The choices are endless when you choose to elope in Washington DC!! There’s the National Mall with all the monuments, the cherry blossom trees to see in spring, all the (free!) Smithsonian museums to explore, and the amazing and unique architecture for beautiful photos. This guides includes all the info you need to know from sharing locations, activities to do, answering FAQs, and more!
Where is Washington DC?
Washington D.C. (known as the District of Columbia) is the capital of the United States. Washington DC is located along the Potomac River on the east coast of the United States. The city is located in-between Maryland and Virginia.
How to Get to Washington DC
There are 3 main airports to get into Washington DC:
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is only 3 miles outside of Washington DC or a 12-minute drive.
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is 27 miles outside of Washington DC or a 38-minute drive.
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) is 34 miles outside of Washington DC or a 54-minute drive.
Here are a few tips if you’re planning on driving to Washington DC:
- For couples that live on the east coast and are planning on road tripping to Washington DC, the fastest route is to take I-95, which runs from Maine to Georgia.
- If you’re driving to Washington DC from the north, I would really recommend investing in an EZ-Pass and/or use the HOV lanes (you need at least 3 people in the car to legally use an HOV lane).
- Be aware of heavy traffic during rush hour (Monday-Friday between 6:00-9:30am and 3:30-6:30pm) around Washington DC.
- Street parking in Washington DC is limited, so a parking garage may be your best option. If you do park on the street, make sure to read all the signs around/near your car to avoid expensive fines.
Other Areas Near Washington DC
Whether you’re wanting to get married in Washington DC, stay at a nearby area from Washington DC, and/or are planning on staying and exploring Washington DC for an extended period of time, here are a few easy-to-get-to areas to and from Washington DC. These places all have metros available too if you’re wanting to avoid staying in and driving in Washington DC while still staying nearby.
- Arlington, Virginia
- Alexandria, Virginia
- Reston, Virginia
- Frederick, Maryland
- Silver Spring, Maryland
- Gaithersburg, Maryland
Why Should You Elope in Washington DC
There are endless things to do and see in Washington DC with a perfect mix of history and moderness. From the history of all the buildings and monuments to explore, the top-rated restaurants, the iconic backdrops for your Washington DC elopement photos, and the beautiful weather…You seriously cannot go wrong with eloping in Washington DC.
FAQs About Eloping in Washington DC
Do I need to be a resident of Washington DC to get married?
You do not need to be a resident of Washington DC to get married in Washington DC. You will need to bring one form of identification for your marriage license (a driver’s license, a passport, a current U.S. military ID), which you can apply for online here.
Do I need an officiant for our elopement in Washington DC?
Decide what you will do prior to applying for your marriage license, but you have 3 options to make your elopement legal regarding an officiant in Washington DC:
- Courthouse wedding – officiated by a Washington DC judge
- Officiant – must be registered within the Washington DC court
- Self officiate – both parties must pick up the marriage license, but one partner officiates the ceremony
How much does a marriage license cost in Washington DC?
A marriage license in Washington costs $45. There is no expiration date on marriage licenses from Washington DC so you have plenty of time to get married after attaining your marriage license.
Do we need a witness to get married in Washington DC?
No! You will just need the signature of your officiant on your marriage license from Washington DC to make your marriage legal. If you self-officiate, you get to sign the marriage license yourself.
Best Locations to Elope at in Washington DC
There are endless options of where to elope in Washington DC from monuments, museums, parks, downtown areas, and venues.
All the monuments and memorials in Washington DC are considered the National Mall, which is also a part of the National Park Services. This means all monuments and memorials require a permit and a reservation time to elope at. The process is pretty simple and easy to go through though, which you can learn more about here.
There are only three monuments/memorials that allow wedding ceremonies (listed below), but other monuments/memorials are available for engagement photos and/or a post-wedding photoshoot (with a permit!).
D.C. War Memorial — It’s absolutely beautiful with the classic circular marble structure honoring the fallen Washington DC residents who died in service during World War I. You can get married right inside the structure and/or have your guests inside the structure, which is nice in case of rain or needing shade from the heat. A permit and reservation time is required and you have a 2-hour limit here for your ceremony and photos.
Jefferson Memorial — This spot is an ideal spot for eloping at during sunrise (no crowds!). You’re also right along the tidal basin (where the cherry blossoms are) and within walking distance from other beautiful spots for photos including the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the D.C. War Memorial, and more. A permit is required, and you have a 2-hour limit for your ceremony and photos here.
George Mason Memorial — This memorial is beautiful with a pond and tons of flowers in the spring. A permit is required, and you have a 1-hour limit for your ceremony and photos. No set-up is allowed.
Lincoln Memorial — Although you cannot have a ceremony here, you can take photos here before or after your wedding (with a permit). The Lincoln Memorial is in the ideal spot with the reflecting pool, being right across from the Washington Monument (aka “The Pencil”), and within walking distance of the World War II Memorial.
A lot of the museums, including all of the Smithsonian Museums, in Washington DC have free admission. I would recommend getting married in a museum on a weekday in the morning to avoid crowds and/or renting out an event space at the museum.
Smithsonian Castle — The Smithsonian Castle has beautiful architecture with outdoor and indoor space. It’s located right down the street from the U.S. Capital Building. Get more info about eloping at the Smithsonian Castle here.
National Portrait Museum — This museum is way cooler than it sounds with a ton of unique artwork and sculptures. Get more info about eloping at the National Portrait Museum here.
Renwick Museum — The Renwick Museum has stunning and really unique art exhibits. It is located right behind the White House. Get more info about eloping at the Renwick Museum here.
National Museum of American History — With exhibits featuring American history (including Dorothy’s red ruby shoes, First Ladies, George Washington’s uniform, and more), the National Museum of American History has so much to explore for everyone of all ages. There is an event space that has a beautiful view of the National Mall too. Get more info about eloping at the National Museum of American History here.
Gravelly Point — Gravelly Point is located right next door to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, making it an ideal spot to watch airplanes take off and land. It’s super cool to be so close to the planes and makes for really unique photos!
Theodore Roosevelt Island — This spot is the ultimate spot to go to during the fall with all the leaves changing. Parking is free, is dog-friendly, and the trails are extremely accessible if you’re hoping to include friends and family. It is considered to be a part of the National Park Service, so make sure to do your research with permits to host a ceremony here.
Meridian Hill Park — Meridian Hill Park overlooks Washington DC and has the country’s longest cascading fountain with a reflecting pond at the bottom. There is a paved sidewalk here, making it very accessible. Parking is limited with street parking.
Great Falls Park — About 40 minutes outside of Washington DC, Great Falls Park is a beautiful spot to elope at with falls over the Potomac River. One side of the park is Virginia while the opposite side of the park is in Maryland across the river. A permit is required to get married at Great Falls, along with a parking fee. Get more info about eloping at Great Falls here.
Georgetown Waterfront — Georgetown is known for its historic brick and frame homes, top-rated restaurants, cobblestone streets, and beautiful architecture.
Old Town Alexandria — Only 20 minutes away from Washington DC, in Virginia, both the courthouse and the downtown area in Old Town Alexandria are absolutely beautiful!! Old Town Alexandria is right by the water along the Potomac River, the stores and restaurants are all so cute and have a ton of pretty architecture and character, and there’s so many fun activities to do there.
National Harbor — Only 20 minutes from Washington DC, in Maryland, is National Harbor. It’s right on the water (also right across the Potomac River from Old Town Alexandria). There’s a boardwalk, tons of restaurants and stores, a ferris wheel, and some cool murals nearby. Get more info about eloping at the National Harbor here.
Fathom Gallery — In two separate locations on 14th Street and in Georgetown, Fathom Gallery is a beautiful space with lots of brick and white space. It’s indoors with a private outside porch. Get more info about eloping at Fathom Gallery here.
Josephine Butler Parks Center — Overlooking Meridian Hill Park, Josephine Butler Parks Center is a beautiful historic building with lots of character. Get more info about eloping at Josephine Butler Parks Center here.
Viceroy Washington DC — A mix of comfort and chic, Viceroy has skylights, a rooftop porch with a pool and room for lounging, and an outdoor patio that’s part backyard and part urban playground. Get more info about eloping at the Viceroy Washington DC here.
The Best Time to Get Married in Washington DC
Weather: Typically, winter in Washington DC is cold with the occasional snowfall. Every few years, Washington DC is known for getting several inches to over a foot of snow. In the spring, the weather is unpredictable going from a cool 50 degrees to a warm 80 degrees the very next day. Summer is very hot and humid. Fall is similar to spring with a mix of cooler weather and warmer weather all just days apart.
Crowds: Washington DC is usually the busiest during mid-March to early April for the cherry blossoms, the beginning of July for Independence Day, and during the fall from mid-September to early November.
One thing to think and plan ahead for is if you’re planning on eloping during a big event (meaning lots of traffic and crowds). There is the inauguration in January every four years, the cherry blossoms in mid-March through early April, Memorial Day weekend in May, Independence Day on July 4th, lots of fall tourists from September to November, election day in November every four years, and the occasional march or festival going on. You can definitely still have your elopement during any of these events (and the city is big! So we can still find private spots around the city for your ceremony/photos no matter what), but it’s something to think about and it helps to be mentally prepared knowing about such events beforehand.
10 Activities to Do for Your Washington DC Elopement
- Walk around the National Mall. Check out all the monuments located around Washington DC including the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, and tons of picnic spots. This is where the cherry blossoms are also located.
- Visit the Smithsonian Museums, which are free to enter. There are over 19 Smithsonian Museusms from the National Air and Space Museum, African-American Museum, Renwick Gallery, and more.
- Check out the Library of Congress. This is the largest library in the world with tours and lectures for tourists to attend.
- Go on a food tour around Georgetown. Georgetown is known for its highly-rated restaurants, cafes, and pubs to experience! Ask in advance for food tour tickets as a gift for your wedding registry too.
- Watch a show at the Kennedy Center. This performing arts center is named after JFK with over 2,000 shows and events each year. Shows range from theatre, opera, ballet, and more.
- Get on a boat on the Georgetown Waterfront. Have a unique view of all the monuments from the water by renting a kayak, a canoe, or a paddle board.
- Take a cruise. A ton of boat tours and boat companies offer bachelor(ette) parties or a post-wedding reception with small groups to celebrate your marriage with bottomless brunch or a sunset cruise along the Potomac River.
- Go to a sports game. From the Washington Nationals baseball team, the Washington Capitals hockey team, the Washington Wizards basketball team, and the Washington Commanders football team – there is an option to see a sports team year round!
- See a concert at Echostage. Almost every weekend, there is a performance held here that is a hybrid nightclub and concert hall for an indoor nightclub-like experience.
- Visit a speakeasy. These bars are hidden in abandoned-looking building, but a really cool experience visiting one. A list of some of the speakeasies around Washington DC can be found here.
Washington DC Elopement Photographer
Well hey there – if you didn’t know me already, I’m Emily! I’m a Washington DC elopement photographer. I spend a lot of time photographing adventure elopements of rad couples around the world. I’m obsessed with all things elopements, exploring new places, outdoor adventure, and am truly so grateful that I get to call this my job!!!
If you’re looking for a photographer for your Washington DC elopement who will:
- Photograph your beautiful Washington DC elopement ceremony and activities through storytelling photos that you can look back on for the rest of your life
- Help you come up with your dream elopement day and itinerary
- Help you find activities in the Washington DC area to make your elopement intentional, unique, and memorable
…then I’m your person!!!
Visit my website to learn more about me, get to know my approach to elopement photography, and then reach out to me if you think we’re a good fit. I cannot wait to hear from you and start planning your dream Washington DC elopement!!
Final Tips for Eloping in Washington DC
- If you’re planning on doing an outdoor ceremony in the spring, summer, or fall, the best time to get married is during sunrise or sunset to beat the heat and to avoid crowds.
- A weekday is ideal for getting married to avoid big crowds especially if you’re going to elope in a public space.
- Here are 12 Ways to Have a Unique Elopement
- Here are All-Day Elopement Timeline Examples
- A gallery of mine taken in the streets of Washington DC