One of the best things about getting married in the Nation’s Capital has to be the city’s history. Since its founding, Washington DC has had the job of preserving the shared narrative of the American people. And if you are planning a wedding in the metro area, you will no doubt want to make that history part of your celebrations. After all, the city has almost certainly played an important role in your love story. So at the very least, you will want it to be present in your wedding photos! If possible, you might even want Washington DC to feature prominently in your ceremony. The problem is that most of the city’s monuments and memorials are not available for weddings. A few, though, are. And that is just one of many things that makes a DC War Memorial wedding so special.
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. So the allure of a DC War Memorial wedding (or one at any of these sites) is pretty clear. You get a venue that embraces the history of the country and the city.
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 engagement photographers in Washington DC 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. This also applies if you are planning a DC War Memorial wedding, of course.) Nothing gives your wedding or engagement portraits a DC look and feel like one of the city’s iconic landmarks in the background. DC’s famous memorials make the setting of your “couple history” very evident in a gorgeous way.
Making Washington’s landmarks a part of your wedding celebrations is not quite so easy. There are a few venues in the metro area that do 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, using the city’s monuments and memorials for weddings is out of the question. 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! So 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 directly behind you will have to remain a fantasy, unfortunately.
There 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 ceremonies on the National Mall is a DC War Memorial wedding. 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 reason to have a DC War Memorial wedding is because it 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 a DC War Memorial wedding ceremony. 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 portrait time featured the memorial quite prominently. 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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