If you’ve ever been to Washington, D.C., you’re familiar with the National Mall and Memorial Parks. What you may not have known is that this is an amazing place to get married! While eloping on the mall may sound a bit overwhelming, the DC War Memorial is the perfect spot for an intimate elopement. Tucked away in the trees on the south side of the Lincoln reflecting pool and made entirely of white marble, it’s full of history and classic DC charm. If you’re looking to elope in the heart of DC or have questions about how to do so, this is the guide for you!
To elope at the DC War Memorial, all you need is a Special Use Permit from the National Park Service. Applications are approved on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll want to make sure that you apply early, but the application is short and the fee is only $90, making it a super easy process. A Special Use Permit will grant you two hours at the memorial for your ceremony, which can include up to 200 guests and can take place in the memorial space itself or on the surrounding lawn. This space even allows for chairs and acoustic musicians for those looking for a more traditional ceremony experience.
Your two-hour rental of the DC War Memorial includes the time that you are allowed to take photos on-site. However, if you aren’t sure that time will be enough, you are welcome to apply for a Filming & Photography Permit from the National Park Service as well. This will grant you the ability to take photos throughout the day at a variety of locations.
As always, the most important part of an elopement is making sure you are legally wed! In DC you can request your marriage license online or in person at the Moultrie Courthouse. The fee is $45, and the license never expires, so you can get it as early as you like.
One of the coolest parts of eloping in Washington, D.C. is the ability to self-officiate. That means you don’t have to hire anyone or ask a friend to become ordained – either you or your partner can be listed as the officiant on your application. This allows you to have the most intimate of all elopements, with only you two exchanging your vows (and a photographer to capture the memories, of course!). Self-officiating is a great option for couples who want something truly private or who simply want to lead the ceremony in their own way.
Rather than heading from your ceremony to cocktail hour and reception, your elopement can include any activities you’d like! And one of the greatest things about eloping in DC is that the options are endless. From exploring museums to renting a private yacht on the Potomac – there’s bound to be a perfect option for you and your partner.
Some of my favorite DC Elopement Activities:
– Visit your favorite museums
– Tour the incredible gardens
– Explore the monuments, memorials, and tidal basin
– Enjoy some amazing food
– Relax at a luxury hotel and spa
– The Line
– Charter a private boat
– Reflections DC
Washington, D.C. is one of my absolute favorite places for elopements, however, there are some things to keep in mind to make sure your day goes as smoothly as possible. Since the city is very popular with tourists, I generally recommend that clients try to avoid peak tourist season for a more private elopement. Peak tourist season usually revolves around Cherry Blossom season (late March) and summer break.
Since you aren’t able to block off the space around the War Memorial for your ceremony, it’s best to avoid these times of the year. Additionally, regardless of the time of year, it’s best to elope around sunrise if you want complete privacy and fantastic lighting. Sunset also provides beautiful lighting at the memorial, but there will be more people around the mall.
Eloping at sunrise also makes it much easier to find parking, which can be sparse around the mall. I usually recommend that clients try to find some street parking by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial or opt for rideshares like Uber or Lyft.