Plan for a capital wedding

From cherry blossoms to “The Church of the Presidents,” whether exchanging vows in Thomas Jefferson’s shadow or tying the knot in one of the city’s elegant churches, a wedding in D.C. is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Attracting attention nationally each spring, D.C.’s cherry trees line the tidal basin, providing a colorful backdrop for that special day. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, George Mason Memorial and D.C. War Memorial are the three permitted wedding sites in view of the Washington Monument and cherry blossoms on the National Mall.

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These locations, while available for weddings, are also quite popular tourist attractions. So don’t be surprised by the many onlookers. Great Falls National Park in Virginia, a more private and secluded venue, offers a natural escape from city life. Benjamin Mauch at the National Park Service says, “The gorgeous 76-foot waterfall and tree-covered banks of the Potomac River attract couples from all parts of the Washington area.”

When planning a wedding at one of these venues, take note of the National Park Service’s rules and regulations, as multiple permits, though relatively inexpensive, might be required.

Perhaps a wedding at one of the area’s historic landmarks sounds more interesting. George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate will take you back in time, with a ceremony at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, just a stone’s throw away from the former president’s historic home.

“The Mount Vernon Inn is a terrific place for a couple with an interest in history to be married. With its crackling fireplaces, period décor and colonial-attired servers, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been transported back to an elegant 18th century establishment,” says Mount Vernon media relations manager Melissa Wood.

Keep in mind, however, that the ceremony gardens may only be rented with a catered reception to follow, requiring that the Inn be a one-stop destination for weddings. Seating is limited to 160 guests, while the reception rooms can hold 220.

The Meridian House, located near Adams Morgan in the District, adds an international flavor to its historic appeal. Home to the Meridian International Center, this “residential jewel” was designed by John Russell Pope, the architect of the Jefferson Memorial and The National Gallery of Art.

Communications Director Priya Doshi says, “This former home of an American ambassador is laden with European influence, and the grounds provide a park-like atmosphere in the center of Washington that is perfect for history buffs and architecture aficionados alike.” The Meridian, which can accommodate 150, will offer a one-of-a-kind experience but will cost between $8,000 and $12,000, depending upon the season.

For those looking for a more traditional marriage ceremony, D.C. is home to a wide array of churches. Rooted in the Colonial Era, St. Paul’s Episcopal Rock Creek Parish, the oldest congregation in D.C., celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. Still supported by original walls and set apart by its Italian marble floor, St. Paul’s has been described as an “elegant little jewel box.”

Dubbed “The Church of the Presidents,” St. John’s Episcopal Church has seen all 44 U.S. presidents attend service in its Pew 54, with James Madison being the first to consider himself a member of the congregation. If such attributes sound intriguing, bear in mind that these churches require couples to undergo a preparation process before a wedding can be held.

Capitol Hill is also a popular venue to exchange vows. St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic churches, both built in the shadow of the Capitol in the 19th century, serve as the spiritual home of residents and members of Congress alike. Christ Church and St. Mark’s Episcopal are also local options, as are Capitol Hill Presbyterian and Capitol Hill United Methodist.

Journey a few blocks off the Hill and you will find the culturally fluid 6th and I Historic Synagogue; the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.; and the vibrant Shiloh Baptist Church, all looking to help wedding couples celebrate the sacrament of marriage.

Though distinct for its historic venues, churches and monuments, the D.C. area also boasts uniquely Washingtonian locations to walk down the aisle. From the 41.7-acre waterfront Gaylord National Convention Center to the breathtaking views of the city from Arlington’s Top of the Town reception and conference facility, there is no lack of amenities at these coveted D.C. favorites.

Or you can try the Newseum, a museum of news; or the largest building in D.C., at 3.1 million square feet, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, for the ceremony of a lifetime. Just remember, they also come with large price tags.

Whether opting for a creatively themed ceremony at a large outdoor venue or a more serene and peaceful historic location, there is no shortage of distinct options in the nation’s capital.