On the hunt for a beautiful, romantic, airy Midwestern wedding venue close to Chicago? You’re in the right spot, my friend. Because let me tell you, I don’t make a decision until I know I’ve done ALL of my research. So today, I can’t wait to open up my little book of wedding research and share with you our favorite mansion, garden and loft wedding venues that we considered around the Midwest, all full of light and character.
I truly think finding your venue is the hardest part of the wedding planning process, so if you feel incredibly overwhelmed, know you are not the slightest bit alone. But once you start finding spaces that really speak to you or align with your vision, you’ll find the process so much more exciting. Selecting your venue truly sets the tone for the entire wedding, so once this decision is made, your day really starts to come alive before your very eyes, which is SO special.
In case you missed it, I recently share our own wedding venue decision over here, and we are SO thrilled to have decided on the beautiful Wilder Mansion! After endless research, many rounds of questions and calls, and a whole lot of tours, we ultimately decided it was the best fit for our vision, our lives, our families and our budget, and we are SO excited to have this part of our process set in stone.
We searched high and low and spent endless hours making sure we scoped out all of our options for a romantic, airy, and character-filled Midwestern wedding venue, and so of course, I wanted to share all of our findings with you for beautiful options close to Chicago!
But first thing’s first, let’s talk about how you can more accurately determine your wedding venue budget (because those little percentage guidelines don’t tell the full picture!) and the most important thing to keep in mind while searching for your venue.
Determining Your Venue Budget
So before I get too far in, what exactly does “on-budget” mean? Well, you can look up budget calculators that will give you what percent of your budget you should spend on a wedding venue, but be flexible with your number. There are a LOT of variables when it comes to whether your venue is truly “on-budget.” Will they let you bring your own alcohol? Can you choose your own caterer? Are there restrictions when it comes to vendors? Depending on the answer, these variables can cost or save you thousands, so it should definitely be considered when thinking about the cost of your venue.
Also really big factor: is your venue a blank canvas, or is it already filled with character? Does it have furniture and decor you like and will add to the ambiance, or will you be bringing it all in? We saw many beautiful venues that were technically over our venue budget, BUT, they were so full of character, that we knew we’d save on decor and florals.
Keep these questions in mind and be a little bit flexible with your venue budget, because this decision is a big one, and will ground your entire ambiance.
The One Thing You MUST Keep In Mind While Searching for a Venue
If I can only give you one piece of advice, it’s this…
And let me tell you, as a type-A perfectionist, this doesn’t come easy, but remember: no venue is going to be PERFECT. There are pros and cons to everything, and the more you can remind yourself of this, the happier you will be throughout this process. Remember, your venue is not your dream home; not every corner will be exactly how you would like it; not every design detail will be what you would have selected. There are SO many beautiful venues around the Midwest, but remember, there will be pros and cons for every single one of them. Level set your expectations and do your best not to fall into the Pinterest trap (which can be very dangerous on wedding expectations).
Remember, the beautiful images you see across social media are the very best of each wedding. You do not need to like every room. You do not need to like every part of the exterior. You need to love the heart and soul of the space and be able to envision your special day taking place there.
Unrealistic expectations are deadly with wedding planning (saying this one more time for myself). So ask the questions, be inquisitive, think through various scenarios, make your pro/con list, but remember at the end of the day to have grace during this process. It does not need to be entirely perfect for it to still be the perfect choice for you.
Now, I can’t wait to share with you some of the romantic, bright and airy, character-filled wedding venues we visited or considered around the Midwest.
Beautiful, Romantic and Airy Midwestern Wedding Venues We Toured
Mansions + Gardens
Location: Battlecreek, Michigan
Type: Estate and garden
Pros: Absolutely the most gorgeous venue we saw. Greencrest Manor is just breathtaking, from the mansion itself to the beautiful property. The owners are the MOST lovely people, and if you can fit it into your budget, I am certain you would have such an incredible experience. It the most romantic and enchanting Midwestern wedding venue we visited.
Cons: Price was the biggest factor for us, but truthfully, I think the price is incredibly fair for how stunning the venue is. Truly, we got goosebumps the second we pulled up. It’s absolutely magical. However, it was just too far out of our price range to make it work. We did consider it though, because we knew we’d be spending MUCH less on florals and decor because the venue is SO stunning to begin with. So, if it is close to your budget, I’d absolutely recommend visiting and adding it to your list.
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Pros: The property and mansion are GORGEOUS! I love the beautiful sunroom with black and white tile flooring and the back patio would make such a stunning outdoor dinner spot, if the weather allowed. It is also very secluded, making it that much more romantic and peaceful. Overall, it is such a romantic, airy, and enchanting location.
Chicago History Museum
Location: Chicago, IL
Pros: I couldn’t be more in love with the classic, timeless ambiance of this venue! The black and white tile absolutely stole our hearts, and the outdoor space is stunning. I do love a venue in the city too, because your photo opportunities are endless. Some city venues though don’t offer beautiful outdoor space nearby, but the Chicago History Museum does, which we loved.
Cons: Due to the pandemic, we unfortunately weren’t able to physically visit because museums were shut down, so we did a virtual visit. While absolutely understandable, it made us nervous to put a venue at the top of our lists that we hadn’t seen. That, plus the cost, ultimately lead us down a different route, but my goodness, is this is a beautiful, timeless venue!
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Pros: Located in a beautiful part of Milwaukee, this historic and romantic Midwestern wedding venue has so much character. We really loved the ivy-covered facade and the side patio that could be great for cocktail hours or your ceremony.
Cons: We did a virtual tour of this venue, as well. The interior wasn’t our favorite, compared to some of the other venues we saw. It also didn’t have any outdoor space, since it is located within the city. Totally understandable, but the more we saw a range of venues, the more I realized I really wanted some indoor/outdoor space. We also didn’t have the greatest experience with customer service, and that was a really important element for us.
Ravisloe Country Club
Location: Homewood, IL
Type: Country Club
Pros: We first fell in love with the beautiful patio space in the middle of the U-shaped, ivy-covered, character-packed wedding venue. We loved the romantic ambiance it offered and could absolutely picture our ceremony and dinner in this space.
Cons: We unfortunately didn’t have a great customer service experience with the venue management team, which was a really important factor for us. We also visited in the winter, and what looked like in the midst of some reorganization/moving, so maybe we didn’t the full effect. It looks absolutely breathtaking in pictures!
Location: Chicago, IL (West Loop)
Type: Urban Garden
Pros: Such a unique garden-esque space in the midst of the city, Galleria Marchetti is a beautiful, intimate, romantic wedding venue that offers a really special ambiance.
Cons: The venue fee isn’t too expensive, but the catering is required to be done with the venue, and is quite expensive. Also, when visiting, there was a lot more contemporary, artistic touches that were certainly beautiful, but less of what we were looking for. All that said, it’s a STUNNING venue; don’t pass it up if it’s your style.
Location: Chicago, IL (West Loop)
Pros: For its city address, Room 1520 is a much more affordable Chicago wedding venue! I also love that this space is a beautiful, clean, white canvas that will really allow your florals and greenery to stand-out.
Cons: We ultimately decided we were leaning towards a mansion/garden style more, as we missed the outdoor space you don’t get with a city loft. If we did decide to go the loft route, it definitely would have been high on our list!
Location: Aurora, IL
Pros: The space has so much unique character, from the exposed brick to the beautiful, classic woodworking. We absolutely loved the interior space and it was filled with so much natural light. They do cater in-house, and while it was expensive, it looked absolutely fantastic. We had really lovely conversations with the team here and loved our tour of the space.
Cons: The two cons for us were location and price. While the price of the venue itself wasn’t bad, the required catering was expensive. Also, downtown Aurora isn’t the nicest area, which was a deterrent for us. We wanted a venue that had beautiful outdoor space.
The BRIX on Fox
Location: Carpentersville, IL
Pros: The team at BRIX has created such a wonderful wedding venue concept! Unlike many venues, there are not many restrictions at all; the space is truly your canvas to bring to life your vision. They also allow a BYOB bar service, which can save you quite a bit. So many vendors we’ve talked have said such wonderful things about this venue and we had great experiences speaking with the owners.
Cons: We didn’t love the location here, as it was a bit further away from the city and our home town, and also ultimately decided after seeing a few lofts, we gravitated more towards the mansion/estate category. However, if you’re on the hunt for a loft and really want a space that will let you create your own dream team of vendors, this is a fantastic option.
Others Estate and Garden Venues We Considered
Chicago Botanic Garden | Chicago, IL
Danada House | Wheaton, IL
Armour House | Lake Forest, IL
Venue 3 Two | Grand Rapids, MI
Providence Vineyard | Hebron, IL
Monte Bello Estate | Home Glen, IL
Cantigny Park | Wheaton, IL
Vitta Terrance Decorative Arts Museum | Milwaukee, IL
The Lehmann Mansion | Lake Villa, IL
Morton Arboretum | Lisle, IL
Zingerman’s Cornman Farms| Dexter, MI
Arranmore Farm + Polo Club | Oswego, IL
The Broadway Avenue | Grand Rapids, MI
Allerton Park + Retreat | Monticello, IL
War Memorial | Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
Wandering Tree Estate | Lake Zurich, IL
Other Loft and Open Spaces We Considered
Cafe Brauer | Chicago, IL
The Ivy Room | Chicago, IL
Chicago Illuminating Company | Chicago, IL
The Standard | Rockford, IL
Bridgeport Art Center | Chicago, IL
Loft on Lake | Chicago, IL
Loft Lucia | Chicago, IL
Fairlie | Chicago, IL
I hope this guide was helpful for you! Are there any other romantic, airy and bright wedding venues around the Midwest or near Chicago that I missed? Keep the list going and drop them below.
Happy venue searching!