Chicago City’s Hall marriage court may not have a grandness of some other cities (San Francisco comes to mind) but it has it’s own unique charm. Located in the basement of Chicago’s City Hall, brightly lit with fluorescent lights and decorated with outdated wedding memorabilia, it has a specific “throwback in time” vibe. It operates on a “first come, first serve” basis and it’s usually full of colorful characters waiting to get married in its dimly lit waiting room. What’s really cool about getting married in the City Hall is not only that you get to experience something unique to Chicago but also have an opportunity to explore downtown’s most iconic spots for some portraits afterwards. Most of them just a quick walking distance or a short taxi drive.
When I met Scott and Drew for coffee, they told me they wanted to have that particular “Chicago City Hall elopement style wedding experience.” They shared their vision for their intimate wedding day celebration and I was immediately on board with all of their plans.
The afternoon started with them reading their wedding vows to each other at the courtyard of Ivy Room (which they reserved for themselves for an hour). These were beautifully emotional moments and the quietness of the surroundings made the vows exchange even more meaningful. After the vows, we did some portraits in the courtyard and stopped in for an espresso, croissants and chocolate at L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, which is conveniently located next to Ivy Room. It also happens to be their favorite spot for a sweet snack. Fueled and caffeinated we went to the city hall for quick wedding ceremony. Side note: city hall has some of the sweetest, genuine judges conducting the ceremonies. This is a bit contradictory to the way some other city employees present themselves but I suppose you have to be a nice person if you conduct an act of marriage. 🙂 The ceremony itself was brief and emotional. Drew and Scott had huge smiles on their faces throughout the whole time. At that time I truly felt proud and honored of the work I do and how meaningful it is for the couple I photograph. After some quick document signing we zipped out of the city hall for some joyful portraits.
We had a generic idea of where we want to go but most of the stops we made were rather spontaneous. We explored Chicago riverwalk, streets around Wacker Drive and Michigan, venture to the lakefront around Milton Lee Olive Park and stopped by a couple of places that were a bit out of the beaten path (Scott showed me a “pedestrian only” bridge under the Chicago river, which I had no idea existed).
After about 2 hours of portraits and city exploration we finally went for an intimate wedding reception at Blue Door Kitchen & Garden. When we arrived Scott and Drew were greeted by their closest friends and family with huge smiles, tears of joy and many, many hugs. Everyone gathered cheered, joked and laughed in a cozy garden on a perfectly warm June evening. It was an amazing end of a beautiful and simple wedding day.
It’s not secret that Lincoln Park in Chicago is one of my favorite places to photograph engagement sessions. The park provides what I love the most about this part of the city. An easy access to nature with an urban feel when it’s needed. The crown jewel of the Lincoln Park is the North Pond. The waterway is an attraction not only to humans but many species of birds and animals. I truly believe that being close to nature helps calm our couples during their portrait sessions and one of the main reasons why I love so much to photograph close to nature.
North Pond is also the name of a cool restaurant, within the park, and where I met Amanda and Alex on the day of this shoot. Before we started taking pictures we chatted a bit while they enjoyed a glass of wine at the restaurant’s bar. Connecting with the couple prior to photographing them is pretty important to me so it was nice to find a place where we could sit, relax, learn more about their history and wedding plans and not only be there to “take pictures.” The session started with the walks on the trails up to the small pier at North Pond. Afterwards we explored the trails near Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which has a pretty mesmerizing architecture in my opinion. Our last stop was the North Avenue beach where we caught a sunset and created some pretty rad portraits with Chicago’s famous skyline. I think the evening was very special for all of us and the session felt as an exploration of the place that feels familiar but offers something new every time I photograph there.