Chicago's Best Wedding Venue Hack

Written and Photographed by Curator Lisa of lisa kathan photography:

We’ve discovered an alternative that's probably the biggest wedding hack in all of Chicago, and only costs $10!

Chicago Wedding Chicago Cultural Center lisa kathan photography

With a little flexibility and organization on your part, you can get married at the historic Chicago Cultural Center. There are a few steps you need to take to make it happen, but it’s certainly less than the effort you’d put into planning a large wedding.

To help guide you through the steps, we asked a recent couple married at the Chicago Cultural Center, Sara and Rob, for the inside scoop.

Chicago Elopement lisa kathan photography

Be flexible!

Ceremonies at the Chicago Cultural Center are held one Saturday morning a month, and only 10 are scheduled each date, so you’re going to need to be flexible when scheduling the date of your wedding. Being so laid back about selecting a wedding date isn’t for everyone. But if you're a relaxed couple looking for somewhere special to get married, it's a terrific option!

You should know that you’re only going to have a maximum 60 days to plan your wedding (explained in Steps below). If this isn’t enough for you, you’ll want to consider another option for your ceremony.

Limit your guest list!

According to the Cook County Marriage Court, you're only allowed a maximum of 20 guests for your ceremony because of time and space constraints.

However, if you want to have more people celebrate your day, host a party afterward! Sara and Rob left immediately after their Chicago Cultural Center ceremony for a fun pre-planned celebration at a neighborhood pub with family and friends.

Make it special!

Even if you're not hosting a major for your wedding, it's still your wedding day, so make it special! Get a beautiful dress, a well-fitted suit, a bouquet and boutonnière, and be sure to have your hair and makeup done professionally.

The wonderful part about having a tiny wedding is that you can make your day whatever you want it to be. Get ready together, walk the city and have your photos taken, go out for drinks afterward. Since you're not caught up in the countless details of a big wedding, you can make your day whatever you want it to be!

4 Steps to Having Your Budget Friendly Wedding at the Chicago Cultural Center

Step 1: First, read the Cook County website and find out if having your wedding at the Chicago Cultural Center is a good fit for your overall plans.

Chicago Elopement lisa kathan photography

Step 2: Your next step is to find out what dates the Marriage Court has open for ceremonies at the Chicago Cultural Center. It’s not posted online and you can’t call for the info. You must visit the Marriage Court at 119 W. Randolph St., Lower Level, during business hours (weekends aren’t recommended).

Pro Tip: Fill out your marriage license application online, print it out, and take it with you (for Step 3). Also, bring $60 CASH to pay for your license, which will further speed up the process.

Step 3: Once you’ve visited the Marriage Court and found a date that you think might work for you, count back EXACTLY 60 days. Take off work and cancel all your plans, because ON THAT DATE you MUST BOTH go to the Cook County Office of Vital Records and get your marriage license.

Chicago Cultural Center Wedding Ceremonies lisa kathan photography

It's recommended you be there an hour early to get in line well before they open at 8:30am (Monday – Friday ONLY). The office is located at 50 W. Washington St., East Concourse Lower Level, Room 25.

Pro Tip: Cook County marriage licenses expire after 60 days, so your ceremony must take place within 60 days after you get it. You can have your ceremony in less time, but 60 days gives you some time to make additional plans for your wedding day.

Chicago Cultural Center Wedding Ceremony lisa kathan photography


Step 4: Wear your running shoes, because once you have your marriage license in hand, you must RUN to the Marriage Court and get in line (remember, you were there to find out what dates they had available for your ceremony!). Pick your ceremony date, and pay $10 cash to get married at the Chicago Cultural Center!

Don’t forget to hire a photographer!

You're going to be dressed up, and may have people with you that you care about (and of course, you'll have each other!), so be sure to have a photographer with you to capture all those wonderful moments.

Chicago Cultural Center Wedding Ceremony lisa kathan photography
Chicago Cultural Center Wedding Ceremony lisa kathan photography
Chicago Cultural Center Wedding Ceremony lisa kathan photography
Chicago Cultural Center Wedding Ceremony lisa kathan photography