The Inside Scoop
FROM THE KNOT EDITORS
The First Look
The Brookfield Zoo located in Brookfield, Illinois, offers couples an exotic setting for a wedding. Offering 215 acres of gardens and a vast number of animals, this venue is ideal for your special day. With numerous pavilions and banquet rooms, couples are sure to find the best spot for them to say "I do."
The Pavilions. Located near the North Gate entrance, this area is gated to offer privacy for your wedding party and guests and they are available from early spring to late fall. The Pavilions are surrounded by the natural sights and sounds of the zoo and include the following:
The Swan Pavilion. This location can seat as many as 500 guests or up to 750 for the reception.
The Bison Pavilion and the Dolphin Pavilion. These are slightly smaller pavilions and are able to seat up to 200 guests for a ceremony or 300 guests for a reception.
The Peacock Pavilion. This area has a maximum capacity for 120 guests.
Discovery Center. Also available at the Brookfield Zoo is the Discovery Center, which serves as a banquet facility. The Discovery Center offers a number of room options:
The Savannah Room can host 350 guests for a reception, 300 guests for banquet seating and 350 guests for theater-style seating.
The Founders Room can host 100 guests for a reception, 80 guests for banquet round-table seating and 80 guests for theater-style seating.
The Riverside Lobby can host 150 guests for a reception.
The Bocaditos. Another banquet area, the Bocaditos room, has hardwood floors, South American artwork and breathtaking balcony views. The Bocaditos can host 250 guests for a reception, 150 guests for a banquet, 150 guests with theater seating and 40 guests with tables set in a U-shape.
Cocktails with the Animals. Couples can treat their guests to this special occasion while enjoying the reception at the following spots:
Great Bear Wilderness. Here, your guests can watch the bears in their habitat or enjoy an underwater viewing area of the bears. This area has a capacity of 200 guests for a reception.
Tropic World. With a backdrop of the rain forest of Africa, this area can host 400 guests for a reception.
The Swamp. Your guests feel they have made a trip to Cajun country on the bayou as they view crocodiles, turtles and many other wetland animals. The Swamp can host 400 guests for a reception.
Seven Seas. The bottlenose dolphin is the backdrop for this venue, which can host 250 guests for a reception.
The Living Coast. Sharks, sea turtles and many other sea creatures from South America are available to entertain your guests. The capacity for a reception here is 200 guests.
Habitat Africa. This venue offers both indoor and outdoor areas with a capacity of 250 guests for a reception. The plains of Africa are the backdrop with many animals that move across the zoo's savanna.
The Brookfield Zoo also offers certain seasonal venues, which include:
Feathers and Scales: Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians. This renovated area hosts a number of birds and reptiles with a capacity of 150 guests for a reception.
Pinniped Point. Sea lions and seals are available to entertain you and your guests at this open-air area that also has an underwater viewing area. Capacity here is 250 guests for a reception.
Butterflies. This area is open from May to mid-September with a reception capacity of 100 guests. Hundreds of butterflies in this unique garden setting add a beautiful ambience to any wedding reception.
What You Should Know
When you book your big day at the Brookfield Zoo, you find there are certain requirements that must be met. The venue offers flexible date options and, if you book off-season, there are often discounts applied.
It is recommended that no type of throw-able item, such as birdseed, rice or confetti, be thrown on the grounds. The venue offers servers and a wedding coordinator and must handle any alcohol that is served.
In addition to an exotic setting, this venue offers the following perks:
- Event planning and outside vendors available
- Catering and bar
- Setup and cleanup
- Lighting and sound
- Access to on-site bridal suite
- Liability insurance
- Handicap accessible
- Indoor and outdoor venues
From the Vendor
Say "I Do" at Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo is a unique and beautiful place to host a wedding and reception guests will talk about for a lifetime. Extraordinary experiences, such as cocktails among exotic animals, elegant dining, and exceptional culinary delights, will provide an unforgettable setting for your special day.
Amenities + Details
For more details about amenities, please message the Venue.
$$ – Affordable
Ballroom, Waterfront, Park, Tented
Food + Catering, Planning, Service Staff
The Brookfield Zoo is a great location for a wedding! Your guests will be delighted by the unique setting and the staff is so experienced at weddings and catered events that everything comes together seamlessly. With 3 different ceremony locations, 4 reception locations, and 9 different exhibits for cocktail hour, they can accommodate almost any size wedding and animal preference. The Zoo offers a great value if you want to have your wedding at an iconic Chicago landmark without paying the premium (looking at you, Museum Campus). Since the Zoo hosts multiple events per week, there are no additional rental fees for the reception and their packages come with most everything included and the option to customize as needed. However, because Brookfield Zoo hosts hundreds of events per year, you will learn quickly that you are a number and probably won't get the caliber of customer service you would expect from a venue that only handles weddings. Hire a wedding coordinator to fill in the gaps and everything will work out. Also, don't underestimate the crowds if you have nice weather; they will have a significant impact on your wedding day timeline so factor that in accordingly. That aside, we really enjoyed our wedding at the Zoo and appreciated the work of the staff to ensure we had a fantastic day.
Our wedding last May was truly one of a kind! We love every details of it and how our coordinator Kathy Seybold helped us make it the best wedding. We had our ceremony at Seven Seas with the Dolphins, cocktails at Great Bear Wilderness and Reception at Discovery Center. They were so accommodating to our event stylist/florist and set up our each venue so incredible. Everything we envisioned about our we wedding truly happened. Thank you Brookfield Zoo!
September 2015Reviewed on 11/23/2015 Jenell T
Our wedding at the Brookfield Zoo was beautiful! The zoo coordinated all of our vendors. The tasting was excellent! The food at the wedding was still very good and all guest loved it, but it did not compare to the tasting. Everyone couldn't stop talking about the country chicken soup. They were also great about allergies and adjusted the plates for them. As the Bride and Groom, we were treated excellent! We had our own capitan that constantly made sure all of our needs were met. They even transported us to our vehicles with the gifts and flowers. We did have two issues. One was a lack of clarity when guest can arrive. We were told that guest could come and enjoy the zoo during the day. The day before when we questioned how it works. We were told it was only an hour before. The zoo had excellent customer service and worked with us on this communication error. The other issue was much more concerning. Our guest were to have the option to walk or have transportation to the ceremony location. On arrival, our guests were told they would be no transportation (we have many elderly and disabled guests). My mother had to correct it with a manager. The assistant at the gate just said their would be no transportation and was no help. With the manager, it was quickly resolved. I recommend having someone fully understanding the wedding package available for your guests because as the bride and groom, you will be off taking photos.
Our wedding at Brookfield Zoo was amazing! We had our ceremony at Formal Pond, cocktail hour at the Great Bear Wilderness and Reception at the Swan Pavilion. Henry Garbers worked with us the day of and made sure that everything went perfectly and anticipated any potential hiccups. The Great Bear Wildnerness was a huge hit with guests for the cocktail hour! We had several people tell us that our wedding was the best wedding they'd ever been to. Would highly recommend to any bride who wants a unique venue and wants to avoid the big city premium.
Excellent!Reviewed on 10/03/2015 Danielle L
The zoo staff could not have made our wedding day any more perfect!
My husband and I are so glad we had our wedding at Brookfield Zoo! Many guests have told us this was the best wedding they've ever attended (which we take with a grain of salt, although we agree). Henry, our wedding coordinator, was amazing. I felt like I didn't need to worry as much because Henry was on top of it. The zoo were also able to accommodate our quest to make our wedding sustainable and found antibiotic-free meat for us for dinner! We had our ceremony at the formal pond and the reception at Bocaditos. Worth noting: the original plan had the dancing area in the hallway at Bocaditos, but we were able to use some of the dining area instead, which was much better.
Fantastic all around!Reviewed on 7/07/2015 Anna D
I had my ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception all at Brookfield Zoo, and I couldn't have imagined a more perfect venue for my animal-loving husband and I! The venue was so unique and fun, but was still elegant and beautiful from start to finish. I can't even count the number of guests that commented on the unique venue and on how pretty the grounds and reception space were. Ceremony at Roosevelt Fountain, cocktail hour with the primates in Tropic World Africa, and reception in the intimate Bocaditos were all better than I could have dreamed. From the first meeting with Kathy at Catered Events at Brookfield Zoo, I knew that the staff was a well-oiled machine. They thought of everything, and the entire planning process and wedding went so smoothly. Kathy anticipated my every need, and was more than happy to accommodate every unusual or quirky request I had to make sure that my wedding was EXACTLY how I pictured it in my head for so long. Kathy was always available to answer questions and give suggestions during the planning process; she was an email or phone call away whenever I had a panic moment as the date got closer; and she took care of every issue that came up during the wedding so flawlessly that I didn't even know about any hiccups or catastrophes until the follow day. I was so comforted knowing that Kathy was so skilled and experienced, and she and the rest of the staff really did go above and beyond to ensure my day was as perfect as every bride dreams. If you're looking for a unique and stunning venue that all your guests will be talking about for a long time after your wedding, Brookfield Zoo is worth a visit. They are a great one-stop-shop, and they cover everything from the overall planning of the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception, to the catering and even the cake! As a wedding novice, I was thrilled to have an entire team on my side that could field all my questions and lead me on what turned out to be a painless process of planning my wedding. Very reasonably pricing too! Loved, loved, loved Brookfield Zoo!
Loved My Brookfield Zoo Wedding!Reviewed on 5/17/2015 Sarah C
The Brookfield Zoo helped us to have our dream wedding! From the start our zoo wedding coordinator Terry was like family. He was professional, understanding, and guided us in the process of throwing a big wedding that was fun, memorable, affordable, and stylish. Our guests loved the cocktail hour with the Gorillas in Tropic World! The food was fantastic and a suprise to many guests who thought "zoo food" was not the way to go (4 course meal, awesome chef...delish!!!). Everything was taken care of, set up, food, open bar, uplighting, waiters and bar tenders...all part of the package deal. A staff member took us around on a golf cart with our photographers, capturing amazing wedding photos with fountains, flowers, and animals. Our reception in the swan pavillion had ample room, had a cool breeze comming off of the fountain and is shaped in an intimate way that everyone present feels part of the event. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our experience at the Brookfield Zoo!!! Many of our guests said it was the coolest wedding they have ever been to. All guests had free access to the zoo before our events. As the bride, I had so much fun! The Brookfield Zoo staff treated us so well and even helped pack everything up at the end of the night so we didn't have to do it. Thank you Terry and staff!! You gave us memories for a lifetime!!
AMAZING! - but make sure guests go to the SOUTH GATEReviewed on 10/22/2014 Olivia G
We had a small wedding (45 people) at the Brookfield Zoo in October 2014. It was incredible. The event staff was very accommodating. They essentially took care of everything, even helping us decide to move the ceremony from an outdoor area to indoors. We had cocktails in the Great Bear Wilderness, which was the most magical and amazing experience, and our reception was in the Bocaditos restaurant. They have a great bakery that they work with to do the cake as a part of the package, and the food was very good; the guests couldn't stop raving about the soup. The one issue that we had was with guests arriving at the North gate, which is where the directions and the address generally take you - the people manning the gates made no effort to tell the guests to drive around to the south gate where they were supposed to go, they just told them that they didn't know anything, and turned them away, which meant that my husbands grandparents almost missed the entire thing. We waited for them, and the event staff allowed us to switch around our cocktail hour and ceremony, but it was a real disappointment. Despite this, our wedding was amazing, and we haven't stopped hearing that it was the best wedding that our guests have ever been to!
Unique Wedding VenueReviewed on 10/18/2014 Emily K
Having our wedding at the Brookfield Zoo meant the world to us as our first date was here 6 years prior, and with the last name of "Bear" we just couldn't resist. We held our ceremony and reception in the Pavilions as it felt more intimate especially for our ceremony. Our ceremony was in the dolphin pavilion, and reception in the beautiful swan pavilion. For cocktail hour we chose The Great Bear Wilderness. Planning a wedding, they always tell you to expect at least a 10% decline for RSVPs, but having your wedding at a Zoo is not counted into that factor! Everyone had such a great time and could not wait to be taken by Motor Safari between locations. Terry Rothamer, our event coordinator fulfilled our every wish and made the day absolutely perfect. If you are looking to do something more than just the "regular" wedding, this is the place to do it!
LOVED the zoo!Reviewed on 10/09/2014 Jordan
Getting married at Brookfield Zoo was the best decision we made for the wedding. We had our ceremony at the Formal Fountain, cocktail hour in the Great Bear Wilderness and reception at Bocaditos. The entire staff was so helpful and accommodating. All of our guests loved the location and that it was different from a typical banquet hall type wedding. The food was great - we still have people telling us they get cravings for the Tomato Bisque soup we served. All in all, it was a great day at a fun location!
Beautiful and classy, but had it a mishapReviewed on 10/06/2014 stephanie z
My wedding at the Brookfield Zoo Swan Pavilion was beautiful. The cocktail hour was in the bear wilderness exhibit and was great. They fed the bears while my guests ate appetizers and drank cocktails. The reception was outdoor and the ambiance was absolutely beautiful. As for the mishaps...my cocktail hour ended up being almost 2 hours. Therefor my dinner started extremely late and there was not much time left at the end of the night for dancing. I hired a 6 piece band and was very unhappy that there time to play was cut so drastically. I expressed my concern to the zoo and they did compensate me with a financial portion of what I paid the band, so they did try to make it right. The experience they give is quite different, classy, and memorable. Was just a little disappointed with the shortened period of music/dancing.
Brookfield ZooReviewed on 10/05/2014 Jessica L
We can't thank Terry enough for being an amazing wedding coordinator. He helped us through every step of the way and always had answers when problems or questions came up. It rained on our wedding day, which caused a lot of changes, but Terry was on top of it so that I did not have to worry about anything. Our guests raved about our cocktail hour with the bears. The food is amazing (you have to get the tomato soup!!!). All of the staff at the zoo is friendly and so helpful. I wanted a wedding where I wouldn't have to worry about anything on the actual day of the wedding and I definitely got that.
Brookfield Zoo is Unique and Fun!Reviewed on 8/22/2014 Rebecca W
Brookfield Zoo is a great place to have a wedding. While sometimes the prices look high, you get a lot for your money! We were in the Swan Pavilion and it was beautiful! Kathy was our coordinator and she was extremely sweet and attentive. Every e-mail was answered within 24 hours and her responses were always kind. Our meetings with her were so much fun. The day of the wedding I said multiple times "I don't know why everyone doesn't get married at the zoo?" because it was such an incredible experience and so much fun! The motor safaris take guests to cocktail hour in one of the exhibits, ours was with the polar bears and grizzly bears, and then takes them back to the reception. The wedding coordinator also takes the bride and groom around on a golf cart for pictures which make for really unique wedding photos. The food was delicious and the bartenders were far from stingy with the drinks. Our guests are still talking about how they watched a polar bear eat at our cocktail hour. The room captain and day of manager were so attentive to our needs to the point where they thought of things I hadn't even thought of. The waiters were so kind and one even stopped to say congratulations despite being busy serving drinks. I would recommend the zoo to anyone who wants a unique wedding venue that your guests will talk about long after the wedding!
Wonderful, would recommend to everyone!Reviewed on 8/18/2014 Andrew H
4 1/2 years prior to our wedding, my sister and brother in law got married at Brookfield Zoo. Despite the weather that day (pouring rain) the wedding was amazing! When it came to our wedding plans, we looked around at a few places but nothing looked to come close to what my sister's wedding was like so we decided to go into the zoo, and talk to Terry, just like my sister did. My wife was not with me at the time of my sister's wedding, so she didnt know how great everything was run until we did that first meeting. Terry is a master at his job, he is fun to talk to and is very accommodating. It was obvious it got the soon-to-be wife's approval, so we booked it. Everything went smoothly with the zoo, and having the entire package together at one price also helped and cut down on the planning. Our wedding day went wonderfully! It was a beautiful day outside and everything flowed the way I came to expect after being at my sisters wedding. We made the wedding our own, choosing a different theme, music selection, and locations where we could. I dont think we could have asked for anything better! I highly recommend Brookfield Zoo to anyone looking for a unique, fun venue for your wedding and at a reasonable price too compared to everything else in the area. Call now and ask for Terry!
Absolutely Amazing Despite RainReviewed on 7/17/2014 Emily B
Our wedding at the Brookfield Zoo was absolutely magical - despite monsoon-like rain and a flash flood warning. We worked mainly with Terry Rothamer who is fantastic. However, a year before our wedding (we booked 18 months before and had been in contact with Terry about using the zoo for two years before the wedding) he informed us his son was getting married the same day. He continued to work with us up through our final appointment alongside Henry who was our day-of coordinator. Both were absolutely fantastic to work with. Terry helped us add craft beer to the bar and two types of sweets instead of a full sweets table as the package information offers. We were supposed to have cocktail hour in the underwater bear exhibit, however due to the flash flood warning and extreme rain we ended up having cocktails in the lobby of the Discovery Center where the reception was. During this time Henry was very organized and communicated with us and our parents so we knew what was going on. Because the rain came down so quickly the entrance had flooded slightly. We had many older guests including a few using walkers so this was the best plan for us. Despite all of this everybody kept commenting that it was one of the best weddings they had ever attended. The food was fantastic (we gave a choice of steak or trout) and everybody loved the zoo. Even though we didn't get to go to the exhibit for cocktail hour most of our guests came between the ceremony and reception and spent time exploring the zoo. I highly recommend the Brookfield Zoo to anybody, especially if you are an animal lover like my husband and I. Working with Terry was like having a wedding planner included and everything turned out fantastic!
AMAZING wedding venue!Reviewed on 7/02/2014 Kerry F
We had an amazing wedding reception at Brookfield Zoo! We had our cocktail hour at Habitat Africa and reception at the Discovery Center in the Savannah Room. Terry was our event coordinator and he is truly AMAZING! From the moment we met him at our first visit to the zoo (over a year before our wedding) Terry was very accommodating. He made us feel like royalty from that first day. He allowed us to come back to the zoo several times during the planning process. The entire planning process with Terry was great and we had no hassles. During the actual day of the wedding, all of the staff working the wedding was very professional and on top of things whenever we had a question or needed anything at all. Terry and his staff made sure we had everything we needed throughout the evening. They were also very accommodating during take down at the end of the night. During cocktail hour the waitstaff was very responsive and came up to the bride and groom each time a new tray of appetizers came out before serving any of the other guests. The waitstaff was so friendly...I am still getting compliments from guests about them! The pricing is reasonable and packaged at a per head rate which includes your reception, catering, some linens, silverware, some decorations, the cake, cocktail hour at one of the exhibits, guest entrance fee, parking, and open bar. Our guests LOVED being able to come to the zoo early and explore, as well as watch the animals during cocktail hour. Our guests were transported to and from the discovery center for cocktail hour and our reception. Our guests were blown away by the beauty and elegance of the Savannah Room at the Discovery Center. They are still talking about the uniqueness and beauty of our wedding! We are VERY happy with our venue choice and I would recommend Brookfield Zoo to any bride.
Great and Unique wedding reception venueReviewed on 11/17/2013 Christine M
The staff at the zoo is very helpful in figuring out every detail of your wedding. The prices are very comparable to other venues in the Chicago area. You have the opportunity to select your cocktail hour in one area of the zoo and your dinner reception in another area. They take the guests on a tour of the zoo before the cocktail hour as well. I would highly recommend this venue for your wedding if you want a unique reception venue and an opportunity to have your wedding pictures with the animals.
terry is amazingReviewed on 11/07/2013 Stephanie L
Who needs a wedding planner when Terry is there! The venue is unique and the attention is unbelievable! We are so happy we picked the zoo! Couldn't have imagined a better venue or wedding!
Brookfield Zoo WeddingReviewed on 7/31/2013 Amanda T
I wanted something different for my wedding and the Brookfield Zoo definitely delivered. Everything from the planning to the big day was made so easy with the help of Terry at the zoo! Would definitely recommend this venue if you are looking for something other then a banquet hall in the Chicago area!
AMAZING!Reviewed on 11/13/2012 Kelly E
Also known as the Chicago Zoological Society, my full review is under that name. The long and short of it was: Professional, experienced, excellent execution, delights at every turn. Terry can make any wedding request happen. I had an outdoor ceremony (though I see that is not listed in the vendor information on this site) but they very much offer them and the pictures are spectacular. Every detail was magnificent. People have been raving about the wedding to me non-stop, our guests had the most magical night imaginable. Truly perfect, and staff with the experience and know how to get everything down to the last detail right. 100% seamless night.
POSITIVELY AMAZING!Reviewed on 11/13/2012 Kelly E
My dream wedding from start to finish. Terry was fantastic, knew everything about planning a wedding, all the little details that you only think about if you have been organizing major events for a lifetime. Nothing could have been better. The experience was seamless and we were impressed at every turn- our guests were delighted non-stop. Everyone has been raving about what a wonderful time they had. The whole day was amazing. I would give them all the stars in the sky.
Could not have asked for a better experience!Reviewed on 10/24/2012 Suzanne D
We didn't think of the zoo right away, but once we got there, met with Kathy the coordinator, and saw the spaces, we were sold! Extremely affordable considering what you're getting, and Kathy was absolutely a dream to work with! The staff was incredible, accomodating, fun, and could not have made the planning any easier. Food was terrific, locations were picturesque, and we are still getting compliments on how incredible everything was!
Great reception!Reviewed on 10/23/2012 Maura S
Our wedding reception was beautiful. We had a fantastic experience. The staff was helpful and available to all our guests. The food was delicious! Everyone had a wonderful time. If only the weather was better so our guests could walk around before the cocktail hour.
Brookfield Zoo - Dream WeddingReviewed on 10/22/2012 Ammie R
We booked Brookfield Zoo within 2 weeks of our original visit. We worked with Terry Rothamer who was nothing short of spectacular in all aspects of planning and executing. The entire staff - banquet and bar servers, shuttle driver and all zoo employees were polite and energetic. The food was outstanding with a special recommendation to the stuffed pork chop. The zoo staff did not miss a beat in setting up all of the personal touches that we included. From the first look photo (must do), to ceremony (Roosevelt Fountain), to cocktails (The Swamp), to reception (Discovery Center) it was an amazing event. Thank you Brookfield Zoo!