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

In this series, we're talking about permitting requirements and restrictions for wedding photography at some of Washington, D.C.'s most famous sites. Our last post focused on the National Mall and the various memorials and monuments there.  Today, we'll move slightly east and discuss permitting and restrictions for wedding photography on the grounds of the United States Capitol.

U.S. Capitol Building

There is actually no permit required for professional wedding photography on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, as long as your photographer is using only hand-held cameras!  There is a permit required for photography involving a tripod or props.  Here's what you need to know:

  • Permits are issued by the United States Capitol Police.  You can read more about rules and restrictions for photography and other activities on the Capitol grounds here.  You'll also find the permit application at the end of that document.
  • Permits are free (yay!) and are processed in about five days.
  • Permits are date-, time-, and location-specific.  You'll need to know where on the Capitol grounds you plan to take photographs when you apply for the permit, and, like at the Mall and monuments, you'll need to plan out your schedule with your photographer and stick to it.  If you're asked to move from your location during your photoshoot because of some official activity taking place at the Capitol, then you will be permitted to return and finish up after that activity has concluded.
  • There is no parking on the Capitol grounds, even if you're obtaining a photography permit, so be sure to factor in some extra time for finding parking and walking over to the Capitol.
  • If you're planning on using any props in your photographs, then you'll need to list those on your permit application.  Are you planning on holding a "Thank You" sign in some of your photographs?  That sign is considered a prop.  Even if you're not planning on using a tripod, you should obtain a permit if you plan on being photographed with a sign or prop of any kind.
  • The U.S. Capitol Police recommend that you fax or hand-deliver your application, rather than mailing it in.  Security procedures in place regarding postal mail can delay the delivery of documents that are mailed to the Capitol.
  • Even with a permit, tripods may be used on grassy areas only.  No tripods are permitted on sidewalks or other hard surfaces on the Capitol grounds.
  • Climbing on walls, fountains, light poles, statuary, etc. is prohibited.

U.S. Capitol Building

One last note:  Couples often mistakenly assume that the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, which stands between the U.S. Capitol and the Capitol Reflecting Pool at the east end of the National Mall, is part of the Capitol grounds.  It's actually part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, which we discussed in our last post, and is therefore administered by the National Park Service.  You can see the Grant Memorial in the photo below (Grant is the horseman on the pedestal) at the edge of the reflecting pool.

Night on the Hill, by Bo Nielsen

The Grant Memorial offers a great vantage point of the Capitol, so if you're planning to shoot from there and get the Capitol in the background, then be sure to get the appropriate permit from the National Park Service.  You can read more about that here.

Still have questions?  Post them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer, or you can call the United States Capitol Police office directly at 202 224 8891.

Do you have a favorite spot on the U.S. Capitol grounds?  Are you planning to have, or have you already had, wedding or engagement photos taken there?  Tell us why you chose the Capitol as your backdrop!

Photo of the U.S. Capitol with the Grant Memorial in the background by Bo Nielson, and used here 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 national gallery of art

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