If you have a limited budget, consider getting married off-season. In Washington, off-season means winter -- and July and August, too. Or pick a Friday night for your wedding; most places offer reduced rates on weekdays.
Our favorite sites around town:
McLean Gardens Ballroom
This Georgian-style ballroom in Tenleytown is a convenient and elegant site for a wedding. Built in 1940 and used for official entertaining, McLean Gardens Ballroom has a 40-foot ceiling that creates Old World drama. Its white columns, fireplaces, chandeliers and antiques provide storybook elegance. Best of all, if you don't know the first thing about planning a wedding, an experienced event planner is on hand to offer free advice: Margaret McDermott is a fount of information about area caterers, florists, bands, cakes, limos, invitations and hotels. Whether you want an extravagant or a small, tasteful wedding for less, she’s a good ally.
This historic 1921 French mansion, perched on a hill on a quiet street in Adams Morgan, is the Boardwalk of reception sites in the District. Designed by architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Jefferson Memorial, Meridian House was the home of an American diplomat, and the mansion has retained its ability to charm. Its dramatic Scarlett O'Hara-style staircase, breathtaking circular loggia and famous pebbled Linden grove are enchanting. The walnut walls, French doors and high ceilings create a luxurious but comfortable atmosphere. If you're looking forward to being king and queen for a day, this is the best palace in town.
Poised on a dock on the Potomac River, the modern Torpedo Factory offers a vast reception space. Built in 1918, the Torpedo Factory was just that -- a manufacturing center for torpedo shell casings. Today, it's a gallery and the location of several artist studios, so your guests can roam around and explore the sculptures, paintings and other artwork.
If you're looking for a site with a garden courtyard that's perfect for cocktail hour, consider the 1791 Federal-style Dumbarton House in Georgetown. A museum during the week, on weekends Dumbarton House hosts weddings in the lower-level Belle Vue Room. The dance floor is a bit small, but your guests can wander back up to the terrace and throughout the grounds.
Cherry Blossom Riverboat
Picture a bridal veil trailing in the breeze as this replica of a 19th-century riverboat floats slowly down the Potomac. Wedding ceremonies are permitted on board, so you can be married in Virginia, Maryland, or D.C. With its three floors decorated in brass and mahogany, the Cherry Blossom, docked in Old Town Alexandria, can transport you and your guests to another era -- although, thankfully, an air-conditioned one. Mark Twain would have approved.
Audubon Naturalist Society
8940 Jones Mill Rd.
Chevy Chase, MD
301/652-9188, Ext. 38
A Woodend wedding resembles a party thrown by Jay Gatsby. On this 40-acre nature preserve in Chevy Chase stands one of the area’s most beautiful historic homes. Built in the late 1920s by Jefferson memorial architect John Russell Pope, the well-kept mansion has high ceilings, hardwood floors, majestic fireplaces and ornate chandeliers. Your guests (no more than 150) are seated outside under an adjacent tent, and they’re free to stroll the grounds. Best of all, you can have your ceremony in a grove of trees that has the feel of an outdoor church. Call the event coordinator, Rebecca Robinson, for her VIP treatment.
A stately art museum and library, this building is a grand but often overlooked site for a downtown wedding. Graceful double staircases surround a high-ceilinged, marble mezzanine, a dramatic setting for a seated dinner. Your guests can explore the museum's permanent collection, which includes works by Mary Cassatt and Frida Kahlo.
This 95-year-old mansion on a quiet lane off Rockville Pike offers French doors overlooking the 11-acre grounds and a well-tended garden dotted with sculptures and fountains. Inside, guests can wander the marble-floored foyer, sunroom, library and galleries filled with the work of local artists.
Oxon Hill Manor's impressive setting on a hill above the Potomac makes up for the 20-minute drive from the District. Built in 1929 as the country home of Sumner Welles, FDR's undersecretary of state, the Georgian-style mansion has 49 rooms that are ideal for entertaining. With its marble foyer, spacious rooms and terrace, the mansion exudes Merchant-Ivory elegance. If you'd like an outdoor wedding, Oxon Hill's formal gardens, complete with brick walls, fountains and a reflecting pool, are perfect for a ceremony.
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