3 Do's and 3 Dont's for weddings at Morton Arboretum

Those who choose the Morton Arboretum venue for their wedding choose a good thing. This Lisle, Illinois gem is one of Backthird's favorites - our musicians and DJs have been working there since 2005. We've played in every room and run extension cords to every lawn. And we've definitely learned a thing or two about what wedding couples should - and shouldn't - do to get the most out of this venue.

Weddings at Morton Arboretum take a unique approach. Here are 3 do's and 3 don'ts from our team to make planning your Arboretum wedding easy.

Dos__Donts_pin.png1. DO change spaces throughout the wedding...

Arboretum weddings moveThis is a wedding venue that's at least partly about the view and the closeness to nature - so chances are, you're going to want to do a ceremony or cocktail hour outdoors. An Arboretum wedding always stays in the same general area or facility, but it's not unusual to use more than one room for different parts of your day.

That's a good thing - changing spaces keeps things fresh for your guests, and provides an opportunity for everyone to re-engage with one another and with the events of the night.

2. ...but DON'T make rooms the only things that change.

When the agenda calls for a new space or a new event, we like to recommend a new soundtrack as well. For example, if guests are moving from the patio to your dinner hall at 7pm, shifting from jazz on the patio to an upbeat indie rock for dinner can emphasize that transition. Sights and sounds work together.

At Backthird, we like to use live music to set apart different parts of your evening. For example, if a pop strings trio is playing your cocktail hour on the patio outside the Ginkgo Room, you might use the quartet for dinner time. Adding a fourth musician ups the ante, picking up the beat to get guests in the mood for dancing when your DJ takes over later on. You can also transition from larger to smaller - say, booking a  jazz duet for cocktails on the Thornhill patio and then keeping only the piano for dinner in the Arbor Room.

Even if you just use live music for one part of the night, or let your DJ do it all, it still makes sense to change up styles and genres as the event goes on.

See our Arboretum wedding packages and pricing.


3. DO make the most of being outdoors...

There are some clever ways of being outside, and some of my favorite Arboretum ceremonies have made the most of it. This one even worked insect repellent into the charm in case guests wanted it.

phone photo by Benjie Hughes

4. ... but DON'T expect to spend too long in the Summer sun.

If you're planning both your ceremony and your reception at the Arboretum, you'll have great rain locations available in case you need them. But even when the day is beautiful, it's worth remembering that Chicago can get hot - especially in August.

In my experience, guests love an outdoor ceremony - but if it's an earlier wedding or an especially warm day, they might be inclined to head for the air conditioning afterward instead of lounging on the patio for cocktail hour. You might, too!

My team and the Arboretum's team have gotten pretty good at second-guessing where your guests will be based on the weather, so you shouldn't have to sweat this part - no pun intended. But as you write your schedule, it's worth remembering that a little flexibility will go a long way.

5. DO remember that a little lighting makes a big difference.

Every Morton Arboretum wedding venue comes with it's list of positives. A few of the spaces are striking in their own right - I'm looking at you, Founder's Room - but most are about the view.  If you party in the Arbor Room or in the Sycamore Room, you'll have a great set of windows - but the walls are more or less a blank slate.

Uplighting can have huge impact in those spaces. Lights can tie the room together with your wedding color - or they can complement it, as the amber lights do in the back of this purple-centric Arbor Room reception:

Photo by Wojoimages

6. DON'T be afraid to ask advice.

My DJs and musicians tell me regularly how they see the same staff - right down to bartenders and security folks - at event after event at Morton Arboretum. This is a venue with low turnover, and that bodes well for your wedding.

Why? Everyone who works there knows the ins and outs of Arboretum weddings really well. That's why I recommend you take the advice of your event staff when it's time to pick a floor plan and a schedule. They know what works.

And when you're ready to finesse that schedule and guide your guests through it, DON'T ignore your DJ's advice either. Especially if he or she has a lot of Arboretum event experience.


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