1457 N. Halsted St., 773-327-8800. Ivory Goa cabochon clutch, Oscar de la Renta ($1,690); Macarons, Sugar Fixé (price on request). 958 W. Armitage Ave., 773-799-8399

Romance is so central an element at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower that the feeling even echoes in the design of the building itself: Paris-based architect Jean-Paul Viguier envisioned the soaring Gold Coast hotel as a glass-and-steel bride to complement the nearby John Hancock Center’s groomlike appearance. International details are carried through the lobby, which sparkles with French artwork and a photo-ready contemporary grand staircase (an homage to the Paris Opera’s dramatic entry) twinkling with thousands of fiber-optic lights. In the airy Grand Ballroom, guests get another taste of cosmopolitan flavor as they look out the space’s southeast windows above Chestnut Street. “It’s definitely a modern interpretation without being museumesque,” says director of catering Robert Warsaw. The Greg Biggers-created menus, featuring cheeses and charcuterie made in-house, also embody a dedication to modern French flair, right down to the signature macarons, which can be customized in an array of fruit and herb flavors. Says Warsaw, “We truly strive to know the nuances of every bride and groom.” 20 E. Chestnut St., 312-324-4000

How to Accessorize

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Clockwise from far left: Patent porcelain pump, Christian Louboutin ($795), 58 E. Oak St., 312-337-8200. Maison silk and lace nightgown, La Perla ($1,048), 34 E. Oak St., 312-494-0400. Clutch, Rauwolf ($1,990), Barneys New York, 15 E. Oak St., 312-587-1700. 22.48 carat diamond Icon Motif bracelet, Graff (price on request), 103 E. Oak St., 312-604-1000

Add key details that will make your big day much more special.

What to Eat

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FROM LEFT: The tried-and-true combo of milk and cookies gets an upgrade from Paramount Events; Big Delicious Planet organically grows over 85 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and edible flowers for produce-rich dishes like fried green tomatoes and Burgundy long beans (far right).

Wedding guests can expect personalized twists on traditional favorites on their plates this spring. “Brides and grooms are so focused on what they like and sharing their uniqueness with people,” says Jodi Fyfe of Paramount Events (773-880-8044), “so it’s always great to think outside of the box and think of things that you like that can make it more personal.” Among those individual details, Fyfe says, her team is seeing a spike in brunch weddings, bar carts, and retro treats like milk and cookies. Although doughnuts are on their way out, she adds, gourmet beignets are big, while craft-beer fans in particular are embracing pretzel bars that pair brews with Bavarian bites and toppings. Menus can also be sourced to honor personal tastes, as Heidi Coudal of Big Delicious Planet (312-455-1019) sees more couples incorporating the kind of urban farming and green practices her company is known for, especially as the spring growing season gets under way. “We know exactly what we’ll be harvesting the day that they’re getting married, so we tailor menus to the day of their wedding,” Coudal says. “We even tell people, ‘If there’s something we’re not growing and you want it on your menu, we can grow it.’”

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Categories: Lifestyle Feature

photography by Cristina g photography

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