A microwedding typically has less than 50 guests, including the wedding party and family. And you’ll be surprised to learn that a wedding in a city like Chicago is expensive no matter the size of your guest list. Not to mention, cities can be intimidating for family and friends to navigate when it comes to driving directions, let alone the cost of parking everyone will have to incur.
When it comes to planning your small wedding and picking a venue, we recommend getting out of the city (where costs are generally higher) and instead finding a smaller, mid-sized town with a nearby airport, which is a big help for any family that does have to travel farther than a car ride.
When you’re in a spot like central Illinois with an abundance of local farmers, you’ll find more affordable, unique, and in-season local flowers that can save you money and add a unique touch to your big day. Plus, instead of reserving a hotel conference center without any character (or an Airbnb without any staff), you can reserve unique locations like an entire Mansion with a variety of backdrops, a full staff, and no strangers to interrupt you. (We even know one with the added benefit of a gourmet breakfast).
Let’s break down the reasons to find the perfect town for your small wedding ceremony and reception, and how to choose an alternative to a typical hotel as your Illinois wedding venue.
- Get out of the City!
- Avoid Tourist Hot Spots
- Make Travel Easy for Everyone
- Look for All(most) Inclusive Options
- Bed & Breakfast Venues for the Win
Get Out of the City for your Microwedding
Major metropolitan cities, like downtown Chicago, have a lot to offer. Beautiful architecture, a variety of restaurants no matter your palette, and plenty of activities with things to do. But to be honest, you already have plenty to do, something historic and your top priority… getting married! If you’re having a microwedding for cost reasons, or because you want something more private and intimate, that can be hard to achieve (though not impossible) in a big city. A few things you’ll have to compromise on:
- More people means more competition for the venue or event space you really want, no matter the size. So you might have to start planning a lot earlier than you’d like. And despite the size of a venue or your guest count, city prices are historically higher by a fair margin.
- If you’re from the city, it might not bother you, but out-of-town guests can really struggle to navigate downtown streets, especially if they’re not used to round-the-clock traffic. Unsuspecting guests can accidentally end up late because a 5 mile drive took a LOT longer than they realized it would. Not to mention the cost of city parking is equal to a nice dinner, so guest costs end up being higher too.
- And while the city can offer a wide variety of restaurants for going out before or after the wedding, those places aren’t cheap either. They’re also not likely to be within walking distance of your location, so we’re back to moving cars, navigating downtown, or having to pay for an Uber to get everywhere.
Does this mean you shouldn’t get married in a city? Of course not. If that’s what you want, then go for it! Just go in with wide eyes open about the implications for you and your guests. Decide if any of those reasons are important to you, your wedding party, or close family. And no matter what you decide, don’t let inconveniences distract you from the amazing milestone you’re about to create.
Small Wedding Tip: Avoid Illinois Tourist Hot Spots
If you’re planning a microwedding, you’re likely looking for intimacy, which can be hard to find in a tourist hotbed filled with a lot of other activities, visitors, and distractions. Not to mention, tourist locations (though out of “the city”) can end up reflecting city prices anyway. And if their busy-season happens to coincide with the time of year you’re looking to get married, finding wedding vendors for your needs, or even restaurants, can be hard to secure for big parties.
You don’t need to go full-on rural, “lost in a cornfield”-style when seeking alternatives, but look for towns that are big enough to have all you need, yet small enough to feel like you’re not sharing your wedding day with 2 million strangers. Galena is a fabulous town in northern Illinois but seems to be getting more touristy by the minute. This is awesome if you’re a tourist, but might not be what you’re looking for when it comes to your special day. (And a little known fact, if you’d like a carriage ride, other towns have that too.)
But similar to cities, if doing the tourist thing is part of what you and your soon-to-be partner for life are all about, then go all in. Have fun! Embrace the chaos. Adopt a souvenir theme. But if that’s an important aspect for you, just consider whether there are other things you might have to give up. There are a lot of choices to make when it comes to a wedding, so decide your priorities on the front end and decisions like this will be easier down the road.
Small (Town) Weddings: Travel in Illinois
You want small and intimate, but not impossible to get to. You also don’t want the only overnight options to be limited either. A few tips for finding intimate, but not remote.
Airports: Look for wedding venues that have airports in-town, or within 20-30 minutes. Oftentimes these smaller airports are easier to navigate and create less stress for family members who don’t travel frequently. In Illinois, there are (believe it or not) more places to fly-into than O’Hare and Midway. And some of these smaller airports are actually delightful, with free wifi, free parking, free parking shuttles, and easy to get in-and-out. If you have guests who would prefer to fly rather than drive, look for venues around these cities with well-known, well-run airports:
- Bloomington, Illinois (BMI) – Central Illinois Regional Airport – with regular flights from Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Florida hotspots, and Denver, Colorado
- Peoria, Illinois (PIA) – Peoria International Airport – similar destinations as Bloomington, plus Charlotte, NC and Mesa, AZ
Places to Stay: If you’re going for a micro-microwedding look for a bed and breakfast where the entire wedding party and parents can all stay in the same space. And if you’ve got a few more guests than that, you at least want a town with options they might need. A mid-sized town will typically have a few hotels and Airbnb options to choose from for your additional guests. And since you were smart and avoided tourist central, everyone should be able to find availability as well. College towns can typically be a good choice because they offer the airport option mentioned earlier, but are set up with hotels to accommodate things like college visits and graduations. So out-of-town guests have options too.
Small Town Benefits for Intimate Weddings
We shared what to avoid, and now that you’re on board with getting out of the city and tourist chaos, let’s talk about what to look for in smaller mid-sized towns for your best wedding experience:
Indoor + Outdoor Options: Find a spot that can accommodate outdoor and indoor wedding receptions at the same location. So if Illinois weather takes a turn (like it can be known to do), you know you love the inside options just as much and will still be happy. Likewise, if you were always planning to be indoor and change your mind as the date gets closer, you don’t have to change venues to match the updated vision for your day.
Look for All(most) Inclusive: One of the benefits of a microwedding is you don’t need as much stuff. But you still need places for people to sit, tables, chairs, linens, serving-ware, silverware, etc. Some venues will have all of that included in the price, and they’ll do all of the setup and takedown for you. If it’s not listed on their website, be sure to ask. Having these items already included is one less thing you need to budget-for and coordinate. And smaller towns with smaller venues are more likely to include this than large venues that offer an empty shell you need to fill on your own.
Wedding Packages that Help with Planning: Not everyone chooses to hire (or can afford) a wedding planner, but weddings do take coordination. Small wedding venues can often help with this by identifying local vendors, even arranging for them to come to the facility. Again, the benefits of a small town are small-town connections and networks. Good innkeepers at a bed and breakfast know which vendors in town have the skills to make your vision happen, whether that’s hair, makeup, nails, photography, local beer, or wine and flowers.
A Unique Space You Don’t Have to Decorate: The key word is that you don’t have to if you don’t want to. There are a lot of really unique venues across the state of Illinois whose indoor and outdoor spaces are already camera-ready on their own. Larger conference centers, country clubs, and hotels are typically empty shells. You can certainly make them your own, which is great if you’re an artist who likes to create, but if you’re not, this is a lot of extra work and coordination. If your focus is an intimate experience with a small number of people, where the people are the focus, then find an already beautiful backdrop that you simply enhance by showing up.
Opt for Historic: If you choose historic spots, you’ll also get something you can’t get at a hotel: a built-in theme and variety in your surroundings. Typically, each room looks different, each common area looks different, and they take special care of their outdoor spaces. This means your photographer has a lot of choices for first looks, wedding party shots (together and apart), family photos, and more. And because the space is historically unique, it’s beautiful before you add any decorations of your choosing. The character is already there, you add the significance by showing up.
A Place you Don’t Have to Leave: A destination wedding is often attractive because everything is in one place: the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, the reception, the food, the drinks, and everyone you need to make the day special. But those options exist closer-to-home, too. You don’t have to go to another part of the country to get the benefit of being in a place you don’t have to leave (and don’t want to). One of the most overlooked small wedding venue options is a real bed and breakfast. Honestly, they’re likely the perfect wedding hosts, since they have all the skills to pull this off.
- Depending on the size of your wedding party (and the B&B), all of the wedding party can stay on location. (Meaning no one can be late or get lost.)
- Reduce the stress of having to travel to different places for the ceremony, rehearsal dinner, trying to figure out breakfast, where you’ll get ready, making your photographer drive all over the place, and then another location for a reception. It means you don’t need shuttles either. You can reduce stress, increase convenience, and focus on significance.
- Your wedding package includes breakfast automatically at a real B&B, so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to feed your crew the morning of the wedding (don’t want anyone passing out from empty stomachs). You’ll also have a place for them to eat the next morning after an evening of celebration.
- They know hospitality and customer service. As a smaller place experienced in catering to a variety of different travelers, they know how to make your event (just like your stay) special, and often have extra add-ons or enhancements to help you customize your weekend wedding experience: mimosa bars, coordinating on-site hair and makeup, snacks throughout the day, or finding local beer and wine.
- They know food. If you picked a bed and breakfast with gourmet breakfast, then you’re in luck. They know where to source the best local ingredients and which local caterers are perfect for your event. Many can also do the catering themselves depending on the size of your occasion and specific requests. And as a place experienced in serving others, they’ve got all the silverware, serving ware, glassware, coffee ware, linens, tables, and chairs you need.
Other Central Illinois Benefits
If you’re looking for alternatives to wedding venues in Chicago, you might find hospitality to be higher and prices to be lower when you get out of the city or tourist towns. But there is more than that, especially if you don’t want your wedding day to be a cookie-cutter replica of everyone else’s.
In Illinois specifically, if you go about two hours south of Chicago, you encounter some of the richest farmland in the United States, which means lots of local produce and a lot of local farmers. This translates to really fresh seasonal ingredients that can help you create a unique reception menu, and unique, locally-grown flowers from farmers who care more about helping your day be beautiful than they care about filling up a section of a grocery store.
If you do want to step away from your wedding venue, or if you have people showing up a few days early (or staying a few days late), picking a mid-sized town means great restaurant options, too. You don’t have to be in the city for a great night out. In central Illinois, because of the amazing local farmers, some restaurants are farm-to-table, and others feature a few local ingredients and special dishes. Plus, restaurant prices are more affordable without skimping on quality. A farm-fresh tasting menu in Chicago can cost you $300 per person (ouch). You can get that in central Illinois for $100 per person. Yeah. Small towns have a lot of goodness to share.
Get out of the city and find the perfect microwedding venue in Illinois for your small wedding… in a small town with big desire to make your day historic.
Choose Vrooman Mansion for your Microwedding in Illinois
Featured as one of the Top 5 Small Wedding Venues in Illinois at newlywedsonabudget.com
We check off all the basics, and all the unique elements you shouldn’t skimp-on either. In a town with an airport (BMI), hotels if you have more guests than we can house at the Mansion, and an entirely unique historic location with a variety of backdrops, indoor and outdoor options, and the personal attention and coordination you’d expect from a wedding planner, we’re your central Illinois destination wedding spot.
With local restaurants and things to do, but not a tourist trap either, you’ll get the intimacy you want for your small wedding or vow renewals, with the accommodations and amenities you need. We’re intimate, not remote. We’re historic, not old. We look forward to being your historic landmark for this historic moment in your life.
Contact us for details, pricing, and options. See what makes us different than everyone else around.
And a special thank you to Sara Gardner Photography for granting us permission to use her images!