permitting for d.c. wedding photography:the national gallery of art

In this series, we're talking about permitting requirements and restrictions for wedding photography at some of Washington, D.C.'s most famous sites. A few days ago we discussed the National Mall and the various memorials and monuments there, then in the next post we headed off of the Mall and onto the Capitol grounds.  Today, we'll head northwest on Pennsylvania to the National Gallery of Art.

National Gallery of Art, East and West Wing Exteriors

The National Gallery has two buildings, the East Building (pictured above left) and the West Building (pictured above right).  Not surprisingly, the East Building features modern and contemporary art,

National Gallery East Wing Interior

while the West Building features medieval through pre-20th-century art.

National Gallery of Art, West Building Interior

I have to confess that I haven't been looking forward to writing this post, because I don't like to say no.  I much prefer finding ways to make things happen.  But -- you guessed it -- professional wedding and engagement photography sessions are not permitted at the National Gallery.  I had a hunch they wouldn't be, although I was really hoping my hunch was wrong, as I've seen more than one amazing wedding photoshoot from inside the East Building.  A phone call to the Gallery's Deputy Chief of Protocol and Special Events, though, confirmed that my no-photography hunch was correct.

So how did those other couples get their awesome wedding photos with the art?  (By the way, I'm not linking to any of those photos here because a) I don't havent asked the photographers for permission to share their work, and b) it seems really mean to tease you like that.)  I'm guessing they probably headed to the Gallery, took their chances, and were met at the door by a guard who was willing to look the other way.  Or maybe they have secret ninja powers.  Who knows?

I'm a total play-by-the-rules kind of person, so I if you were to ask me whether or not you should attempt the same, I'd say no.  The National Gallery has rules in place for a reason and you should respect them.  That said, if you do decide to try your luck, please:

  • Be respectful of the institution and its representatives.  If the guard or docent who greets you says no, then move on to Plan B.  And if you luck out and manage to get permission to proceed from whomever meets you at the door, then of course follow any guidelines they give you and be courteous to the other museum guests.
  • Have a Plan B in place, especially if you're doing wedding photos on a tight schedule (like between your ceremony and reception).  You don't want to keep your guests waiting, and you don't want to have to rush through the all the fun of your wedding reception because you got there later than expected.

And what if you're a stickler like me and don't want to break any rules?  I called around to several other art galleries in the D.C. area, and most of them do not allow wedding photography.  The exception was the Corcoran Gallery of Art; however, they only allow wedding photography for couples who are using the facility for their event.  If you enjoy art enough that you wish for wedding photos in a gallery, though, then a Corcoran wedding might be just what you're looking for!  I think it sounds divine.

How about you?  Do you love art?  Do you love it enough to marry it -- or at least, enough to have your picture taken with it the day you get married?  Do you have contraband wedding photos of your own?  Tell us about it!

All interior and exterior photos of the National Gallery of Art via Wikimedia Commons.

Also in this series:

permitting for d.c. wedding photography

permitting for d.c. wedding photography:  the mall and monuments

permitting for d.c. wedding photography:  the united states capitol grounds

permitting for d.c. wedding photography:  manassas national battlefield park