Shelly Pate

Dumbarton House: Historic Washington, DC Wedding Venue Fit for a Garden Party

couple kisses in front of brick and flowers at Dumbarton House garden wedding

The couple’s dreams for their wedding day started with a few shifts and changes. Originally slated as a fall 2020 wedding in Washington, DC, due to the restrictions at the time, they decided to elope in California instead! This landed them with a larger rescheduled celebration just like so many other couples whose plans were forced to change. Even with these roadblocks, they returned to their original plan of a garden party wedding at Dumbarton House in Washington, DC one year later.

couple walks along brick path at Dumbarton House garden wedding

What Dumbarton House Suits Best: Garden Party Weddings

bride holds flower girl wearing flower crown

Still newlyweds at just a year following their elopement, Monica and Chris were just so excited to celebrate their marriage! They wanted a fun, elegant, garden party wedding vibe where everyone could visit together after being secluded for so long. A historic wedding venue and museum, Dumbarton House was perfect for this smaller, more intimate wedding.

couple cuts cake with floral decorations

The DC wedding venue is located in the Georgetown neighborhood and provides both indoor and outdoor options including spaces for garden party lawn games! Monica’s mom added personalized touches to the garden wedding theme by making cornhole bags from vintage fabric. She also created all of the desserts besides the wedding cake and designed a cookie bar! With some DIY tactics added to all that the venue has to offer, this created a combined style that was exactly what the couple envisioned.

Tips for Hosting a Wedding at Dumbarton House

Dumbarton House garden wedding venue in Washington DC

Following a year of isolation, Monica and Chris couldn’t wait to see and get quality time with their people. The gathering of their family and friends in one place was a reunion of sorts after being apart for so much time. The wedding day provided a space for them to catch up with their favorite people and enjoy finally celebrating their marriage together.

Tip #1 Keep Your Guest Count in Mind

tented reception at wedding venue backyard

Dumbarton House is a smaller space and has specific requirements depending upon your guest count: “Event hosts who expect more than 80 guests for a seated event or more than 140 guests for a standing reception are required to arrange for the addition of tenting the Lower Terrace.” It can be hard to move in between tables that are super close together so I recommend at least two fewer tables than the max allowed. These are the options for your reception:

Belle Vue Room Only

couple has first dance during wedding reception
  • 140 standing reception
  • 110 standing reception with band and dance floor
  • 100 seated theater style
  • 80 seated at round tables & 70 with a band

Belle Vue Room & Tented Lower Courtyard

tented reception at wedding venue backyard
  • 200 standing reception, 170 with band and dance floor
  • 160 seated at round tables, 150 with band and dance floor
floral and glass wedding decor on reception tables

Tip #2 Know All of Your Options for Every Part of the Day

The property includes all the spaces needed for a wedding day (i.e. ceremony, reception, cocktail hour) except for a getting-ready space. There is a holding room, but it isn’t big enough for getting ready. Monica and Chris opted to prepare at a nearby hotel: the Royal Sonesta. Other couples I have captured also selected this as their wedding morning spot for their own Washington, DC weddings. The following are the Dumbarton House wedding spaces offered to cover each part of your day:

band plays at backyard garden wedding
  • North Garden: outdoor ceremonies for up to 200 guests.
  • Upper Terrace: outdoor cocktail hour or 60 standing reception (can be tented). 
  • East Park: 60 standing as an outdoor alternative cocktail hour space.
  • Rain Backup: the tented Lower Courtyard is the rain option, and you must use Sugarplum Tent Company, otherwise all other vendors can be of your own choosing.
  • Limits 75 peope inside the historic portion of the museum at one time.
couple walks through brick walkway at backyard garden
couple kisses in backyard garden wedding at sunset

Dumbarton House Wedding Venue Details

couple walks holding hands in front of brick and flowers at Dumbarton House garden wedding

You gain private access to the entire property when renting outside of museum hours (10:00am-3:00pm Tuesday-Sunday). The booking also includes 2-4 on-site event staff to answer any questions and make sure the day runs smoothly. Your rate doesn’t include any rentals (tables, chairs, etc.), other vendors such as catering, or parking. Find more information on details regarding Dumbarton House weddings here.

  • Pets: cannot go indoors, so if it is a really hot day, I would have someone come pick them up after taking photos.
  • Kitchenette with sufficient space for prepping hors d’oeuvres, but not a full-service kitchen for catering a seated or buffet-style dinner.
  • Podium with microphone for indoor use upon request.
couple walks holding hands at Dumbarton House garden wedding

There are so many DC spots that I can recommend for a smaller wedding with garden party vibes! I’m happy to chat about all of them as you plan!

Wedding Vendors

Venue | Dumbarton House
Photographer | Shelly Pate Photography
Tent | Sugarplum Tent Company
Dress | Self-Portrait through Matches Fashion
Florals | Rocking Bird Flower Co.
Hair & Makeup | PRIV
Catering & Cake | Corcoran Caterers
Musicians | Bachelor Boys Band
Wedding Planner | Betcom Weddings & Events
Hotel | Royal Sonesta


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