By Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd, Principal
Behind the Scenes Events
I love romantic venues. Everything from big, open museums to well-lit art galleries, and private homes with spectacularly appointed interiors — each allows wedding guests to mix and mingle while celebrating the couple’s special day.
I know this from personal experience, as I tied the knot myself last fall. So it was an interesting exercise to apply to my wedding the advice that I offer to couples looking for the perfect venue: “Embrace your personality as a couple.”
1. Define who you are as a couple. Are you the “Chillsters,” who want a mellow wedding, or are you going for the “Wow Factor?” Perhaps you are the “Urbanites,” who must have a city view when saying your vows, or maybe you are true Romantics, or the Glamour couple, and want to be surrounded by high ceilings, candlelight, and stars?
2. Sit down with your partner and review some of the best weddings you have attended. Were they over-the-top with glamour, or uber-trendy and hip? Identifying what you both thought was fabulous will be telling about what you like and don’t.
3. Plan ahead. The trick for hosting an affair at any of these venues is to book early, and many require more than a year’s notice, simply due to demand. Competition is rough. Believe it or not, I know a gal who loved a venue so much that she booked it before meeting her future husband.
4. Prepare to pay a big bill. The most stunning venues in DC come with a hefty price tag. That’s not to say that you can’t be money-conscious and still have a gorgeous wedding. But when it comes to some of DC’s top venues, know that you are going to pay royally for ambiance. Whether you are living vicariously or have the big bucks, here are some of my favorite spots.
A Guide to DC’s Most Romantic Wedding Venues
1. For chillsters: Glen Echo Park
7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD 20812: 301-634-2222
For couples seeking a laid back, less traditional wedding venue, Glen Echo Park should definitely be on your list.
Nestled into the woods just off MacArthur Blvd., the park’s art deco buildings and signage have a charm all their own. Though many of the facilities could stand a fresh coat of paint, it’s appealing to peek back in time to a bygone era complete with a restored Dentzel carousel (circa 1921), a bumper-car pavilion (circa 1923), an arcade, and a puppet playhouse.
The bumper car pavilion reminds me of Coney Island, with its well-worn hardwood floors and white twinkling lights that span the rafters. This outdoor space offers a multitude of options, any of which would make for a fun, laid-back bash. Be sure to have the carousel lit and running during the reception.
2. For the glamour couple: Meridian House
1630 Crescent Place, NW, Washington D.C., DC 20009: 202-667-6800
One of the most spectacular weddings I’ve ever witnessed was held at the Meridian House, a jewel of a venue nestled in a residential neighborhood just west of Meridian Hill Park. The bride and groom went old-Hollywood, and their theme was a hit with guests.
I simply love the flow of the available indoor/outdoor space, which is actually a complex of sorts that also includes the White-Meyer House, Meridian House and its gardens, and a gorgeous pebbled courtyard overlooking downtown DC and the monuments. The courtyard, with 40 statuesque linden trees and original sculptures, allows for spectacular outdoor ceremonies, receptions, and dinner parties.
The rooms inside the home, which was built in 1919, allow for the splendor one would expect from such a historic facility. You can easily fit 200 guests for a seated meal and dancing. Decoration should be minimal, of course, to allow for this stunning home to tell its own story.
3. For urbanites: Long View Gallery
1234 Ninth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001: 202-232-4788
Longing for an edgy New York City vibe in the heart of DC? Look no further than Long View Gallery.
This vast gallery is fixture in the Shaw neighborhood. Focused on promoting the DC area’s burgeoning art community, its walls highlight both established and new artists through rotating exhibitions as well as a growing permanent collection.
The venue itself is 5,000 square feet of raw warehouse space. With finished concrete floors and 20-foot ceilings, the opportunities here are endless. Whether a cocktail reception for 400 or a reception with sit-down for 180, you’re confined here only by your imagination. What’s more, on warm evenings, a 9’x11’ aluminum-alloy glass door that opens onto Blagden Alley can be opened (and tented) to allow for even more space.
4. For romantics: St. Regis Astor Ballroom
923 16th Street & K Street NW Washington D.C., DC 20006: 202) 638-2626
Longing for romance? Then dance amongst candles, beneath an endlessly starry night at the St. Regis Ballroom and Terrace.
Renovated in 2007, the hotel is sheer splendor and visual decadence. Guests will delight as they dine and dance beneath the ballroom’s soaring 18-foot high, hand-crafted ceilings. Not to mention the Palladian windows, crystal chandeliers, and four-star cuisine provided by one of the top kitchens in the city that the hotel works with.
Dreaming of an outdoor wedding? Dancing, cocktails, and the ceremony can be held on the flowering Astor Terrace. In total, you have 4,000 square feet to work with. No wonder the St. Regis has claimed the Washingtonian magazine’s “Best Hotel for Small Weddings” title.
5. For the WOW-factor couple: Halcyon House
3400 Prospect Street Washington D.C., DC 20007: 202-338-3295
For the couple looking to really wow their guests, the Halcyon House in Georgetown will do the trick.
Built in 1783, this enormous 30,500 square foot property is complete with a beautifully appointed ballroom, music room, contemporary sculpture studio, and a magnificent garden (originally designed by Pierre L’Enfant) that features commanding views of the Potomac River and the Washington Monument. Of course, the Halcyon is actually a home with residents, so events must be worked around their schedule.
Where did I host my perfect wedding?
My husband and I are definitely “Urbanites,” so the ceremony was held just before sunset on a warm fall evening beside the Jefferson Monument. The reception was under the stars on the rooftop patio of one of my favorite clients, The Washington Post. It was perfect.
About Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd
Ranked one of the top meeting and event planners in Washington, DC, for 2009 and 2010 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July 2008. Her goal is to offer organizations and individuals access to affordable, full-service meeting and event-planning solutions.
Roxanne has worked in the DC meeting and event industry for more than a decade, starting her career in 1999 at the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with the Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special-event coordinator have provided opportunities with A-list celebrity clients and top-ranking government officials.
For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.