Top Portrait Locations for Chicago Weddings
Getting married in downtown Chicago gives you access to some of the most iconic wedding photography locations in the country. Chicago’s amazing skyline, rich architectural history and picturesque green spaces give you a multitude of choices to visit on your wedding day.
Let’s take a look at a few of the top Chicago wedding photography locations and go over why these locations are so popular. Travel times from the center of the Loop, minimum amount of shoot time at each location, best time of day and any fees are listed for each location.
Located just off Grand Avenue and next to Oak Street Beach, Olive Park has become extremely popular in the last few years. Not only does it give you an interesting view of the Chicago skyline, but it’s easily accessible from downtown. You also have multiple options for photographing large groups not only with the skyline, but in the green space leading out to the viewing platform of the park. Look back East and you get a great view of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Be aware that the park does close at 8PM in the summer so you’ll have to find another place for night photos.
Drive time from the Loop: 10-15 mins — Permit: Not required — Minimum shoot time: 45 minutes — Best time of day: Anytime, but the earlier the better to avoid crowds
Chicago Board of Trade
At the intersection of LaSalle Street and Jackson in the Loop you’ll find the 90+ year old Chicago Board of Trade Building. The CBOT provides a beautiful art deco backdrop as you look South down LaSalle Street and is perfect for either just a couple or the entire wedding party. Most of the day LaSalle Street is in the shade since you are surrounded by so many buildings, but there are times when beams of light will sneak through the buildings. This is an extremely popular location so you may have to either wait for the spot you want or find something else to do while you wait. There are plenty of cool historic buildings to explore. The best shots are in the middle of the street so make sure someone is paying attention to the traffic!
Drive time from the Loop: 4 mins — Permit: Not required — Minimum shoot time: 15 minutes — Best time of day: Anytime, but the earlier in the day the better. Late afternoon is also great after the sun goes behind the buildings.
LaSalle Street Bridge
When selecting locations to stop with a wedding party, I like places that give you multiple options and LaSalle Street gives you plenty. The view looking East from LaSalle Street Bridge is one of my favorites in the city. The buildings along the river are spectacular and this bridge gives unobstructed views. It’s also located right above one of my favorite sections of the Chicago Riverwalk so you can hit two locations quickly without having to travel a long distance.
Drive time from the Loop: 2 mins — Permit: Not required — Minimum shoot time: 15-30 minutes — Best time of day: Anytime, but you might be looking straight into the sun in late afternoon at certain times of the year which can be challenging on a bright day.
Wrigley Building/Michigan Avenue
The Wrigley Building on Michigan Ave is easily one of the city’s most famous buildings. The interior plaza gives you a nice shaded area away from the crowds on Michigan Avenue. The area just in front of the building has a great view of the Chicago River and a wide open space for shots of large groups. Most days there are crowds walking past this area, but in my experience people are pretty cool about getting out for the way for a wedding party. The views up and down Michigan avenue are also beautiful and across the street you can access the Riverwalk again by the Apple Store. If there are other wedding parties around you have lots of options just steps away.
Drive time from the Loop: 4 mins — Permit: Not required — Minimum shoot time: 15 minutes — Best time of day: Anytime, lots of options even on a really sunny day.
North Avenue Beach
Just a short drive up Lake Shore Drive is North Avenue Beach. Parking trollies or buses at this location has become more challenging in the past few years, but it’s still one of the top locations for Chicago wedding photography. It takes about 5 minutes for a regular size wedding party to make the walk over to where the view of the city is. This is one of the really classic views of the Chicago skyline so you’ll probably encounter multiple wedding parties out here along with volleyball players, runners, bikers and tourists. There’s room for everyone though, you just have to be patient. Check to make sure there isn’t a huge event going on out there, if there is, skip it.
Drive time from the Loop: 10-15 mins — Permit: Not required — Minimum shoot time: 45 minutes — Best time of day: Anytime, but later in the day is better when the sun gets a little lower.
Heading out to the Museum Campus for wedding photos has always been popular because of that classic Chicago view. Adler Planetarium can also take a long time to get to and there will be lots of tourists and other weddings looking to shoot in the same locations so carve out some extra time in your schedule. There are also a lot of events being held nearby at Northerly Island and Soldier Field, so make sure that nothing is going on when you want to go. If there is, go somewhere else and save yourself the headache.
Drive time from the Loop: 15-20 mins — Permit: Not required — Minimum shoot time: 45 minutes — Best time of day: 10AM or after 2PM
The Art Institute
This is probably my favorite location in the city because there are so many options, inside and out. You feel like you’re somewhere in Europe, but you’re just off Michigan Avenue. I’ve separated this into outside and inside locations.
The South Garden is probably the most popular spot. The shade of the locust trees makes this garden great on a sunny or cloudy day, especially later in the afternoon. The pool, benches and raised planters give you plenty of ways to arrange large groups. Because it’s such a great spot, I’ve been in there with five other weddings! Also, if there is a big event (Lolla, a protest or the Taste of Chicago) expect the garden to be closed. The garden is closed for the winter.
The North Garden isn’t as popular as the South Garden, but I think it’s still a great option. Once flowers have been planted in the planters on the upper walkway it is stunning.
The Nichols Bridgeway connects the Art Institute to Millennium Park. It closes when the museum does and usually has a decent number of people on it, but the view of the city from over Monroe Street is fantastic. It’s a great spot for the couple to get a shot with the city in the background without going out to the lake.
Going inside the Art Institute takes a little more planning. Unless you’re having your wedding there, you have to pay to get everyone in. Either way you can’t bring real flowers into the museum, leave those outside with someone. One trick I’ve used is just going in with just the couple using someone’s AI membership. The member plus level comes with free access for four people and photography without a flash is allowed in the museum. Pretty good deal if you really want to go in on your wedding day or have it as a rain location.
Drive time from the Loop: 3 mins — Fee: Not required for outside, inside varies — Minimum shoot time: 30 minutes outside, 30 inside — Best time of day: Anytime