Looking for a suitable Chicago/Midwest place to have a really big party. Outside. Unless it's raining.
October 18, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Looking for an indoor/outdoor venue for our wedding/party in the greater Chicago area, that isn't astronomically expensive, and would offer some pretty scenery, and accomodate my ridiculous desire to dress my dog up as a ring bearer.

We moved to Chicago a couple of months ago, and has a quick-and-dirty courthouse ceremony before moving, with the intention of having a Real Wedding Type Party in 2011 with all of our friends and family. I'm currently running very behind on the planning of this event, because I'm having a much harder time than I thought I would finding a suitable venue. Not being familiar with the area, it's been difficult to find things that are appropriate, so I come to the hive mind seeking assistance. Does anyone have suggestions that might fit these criteria?

What we're looking for:
  • Must accommodate 75-100 people or so (extremely rough estimate)
  • Must accommodate one dog, very adorable, 65-lb boxer
  • Outdoors, preferably involving some trees that may be pretty colors by October
  • With an adjacent indoor area that can be rented out for events, in case of inclement weather
  • Within half a day's drive of Chicago
  • If more than an hour or two away from Chicago, with some sort of overnight accommodations for us and our guests
  • Will allow us to bring our own caterers/food, not restricted to their vendors, because I'm picky about food
  • Not astronomically expensive. Now, this is tricky because I don't have a very good idea of what expensive is. We'd like to do the whole shebang for under $10k though, for around 100 people, with great food and really nice invitations, so I'm thinking our venue budget is probably pretty low.

    I realize this is probably a tall order. I think my ideal location would be a sort of state park or forest area with a pretty lodge, surrounded by trees, with tent camping or little cabins people could stay in. People can fly into Chicago, come out to the forest for a day or two for our wedding, and rent cars or carpool to the location. Or if there's somewhere within the city, that would be fantastic too. The Chicago Parks District locations seem really expensive and restrictive as far as vendors go.

    What we don't want:
  • A church

  • More photos of dog and/or husband can be furnished upon request.
    posted by booknerd to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
    we got married at the rivera country club in orland park, IL, which meets everything but the byo food thing, but they were really good about me being picky with the menu. ceremony outside, in the gazebo facing their lake, on 10/2, open-bar and full dinner reception indoors. it was a really really nice wedding. :-)
    posted by ChefJoAnna at 12:54 PM on October 18, 2010

    Is there a botanical center nearby?
    posted by ducktape at 12:59 PM on October 18, 2010

    I'm in Philly, so I have no advice for Chicago-specific venues, however:

    We're doing a fairly nice restaurant for our 75-100 person wedding, and our cost for food/venue/alcohol alone is almost $10k. You may be able to cut costs in other ways (brunch service maybe? no alcohol? DIY?), but I don't know if you'll be able to do a proper sit-down dinner, especially at a place with outdoor seating in the city, for under 10K.
    posted by two lights above the sea at 1:09 PM on October 18, 2010

    Response by poster: Oh, I should have mentioned we're not necessarily planning on a proper sit-down dinner. I've been toying with the idea of picnic boxes, or other things, but nothing has really been decided on that front. Nailing down a date/venue is kind of the first step of the many things I'm lagging on.

    Ducktape, there are lovely botanical centers, but I believe they're not dog-accommodating.
    posted by booknerd at 1:11 PM on October 18, 2010

    My aunt and uncle had a wonderful reception at Seasons of Long Grove. Even if that isn't the place you end up with, you might be able to do some other stuff around there.

    Starved Rock? Stronghold? (Note: not strictly Christian!) White Pines? (My parents were, um, supposed to go there on their honeymoon, but my dad hadn't really made reservations.)

    I would be remiss if I didn't mention fabulous Madison, WI. Places you might like could include the Devil's Lake area (an hour north of there). There are loads of beautiful foliage vantage points in and outside the city.
    posted by Madamina at 1:47 PM on October 18, 2010

    Morton Arboretum lists all of their rates for wedding-ish activity here. Most of those prices don't look too horrible, although that depends strongly on when the wedding is and which space you'd like to use. I'd recommend making a visit out there.
    posted by shakespeherian at 1:50 PM on October 18, 2010

    CD & ME in Frankfort. Although I should mention that despite the pretty trees in the pictures, the surrounding area is mostly farmland, so there will be a limit on how much actual fall colors you will see. But it's a really nice place.
    posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:55 PM on October 18, 2010

    Whoops, just noticed that CD & ME has specific vendors they work with. Sorry. (I've had the food there many times, and it's really good, but I'm not picky and it's not my wedding!)
    posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:57 PM on October 18, 2010

    I have no idea what it cost, but my niece held her wedding at Starved Rock Lodge earlier this year. As far as I could see from the pictures, they didn't do the cave thing, but were outdoors on a lawn.

    As far as cost, you may want to look at reserving a forest preserve area for the wedding part, and then renting a hall nearby (like a VFW hall). For instance, Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva is pretty (note the seasonal operation of the Japanese Gardens is from May through mid-October). Scroll down that site for more info.

    There are probably a lot of places along the Fox River that I'm forgetting, but why not call the Kane County Forest Preserve office and ask for suggestions?
    posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:38 AM on October 19, 2010

    Response by poster: For anyone looking at this at some later date, we ended up going with a place called The Shores of Turtle Creek, a couple of hours outside of town towards Wisconsin. It's basically just an event rental space with indoor and outdoor areas. We did go out to Starved Rock to check it out, but I was really turned off by their huge schlocky giftshop area directly adjacent to the event area, among other things.
    posted by booknerd at 3:37 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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