The Grand Ballroom At Joliet Union Station
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Joliet. I actually spent four years there in college. I chose to attend the University of St. Francis due to the prospect of getting to play college baseball. I played a year and a half before finding out I wasn’t good enough then, just being lazy, decided to finish my degree there instead of transferring to a larger university.
This past weekend, J, L, and I returned to Joliet for a wedding. I was looking forward to it because it was at a really neat venue downtown and I was hoping to take a little time to snap some pictures of L at this gorgeous backdrop.
The Grand Ballroom at Joliet Union Station is part of the 100 year old train hub that serves Will County. The two story building leads up to two train platforms. One platform is for Amtrak. The other is for the Rock Island Line of the Metra. Sounds like an odd place to have a wedding, but they actually have an enclosed ballroom on the second floor just a few steps from the platforms.
The ballroom was designed as part of the original structure in 1912. The classic architecture building was designed by Jarvis Hunt and features huge, 24′ palladium windows, a large balcony overlooking downtown Joliet, and crystal chandeliers. While the rest of the train station is not air conditioned, the ballroom is. Still, the room can get pretty warm because those huge windows face the west and the sun shines right in to the ballroom as it’s setting.
Technically, they claim the ballroom has enough room for 350 people. That may be the fire code number, but I would argue that’s way too many. The wedding we were at had approximately 300 and that was way too many. It was a little hard to move around freely with that many people in the space along with the tables and come dance time, there was just no room. The small dance floor was nowhere near enough space and people started spilling over into the tables. The unfortunate thing is there’s really no space outside of the ballroom to congregate. The balcony was used for smoking plus the sun was beating right down on it so it could be a little uncomfortable until the sun set and the space outside of the ballroom is not air conditioned.
The evening started with a cocktail hour. Hors d’oeuvre’s were passed around and there were a couple bars open which even stayed open during the dinner. A rarity among weddings I’ve been to recently.
Dinner started after the introductions and the speeches. We were started with a delicious mixed greens salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. It came with cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and croutons. It was a very delicious start to the meal.
The entree choices were either steak or chicken stuffed with shrimp. I, obviously, chose the steak, but J doesn’t eat red meat and is allergic to shell fish. Luckily, there was a vegetarian plate of cheese tortellini and steamed veggies. For L, they had a plate of chicken tenders with mashed potatoes and green beans that was brought out with a side of ketchup with the salad course for the adults.
While the plates all looked pretty, we all sort of agreed that the meals were a little overdone and dry. Now, I don’t really have high expectations for wedding meals. They had almost 300 meals to prepare so the use of microwaves and warming cabinets is not surprising. My steak was on the far end of the well-done side of the scale and the potatoes were a little dry. J said her pasta was pretty good, but the veggies were overcooked. L’s chicken was pretty dry and she barely touched it, but she loved J’s pasta. Once she got a bite of it, she sort of took over the plate and kept asking for more. The really frustrating part was dinner took about two hours.
Dessert was obviously the cake which was pretty good. The cake was nice and moist and had, rich, creamy frosting.
From an aesthetic point of view, I loved the venue. They have a pretty great marble staircase that would have been amazing for pictures and the somewhat rundown area behind the venue, where the parking lot is, could have made for some gorgeous, memorable photos. I didn’t get to play around as much as I would have wanted to from a photography standpoint, but I did snap an absolutely amazing photo of L sitting on the stairs leading to the train platforms.
With a smaller group, I think I would have really enjoyed reception at the Grand Ballroom, but there just seemed to be too many people which made moving around and conversing a little bit of a challenge. Dinner wasn’t outstanding, but again, it’s wedding food…and I don’t expect much. Whenever I go to a wedding, I always scout out a late night dinner option just for that reason, so that’s not really an issue to me. It’s a beautiful setting and that’s what I like about the place.