Any fiancés who are looking for an iconic Washington location for the couples portraits that we take of them on their wedding day should obviously give a thought to posing for a few shots near the White House. Backdrops in the Washington, DC, area do not get much more iconic and Washingtonian than those that include the home and office of the person elected to lead the country. Whether a bride and groom are standing in front of the northern facade, which features a lovely flower-ringed fountain in front of its distinctive columned portico, or the southern side, with its world-famous semicircular balcony and terrace, the White House is easily recognizable in the resulting images and gives an unmistakeable indication of where the wedding celebrations took place.
The challenge for us as wedding photographers, however, is finding the ideal place in which to pose newlyweds so that we get a clear view of the White House in the background. For security reasons, the entire building is encircled by a stout fence. Though this precaution is a necessary evil, it means that putting a bride and groom too close to the president’s home and office leads to photos with very distracting elements between the newly married couple and the White House. Moreover, pictures like that tend to make the new husband and wife look more like tourists visiting the Nation’s Capital than like two people celebrating their exchange of marriage vows in the Washington, DC, metro area.
Couples portraits taken at any of the luxury hotels on 16th Street that have rooftop access can include some stunning shots of the White House in the background, but those can also be a little tricky. The iconic building looks great, for example, from the top of The Hay-Adams, a sumptuously ornate and legendary Washington hotel where, as an aside, we had our own wedding reception. The problem is that these luxurious wedding venues are considerably taller than the White House (which is smaller than most people think). This means that getting the Washington landmark behind newlyweds posing for their couples portraits requires putting our cameras well above the bride and groom. Not impossible, to be sure, but still challenging.
What we have learned from years of photographing weddings in and around Washington, DC, is that the ideal spots for stunning portraiture near the White House are in Lafayette Park on the north side and in the Ellipse on the south side. Posing newlyweds in either of these locations puts them a couple of hundred meters from the building and allows the fencing to blend into the grass of the White House lawn. The iconic features of the White House are still easily visible in the photos, but the distracting elements are reduced.
If we could only choose one side on which to pose a pair of new spouses, we would opt for Lafayette Park and put the newlyweds in the spot where we had this particular couple stand. As lovely as the Ellipse is (and as recognizable as the curved balcony on the building’s southern face is), there is often a lot of construction and fencing in that grassy area between the White House and the National Mall. The park on the northern side, on the other hand, is relatively unobstructed and has the added benefits of having elements such as the beautiful trees and Andrew Jackson statue that improve the overall composition of the photographs. As you can see in this particular image, which we took after the couple tied the knot at the swanky St. Regis Washington, DC, everything comes together beautifully for a truly “Washington” portrait.