A bride kissing the groom on the cheek while he holds her bouquet in front of the cherry tree lined tidal basin

The Ultimate Guide To Planning A D.C. Cherry Blossom Elopement

Sarah and Paul got beyond lucky and their elopement date fell on peak cherry blossom weekend in Washington, D.C. It was a chilly day in March and the couple said their vows at the D.C. War Memorial surrounded by soft pink petals. While you would never know from their pictures, the crowds were plentiful and onlookers frequently congratulated the newlyweds!


Elopements are such special and intimate occasions. It’s your chance to buck the traditional wedding options so you can focus on the people who mean the most to you. As a wedding photographer, I have been present for some pretty incredible small ceremonies. While I have loved getting to celebrate with each and every couple, there’s something especially wonderful about cherry blossom elopement season in Washington, DC. After all, what greater metaphor is there for your love story than the world suddenly feeling anew with color and vibrancy? Because cherry blossom season in DC is short-lived and fairly busy, it’s important to make sure you have all the information you need for your celebration. Here is my guide for couples who want to plan a cherry blossom elopement. 

Your Ultimate Guide to Planning a DC Cherry Blossom Elopement

When You Should Elope in Cherry Blossoms & How to Pick Your Date

First things first, you have to figure out the date of your elopement. This can be easier said than done. Every year, around March, NPS works to give its best guess for when cherry blossom season starts. They base this information on data from the past years’ blooms as well as current weather status and current tree status. While this information tends to give you a good theoretical date, there is no way to know until the blossoms start. I always recommend that my clients remain flexible during this time. 

Even if the NPS bloom forecast is correct, there’s no way to anticipate the weather the day of. While this might not be an issue for an indoor wedding, couples planning outdoor weddings have to understand that things can change with very little notice. You will also want to consider what time of the day you want your ceremony to begin. This doesn’t matter as much if you don’t mind lots of wedding crashers, but for those who want an intimate wedding, you may want to try for early in the morning with a brunch celebration afterward. 

Elopement Locations With Cherry Blossoms

Once you have your date, it’s time to start figuring out the location. DC allows you to get married anywhere within the city limits legally, so you don’t have to worry about your location of choice invalidating the ceremony. However, you may need to double-check to see if your place of choice requires a permit. I can help you with that! The Tidal Basin is the most common place to go during the cherry blossom season. This area has over 3,700 cherry trees and offers several popular spots, including the DC War Memorial. Because it’s so lush, this area also gets pretty busy. Luckily, there are trees all around the city, giving you the chance to find your perfect place. Some additional city spots include the United States National Arboretum, Montrose Park, Dumbarton Oaks, and Stanton Park. 

How to Get a DC Marriage License

Once you apply for your Washington, DC, marriage license, it doesn’t expire. This gives you the ability to apply for your license well ahead of your actual wedding date so you can be extra flexible for your wedding. The Marriage Bureau processes their remote and in-person applications every weekday from 8:30-4:00. They have convenient forms that you can fill out on their website. Once you send in your online application, you will wait for someone from the office to call you to confirm they have received it. The primary thing you need to apply for your license will be proof of age. The office accepts a valid U.S. driver’s license, a passport, or a government-issued non-driver’s ID. 

Just a heads up, if you do decide to go in person, the DC Courts website has a handy tool that will let you know how many people are currently in line at the office! 

What to Wear to Your Cherry Blossom Elopement

One of the best things about a cherry blossom elopement is getting to pick what trends you want to keep for your ceremony. If you don’t want to stick with the traditional gown and tux options, you don’t have to! You can embrace a colorful dress or jumpsuit that stands out amidst the trees. You can pick a complementary outfit for your partner and have a wedding that’s just as unique as you are. If you do decide to stick with classic options, like Sarah and Paul, a lot of couples tend to go for more casual wedding styles. This could include a knee-length gown or a sleek dress for you. Veils are always optional, and comfortable yet stylish footwear will help you if you must hike to your spot. Men can opt for refined yet simple options like casual suits. 

How Much Does a DC Elopement Cost?

While an elopement will let you bypass the big wedding price tag, there are still several things you want to keep in mind as you budget for your elopement. To begin, your marriage license will cost $45. Next, you will need to find an officiant. There are several ways to go about this. If you want a friend or family member to perform your ceremony, they can get ordained before the wedding. Getting certified in Washington, DC, is completely free, and the process takes less than a day. 

However, if you plan on hiring an officiant, you can expect to pay $400-$800. Many of the favorite wedding spots in DC require permits for your ceremony as well as photography permits. This will cost around $150-$200. I would also plan on an Uber or a cab to bring you as close as possible to your location. From there, you can budget for all the extra things, including outfits, flowers, post-ceremony celebrations, and your photographer. The average cost of an elopement in the United States is around $15,000, but of course, this is very much dependent on what you want for your day. 

Hiring a DC Cherry Blossom Elopement Photographer

One of the most important things when you are planning your elopement is making sure you have portraits to document the occasion. You want a photographer who is familiar with the area and knows the great spots for photos, so they can assist with navigating the crowds. You also want someone with a special eye that will capture the beauty of the cherry blossoms and the intimacy of your day. As a wedding photographer, I specialize in editorial pictures that tell your unique story. I adore getting to know my clients so I can breathe life into their portraits. Beyond providing you with beautiful film and digital pictures, I can work with you to preserve your pictures through artwork so you can keep all those stunning details forever. I want to make sure you can have breathtaking portraits of your cherry blossom elopement! 

I Hope You Enjoyed This Ultimate Guide To Planning Your Cherry Blossom Elopement

If you are interested in learning more about my cherry blossom elopement sessions, I would love to schedule a consultation so I can tell you more about them. Contact me today so we can chat! Interested in a city engagement session before your elopement? Check out this post:


Photography: Svenja Bauer Photography
Venue: D.C. War Memorial
Florals: Beth Burrus Weddings
Officiant: With This Ring I Thee Wed

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