Planning an Engagement Session on the National Mall

According to the U.S. National Park Service, the National Mall in Washington D.C. receives more than 25 million visitors every year. That’s more than Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon National Parks. This makes the National Mall an awesome place to organize an engagement session in Washington D.C. so here are some useful tips to help couples have an incredible time during their engagement session.

Here are some common questions and their answers.

Do I need a permit?

This is probably the most asked question I receive from couples with plans of organizing their engagement session in the National Mall. Technically permits are required for professional photography sessions on the Mall. The National Mall and Memorial Parks are managed by the National Park Service and professional pictures are subject to a $90 non-refundable application fee and an additional $50 location fee for the permit.

Since park rangers don’t start working until 8:00 am we’re usually not bothered during a sunrise session. So if you are not interested in paying the additional fees, but still want to try to get some shots in those areas we are willing to give it a try. However, we can only guarantee couples pictures in these areas if the permit has been obtained.

When is the ideal time to have an engagement session?

If you live in Washington, you know that timing is everything. The only way to make your engagement stress free is to plan way ahead of time.

Before deciding what time will work best for you, first think about these two things; the number of people and lighting. Personally, I prefer having my engagement sessions two hours before the setting of the sun, or an hour before sunrise. This helps me get an enthralling photo session with my couples, because the sun is just at its perfect position, and season; winter, summer or autumn, won’t make a difference. That also makes it easiest to get an intimate and colorful style for my clients.

Second, the number of visitors coming to the National Mall affects your styling. Even though I always schedule my photo sessions moments before sunrise during the Cherry festival, however, I still find myself battling with a swarm of photographers, tourists, and joggers. During other times of the year, the Mall is bound to be busier around sunset and it may be harder to avoid getting strangers in the background of your images.

Be mindful of traffic and events

It is important you take note of whatever events that are lined up for the week on the National Mall. There may be marathons, museum openings, road closures or concerts. I still remember going for an engagement session at Jefferson Memorial when the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was about to start. We had some trouble finding a space to park but luckily, we had an awesome photo shoot that day.

To minimize stress, I definitely suggest taking Lyft, Uber, or a cab instead of driving yourself. It at least saves you the headache of worrying where to park.

Pick Three, Cover 2

Another question I get frequently from couples is if we can do a photo shoot at the museum, memorial or monuments. Everyone loves having the classic D.C. show up on their engagement pictures. My engagement sessions can be as short as 90 minutes, or long as two hours.

Considering how far apart some of the monuments are it’s not possible to include them all in a typical session. If a whole day exploring D.C. and taking pictures is what a couple wants, I’m totally up for it and tell my couples to book extra time. More commonly, I ask my couples to select 3 locations and while we will aim to cover all three, I only guarantee two spots.

Having an engagement session in the National Mall can be tasking at times, but I can assure that you won’t have a single regret afterwards. You just can’t afford not to have to pre-wedding photo shoots at the National Mall. Have a look at my photo gallery – feel free to chat me up via our contact form if you have any questions.

If you care to see more of the engagement sessions I have done in the past in Washington D.C., check out my list of 10 favorite spots for Engagement Sessions!.

This sounds amazing! How do we book?

Contact us here, or simply fill out the form below to Check Availability and Reserve Your Date! Letting us know that you want an Engagement Session and what date you’d like. We’ll schedule a time to chat, discuss creative ideas for your session, and answer any remaining questions you have. As a bonus we’ll send over a STYLE GUIDE (PDF) for more ideas!



Want more planning tips? Check out these blogs!

1. Preparing Your Wedding Details

2. Ceremony light: Why It’s SO Important!

3. What’s the Ideal Time for Your Photo Session?

4. Start Creating Your Wedding Timeline

5. Do This Instead Of A First Look?

6. So, Your Groom Doesn’t Want An Engagement Session?


Gonzalez J. Wedding Photography

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