If your wedding is in Washington DC, you no doubt want to take advantage of what makes the city special. One of the best things about getting married in the Nation’s Capital has to be the city’s history. Since its founding, DC has taken on the job of preserving the shared narrative of the American people. As longtime residents of the metro area, we have always felt lucky to get share in that. As DC wedding photographers, we feel even more grateful that we get to photograph weddings for couples like you with all this as a backdrop.
Washington’s various monuments and memorials celebrate just about every significant moment in US history — from independence to the present. The National Archives house our founding documents, and the George Mason Memorial pays tribute to an unsung hero whose ideas inspired them. The Washington Monument, Mount Vernon and even the city’s name remind us how one man put country before self at a critical time. The Lincoln Memorial is a testament to leadership that saw us through our darkest night. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial highlights our continuing struggle to ensure equal opportunity for all. Arlington Cemetery and the various war memorials recognize the sacrifices made to preserve our cherished freedom.
As we have mentioned many, many times on other parts of our website, Washington’s memorials are great for engagement photos. The National Park Service allows DC wedding photographers to pose you and your future spouse in front of nearly all of them. (We should note, however, that the NPS requires permits for professional photography on nearly any land it administers.) Nothing gives your wedding or engagement portraits a DC look and feel like one of the city’s iconic landmarks in the background. Did Washington play a part in your love story? If so, then a betrothal photo shoot at a monument is a great way to tell the world that it did. DC’s famous memorials make the setting of your “couple history” very evident in a gorgeous way.
The problem, though, is if you want to make Washington’s landmarks a part of your wedding celebrations. There are a view venues in the metro area that offer great views of those icons. Top of the Town in Arlington, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium and 101 Constitution are some of our favorites. Unfortunately, the city’s monuments and memorials are not available for weddings. They were created for the American people to enjoy and learn from. That is why they are open to the public all year long at no charge! With that in mind, it would be against the spirit of these testaments to close them off for a wedding. So a marriage ceremony on the National Mall with the Washington Monument rising behind you will have to remain a fantasy, unfortunately.
There is are three notable exceptions to this general rule, however. The first is the aforementioned George Mason Memorial. You and your future spouse can tie the knot there surrounded by a lovely pansy garden set in a bucolic nook carved out of the urban landscape. The memorial’s namesake (and inspiration for the Bill of Rights) will watch over your nuptials from his seat on a bench at the front.
The second spot that the NPS opens for weddings is the west lawn of the nearby Jefferson Memorial. You can exchange your vows with the monument’s gorgeous columns and dome rising behind you. You also have the side benefit of couples portraits next to the Tidal Basin. From its shores, your Washington DC wedding photographer can compose beautiful pictures of you with the Washington Monument in the background.
The final option for wedding ceremonies on the National Mall is the DC War Memorial. An oft-overlooked part of the city’s landscape, this monument recognizes two very important things. The first is what DC’s sons and daughters have given to protect and defend our country. The second is more subtle and perhaps unintentional. The DC War Memorial also reminds us that the city has its own individual history. Though it does celebrate our collective narrative, Washington is also a community unto itself. It has its own past, which is both a part of and distinct from the history of our nation. So if you want a DC wedding venue that combines all of this, you cannot ask for a better spot.
Another of the DC War Memorial’s selling points is the way it so successfully marries the aesthetic and the practical. Like the Jefferson Memorial, its primary architectural feature is a lovely marble dome. And like its counterpart atop the Jefferson, that dome is supported by stately columns. The DC War Memorial, however, is much smaller and has a more open floor plan. That makes it considerably easier to fit the monument into the backdrop of pictures of your ceremony (if you have it on the lawn) and your couples portraits. It also lets more light into the interior of the memorial, meaning lovelier pictures of you exchanging your vows if you get married under the dome.
This particular couple did not actually have their wedding ceremony at the DC War Memorial. They had officially tied the knot in India prior to the Washington portion of their celebrations. They had booked the aforementioned Mellon Auditorium for their reception and wanted to do a photo tour of the National Mall beforehand for their couples portraits. So we took them from one end to the other, starting at the US Capitol and finishing at the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way, we stopped off at the DC War Memorial to get some shots with that structure in the background.
As it turned out, our favorite picture from that part of their couples portraits barely featured the memorial at all. The bride and groom were feeling a little stiff and tensed from all the posing. So we had them loosen up by dancing a bit. As they did, the groom unexpectedly swung his bride around for an impromptu twirl. We were delighted to capture that on film in this image. Though the main subject of the photo was them and the dynamism of that moment, we made sure to include the memorial as well. We (and more importantly, the couple) were very happy with that choice!
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