Thursday, July 24, 2014

Truest DC Wedding Venues (Part III)

Last, but certainly not least, our final 4 Truest DC Wedding Venues…

8) The Ronald Reagan Building

It was built to "reflect the symbolic importance and historic character of Pennsylvania Avenue and the nation's capital." The Ronald Reagan Building, named for the President who authorized the construction, is the largest structure and the Official World Trade Center in Washington, DC. It's purpose is to advance US trade in the international marketplace.

The building can host social events from 20 to almost 1,000 guests.

HJ's Insider Notes: Our favorite spaces are the Rotunda and the Pavillion. The architecture and unique ceilings of these spaces allow for a lot of natural light. Both have outdoor balconies for your guests to access throughout the evening.

"Since it's heralded opening in 1908, Union Station has been witness to much of this nation's twentieth century history. This grand Beaux Arts building has served as the arrival site for dignitaries and has witnessed the tearful departure ad joyous return of our armed forces during the major international conflicts of this century. And, for many, Union Station is a first memory of a visit to Washington, DC."

Union Station weddings are reminiscent of the early to mid 1900's. The hustle bustle of travelers, the grand architecture, and the beauty of the railway station make this venue a unique and magnificent DC wedding venue.

HJ's Insider Notes: The Columbus Club used to function as a upscale soda fountain room and the East Hall was the dining room. The two are now separate function spaces and were part of the renovations completed in 1988. The East Hall has glass-coffered ceilings that make the space feel lighter - the perfect room for an indoor event with a semi-outdoor feel.

John Hay (personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln, US Ambassador to the UK, and Secretary of State under President William McKinley and President Theodore Roosevelt) and Henry Adams (historian, Harvard professor and descendant of President John Adams and John Quincy Adams) once owned homes on the same site where the hotel now stands.

The hotel was built on the property in 1927 and underwent a $20 million renovation in 2001, to create the rooftop terrace and event space, Top of the Hay, which overlooks the White House.

HJ's Insider Notes: The hotel has kept the same charm of the 1930's, even though extensive modern renovations have been completed in the last decade or so. Make use of the lobby level rooms for cocktails, like the Hay-Adams Room, to introduce your guests to the history of the hotel. Top of the Hay is exquisite and needs very little decor, as the view and design of the room speak for itself.

The first inaugural ball of President Franklin Roosevelt was held at the Omni in 1933. 60 years later, President Bill Clinton played the saxophone at his own inaugural ball in 1993.

The Blue Room, still used for events, was a 1930's nightclub where Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland both performed. One can picture glasses clinking, diplomats and politicians chattering, and Ol' Blue Eyes holding a vintage microphone in the middle of it all.

The Omni was recently restored for a whopping $80 million dollars.

HJ's Insider Notes: The Gazebo is one of the few manicured outdoor areas to have a ceremony in DC. The Diplomat Ballroom, a replica of the East Room of the White House, comes with a Romeo & Juliet-esque balcony for cocktail hour. Oh, and ask about the Ghost Suite.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Truest DC Wedding Venues (Part II)

Picking up with Part II of our Truest DC Wedding Venues, here are the next 4 places that we think capture what DC is all about…

4. Newseum

"The Newseum Institute provides a forum for educational programs and thought-leadership initiatives, as well as educational materials addressing the five freedoms of the First Amendment: speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition."

Does it get more DC political than that?!

The Newseum has quite a few spaces for weddings. Our favorites are the Knight Conference Center, 7th Floor and 8th Floor Terraces. The first has floor to ceiling windows with a view of the Capitol and loads of technological elements to showcase everything from a wedding slideshow to high tech lighting. Wolfgang Puck is the exclusive caterer for the Newseum, and 100% lives up to the food hype. The Terraces, where you can have your ceremony and/or cocktails, have a direct view of the Capitol and an incredible overlook of Washington.

HJ's Insider Notes: We love that the shades can be dropped in the conference center while set up is happening and raised up to reveal the room after cocktails. The elevators in the Newseum are some of the most spacious in DC; upon entrance, guests get shuttled up to the 7th and 8th floor in record time.

It's exactly what it's name portrays: a museum for female artists. The original founders felt that women were underrepresented in the arts, and began a collection of artwork solely by women. The property used to be a Masonic Temple, and sits less than a half of a mile from the White House.

The marble, chandeliers, grand staircases and balconies will guarantee that you'll hear quite a few wows from guests. The space lends itself to different set ups, including ceremony and dinner in the Grand Hall, with cocktails on the Mezzanine or in the 3rd Floor Gallery or ceremony and dancing in the Grand Hall, cocktails in the 3rd Floor Gallery, and dinner on the Mezzanine. If you are looking for an enchanting DC venue, look no further.

HJ's Insider Notes: The 3rd Floor Gallery is an option for cocktails, and a great way to move your guests to a space where they won't see the transformation of the Grand Hall from the ceremony set up to the reception. The onsite coordinator at the venue can dim the chandeliers. Keep this in mind to get an even better ambiance for dancing later in the evening. The Kasser Board Room is one of the prettiest suites for freshening up and bridal portraits - and it comes with the rental!

"When Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr., and his wife, Susan, moved to the new federal city in 1816, they purchased land on the northwest corner of the President’s Park (today Lafayette Square) with the prize money Decatur was awarded for his naval conquests in the War of 1812. The Decaturs commissioned Benjamin Henry Latrobe, America’s first professional architect and engineer, to design a home “fit for entertaining." Sadly, just a little over a year after the couple moved into the home, Decatur was mortally wounded in a duel against Commodore James Barron. Decatur House is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Carriage House and Courtyard are perfect for an outdoor/indoor wedding and reception. The Carriage House was renovated in 2012. The high ceiling and new covered Portico added modern elegance to this historic venue. The White House and Lafayette Square are steps outside the entrance, where the wedding party and family can take beautiful photos.

HJ's Insider Notes: The Entertaining Parlors in the house are a great addition to your event for cocktail hour. If you choose not to use this part of the venue, tours are available to guests early in the evening, and we recommend it! Tenting the Courtyard for dinner or dancing is an alternative to using the Carriage House. This guarantees use of the outside, rain or shine. The Carriage House now has the option of a state of the are AV system - you can play a slideshow on their drop down screens or use an iPod for cocktail hour.

"Refined Doric details articulate the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, first known as the Departmental Auditorium, the most dramatic example of Classical Revival architecture in the Federal Triangle." It was "designed to reflect the 'dignity and power of the Nation."

And it's grand. Grand, large, gorgeous and, yes, screams powerful DC.

Mellon Auditorium is the ideal venue for large weddings and receptions. It can seat up to 696 guests in the Great Hall. If you have a guest count of 250, don't be deterred by the size. A dance floor, bars and other decor can easily be used to fill the space. The stage is great for bands. The third floor has a balcony for cocktails. The netting around the balcony allows guests to venture out for air even if it's drizzling.

HJ's Insider Notes: Since there are few historic spaces in DC that can accommodate the 300-600 guest range, this venue is very popular for larger weddings, so inquire well in advance to secure a date. Send your photographer up to the balcony over the Great Hall for some stellar photos.

We'll round off our list with the remaining 4 DC venues next week!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Truest DC Wedding Venues (Part I)

The DMV is one of the most popular areas in the country to host a wedding (for those readers who are non-locals, we're referring to the District of Columbia, Md, and Va).

However, since the three have so much to offer, we decided to do a blog series highlighting the venues that embody the spirit of each. So let's start with our Nation's Capitol, Washington, DC!

DC offers engaged couples a vast array of types and styles of venues. But we frequently get asked, "Which venues really feel like DC?" So here at HJ headquarters, we compiled our list of Washington proper's "10 Truest DC Wedding Venues." And here are the first 3...

Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Institution in DC in 1902 as an organization for scientific discovery. 

"As ex officio members of the first board of trustees, Carnegie chose the President of the United States, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the president of the National Academy of Sciences."

The history of the Carnegie Institution is just one aspect that helped this venue make our top 10 list. The venue is located near Scott Circle, and just a few blocks from the shops and restaurants of Dupont, which makes it an ideal location for out of town guests to enjoy one of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods. The Red Line of the metro runs through Dupont, giving your friends and family an easily accessible method of transportation to go exploring.
HJ's Insider Notes: The gorgeous columns on the Portico, the Library on the second floor where the wedding party can hang out, the exquisite rotunda.

The Willard "has hosted almost every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce in 1853. On August 28, 1963, the Reverend Martin Luther King finished his famous “I Have A Dream” speech while a guest at the Willard. Other notable guests have included Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, David Lloyd George, P.T. Barnum, Lord and Lady Napier, and countless others. Walt Whitman mentioned the hotel in his works; and Mark Twain penned two books here in the early 1900s."

This venue is located across the street from the White House, and just steps away from fantastic restaurants, shopping and theatres. It's also walking distance to Smithsonian museums.

The Willard has 4 main ballrooms, all richly DC in style. From the moment you arrive, you will feel like you have stepped back in time to DC circa 1920. From the covered entrance to the attentive bellmen to the famous lobby, DC will come alive with every footstep in to the bustling hotel.

HJ's Insider Notes: The Breezeway and Courtyard are a great cocktail hour location to give your wedding an outdoor option, you can't take a bad picture in the Crystal Room, absolutely don't miss Peacock Alley afternoon tea on Sunday.

DAR was founded in 1890 as "a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America's future through better education for children." Any woman 18 or older who is a lineal descendent of a patriot of the American Revolution can be a member.

The O'Byrne Gallery and Portico are perfect for an indoor/outdoor wedding and reception, with a view of the Washington Monument.

HJ's Insider Notes: The Portico is somewhat covered so weather isn't a big deal, it's across from the White House, super easy access to Route 50 and I-66 (which is great for guests coming from Northern Virginia or wanting to visit Virginia's historical landmarks), offers different and unique spaces for events of different sizes.

Stay tuned for Part II next week!