More Bang for Your Buck
Probably one of the biggest reasons that people choose the suburbs is price. Things are generally cheaper in the suburbs than downtown.
Downtown you easily pay twice the price as the suburbs for the same package,” says Dana Wingate, sales and marketing director of the Highland Park County Club.
This is even true when it comes to hotel chains. While the downtown Hilton charges about $120 per person, the Hilton in Lisle/Naperville charges $60 per person for the same basic package, says Mary Barnard, catering manager for the Hilton Lisle/Naperville.
But will couples be sacrificing anything—either in quality or quantity—of food? No, says Barnard, who adds that her hotel’s Executive Chef is Nick Landeweer, who used to work for Charlie Trotter.“We rival anything downtown,” says Marsha Hankermeyer, director of catering for the Holiday Inn, Willowbrook. While the food may not be quite as gourmet, you will get excellent quality, portion size and presentation, she adds.
Think you will have to accept the hotel’s packaged wedding menu? Not always and you can realize savings here as well. “While we have a set menu, we can customize items at a lower cost,” says Danielle Salerno, senior catering executive for the Abbington Distinctive Banquets in Glen Ellyn. The savings don’t end there. Remember that you are taxed on what you pay for your reception and that tax bill can be pretty hefty. While the Chicago sales tax rate currently runs at 9%, most suburbs are lower: Glen Ellyn and Lisle both have rates of 6.75%, Willowbrook’s is 7%, and Arlington Heights’ is 8.5%, to name just a few.
Then there is parking. Most downtown hotels will charge either you or your guests for parking. It will be discounted from their regular valet rate, but it still can run $15 per vehicle in some cases. But in the burbs parking is free. So it is just one more way you will save on your wedding or have more money to spend elsewhere.
Big Fish vs. Little Fish
While every hotel sets out to do your wedding right, divided attention can mean that you might end up being somewhere down their priority list. Consider that the big downtown hotels also handle a lot of convention business. Your wedding—while important to them—may end up not being top priority if your wedding date happens to coincide with a big convention.
Also, many big downtown hotels tend to have several ballrooms and may be attending to several weddings at the same time.
At the historic Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, there is only one ballroom so you get very personalized service, says General Manager Robert Biegler. You also get a bit more room to spread out your reception. Weddings get an entire section of the hotel—the beautiful main ballroom, plus a bar/lounge, as well as library with fireplace.
“We make it a rule to [schedule] only one wedding at a time,” says Bill Hobbs, director of sales at the Embassy Suites in Schaumburg.
Get the Date Without the Wait
Haven’t settled on a reception hall and want to get married in a year? You probably won’t be able to find an opening downtown, but, take heart, in the suburbs you can.
Downtown hotels book farther in advance, sometimes two to three years in advance. For hotter wedding properties, like the Art Institute or Navy Pier, the wait can sometimes even be longer.
But most suburban hotels and halls say that couples can usually book their halls between a year to 18 months.
While downtown has great backdrops for wedding pictures, don’t shortchange the suburbs on this point.
Picture the two of you on a romantic covered wooden bridge or on a brick walkway surrounded by gorgeous flowers with a meandering river in the background. Naperville’s Riverwalk has this to offer (for a sneak peak for those not familiar, go to napervilleriverwalk.com).
In the southwestern suburbs, there is also the 1,700 acres of plants and flowers at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. You can just take photos or even hold your reception there in one of their beautiful rooms overlooking Meadow Lake.
Move northwest of Chicago and a beautiful and lesser known spot for photos and wedding receptions is The Grove in Glenview. On 123 acres, The Grove is an ecologically diverse prairie land. Weddings and receptions can be held at the charming Redfield Estate on the property, either outdoors in one of the two gazebos, in the meadow next to the house or indoors in the Great Room with its cathedral ceiling, original fireplace, chandeliers and two-story leaded glass windows.
Want the elegance of a bygone era added to your wedding? There are several gorgeous options in the Chicago suburbs. In southwest Joliet, there is the Patrick C. Haley Mansion, a stately limestone house three and a half stories high, with front and back porches, stained glass windows, six fireplaces, and a ballroom surrounded by floor length windows.
Want the whole fairy tale? You even have the option of holding your wedding and reception at a castle. In Dyer, Indiana, just south of U.S. Route 30 is Meyers Castle, a three story structure of Jacobethan Revival Architecture in a gorgeous ten-acre setting.
If you want the understated elegance of an expansive manicured lawn, the suburbs offer a wide range of golf courses and country clubs that have wedding facilities. At the Bloomingdale Golf Club in Glen Ellyn, the banquet hall has vaulted ceilings and windows, providing a panoramic view of the surrounding golf courses.
Riverside Receptions in Geneva has banquet rooms offering lots of exposed brick and panoramic views of the Fox River.
The suburbs can also offer up Lake Michigan. At the Illinois Beach Resort in Zion, you can choose to have an outdoor wedding on the beach or have it inside in the resort’s breathtaking Grand Vista Ballroom which offers a panoramic floor to ceiling view of Lake Michigan. For added romance, you can even have a beachside bonfire. The 92-room resort also has plenty of room for your out-of-town guests.
Feeling that there are just too many great options in the suburbs? You’re right and it all means that you can have a very memorable wedding for both you and your guests.
Many of the hotels, resorts and landmark locations we’ve mentioned also have the added benefit of giving you not only excellent service, but advice as well.
They know their properties and what vendors have worked well in the past. They can be a great source of information and guidance in planning your big day. Some of the full-service hotels even have certified wedding planners on staff, such as the Chicago Marriott Northwest in Hoffman Estates.
Save Your Guests Money
As we’ve mentioned, the suburbs have much to offer the Chicago visitor, but suburban weddings have additional advantages for your guests as well.
For one, they probably will end up paying a lot less for a suburban hotel room than a downtown one. Even though all hotels will give you a deal if you reserve a block of rooms at one time, there still will be a considerable difference between rates of downtown and farther afield hotel space.
Suburban hotels also tend to be more accommodating since they do not have as much demand. “Our special rate is $10 to $15 off the regular weekend rate when you book a minimum of ten rooms,” says Linda LaGambina, sales and catering account manager at the Chicago Northwest Marriott in Hoffman Estates. But what if you have guests who don’t show? “You don’t have to pay,” she says.
Don’t worry that your guests will necessarily have to rent a car either. Many suburban hotels offer shuttle service to and from the airport. Some, such as the Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows, even offers its guests free shuttle service to and from any location within a 10-mile radius.
Even if you decide to have your wedding at a golf or country club, in many cases you won’t have to give up the convenience of a hotel. The Seven Bridges Golf Club in Woodridge is right next to the Hickory Ridge Marriott. In addition to special rates for their guests, couples marrying at Seven Bridges get a complementary room at the hotel, says Roisin Daly, director of catering at Seven Bridges.
Don’t Forget the Pool
Suburban hotels also are more likely to have pools and other recreational amenities on the premises than their downtown counterparts.
The Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows offers a Holidome Indoor Recreation Center—a big hit with kids—that includes basketball courts, arcades, volleyball, a Jacuzzi, indoor pool and other fun things to keep kids occupied.
Now to Decide
As you can see the Chicago suburbs offer a wealth of great possibilities for your wedding and reception. If you decide to hold your wedding in the suburbs, but are beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the many fabulous choices, a good place to start is your guest list. How many people are you having? That will give you an idea of what sort of facility you need.
Some, like The Grove in Glenview, can handle only smaller, more intimate affairs of 125 or less. Many of the suburban hotels cater to small to mid-range weddings from under 100 to up to 350 or 400 guests. Then there are places like the Abbington which can accommodate a wedding reception of up to 1300 guests.
So if your head is spinning with all the great options, start with the number of guests and narrow it from there.