Shelly Pate

Cocktail Bars in DC for Speakeasy-Themed Engagement Session Photos

couple cuddles in booth at cocktail bars in DC

Your engagement photos don’t have to look like anyone else’s and they can even include an activity that’s completely new to you! It could be either capturing your shared experience of something completely new or visiting a spot deeply meaningful to your love story. If enjoying a night on the town tucked away in a hidden cocktail lounge or speakeasy sounds like you two then capturing your engagement photos at cocktail bars in DC may be the perfect fit!

Why You Should Go to Cocktail Bars in DC for Your Engagement Session

There are many craft cocktail locations in Washington, DC for those who know where to look. Several have hidden entrances, doors without signage, and secret passwords in order to gain entrance. The experience is an escape-room mission with vintage vibes placed within a dark setting of a historic city.

couple laughs seated on couch at cocktail bars in DC

These locations generally serve pricier, more upscale craft cocktails in a darker, smaller and more private atmosphere. The bars can be by reservation-only and may require seating at a table or the bar itself. They often only offer drinks while some include small bites. It’s ideal for couples who love to spend date nights together over cocktails and want a moodier, sexier look for their engagement photos!

couple drinks cocktails laughing at engagement session

The speakeasy bars in DC call back to the secrecy of the 1920’s Prohibition era with some spots still found in their historic origins. Choosing a bar or lounge in DC adds a playful background for capturing your engagement session ideas. It also works as a fun wedding theme or even a wedding first look!

What is a Speakeasy Bar and How Do You Do an Engagement Session There?

  • It can vary from place to place what cocktail bars in DC will offer and allow. Call ahead to see if you can reserve the space prior to opening. A bar will usually allow for either booking the space before they open to the public or they will suggest a time that is less busy.
  • Always call ahead and check instead of just showing up because some bars have fees, require that you come at a specific time, or don’t even allow for photography due to the secretive nature of a hidden speakeasy bar. 
  • Prepare to be flexible if you can’t reserve the space. If you’re told to just go during a less busy time, you might have to ask people to move for the photos.
couple drinks cocktails at bar engagement session
  • When a bar allows for a reservation, this generally includes 1-2 hours alone in the space. For example, some bars will charge $100 for an hour and even throw in two craft cocktails and champagne or a charcuterie board! It doesn’t hurt to ask what your reservation may include. 
  • Pets are usually not allowed in these spaces so we would need to meet up with your pup before or after for some outdoor photos together.
couple stands with dogs at sunset outdoor park engagement session

What’s it Like to Capture Urban Engagements at DC Speakeasy Bars

couple drinks champagne at bar during engagement session

Jasmine and Jack were so excited for their speakeasy-themed engagement session hosted by one of the cocktail bars in DC (the Gibson which is unfortunately now closed). They love dressing up and going out together so this engagement photo session was perfectly themed!

These two definitely channeled a more fashionable and sexy vibe for their engagement photo outfits that fit their surroundings. I recommend keeping it simple, avoiding neon colors but dressing it up more glamorous than boho or casual. Colors including black, white, gold, rose gold, and silver all photograph really well. The flash will be used in these darker spaces so make sure you like a direct flash look!

couple kisses at sunset Meridian Park engagement session

We combined Jasmine and Jack’s bar session with a trip to Meridian Hill Park. There we captured the sunset and placed them in a totally different environment. After such a fun styled session, I literally wanted to hang out with couples like these all of the time! Styled engagement sessions like these click so well with my own photography style. I can’t wait for another amazing session like this one! Below is how Jasmine described her own experience of the day.

“I really love candid shots. I think photography is the only way to truly look back at a moment years from now, so it’s important to me that it represents who we are.”

Top Speakeasy Bars to Visit in DC

  1. The Alex Craft Cocktail Cellar & Speakeasy at The Graham Georgetown: enter through the hotel into a smaller bar. It only serves craft cocktails inspired by the Prohibition era. 
couple kisses at hotel bar first look
  1. Virtue Feed & Grain in Old Town Alexandra: can’t reserve, but can visit at a less busy time.
  1. The Fountain Inn DC: one of the oldest bars in DC. Established in 1783, it serves craft cocktails inspired by the 15-18th century. This location allowed us to rent both their downstairs bar and upstairs lounge area for two hours prior to opening. They also provided a cheese board snack!
couple drinks and eats at cocktail bars in DC
  1. The Whiskey Bar: enter at the back of the Chicken + Whiskey restaurant through a refrigerator door. 
  2. Here’s a comprehensive list of the Top 15+ Speakeasy and Cocktail Bar Lounges in DC!

Could that next speakeasy bar DC session be yours? Let’s find out!


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