Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hot(el) or Not? The venue search continues

When we started talking wedding, AF and I agreed that a unique place that would be fun for everyone was key, so we focused on Chicago special event venues. We also knew that it was going to be a kid-friendly wedding, because our siblings have children of various ages whom we adore, as do many of our friends.

At this point, our guest list is about 25 percent children under 10 and 70 percent out-of-towners. To make a long story short, we're now considering hotels for our ceremony/reception because it makes sense on several fronts. Availability doesn't seem to be an issue, unlike the museums we've been targeting. And the whole venue-to-hotel transportation dilemma is obviously non-existent.

On the downside, I'm afraid we're giving up the uniqueness we were looking for and the freedom to really make it our own. Oh, and it will probably work out to be $5,000 or so more. So far we've seen the InterContinental Chicago, Sofitel Chicago Water Tower and Westin River North.

As I told AF last night, I've lived in Chicago for more than a decade now and not once have I ever imagined myself having a wedding at one of the hotels here. This is not a knock against hotel weddings or Chicago hotels, but it's just not something I've ever considered for myself.

If you have an opinion or experience with hotel weddings, would love love love to hear about it!


  1. I wouldn't mind having a reception at a hotel, but that's just me lol.
    I think there are plenty of ways you can still represent yourselves as a couple and still use a hotel. The way you decorate, the food you serve, the whole feeling and tone of the environment will all be a reflection of you.

    Just decide-- a few years down the road, when you look back, are you going to be disappointed that you had it in a hotel instead of a museum? or will it make that much of a difference to you?

  2. "A few years down the road, when you look back, are you going to be disappointed that you had it in a hotel instead of a museum? or will it make that much of a difference to you?"

    Thank you!! Two simple questions really helps me put things in perspective.

  3. have you considered trying to find some loft spaces in the downtown area? i know here in kansas city there are several loft spaces which can be rented out, that overlook the city and are a relatively good price as well. i am sure you'll find something; remain patient and know it will all work out!


  4. This is EXACTLY our feelings about our reception too!! We have looked at many non-hotel spaces & now we are putting some hotels on our list. You are finding that hotels are more expensive than the non-hotel spaces? That surprises me a bit.
    Anyway, we are going to check out the Blackstone (Renaissance) & Palmer House Hilton.
    Maybe consider those too? I also know the Hilton on Michigan Ave near Millenium Park has some big ballrooms too.

  5. I ADORE Chicago Illumination company, but it was $7500 to rent when I called. There's also West Loop Loft and there's a really cool art gallery that we were looking at that was affordable. I'll try to remember the name and comment back. It's driving me nuts now!

    There's also Mars: http://www.marsgallery.com/

    Hang in there!


  6. I, too, had this deliema when we first started looking for a venue. I really liked the idea of renting a "unique" space for the reception, like a museum, loft etc... However, when I started looking I realized that it would just be too 1) costly and 2) complicated.

    Unique spaces are great but you have to do everything seperately. There's the fee just to rent the space for an evening, which can be fairly pricey in and of itself. I saw fees ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 for that alone. Then you have to find a caterer... and a baker... and rent all of the tables, chairs, linens, tableware, decor... and coordinate it all.

    With a hotel, most of that is included in the price, so you know (more or less) how much its going to be right away and its a lot less complicated. I think, anyway.

    So, after comparing the pros and cons, my fiance and I ultimately decided to go with a hotel. I contacted more than 20 hotels in Chicago, and the cost varies significantly. One question to ask up front, I learned, is "What is the food and beverage minimum for such and such date?" This is important because they all have a minimum you must spend (seemed to vary from $10,000 to more than $40,000 depending on the hotel). After comparing and contrasting the costs, packages, and services offered at all of the hotels, my fiance and I settled on one that we are very happy with (so far).

    Good luck!

  7. I agree with several folks here - I absolutely love the loft idea, but the doing everything separate is tough. I think even with some of the hotels you listed here - you can totally find the uniqueness that you want. I did the really unique ceremony site and loved it purely because we got some gorgeous photography out of it. But you will get gorgeous photography because you will have downtown Chicago as the backdrop....

  8. I've been faced with a similar dilemma but am just sticking to my guns and going for the creative loft. However, at the same time, I have more than a year to plan. If I didn't I would probably end up going with something easier.

  9. Yay, another Chicago blogger bride! Congratulations on your engagement!

    I went through the same exact thing as you- I was in love with the museum or lofts idea, but the logistics of interviewing and organizing multiple vendors was daunting. I then started looking at hotels- and yes, they can be quite expensive, especially downtown! I don't think you necessarily will be giving up uniqueness and your style: every venue has a framework in place that you have to work around: architecture, the floor, the ceiling, the lights, etc. A hotel might have a bit more in terms of decoration than a blank slate of a loft, but honestly at every hotel wedding I've been to my eyes see the lighting, the flowers, the mood of the room, not the hotel beyond whether it's an old-school hotel or contemporary hotel which starts to hint at the mood of the possible event- but that's it until I see the room. There are definite ways to make any space yours.

    I don't know how much of a Cubs fan you personally are, but because of a previous post you had with venue information cross-referenced with the Cubs schedule- have you considered having your wedding at Wrigley Field itself? Someone I know did so (ceremony in the bleachers!), and it was casual but an amazing unique and memorable time! Or you can make it your "rehearsal dinner".

    I personally ended up picking a venue that was out in the suburbs to take advantage both of the cheaper rates once you are outside of downtown (both for venue prices and hotels prices for my out of town guests), and some of the venues in the suburbs have deals with nearby hotels to offer free shuttles, so that is also an option if you are willing to give up downtown as a wedding location (I will still be there for photos for a few hours before the ceremony) and expand your browsing.

    Good luck and I look forward to reading more of your planning adventures!

  10. We faced a nearly identical dilemma. I opted for SalvageOne ($5000 rental, but you can do your own booze). Our VERY CLOSE runner up was Maxim's ($3000, amazing art deco Parisian recreation), but not for everyone. Near Maxim's is the perennial favorite (though not my taste)- A New Leaf. Though a good compromise for many, I couldn't bear to face the hotel option myself.