wedding guests in photo booth with silly hats and funny faces

How to Rent a Photo Booth for Your Chicago Wedding

Renting a photo booth for your wedding may not be overly complicated, but it is important to follow these steps for a stellar photo booth rental experience—for both you and your guests. Renting a photo booth is a win-win! You get to enjoy the photos, and your guests get a night of making those great shots.

Decide what “other” wedding entertainment you want.

As you plan your Chicago wedding, consider what wedding entertainment fits your special day and guests. Are you dreaming of a big dance? Would you like to see your name in lights? Do you want table games for guests to play before and during dinner? Would you like to give guests who don’t want to dance other ways to enjoy the wedding? What entertainment fits your guest list?

As you decide, think about your guest list so you can choose the wedding entertainment that fits your big day. The entertainment for an adult-only wedding is usually markedly different than a wedding with kids. You may also want to include wedding entertainment that fits with your wedding theme or heritage for a unique twist.

Research Chicago photo booth rental companies.

Once you have a clear list of wedding entertainment, including a photo booth rental, start researching companies for the rental. Often, this list can get shorter if you choose companies that offer multiple services, such as a wedding DJ company that offers DJ services, lighting, and photo booth rentals.

Before contacting any companies or signing a contract, research potential companies in Chicago and make sure they are reputable. There are several ways you can research the companies: 1) by asking friends and family 2) browsing through social media sites 3) reading online reviews. Researching companies shouldn’t take too long, but you should feel confident that your short list of companies has provided satisfactory services to many Chicago couples over the years (and will do the same for you).

Ask the photo booth rental companies key questions.

As you contact Chicago photo booth rental companies, ask each Chicago photo booth company questions that give you an idea of the cost and what to expect:

  1. What size photo booths do you offer? Is your equipment durable?
  2. What is the cost of the photo booth? Is it per hour or a set cost per event?
  3. Do you deliver to my venue? Are there any delivery fees?
  4. When is payment due?
  5. What is your cancellation policy?
  6. Are there any back-up photo booth units in case of a breakdown? Who do we contact in case of a breakdown?
  7. Do you provide any photo booth props?
  8. Do you offer any other services? Can I rent the photo booth as part of a package?

Read the fine print.

Before signing on the dotted line, always read the contract fine print to ensure you are getting a quality photo booth and that there are no hidden costs. Start thinking about photo booth prop ideas and get ready to enjoy some really crazy fun photos!

disco balls from a wedding dance

Absolute BEST Places to Find Chicago DJ Reviews

Chicago DJ reviews are an important part of choosing the right wedding DJ. After all, who doesn’t want to know what other couples have thought about their wedding DJ? Chicago DJ reviews give you an idea of what to expect before and during your big day, though they are not the only step in finding the right wedding DJ.

How to Find a Wedding DJ

Finding a wedding DJ isn’t tricky (or too lengthy), but it is an important to find the right one. Your wedding DJ is one of the biggest wedding details that guests remember (along with food and the venue). You can find the best wedding DJ for your big day by following these steps:

Research local DJs.

The first step is to make a list of local wedding DJs in Chicago. You can make this list by asking friends and family for recommendations or by going online. The next step is to research each wedding DJ and narrow down the list. You can look on wedding review sites and social media for testimonials from other couples that have used their services.

As you research wedding DJs, remember the old adage about getting what you pay for. The best wedding DJs have high-quality equipment and the experience to keep your guests on the dance floor. In addition, they also have back-up equipment and DJs for those “just in case” situations. They also huge wedding song playlists that allow them to create a customized list that fits the couple and the occasion.

Contact potential DJs.

It’s important to contact your DJ and schedule a meeting, either in-person or virtually. This is your chance to vet your wedding DJ and find out if all those positive Chicago DJ reviews are true. At the meeting, ask if they have experience, insurance, an extensive list of wedding songs, back-up equipment and DJs, how they are going to communicate with you, plus these other wedding DJ questions.

Wedding DJ Review Sites

Wedding Wire

Wedding Wire is an online tool for couples looking for their team of wedding professionals. Wedding Wire contains a long list of local wedding DJs, including information and Chicago DJ reviews.

The Knot

The Knot has a ton of wedding planning tips and information on wedding vendors of every kind, including wedding DJs. In addition to information, The Knot also has Chicago DJ reviews, a wedding website builder, and a wedding registry tool.

Expertise

Expertise is all about connecting couples with experts, including Chicago DJs. Expertise ranks businesses on their reputation, credibility, experience, professionalism, and engagement and puts the best into a list of the best Chicago wedding DJs.

Facebook

Facebook is a great place to find helpful wedding planning tips and Chicago DJ reviews. Luckily, the reviews can be viewed without having an account.

wedding dance floor with DJ after planning a Chicago wedding

How to Start Planning an Awesome Chicago Wedding

Time to start planning a Chicago wedding that is completely you? Whether your ideal big day is a huge bash or a smaller, more intimate gathering, these first steps can get you started planning the day of your dreams.

Talk to your fiancé and set key details.

The first step in wedding planning is to sit down and have a conversation with your fiancé. This is your chance to discuss key details, such as style, budget, when you want to get married, and whether you want a big or small wedding. If you have any one thing you really want at the wedding, mention it now! Most importantly, discuss whether you and your fiancé have time for wedding planning or whether you want to hire a Chicago wedding planner.

Get organized.

Even if you decide to hire a wedding planner, it’s important to get organized. During this wedding planning step, you can set a timeline so you can stay on top of planning. Fortunately, there are a ton of great wedding planning apps and printables you can use to stay on track.

Pick a date and venue.

Remember the old saying, “which came first the chicken or the egg?” The date and venue are a similar question—and either wedding planning checklist item can be completed first. Some couples like to set a date first, and narrow their list of Chicago wedding venues down to the venues that are available on that date (and can accommodate their estimated guest count). Others set a season or month, and choose the date based on their favorite Chicago’s venue availability. If the venue is incredibly in demand, you can also call the venue and choose the date based on the few they have available. The last strategy for choosing a wedding date is to call a favorite wedding vendor that you absolutely have to have—a caterer, photographer, wedding DJ, or baker—and ask about available dates.

As you choose the wedding venue, remember that this is one wedding detail that is incredibly important. The wedding venue is the backdrop for your wedding and creates an amazing first impression. Make sure you choose a Chicago wedding venue that is reputable (luckily Chicagoland is full of amazing wedding venues!) Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you ask each wedding venue these questions:

  • What dates is the venue available? OR Is the venue available on my date?
  • What is the maximum capacity of the wedding venue?
  • Does the venue hold multiple weddings or events on the same date?
  • What is the cost of the venue? What does the cost cover? When is the first deposit due?
  • Does the venue provide rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, etc.)? What is the cost of the rentals?
  • Is alcohol allowed at the venue? Does the venue provide the alcohol?
  • Does the venue provide staffing? Is a staff member going to be on-site during our wedding?
  • Does the venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is there nearby parking? Are there hotels or accommodations nearby for guests?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • What dates are available for a tour?

Start checking items off your planning checklist.

There is one note of caution with this step: always do your research before hiring a vendor. Unfortunately, there are quite a few couples who have been burned by sub-par wedding vendors. When researching vendors, always ask for references and check sites like the Knot or Wedding Wire for online reviews. Never hire a wedding vendor without doing your research and interviewing the wedding vendor.

When hiring your wedding vendors, ask each vendor questions about their cancellation policies, how they prefer to communicate, and other important questions. (Ask your Chicago wedding DJ these important DJ questions.) The goal of every interview is to determine whether the wedding vendor is the “one” and reputable, and to create an ensemble of details that coordinate into a wedding atmosphere that is completely you.

wedding party celebrating at wedding reception

7 Fun Entertainment Ideas for Your Small Chicago Wedding

A small Chicago wedding doesn’t have to be short on wedding entertainment ideas. There are some great wedding entertainment ideas that make your intimate affair feel larger-than-life and set your special day apart.

Table Trivia

Table trivia is a great way for guests to entertain themselves while they mingle and wait for refreshments. It can also be a great ice breaker when guests don’t know each other—and a special way for guests to get to know the newlyweds. Maybe best yet, you can easily customize these wedding printables with little known facts and make this wedding entertainment idea a seamless part of your wedding atmosphere. (If you hire a great wedding DJ, get them in on the fun! They can make announcements and make the game a group effort.)   

Sampling Station

Sampling stations are a hit for guests and couples. You can create a sampling station with your favorite wines and ales, desserts, and local dishes—and let guests decide what dishes are their favorite. As an added bonus, sampling stations are a great conversation starter and a great way to keep guests mingling.

Dancing

A dance floor is a big hit for guests of all ages. This classic wedding entertainment idea can also come with new twists, like a surprise guest appearance, confetti drop, or spur-of-the-moment dance lesson. If you want to get guests to the dance floor, hire an experienced wedding DJ that customizes their play list and announcements for a truly one-of-a-kind reception. (Use these wedding DJ questions to vet your Chicago wedding DJs.)

Yard Games

Yard games are fun for guests to play and fun for couples to plan. Plus, there are a ton of games to choose from—and everyone can be styled to fit with the unique wedding atmosphere. Any yard game, such as yard bowling, ring toss, tumbling tower, can be styled to fit with the décor and other wedding details. Even elegant small weddings can host a rip-roaring game of croquet or ring toss. (And you can bring the games inside too!)

Dance Floor Games

This small wedding entertainment idea pairs dancing and games—what could be better? Guests love to play the shoe game, do a version of Simon Says, or engage in a dance off. A good wedding DJ can keep the games—and the dancing—going so everyone stays on the dance floor.

Lounge Areas

Lounge areas are a low-key form of entertainment that are just what they say: an area to lounge. These areas are perfect for guests who want to sit and chat or need a break from the dance floor. They are also fairly easy to set up because they are usually just a few comfy couches and lounge chairs.

Photo Booths

Photo booths are a great addition to a large or small wedding. They are a great place for guests to relax and be silly, plus they create great memories (photos) that guests can keep and talk about for years. Photo booths can also be customized to fit the wedding atmosphere, especially with custom frames and photo booth props. Best yet, this small wedding idea perfectly complements with all your other wedding entertainment.

Bride and groom sharing a special moment at the wedding leaning with their heads close together before their wedding dance

8 Top Chicago Wedding Planning Tips for an Amazing Wedding Day

Getting married in Chicago starts with a lengthy wedding planning process—one that it is a lot easier if you use these Chicago wedding planning tips. We’ve been part of thousands of Chicago wedding days, and here are some of the top Chicago wedding planning tips we’re passing on to you.

Don’t procrastinate.

Fortunately, Chicago is full of top-quality wedding venues and vendors. Unfortunately, many of those venues and vendors are in demand and their calendars fill up quickly. If you want the best Chicago entertainers, venues, caterers, and photographers, it’s best to start planning your wedding as soon as possible.

Professional tip: Set your wedding date first, then start contacting your must-have wedding vendors.

Talk with your fiancé before you start wedding planning.

Chicago wedding planning is a blank slate full of possibilities. If you want to narrow down those possibilities, sit down with your fiancé and discuss your wedding style, estimated guest count, budget, and any other items that are important to you.

Professional tip: Use these wedding planning tips to get an estimated guest count that you can use as you interview wedding vendors.

Choose the perfect Chicago wedding venue.

The perfect Chicago wedding venue creates a powerful first impression for guests and sets the stage for every other wedding detail. The Windy City is full of beautiful Chicago wedding venues that fit with every couple’s style: elegant, traditional, rustic, natural, and historic. When planning your wedding, choose the right wedding venue that fits your style, budget, and needs.

Professional tip: A wedding venue checklist and this list of wedding venue questions can help you narrow down your options.

Get organized.

Wedding planning comes with a long list of tasks, all of which comes with some research, follow-up, and deadlines. That’s why it’s important to choose your preferred method of wedding planning (paper or electronic) and figure out the best way to organize your research and receipts.

Professional tip: Set reminder alarms in your phone for key deadlines to stay on track with planning your Chicago wedding.

Set a wedding budget.

Discussing—and setting a wedding budget—is one of the most part of planning a wedding in Chicago. It’s important to discuss how you are going to pay for it and the total amount. From there, the total wedding planning budget should be broken down into categories, either in a wedding app or on paper. Always allocate the majority of your budget for items that play the biggest part in making your night magical (i.e. venue, food, entertainment).

Professional tip: For easier wedding planning, look for wedding vendors that offer package services (i.e. lighting and entertainment, equipment and food, etc.)

Research your vendors.

Hiring the best wedding vendors is key to a successful night. High-quality vendors not only deliver the best service, but they make the whole wedding planning process easier. To get the best vendors, ask your friends and family for recommendations and research vendors online (such as on social media and wedding websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire).

Professional tip: Watch out for amateurs that don’t have a business address or set business phone.

Don’t limit your wedding entertainment.

It’s natural to want to check off items on your long wedding planning checklist, but it’s important to make sure you have all your bases covered. This detail-oriented approach especially applies to wedding entertainment, where it’s important to have on- and off-dance floor entertainment and children’s activities.

Professional tip: Make sure you let your Chicago wedding DJ know about all your entertainment (and surprises) so they can make announcements.

Take a break from wedding planning.

Surprisingly, one of the most important wedding planning tips is to take breaks! Wedding planning can be extremely stressful, and an occasional get-away or break can be the perfect way to recharge your batteries and get you ready for tackling the next wedding planning takes on your wedding planning checklist.

scene of bride and groom just married after a smooth wedding day

10 Outdoor Wedding Entertainment Ideas for Your Chicago Wedding

Chicago summers are made for outdoor weddings, and Chicago outdoor weddings are synonymous with fun—or they can be with these outdoor wedding entertainment ideas!

Table Games

Table games are a great way to get everyone in on the fun, especially when waiting for dinner or drinks. This outdoor wedding idea is a great way to entertain guests with fun trivia facts about Chicago and the newlyweds. (Professional tip: get your Chicago wedding DJ in on the fun! As the emcee, he or she can have a lot of fun when making announcements.)

Dance Floor

Dancing is a favorite wedding reception idea, though planning a wedding dance is a bit more complicated for an outdoor wedding. You should consider permits, curfews, and any limits of volume when planning an outdoor wedding. (Contact your local municipality for more information.) No one wants their wedding reception to be broken up early! If your outdoor wedding is held at one of our wonderful Chicago venues, you may also need to rent an outdoor dance floor to protect their lawn (and your guests’ shoes).

Dance Floor Games

Dance floor games are a great way to take a wedding reception to the next level, either with a game or one of these cool wedding reception surprise ideas. A good Chicago wedding DJ can use these games to mix up the evening and even incorporate a few special details about their couple into the night’s fun.

Yard Games

Yard games are a great way to entertain guests after the ceremony or at the reception. The list of yard game ideas is endless, such as cornhole, ring toss, and yard bowling. If your wedding reception is at night, you can mix up the games with glow-in-the-dark games and cool lighting.

Photo Booth

This is an outdoor wedding entertainment idea that entertains and produces memorable mementos. A photo booth—with custom photo booth props—makes for great fun and awesome photos to enjoy for years to come!

Ale or Wine Tasting Station

A tasting station can be as sophisticated or casual as you want it to be. Your guests won’t care as they sip local (or homemade) ales or wines! If you fancy yourself a foodie, you can also customize this idea into a dessert or favorite dish tasting station.

Food Truck

This outdoor wedding entertainment idea adds a unique flavor to a wedding. Food trucks are a great way to serve the main course, dessert, or a late-night wedding course. (Don’t forget to tell your wedding DJ about this idea so they can direct people to the food truck.)

Painter/Caricature Artist

A painter adds a formal flare to a wedding, while a caricature artist can leave guests in stitches. Whatever your taste, guests’ll love to watch as the artist turns the setting or person into a piece of art.

Bubbles

Bubbles are a wonderful addition to a couple’s entrance or exit. It’s also a wonderful way to entertain children that attend your big day. Even older guests love to play with bubbles, and parents are going to love that their kids are having fun.

Craft & Coloring Table

Children love craft and coloring tables because it gives them something to do during down time. Best yet, this Chicago wedding entertainment idea comes with an endless list of children activities that kids and parents love.

wedding reception with background dinner music

5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Chicago DJ for Your Outdoor Wedding

Hiring a Chicago wedding DJ for an outdoor wedding involves a few more steps, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find the DJ of your dreams. It does mean you should add these simple steps to your wedding planning checklist.

Permits and Curfews

Permits and curfews can play an important part in an outdoor wedding in Chicagoland. (After all, no one wants to get their festivities shut down because they didn’t follow local requirements!) Fortunately, you can get specific information from your local municipality about permits and curfews (i.e. event permits, volume limitations, curfews, etc.) that could affect your special day.

Electrical Requirements

Wedding DJ systems require an outlet—and not always a standard home outlet. When hiring a Chicago DJ, ask about any requirements when interviewing the DJ (along with these wedding DJ interview questions). Some outdoor wedding venues have already taken this into account and have set areas for an outdoor dance floor (with outlets perfect for a DJ). If your wedding is in a backyard or another area not normally used for events, make sure you choose an area with easy access to electrical.  (Plus, think about how to cover extension cords so they are not a tripping hazard!)

Reputation

While it’s very tempting to hire a “friend of a friend” for less, a high-quality Chicago DJ can be the difference between a memorable dance and a ho-hum reception. Researching a wedding DJ is a great way to select an experienced professional. Fortunately, the internet makes this step a bit easier; you can find information from couples who have used Chicago wedding DJs on social media and wedding review sites (i.e. Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc.)

“Extras”

If you are looking for any extras, such as lighting or a photo booth, it makes cents (pun intended) to choose a wedding DJ that offers package deals. Many wedding DJs offer “extras” as part of a package that make it easier for couples as they plan. It may also be cheaper to take advantage of a package deal as opposed to individually pricing the services out.

Cost

Cost is often a top factor for couples, but there is a note of caution that goes along with looking for the cheapest wedding DJ. Often, the cheapest wedding DJ is often an amateur that delivers sub-par services or has outdated equipment. Amateur DJs often use a standard play list for every wedding and don’t customize to suit the couple’s tastes. (Read more about making a list of songs you want played and don’t want played in this post about wedding DJ playlists.) Once you’ve determined that the DJ is experienced and has high-quality equipment, ask the wedding DJ whether they have additional staff and DJs in case of an emergency (i.e. equipment break down or illness). Honestly, finding the right Chicago wedding DJ is a bit like finding the “one,” but it’s worth the effort when everyone is enjoying themselves at your beautiful outdoor wedding.

wedding bride and groom surprising guests with balloons

7 Solid Tips for Organizing Your Wedding Planning

We’re not going to lie to you: planning a Chicago wedding reception comes with a long wedding planning checklist. If you want to stay on top of it, you have to get organized. These tips can help you organize all your vendors and deadlines—and even help you enjoy the process.

Talk with your fiancé before diving into wedding planning.

Knowing what you both want can make wedding planning smoother and a bit more effortless. This doesn’t mean you have to lock in every wedding detail before you start, but it does mean knowing what each of you want on your big day.

Before you start wedding planning, sit down together and ask where you want to get married, if you want a big or small wedding, what your style is, and what you both want on your big day. This is also an ideal time to set a wedding budget and discuss your finances.

Make a system.

If you want to keep track of deadlines and your checklist tasks, come up with a foolproof system at the beginning of planning your Chicago wedding reception. Your system can be a paper binder or one of these great wedding planning apps. Either way, setting a system now makes it easier to keep track of deadlines, like when you need to contact your DJ with your must play list.

Use a wedding planning checklist.

A wedding planning checklist, either on paper or in an app, is one of the most important guides—if not the most important—during wedding planning. It’s a great way to set deadlines for hiring vendors and getting do-it-yourself projects done.

Set a budget (but be realistic).

In terms of importance, the wedding budget worksheet ranks right behind the wedding planning checklist. This is your chance to set a budget for vendors and allocate money for the most important items, such as the wedding venue, food, and entertainment.

When setting a budget, be careful about setting the bar too low. Unfortunately, the saying, “you get what you pay for” often applies. Be cautious about settling for amateurs that come with a small price tag and deliver less-than-stellar service.

Ask your vendors about deadlines.

As you prepare for the fun journey of wedding planning, be incredibly careful about sticking to vendor deadlines. You can track these with a wedding app or by setting alarms in your phone. If you have friends that are managing projects, don’t forget to give them deadlines as well. Unfortunately, missed deadlines are the source of many last-minute panic attacks and headaches.

Don’t be afraid to lean on the pros you hired.

When hiring vendors, always do your research and interview every vendor (like with these Chicago wedding DJ interview questions) to ensure that they are a good fit and have the experience you need. Once you are comfortable with your decision, don’t hesitate to ask the pros you hired for assistance and guidance.

Keep at it.

Wedding organization is a marathon not a sprint. As you plan, remember to keep organizing! If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and head out for an impromptu date with your fiancé. When you’re done, you can return to your organized wedding planning and enjoy the idea of a fantastic Chicago wedding reception.

guests dancing to chicago wedding dj

6 BIG Mistakes Couples Make When Choosing a Chicago Wedding DJ

Choosing a wedding DJ in Chicago may seem like just another overwhelming task on your wedding planning checklist, but it’s definitely not one that you should try to shortcut. A wedding DJ can keep guests on the dance floor or send them heading for the exits.

So how do you choose the best Chicago wedding DJ? We’ve outlined the process for hiring the best wedding DJ in the past. Now we wanted to delve into common mistakes couples make when choosing the right wedding DJ, so you don’t make the same mistake.

Automatically choosing the cheapest Chicago wedding DJ

Managing a wedding budget can be incredibly tricky, especially when there are so many line items and when funds are tight. That’s why it’s important for couples to embrace one of the most important wedding planning lessons: prioritize and allocate funds for the vendors that make the biggest impact on your big day. While wedding favors may be really fun to shop for, your guests are going to care a lot more about a wedding venue with quality amenities, food, and fun.  

Once you’ve allocated most of your funds (approximately 40-50%) for these items, it’s time to choose the wedding vendors (including wedding DJs) that can deliver a quality service. While that quality service does come with a price, it’s typically worth it when you get everything you wanted plus a bit of peace of mind. Basically, a wedding DJ service may cost more than a one-person service, but professionals typically come with quality equipment, quality back-up equipment, an experienced wedding DJ, and an experienced back-up DJ. The result is well worth it, especially when your dance floor is packed and you and your guests are having an awesome time.

“My friend does this on the side…”

It can be incredibly tempting to hire a friend or family member (or a friend or family member of a friend) because it’s so terribly easy, but beware of amateur Chicago wedding DJs. Many amateur services have dated equipment that delivers a terrible sound or don’t let you customize your playlist.

In addition, a one-person wedding DJ service often doesn’t have the back-up equipment or staffing when equipment breaks down or there is a health or family emergency. Sometimes, it might be challenging to contact them because you aren’t their primary focus. You can quickly find out if a DJ is professional or amateur by asking them these wedding DJ questions before you hire them.

No research

When you are looking for a Chicago wedding DJ online, inevitably sites like The Knot or the Wedding Wire is in the top results. Don’t scroll past these results. It is incredibly important to research any wedding vendor before hiring them—including your wedding DJ.

Fortunately, there are more sites than ever before that can make the process incredibly easy. Even social media sites can be filled with a ton of reviews about how the wedding DJ acted, whether they kept guests on the dance floor, if they were prompt, and how interactions with the staff went. While this step in hiring a Chicago wedding DJ doesn’t take long, it’s incredibly worth it!

Waiting, waiting, waiting…gone!

While you should always do your due diligence when choosing a wedding DJ, don’t let the process get so lengthy that you miss out on the chance to hire the best Chicago wedding DJs. These best DJs in the Windy City are in demand, and their calendars fill up quickly.

While hiring a wedding DJ may not be the first item on your wedding planning checklist, it shouldn’t be the last either. Typically, you should start contacting wedding DJs any time between nine months and a year before your big day. When contacting DJs, you should have key details set, such as your wedding venue, date, and even an estimate wedding reception timeline.

Not meeting with your wedding DJ (in-person or virtually!)

While this may sound contradictory, reviews shouldn’t be the only interaction you have with your wedding DJ before your big day. When choosing a Chicago wedding DJ, always try to meet the professional who is going to be in charge of your wedding reception before signing on the dotted line.

Your meeting is your chance to determine if the wedding DJ fits your wedding style, and to see their equipment (be wary if they won’t show it to you). It’s also an opportunity to find out key deadlines that ensure that you get a customized wedding experience that fits who you are as a couple.

Not giving input

Your wedding day should be all about you, including the wedding play list. When choosing a wedding DJ, be wary about hiring a wedding DJ that doesn’t ask about your preferences for music (including what you want played and don’t want played). Unfortunately, many amateur wedding DJs offer a one-size-fits-all play list that usually keeps guests on the dance floor (but may include songs you hate!)

As an added bonus, making a list of must-play and don’t-play songs can be fun! It’s a great way for you and your fiancé to de-stress before your wedding day—while still getting another item checked off your wedding planning checklist.

newlyweds celebrating and getting the perfect wedding memory

6 Ways to Make Your Chicago Wedding Reception Unforgettable

An awesome Chicago wedding reception is the goal, and these wedding planning hacks can get you there! We’ve been part of some fantastic Windy City wedding receptions, and every one was memorable in its own way; here’s how to use

Select the perfect Chicago wedding venue.

A breath-taking Chicago wedding venue or your own backyard—whatever wedding venue you choose, make sure it is (or can be) the perfect backdrop for a wedding reception that is completely you. Think of it as your chance to make a breath-taking first impression.

If you don’t have a favorite Chicago wedding venue, start the process by setting a budget and thinking about your style as a couple. Are you drawn to an elegant wedding venue? Would you prefer a venue with history and a story? Could you picture yourselves in a more natural outdoor setting? Or is a rustic venue more your style? Would you prefer a more casual setting that your guests can relax and enjoy? Whatever your style, Chicago is full of beautiful wedding venues perfect for your special day.

Plan a surprise—and keep it a secret!

A wedding reception surprise is a fun way to jazz up the reception—and another way to add a custom touch to your special day. This is your chance to add a special moment to all your other special moments. Plus, there are so many options: a surprise visit by a mascot or special family member of friend, an unexpected wedding first dance, a balloon or confetti drop, fireworks…the list of wedding surprise ideas are endless. Don’t forget to bring your wedding DJ, venue staff, or band in on the surprise so you can seamlessly build it into the reception order of events.

Have fun with the details.

There are no small details in a wedding reception (though there are low-priority items that shouldn’t require the majority of your budget.) Have fun with your wedding décor. This is your chance to coordinate all the details into a beautiful wedding atmosphere, with awesome signs and tons of opportunities for entertainment.

In addition to dancing, look for ways to entertain guests of all ages. Kids love bubbles, magicians, face painters and these other children wedding entertainment ideas. Your more experienced guests can enjoy tasting stations, local brews and wine samplers, photo booths, table games, and other ways to have fun off the dance floor.

Customize the wedding reception playlist.

One of the ways to make a wedding reception feel personal is to customize the play list. This can only be done with a band or wedding DJ that personalizes the play list, so make sure that question is on your list of questions to ask prospective Chicago wedding DJs.

In addition to a customized wedding play list, look for a wedding entertainment pro with experience that makes the night enjoyable for everyone. The best Chicago wedding DJs and bands have quality equipment, both primary and back-up, that ensures a smooth performance regardless of breakdowns.

Set a smooth wedding reception schedule (with minimal down time).

While we can’t promise that your wedding day goes off without any issues, the best Chicago DJs and bands make the wedding reception a smooth experience with minimal interruptions. This is especially true for wedding receptions where the ceremony and reception are in the same area. When planning the wedding day, try to make sure the transitions are smooth and seamless—without any interruptions in entertainment.

Find cool ways to capture the memories.

Every newlywed couple can attest to the fact that the wedding day goes by way too fast. As you plan, try to find ways to capture the memories. You can do this with social media hash tags, photo booths, and by hiring the best videographer and photographer (this guide to hiring wedding vendors can help). Be creative with your ideas, and prepare to enjoy the results!