Photo: Rick Aguilar
|Tonya Allen and Jeff Faber star at the Chicago Theatre
The mate comes first, then the dilemmas can start to multiply. Dealing with the details of formalizing a commitment can, in retrospect, make choosing a partner seem relatively simple-the natural order of romance when love is a many-splendored thing. But venues for a wedding and a reception must be reserved far in advance. Beyond the timing and the cost, factors to consider are the number of people, the season, and the level of formality. The places included here were selected for their elegance, their versatility, and their quirkiness-for the last, consider a zoo’s lion house and a World Series playing field. On-site planners are available for assistance at some of the locations; at all of them, couples can experience the full impact of what a difference a day makes. Some prices are for the spaces only. Food, drinks, and entertainment are extra. Call for details.
The Grand Hotel Experience
At the world-class Four Seasons, Chicago, impeccable service for a wedding or a reception is a given. The intimate Delaware Room, with its floor-to-ceiling views of the city, is perfect for smaller gatherings. For larger events, choose the 12,500-square-foot grand ballroom. The hotel offers the services of a wedding concierge who is highly trained in time management. Other amenities include complimentary changing suites and photography rooms. The Honeymoon Haven Package promises monogrammed pillowcases (to keep, of course), Champagne and strawberries, and a bed scattered with fragrant rose petals. Four Seasons, Chicago, 120 East Delaware Place; 312-280-8800. Prices from $200 a person.
The Park Hyatt Chicago offers modern elegance and spectacular views of Michigan Avenue and Water Tower Square. For an intimate event, there is a private room on the seventh floor, part of the famous NoMI restaurant designed by Tony Chi. This gallery space, with wenge walls and white marble floors, can comfortably acccommodate 30. In a room adjacent to the gallery overlooking the Chicago Water Tower, plush vanilla suede chairs surround a long Bavarian wood dining table. For a reception in a small urban oasis, reserve the outdoor NoMI Garden. Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 North Michigan Avenue; 312-239-4019. Prices from $78 a person with an event room charge.
Located in the Loop near some of the city’s oldest theatres, the hip W Chicago– City Center is a setting with opulence and drama. Among the recently refurbished regal accouterments are high marble ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and a gold and silver color scheme. The larger loftlike ballroom, with its huge marble fireplace, is the right size for a group of 300. Now undergoing a renovation due to be completed by March, the smaller space holds 150. Before the main event, the bride and her court can recharge with a girls’ getaway package at City Center’s Bliss Spa. W Hotel–City Center, 172 West Adams Street; 312-332-1200. Prices from $120 a person.
Arty and Exotic
Dance beneath the stars and mingle among singular paintings and sculpture at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The building offers a dramatic atrium and other flexible indoor spaces as well as the Kern Terrace, which can be tented and provides stunning views of the sculpture garden and Lake Michigan. The museum accommodates 300 guests for a seated dinner or 1,200 for a reception. Museum of Contemporary Art special events office, 220 East Chicago Avenue; 312-397-3855. Prices from $4,000.
For show-biz razzle-dazzle, including the happy couple’s names in lights on the marquee, try the Chicago Theatre. The wedding ceremony can be held in the spectacular Baroque-style lobby, with majestic staircases patterned after those at the Paris Opera House as a backdrop. The stage, once dominated by stars such as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, can be built out for a sit-down dinner for 250. Have your favorite songs played on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Work with on-site planners and an exclusive caterer. Mike Godina, the Chicago Theatre, 175 North State Street; 312-462-6314. Prices from $4,500.
Situated near Navy Pier, the loftlike setting of the River East Art Center provides city and lake views. An exotic room with 25-foot-high timber ceilings is the right size for a sit-down dinner of 350 guests. The main event space is large enough for a buffet-style reception and dancing for 1,500 guests. Wave goodbye to your guests when you depart by boat. Jessica Lussier, the River East Art Center, 435 East Illinois Street; 312-321-1001. Prices from $6,500 for the Saturday-night rental of the main event room.
For something wild, reserve a space at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Surrounded by flamingos and swans, the tranquil, newly unveiled Pavilion in the heart of the zoo is an open yet roof-covered space that easily allows for a reception of 180 guests. The art deco Kovler Lion House, dating from 1912, can accommodate a sit-down dinner for 365 beneath a vaulted 46-foot ceiling. Pacing around the perimeter: lions, tigers, and leopards. Zarada Gowenlock, Lincoln Park Zoo, Cannon Drive at Fullerton Parkway; 312-337-3337. From $2,500 an evening.
With assorted rooms upstairs and down, the event space adjoining the Old Town flower shop A New Leaf is an adaptable destination for ceremonies and receptions of many sizes. Clerestory windows illuminate rooms with exposed brick walls and concrete floors, and on the ground level, double doors open onto a courtyard-a serene, secret city garden. A New Leaf, 1820 North Wells Street; 312-642-8553. From $3,500 for weekend events.
The exterior of the 19th-century brick building in the West Loop that houses Catalyst Ranch is unassuming, but the inside is retro and surreal-filled with bold colors, ethnic paintings, and vintage furnishings. Up to 200 guests can tango in this bright, eccentric space. Catalyst Ranch, 656 West Randolph Street; 312-207-1710. From $1,340.
At Millennium Park, the city’s internationally acclaimed new downtown wonder, there are several sites to consider. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, architect Frank Gehry’s intergalactic steel sound stage, with its mechanized glass doors, is available for events year-round and accommodates 160 for a sit-down dinner or 120 for dinner and dancing. From April through October, the Rooftop Terrace-tented in white, with grand archways-can be reserved for outdoor events. Take wedding photos in front of Anish Kapoor’s highly polished stainless-steel sculpture, Cloud Gate, with the city’s skyline as a shimmering backdrop. Anel Montes, Millennium Park, 201 East Randolph Street; 312-744-5943. From $10,000 for the pavilion.
Believe it! Fans can have their wedding ceremony on the grounds of U.S. Cellular Field-home of the 2005 World Series– winning White Sox-and then adjourn upstairs for the reception. The Terrace Suites skyboxes can seat 60 to 400 for a celebratory repast, while the Stadium Club can accommodate 400. Levy Restaurants, the exclusive caterer for the field, offers customized menus with choices ranging from mini hot dogs to filet mignon and lobster tails. Other bonuses: photos in the dugout, your names in lights on the scoreboard. A win-win destination. Cari Frankenstein, U.S. Cellular Field, 333 West 35th Street; 312-674-5155. From $65 to $175 a person; Stadium Club rental, nongame day, $1,000.