Other than, you know, the person standing across from you at the altar, your wedding venue is arguably the most important decision you’ll make during the wedding planning process. After all, your venue choice impacts your wedding date, guest count, vendor possibilities, and the overall aesthetic of your big day. So it’s not a decision to make lightly!
Luckily, if you’re planning to marry in Washington, D.C., there’s a wide variety of venue options that speak to styles far beyond the buttoned-up look the city is perhaps too commonly stereotyped with.
"The expectation of D.C. weddings is that they’re preppy and politically based," says event planner Tiffany Rivera. "While those weddings are beautiful, you also have a melting pot of different people and cultures coming together here. And our couples tend to do a strict nine-to-five situation for work, so, for their wedding, they want to bring that collar button down and have some fun."
Meet the Expert
Tiffany Rivera is the founder and lead planner of Washington, D.C. event planning firm Simply Breathe Events.
Ready to start looking for the spot to host your own celebration? You’ve come to the right place. Read on for a look at all the essential introductory info for marrying in our nation’s capital—including average costs and the best seasons to wed—as well as a list of ten of our favorite Washington, D.C. wedding venues.
Average Cost of a Washington, D.C. Wedding
Per industry resource The Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding in the Washington, D.C. area in 2020 was $30,200. Pre-pandemic averages were significantly higher, hovering between $36,100 and $36,600 from 2017 to 2019, and may skew closer to these amounts as larger events become the norm once more.
However, if your guest count rings in over 125, and you’re looking to recreate the more lavish settings popularized by Instagram and Pinterest, you could be looking at amounts at least double that.
"$60,000 is probably the minimum you’re looking at to be able to get something of higher quality," says Rivera. "But, if you’re flexible, [there are] tons of ways to hit below that number."
When to Host a Washington, D.C. Wedding
With thousands of trees sprouting pretty pink blooms all over the region, cherry blossom season in early spring is one of the most popular times to visit Washington. That said, hosting your wedding during the National Cherry Blossom Festival can be more trouble than it’s worth.
"I love the cherry blossoms, but it’s a big headache," admits Rivera. "You have to build in so much time and stress management into your day for photos."
If you live in the Washington area, opt to take your engagement photos during cherry blossom season instead. That way, you’ll get the shots you want without having all the extra hassle of a wedding to worry about.
Avoid national political events and holidays, such as Inauguration Day, Fourth of July, and Memorial Day, as the city experiences significant road closures and an uptick in hotel bookings that may impact your guest’s ability to efficiently navigate the events of your wedding weekend. (The same can be said for the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, which typically happens in early spring.)
As for the best time to marry in Washington? "It has to be October," says Rivera. "The weather is nice, and it’s got the least amount of political events."
Washington, D.C. Wedding Planning Tips
Washington is one of the few U.S. territories that legally recognizes self-uniting marriages. Meaning: you can declare yourselves married, without the presence of an officiant or even additional witnesses. So if you’ve always dreamed of eloping, the nation’s capital is a great place to do it.
Hit the Monuments
For truly iconic Washington wedding photos, head to the national monuments. Rivera’s favorites: the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and, for ease of access, the Lincoln Memorial. That said, Rivera strongly encourages doing your homework before you set out for the shoot. "Google the monuments you’re most interested in for peak visiting times, permit requirements, and if they’re under construction," she advises.
Plan for VIPs
If a high-profile political figure will be attending your celebration, know you may have to make additional security accommodations and possibly even work around requests from Secret Service agents.
The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the situation remains fluid, we’ll be sharing tips and stories from industry experts to give you of-the-moment advice and help you navigate wedding planning today. For the most up-to-date guidelines and latest on travel restrictions and requirements, check the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites.
Now, on to the best part: where to get hitched! Ahead, 10 of the best Washington, D.C. area wedding venues to consider.
Housed in a 110-year-old historic church in the heart of the district's lively Adams Morgan neighborhood, The Line Hotel is ideal for couples who appreciate a modern aesthetic—and will have several guests traveling in from out of town. "It gives the ease of everything happening in one location," says Rivera, who is a big fan of the venue. With several event spaces, the hotel can accommodate a wide variety of party sizes, with the largest being 300 guests in a 4,000 square foot area, and the Chesapeake-inspired dinner menus by award-winning chef Opie Crooks will convince even the most persnickety foodies to appreciate the merits of mid-Atlantic cuisine. (Hello, grilled trout and mushroom cavatelli!) Most important: the situation upstairs, which is perfect for ceremonies. "The view from the rooftop is unmatched," says Rivera. "You can see all of D.C—and, if you squint, a little bit of Maryland and Virginia as well."
If you’re looking for European-style signatures of luxury—like, say, a marble staircase for your grand entrance, a walled garden with a reflecting pool for your ceremony or cocktail hour, and gilded accents along the walls—then you’ll definitely want to include The Society of the Cincinnati's Larz Anderson House in your venue search. Tucked away amongst the historic mansions and embassies of Massachusetts Avenue, the ornate, Gilded Age mansion is well-known amongst the city’s wedding community, but still something of a best-kept secret for the average citizen. "Most D.C. residents don’t even know it exists unless they’ve been to an event there," says Rivera. The venue can accommodate up to 130 guests for a seated dinner and dancing, and also welcomes daytime or ceremony-only bookings.
(Note: Anderson House is currently closed for pandemic-related reasons. Operations will resume in early April 2022.)
Ask a group of Washington wedding planners what newer venue they’re most excited about, and chances are many will respond with The Schuyler. Located in the Hamilton Hotel on the southern tip of one of the best bar and restaurant strips in the city, this contemporary ballroom boasts 12,000 square feet of event space, and can hold up to 450 for a seated dinner. (So necessary in a city where many of the larger venues are situated further out in Maryland and Virginia.) Built-in lighting systems and extensive ceiling rigging make it easy to make the room your own—and install that ceiling of floral stems or chandeliers you always dreamed of—and the venue’s willingness to work with vendors beyond their in-house staff means your dream wedding team can absolutely come along for the ride.
The OG industrial venue of Washington is this 8,500-square foot art gallery. (When it’s not hosting private events, patrons can browse gallery walls covered in contemporary works from an international roster of mid-career and contemporary artists.) Exposed 15-foot ceilings and finished concrete floors provide a minimalist backdrop for events for 25 to 400 guests, and there’s a dedicated catering kitchen. Added bonus: nearby Blagden Alley is covered in cool murals and an ideal spot for wedding party portraits.
Washington has no shortage of stately hotels to choose from when it comes to weddings. The Willard, the Fairmont, the Four Seasons, and the St. Regis are all popular, and exciting newcomers include the Riggs and Conrad Washington D.C, but perhaps none provide a more quintessentially Washington experience than The Hay-Adams on 16th Street, which was first built in the 1920s. The crown jewel of their event spaces is the Top of the Hay (capacity: 250 seated). This delightfully neutral space is adorned with French doors and a vaulted skylight ceiling with trellis detailing. It also offers unobstructed views of the White House and Washington Monument from the balcony.
Love that industrial-chic warehouse look? Or maybe you’re after a blank canvas venue you can completely make your own. Either way, your answer just might be Dock 5, a 12,000-square-foot event space located above the Union Market food hall in the district's NoMa neighborhood. (While there, portraits against the rooftop "Union Market" sign are a must.) The venue can seat 400 for dinner with dancing, ample light floods through the garage doors, and the concrete floors and exposed beams add a raw element to any décor scheme. In the market for a similar effect, but smaller in size and scope? Book the nearby AutoShop, which falls under the same umbrella of Union Market events. It can seat 150 with room for cocktails and includes an outdoor terrace.
Believe it or not, it is fully possible to wed with panoramic water views in the district. One of the best places to do so is the riverfront District Winery in Navy Yard. This sleek, modern venue, the first commercial winery within city bounds, is an excellent choice for couples who aren’t looking to spend massive amounts of time on décor decisions, as all weddings include the use of essentials such as cool leather chairs, custom tables, china and glassware, printed menus, and even small tabletop décor. The outdoor rooftop is the perfect space to exchange vows, the main reception space (capacity: 200) is outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, and the comfort food-focused dinner menu includes delectable dishes like breadcrumb-dusted mac ‘n’ cheese, roasted rack of lamb, and buttermilk fried chicken.
Built in 1919 and designed by architect John Russell Pope, the same name behind the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art, this venue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That steeped-in-American-history pedigree is appealing to many Washingtonians, but that’s not all there is to love about the Louis-XVI-style space. Its tucked away location just off Meridian Hill Park offers an air of intimacy—as does dinner served in the library or main gallery hall—and the mini grove of 80-year-old Spanish linden trees provides a whimsical setting for your cocktail hour or ceremony. In terms of capacity, 130 guests are ideal, but the space can fit 200 for a cocktail reception or 150 for seated dinner and dancing.
The surrounding countryside of Maryland and Virginia is home to many bucolic farms and wineries for weddings. A consistent favorite is Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg, Virginia, located just under an hour from the National Mall. Couples after rustic charm will find it here in spades. After a relaxed morning getting ready in a historic on-property farmhouse, you’ll host your outdoor ceremony on the hillside or by the pond, then pose for portraits amidst the oversized wine-making barrels in the Tank Room. Dinner and dancing happen in the stone-accented Vineyard View ballroom, which can accommodate up to 250, and the adjacent terrace is the perfect spot for s’mores or cigars.
This Purcellville, Virginia newcomer to the Washington area event scene is set on a 30-acre estate surrounded by preserved farmland. On property, the main event space is the rustic-meets-modern 5,000-square-foot Oak Barn, where cocktail hour can spill right out onto the stone terrace. Also on location: a classic red barn that’s the perfect backdrop for portraits, a spacious, stone-walled 18th-century farmhouse that provides ample room for hair and makeup prep, and overnight accommodations for the marrying couple so they don’t have to worry about Ubering elsewhere after the revelry ends.