First look location ideas

While we know this is a heavily debated topic, at Monte Bello, we are on board for the first look trend. While it is not the most traditional way to see each other for the first time on your wedding day, we find that our couples that plan for an intimate first look, and factor their photography plan into their timeline, experience less day-of stress and are able to fully enjoy the entirety of the celebration they’ve planned (instead of rushing to take photos during cocktail hour). Furthermore, you get to spend more time with your beau on your wedding day and many couples take this opportunity to get even more intimate, by sharing private handwritten vows with each other before the ceremony.

Several of you have asked for our recommendations on where is the “best, most Instagram-worthy spot” to have your first look at Monte Bello, and the truth is, there isn’t a single answer. Check out some of our suggestions below and let us know if you’ve found a hidden gem of your own!


Abbey_RJ_Portraits_4Abbey_RJ_Portraits_11Abbey_RJ_Portraits_14Abbey_RJ_Portraits_22Ron & Abbey August 2018, photos courtesy of Lauren Sims Photography

LindaPhil_w_136_R4S_5746LindaPhil_w_155_R3S_7662LindaPhil_w_170_R4S_5811Phil & Linda September 2018, photos courtesy of Photography by Roland Gozun

Loukota-0200Loukota-0201Justin & Vicki July 2018, photography by Amy Aiello Photography

01020111Justin & Lauren August 2018, photos courtesy of Joy Lyn Photography


Julia & James | WeddingJulia & James | WeddingJulia & James | WeddingJulia & James | WeddingJames & Julia August 2019, photos courtesy of Ed & Aileen Photography

Annie _ Dan Wedding-097Annie _ Dan Wedding-098Annie _ Dan Wedding-105Dan & Annie October 2018, photos courtesy of Ed & Aileen Photography


684JASONADRIANPHOTOGRAPHY-Stephanie&Kyle-730013Kyle & Stephanie August 2018, photos courtesy of Jason Adrian Photography & Stephanie Pana Photography

Stephanie+MikeMonteBelloEstateWedding-216Stephanie+MikeMonteBelloEstateWedding-226Michael & Stephanie October 2018, photos courtesy of Jas + Paul Photography


Luke and MichalaLuke and MichalaLuke and MichalaLuke & Michala September 2019, photos courtesy of Dana Ann Photography


TJ_Wed0225TJ_Wed0230TJ_Wed0238TJ_Wed0247Jake & Tricia September 2018, photos courtesy of Greyes Photography


AutumnAndBrandon-295AutumnAndBrandon-304AutumnAndBrandon-305AutumnAndBrandon-313AutumnAndBrandon-315Brandon & Autumn July 2019, photos courtesy of One July Photography


3D8A59263D8A58863D8A58523D8A5967Erik & Katie August 2017, photos courtesy of Dana Ann Photography

50568687_10161467487130637_348565230617362432_o.jpprairiegprairie50454664_10161467486330637_2107759396695048192_oMatt & Mary November 2018, photos courtesy of Jennifer Boris Photography


ARP23318ARP23319TJ & Melissa April 2019, photos courtesy of Agnes Rasek

Casey_Jay0273Casey_Jay0276Casey_Jay0277Jay & Casey October 2018, photos courtesy of Layla Eloa Photography

Hopefully this sparks some inspiration for you as you continue wedding planning! Which is your favorite? Should we add to our list? We’ll be compiling another blog post soon filled with our favorite photo opportunities both inside and outside… Stay tuned!

Ceremony locations

Did you know The Monte Bello Estate features five distinctive on-site ceremony locations? Four of these options are set throughout our impeccably manicured grounds, sweeping you away to a serene escape where you’ll vow to forever with the love of your life in front of your closest family and friends. Monte Bello also offers a breathtaking indoor ceremony space so that your guests can comfortably enjoy the beauty of your nuptials despite any unforeseen weather conditions. Featuring crystal chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling glass windows that showcase early American Oak trees and our restored native prairieland, your guests won’t even realize that our cocktail lounge was the backup plan for your on-site ceremony.

The original ceremony location is the classic gazebo set beneath early American Oak trees overlooking the estate home and backing up to the picturesque pond and dock. With a concrete aisle perfect for a runner, or lined with flower petals, and a permanent wrought iron structure that is ideal for dressing up with floral, garland or drapery, this ceremony space is beautiful no matter the time of year. For a brief time in the spring months (think late-April/early-May) the redbud trees make the perfect backdrop for your ceremony, as the small pink flowers bloom, perfectly outlining the tree branches just beyond the gazebo. Throughout the summer months, the trees reach their potential as they come into full bloom painting a lush green backdrop with the sun playfully gleaming through the foliage; before the fall months sweep in, bringing a crisp, vibrant touch to the grounds as the leaves become bright shades of yellow, orange and red.

Another popular ceremony location is the ‘Narnia’ clock centralized near the garden, estate and outdoor cocktail hour setting. The garden features a serene waterfall that filters toward a bridge over a pond of water lilies that guests can delight in as they await your processional. The clock makes for the perfect altar, acting as a timestamp when you seal your marriage with a kiss, before guests follow the pathway to cocktail hour where they’ll enjoy open bar service and butler passed hors d’Oeuvres.

We’re ever evolving at Monte Bello and love the opportunity to hear what our couples love as they explore our vast landscape. Thanks to a handful of couples that wanted to bring their outdoor ceremony to the next level, finding flatland in the woods a few-hundred feet from the gazebo ceremony. The forest ceremony location is perfect for the couple looking for an organic ceremony among the trees. This space is the perfect natural canvas for you to embellish with as much décor as you can dream of or do nothing but marvel in the beauty of nature as is, with the massive trees overhead.

Lastly, the wildflower prairie ceremony is a stunning option overlooking Illinois’ largest wildflower preserve before the lush tree line takes over. With massive Oak trees framing the space and romantic café lights strung overhead, this is the picture-perfect setting to say, ‘I do’. Sharing this location with our outdoor cocktail hour setting, we can accommodate 170 guests for a seated ceremony before inviting your guests to open bar service while we quickly transition this to an outdoor cocktail lounge for you and your guests to enjoy.

Are you planning your wedding at The Monte Bello Estate? Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts about our most popular first-look locations, as well as other great photo opportunities throughout our grounds and Instagram-worthy places to display your bridal gown.

TheReillyWedding-666June 2019, photo courtesy of One July Photography

ARP23591April 2019, photo courtesy of Agnes Rasek

Swahlstedt-0083May 2017, photo courtesy of Wes Craft Photography

CeremonyMay 2016, photo courtesy of Layla Eloa Photography

Monte Bello_Fencl_Kufta_WM_DO_0433May 2018, photo courtesy of TWA Photographic Artists

TJ_Wed0675 - CopySeptember 2018, photo courtesy of Greyes Photography

3D8A5328August 2017, photo courtesy of Dana Ann Photography

Monte Bello_Bert_B_WK_DL-0443September 2017, photo courtesy of TWA Photographic Artists

Driveway LocationOctober 2017, photo courtesy of Sara Nili

0344August 2018, photo courtesy of Joy Lyn Photography

Jeremy&Jackie-Ceremony-1May 2018, photo courtesy of Jordan Imhoff Photography

_RD16306September 2017, photo courtesy of Robb Davidson Photography

Abbey_RJ_Ceremony_113August 2018, photo courtesy of Lauren Sims Photography

hayley-evan-wedding_TSP-162803June 2019, photo courtesy of T&S Photography

Cocktail Hour

Outdoor cocktail hour at The Monte Bello Estate has been upgraded! Take a look at our new permanent bar structure and lounge area.MonteBello_Facebook_SarahCudneyPhotograpy_13_previewMonteBello_Facebook_SarahCudneyPhotograpy_11_previewPhotos by Sarah Cudney Photography

Guests have been swooning over this perfect spot to sip their drinks before the reception begins (not to mention the beautiful photos that comes from it). Our wildflower field paints the most gorgeous backdrop and our pool gives off the perfect ambiance.


JanelleBrad_Wedding_July072017_502_previewPhoto by Jenna Marie Photography

Don’t worry if Mother Nature isn’t on your side, our indoor cocktail hour location is throughout the main level of The Monte Bello mansion and is just as breathtaking.

Victoria&PatrickSamsPics41_previewPhoto by Rebecca Haley Photography

Enhance your cocktail even more by adding on signature drinks, yard games or bringing in live music.

Cocktail hour comes with your choice of three delicious hors d’Oeuvres served butler style. Our most popular include:

-Tomato bisque shooters with grilled cheese

-Stuffed mushroom caps with crab, savory sausage, or spinach and feta

-Bacon wrapped dates

-Grilled shrimp served with fresh roasted garlic aioli

-Meatballs (Swedish, BBQ, or sweet & sour)

Choose from many other options and pick your favorites during your tasting!




Early Access

Looking for ways to simplify your wedding day schedule? The Monte Bello Estate offers couples the chance to add on ‘Early Access’ to their big day. This provides a stress-free environment for the whole bridal party! Choose between arriving at 9:30 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. and take advantage of our beautiful bridal suite, entertaining grooms suite and gorgeous grounds. Imagine everyone getting ready under one roof, sipping their mimosas and taking STUNNING before and after photos. No rushing, no driving from place to place- hair and makeup comes to you- it’s truly a relaxing way to start your wedding day festivities.

011_0078_previewPhoto Courtesy of Timothy Whaley & Associates Pamela_William0331_preview

Bridal Suite

Our bridal suite acts as the perfect backdrop for your ‘getting ready’ pictures with your closest girls at your side. It comes equipped with plenty of seating, a place to display dresses, tons of natural lighting, and a bathroom big enough to accommodate your whole hair and makeup team. Don’t forget to pop the champagne! We offer a mimosa bar to start off the day’s celebrations. Cheers!

dan-michelle-wedding_TSP-144244_previewPhoto Courtesy of T&S Hughes Photography


rachel-andrew-wedding-68_previewrachel-andrew-wedding-73_previewPhotos Courtesy of True Grace Photography

dan-michelle-wedding_TSP-142949_previewPhoto Courtesy of T&S Hughes Photography



Groom’s Suite

Don’t worry, we have not forgotten about our grooms! Our groom suite is the ideal man-cave complete with a pool table, poker table, craps table and foosball table. We also offer a list of craft beers to choose from for everyone to enjoy. Surrounded by sports, movie and music memorabilia, your guy and his buddies will be thrilled to hang out here while they prepare for the big night ahead.


019_0337_preview018_0335_previewPhotos Courtesy of Timothy Whaley & Associates



Having access to the estate early gives you more time to for photo ops around the grounds. Whether you decide to do a first look or if you just want separate group shots- knocking these photos out with plenty of time before yourceremony makes the day run so smoothly.

690-160702-Vanessa-Phil-WED_previewPhoto Courtesy of Liz Lui Photography

010_0075_preview008_0024_previewPhotos Courtesy of Timothy Whaley & Associates

SAL_0977_previewSAL_0477_previewPhotos Courtesy of Justpix Inc Photography

10 out of 10 would recommend adding on Early Access; contact your venue coordinator to learn more! Happy Wedding Planning!

Personalized Elements

Arrive in style! We’ve noticed a trend in transportation that makes for some great photo ops. Whether you’re looking for a grand entrance and/or a monumental exit, here are a few ideas we LOVE from our past weddings.

This carriage gave us major Cinderella vibes! So romantic and made it truly feel like these newlyweds were straight out of a fairy tale.


We were so happy to host a Lemont firefighter wedding this year! We love that they decided to have the truck be apart of their big day at the estate.

MarriedKathleenMike-698Photo Courtesy of Annie Steel Photography

Another great ride was this hot pink hummer limo. So fun and something different from a traditional limo.

Hall_Rajchel061617_0304Hall_Rajchel061617_0650Photos courtesy of Studio One Photography

Vintage is so in right now. This couple chose to have an old-fashion car as their mode of transportation. Such a classy touch to this picture perfect day!

3_Pena 090216-141

Looking for transportation for your whole crew? A trolley is a unique alternative to a party bus. What a fun and cute way to include all your close VIPs on your big day. Monique and Rob-1436Photo Courtesy of Eric Gee Photography

Last but not least, a bride and her horse make for beautiful photos. We’re very excited to say this year we have two more couples who have decided to include horses on their wedding day. Our grounds paint the perfect scene- giving off a whimsical, majestic feel.


*Here at the Monte Bello Estate, we love to see couples add personalized touches to their events. Picking a unique form of transportation can make for another memorable detail for your special day.

July 2017 Wedding Recap

Summer is in full swing and we have been having some beautiful weddings here at the estate! July had tons of fun times, tasty food, beautiful colors and of course, romance.

We’re noticing a lot of couples this year choosing to add on yard games to their cocktail hour. We offer, corn hole, giant jenga, connect four and ring toss. The games are a huge crowd pleaser and a fun addition to the party!

S’mores are (as always) the most popular add on this season. A late night snack is a perfect way to end a night full of celebrating. Our staff sets up a beautiful station of s’mores goodies for guests to build their own treats. The Monte Bello Estate has four fire pits outside for roasting marshmallows under the stars. The fire adds an extra touch of ambiance to the end of your event as your guests start to filter outside.

Every season is beautiful here at the estate so we can’t pick a favorite! However, these summer photos have been exceptionally stunning.




One final detail we loved from July was having Heavenly Harps come in to play for a couple’s ceremony and cocktail hour. The harp adds elegance and romance to weddings that we simply adore! We definitely recommend Heavenly Harps if you’re looking to add on some live music to the beginning of your event.


Pool Ambiance

Who doesn’t love some ambiance?? The Monte Bello Estate has a beautiful pool that adds an extra pop to your cocktail hour. Guests really enjoy sipping their drinks with a view! Enhance your event décor with our upgraded pool package. The package keeps the pool open through your reception and includes lights and floating candles to set the mood. Our staff takes care of it all so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery. Take a look at this gorgeous shot from a July wedding! Inquire within to find out more.


Photography by Amanda Megan Miller Photography

Yes Way Frosé

mbe wine event-106

Did you know the Monte Bello Estate has a variety of signature drinks available to add on to your bar package?? This month we’re highlighting one of our favorite options, the Yes Way Frosé! This fun (and delicious!!) cocktail is made with Juliette Rosé poured over a scoop of raspberry sorbet to create the perfect fruity combo.

Juliette Rosé is a crisp rose wine with an initial fruit-forward taste of raspberries and berries that give an attractive, open feel. It’s refreshing and elegant with layers of lively fruit and a bright, smooth finish. Produced at the Maison of Domaine de La Sanglière in southern France, Juliette is a true expression of a traditional Provencal rosé wine.

Adding on signature drinks is always a fun way to personalize the bar for your guests. Inquire within to learn more about how you can include the Yes Way Frosé to your big day!

-Photos courtesy of Erin Dobosiewicz


July & August Wedding Recaps

July and August were very busy months! I had a baby boy at the end of July so I decided to combine these two summer months 🙂 We LOVE July and August at the estate because all of the wildflowers and greenery are fully bloomed and thriving in our prairie!  ♥(Did you know, Monte Bello has the largest privately owned wildflower preserve in Illinois?!) In these two months we had 11 weddings, 2 birthday parties and 1 bridal shower.

Here are some of the trending and unique parts from July and August weddings…

♦ Noteworthy entree options:

Shrimp and Scallops with sides of asparagus and red skin potatoesimg_7199

Quinoa stuffed eggplant with asparagus and an avocado cream sauceimg_7316

Teriyaki ginger salmon with risotto and asparagusimg_7318

Chicken champagne with a double baked potato and asparagus986-160702-vanessa-phil-wedPhoto Courtesy of Liz Lui Photography

♦ Weddings in July started off with some fantastic live music including a Mariachi Band!779-160702-vanessa-phil-wed816-160702-vanessa-phil-wedPhotos Courtesy of Liz Lui Photography 

♦ Beautiful flower arch


♦ This couple choose to have their ceremony in our forest (rather than the gazebo) turned out AMAZING! I recommend using Posh Productions for your ceremony music/mic needs if you would also like to have your ceremony in the woods.img_7312img_7313img_7311img_7314

♦ A fun Cigar Bar for guests to enjoy!monique-and-rob-1912monique-and-rob-1718monique-and-rob-1979Photo Courtesy of 

♦  Different linen colors that make a bold statement monique-and-rob-1634Photo Courtesy of 



♦ Having a sweets table was a hit this summer!

♦ We ♥LOVE♥ that more brides have been wearing their veils during the reception, not just the ceremony 881-160702-vanessa-phil-wedPhoto Courtesy of Liz Lui Photography

♦ A classic, elegant theme that wow’s guestsdana_and_evan-26

♦ Having menu cards was popular as well as adding on a choice second entree for guests to indulge in :

For every table:


For every guest:monique-and-rob-1624Photo Courtesy of 

♦ Some couples put their engagement photos to good use by personalizing their card box with some great photos


Greenery everywhere for summermonique-and-rob-1628Photo Courtesy of 


♦ Reusing ceremony signage that double as a guest book for the reception dana_and_evan-10dana_and_evan-29-1720-160702-vanessa-phil-wedPhoto Courtesy of Liz Lui Photography

S’mores are still the most popular add on for 2016! monique-and-rob-2028Photo Courtesy of 


Drone Videos have also been big this summer! Check out our Facebook page for the most current drone footage from a recent wedding and STAY TUNED because we also had a drone of our own go through the estate recently! I will post that soon 🙂

Have you noticed any neat trends or unique parts of weddings you have been to this summer?

♥ Sara



June Weddings Recap

June was a gorgeous month at the estate filled with beautiful flowers blooming everywhere, nice weather, and eight Friday and Saturday weddings with the sweetest couples and families! Here are a few things that were very popular this month…

S’mores are definitely the most popular wedding add-on right now! Having the bonfire turned on is a separate add-on from s’mores, whereas the four wine barrels are where your guests will enjoy the ambience of roasting their marshmallows right outside the estate! Yum!  *(shown in photos are two brown S’MORES boxes, glassware & ingredients for s’mores, sticks, S’mores signage, and four wine barrels that are ALL INCLUDED when you choose to add on s’mores as your late night snack! Upgrade the experience even more by having the bonfire turned on separately) download21


Chargers were very popular this month in both silver and gold

Swahlstedt-0096(photo courtesy of Wes Craft Photography at )

♦ Upgraded runners and floral garland runners to make the head table stand outIMG_4311 download8.jpeg

(photo courtesy of Wedding Bug Studios)

♦  Monogrammed pillowsDSC_1571

♦ Beautiful and personal indoor ceremonies..complete with bubbles! (Photos Courtsey of Wes Craft Photography at )Swahlstedt-0083Swahlstedt-0086

Summer themed weddings like garden inspired, playful citrus centerpieces, wildflowers, colorful glasswareIMG_4244



♦ Guests enjoying our new outside patio space during the receptionDSC_1588

Wedding signage DSC_1601Sign courtesy of Greenstar Paperie

Uplighting color #19 that adds a soft, romantic glow to the reception spaceDSC_1650download18(photo courtesy of Wedding Bug Studios)

♦ Adding on a Wine Tasting Experience during cocktail hour complete with a wine host to explain the different characteristics of each wine you select and give your guests an unforgettable, fun experience!



Did you know, June is one of the two most requested wedding months at the estate? The other being September.

♥ Sara