Procuring the Perfect Chicago Wedding Venue

This post is part of an ongoing series about "procuring" a wedding, Spend Matters-style. See the first part here, and thank you so much for all of your advice and congratulations so far!

First lesson has officially been learned: talk to references. When Thomas or Jason speak to a procurement software vendor, they’re sure to talk to at least three references to see how the solution stacks up in practice. Turns out the same goes for finding a wedding venue.

In getting started, we came up with a pretty basic list of priorities for a venue:

Must have:

  • BYOB
  • Choose our own caterer
  • Close to transit/easy to find
  • Some character - not a “wedding factory” or boring generic hotel


Would be nice:

  • Tables/chairs/etc. (so we don’t have to rent separately)
  • Parking
  • Day-of coordinator
  • Good ambience/décor (so we don’t have to bring as much in)


And we thought we had it at a gorgeous 1920’s mansion on a historic boulevard in our neighborhood. The owner was wonderful in person and seemed to have great relationships with tons of reputable vendors, the price was right (ok, a bit high, but right-ish), and there was a good blend of modern amenities and old-Chicago charm. She was offering a $1,000 discount if we booked before the end of March AND she offered to throw in valet parking. I have to admit: I was ready to sign.

But I looked at Yelp, and my heart sank. Amidst a very few glowing reviews, there were several red flags. I also started calling around to caterers, namely one that I’ve worked with for nonprofit events for the past four years. Her immediate reaction when I named the place: “They suck you in with a lower upfront price and then get you on the back-end. Yes, they have tables and furniture - but you’ll need twice as much catering staff to get them set up. They also make us, as the caterer, hide commission in our total bill. Cleaning is a nightmare - we had to sweep their carpet because they don’t have a vacuum cleaner.”

Needless to say, I’m glad I did my research. It took less than 20 minutes to dig up some dirt on the place from couples that had gotten married there, but the most valuable insight for me was talking to the caterer and hearing her candid feedback. If a venue can’t cooperate with critical vendors yet they shine a saccharine face toward the bride and groom, then it’s not a place for me.

So we’re still searching! I’m convinced that there’s a venue somewhere in the Chicagoland area that speaks to us (and our wallet) and can provide the highest standards of service - to everyone involved.

Next week: feeding the masses, or, adventures in catering.

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