permitting for d.c. wedding photography:the united states botanic garden and the u.s. national arboretum

In this series, we're talking about permitting requirements and restrictions for wedding photography at some of Washington, D.C.'s most famous sites. So far we've discussed the National Mall and the various memorials and monuments there, the grounds of the United States Capitol, the National Gallery of Art, and Manassas National Battlefield Park.  Today we'll head back in to Washington, D.C., to check out two beautiful gardens, the United States Botanic Garden (below left) and the United States National Arboretum (below right).

The Botanic Garden is located just east of the United States Capitol -- right across the street from the Capitol, in fact.  And I'll just go ahead and cut to the chase here:  They don't allow wedding photography at all.  So why did I even bother to include it here?  Well, because I've heard lots of people get the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum confused, so I thought it was worth mentioning that they are two separate places and that they do have different photography policies.  Also, I've had some couples express interest in having wedding photos taken at the Botanic Garden, so it's good for you to know up front that it's not an option.

The Botanic Garden is still a great place to visit.  They have some excellent free programs, or you can just wander around and take in all the beauty on your own.  Combine it with a nice dinner somewhere close-by and you have a easy, low-key date night.  The Botanic Garden features the Conservatory (the beautiful glass buildings you see above left), the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park.  All of them are open 365 days a year (click here to check the current hours), and admission is free.

United States National Arboretum

The U.S. National Arboretum is located about 3 1/2 miles northeast of the Capitol, with entrances on New York Avenue NE and 24th & R NE.  Its 400+ acres feature collections of just about any kind of plant you can imagine, from herbs (the National Herb Garden is pictured above) to trees to roses.  There are also a few stunning pieces of art and architecture, like the National Capitol Columns (top right).

The good news?  The U.S. National Arboretum does permit wedding photography!  The bad news?  It's a little pricey, at $250 per half day (four hours).  If you're having a wedding in the District, though, and envision beautiful wedding photos in a natural setting, then the Arboretum may be a worthy expenditure for you because of its unique setting and its proximity to some of D.C.'s most popular downtown ceremony and reception venues.

You'll need to submit an application in advance if you plan to have wedding photos taken at the Arboretum.  Here's what you need to know:

  • Wedding photographs may be taken at the National Capitol Columns or in the Dogwood Collection (pictured below).  (The Arboretum has more photos of both locations here, along with a couple of alternate possibilites.)
National Arboretum Dogwood Collection
  • Wedding photography sessions are limited to the wedding party and the photographer, so don't plan on doing all of your family shots here.
  • The National Arboretum is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Christmas Day, so chances are they'll be open on your wedding day.
  • Permits are date- and time-specific; however, you can specify a rain date.
  • There is an application fee of $30, which will be applied to the total cost of your wedding photography permit.
  • You can download the application and read more details here (scroll all the way to the bottom for the application).

Have more questions?  Post them in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer, or you can contact the Arboretum staff directly at 202 245 2726.

Are you planning to, or did you, use the U.S. National Arboretum for your wedding day photos?  Do you like the parklike dogwood collection or the architectural columns better?  Tell us what you think!

All photos via Wikimedia Commons except the Dogwood Collection photo, which is via the U.S. National Arboretum.


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:  the national gallery of art

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