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A Night at the Museum: Get Married at the Smithsonian!

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When you think of D.C., one of the first things that likely comes to mind – aside from the iconic monuments – are its rich plethora of museums. This is where the Smithsonian Institution calls its home, after all – over a dozen world-class buildings steeped in culture and history, open to the public to explore daily.

What you may not have known is that up until recently, these museums were off-limits in regards to hosting large social events such as weddings. The Smithsonian changed this policy this past spring, with a three year “trial run” at many of their buildings — thus opening the door to a whole new list of venue options for engaged couples (both literally and figuratively). In fact, a recent wedding at the Renwick Gallery – it’s first since the policy change – was featured in the Washington Post last month and looked as epic and lust-worthy as you can imagine.

Now there are of course some restrictions that apply to many, if not all, of the Smithsonian buildings when it comes to hosting events (which you can read more about at the end of this post). But in the meantime, check out some of the museums that have opened their doors to weddings and other social events in the past year, and just imagine the possibilities!

For further information on each of these locations in regards to pricing, availability, and booking, you can reach out to the Claire Duran team at hello@claireduran.com. You can also go directly to the Smithsonian Event site.

Museum of Natural History

Image via Smithsonian

Times of Events:

The National Museum of Natural History is open to the public from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Therefore, evening events may begin at 6:30 p.m. for events of fewer than 300 guests with minimal set-up. For events with extensive set-up and/or larger than 300 guests, evening events may begin no earlier than 7:00 p.m. Additional charges apply for events ending after 10:30 p.m. Events must end by 11:30 p.m.

 


Smithsonian Castle

Image via Washington.org

Times of Events:

The Smithsonian Castle is open to the public from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. If just the Commons and Schermer Hall will be used, events may begin no earlier than 6:00 p.m. Evening events using the Great Hall with 75 guests or less may begin at 6:30 p.m. Events using the Great Hall with more than 75 guests may begin at 7:00 p.m. All events must end by 11:00 pm. All pricing includes an 8 hour package rate which includes the set-up and breakdown time.


Arts & Industries Building

Image via Smithsonian

Times of Events:

All pricing includes a 14 hour package rate which includes the set-up and break-down time. Any break-down which requires additional time will be billed accordingly. Events must end by 11:00 pm.

Note: The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building is currently closed for social events due to a year long special exhibit. It will reopen in the Spring of 2021.

 


Museum of African American History and Culture

Image via the New Yorker

Times of Events:

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is open to the public from 10:00 am-5:30 p.m. Therefore, evening events may begin at 6:30 p.m.

Events should be designed for up to a four-hour time period.

Requests for morning or daytime events and or adjustments to the timing specified above will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Extended use is an event lasting more than four hours, an unusually long or complex set-up or breakdown, or use of extra galleries or exhibits beyond what safety regulations indicate for an event of this size, or actual attendance or time beyond what was agreed.

Note: this museum currently only hosts corporate events, so weddings are excluded.

 


Air & Space Museum (DC)

Image via Pedro Szekely

Times of Events:

The NASM is open to the public from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Therefore, most private events begin at 7:00 pm. Receptions and dinners are designed for a three to four hour time period. For events approved for a four-hour timeframe, all guests must depart the Museum by the end of the fourth hour. If additional time is requested for an event (more than four hours), or if the complexity of the setup and breakdown for an event requires additional Museum support, an estimate of additional charges will be provided before the event. These charges will be invoiced after the event.

 


Air & Space Museum (Udvar-Hazy Center)

Image via Smithsonian

Times of Events:

The NASM is open to the public from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Therefore, most private events begin at 7:00 pm. Receptions and dinners are designed for a three to four hour time period. For events approved for a four-hour timeframe, all guests must depart the Museum by the end of the fourth hour. If additional time is requested for an event (more than four hours), or if the complexity of the setup and breakdown for an event requires additional Museum support, an estimate of additional charges will be provided before the event. These charges will be invoiced after the event.

 


American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery

Image via Rodney Bailey

Times of Events:

The museum is open to the public from 11:30am to 7:00pm. Evening special events can begin at 7:00pm when the museum closes to the public. The Courtyard, Great Hall and Luce Center can be closed early for an additional fee.

 


Postal Museum

Image via Smithsonian

Times of Events:

The NPM is open to the public from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Therefore, events may begin at 6:00 p.m. Events must end at 11:00 p.m.

 


Museum of the American Indian

Image via Mitsitam Cafe

Times of Events:

The NMAI-Mall Museum is open to the public from 10:00 am – 5:30 p.m. every day except December 25. Daytime events may begin at 8:00 a.m. and must conclude by 5:30 p.m. The duration of each event is based on an 8-hour event package which includes load in, event duration, and load out. Evening events may begin at 6:00 p.m. and must end by 11:30 p.m. The duration of each event is based on a 10–hour event package which includes load in, event duration, and load out.

 


Museum of American History

Image via Ewing Cole

 


General Restrictions:

  • A wedding planner or coordinator is required as the point of contact between the venue and the client. (That’s where we come in! We at Claire Duran Weddings & Events would be happy to help you plan your special day at one of these fabulous locations – just shoot us a message for more info.)
  • Each specific building has a list of preferred vendors, if vendors do not appear on the preferred vendors list, Smithsonian must have final approval in the selection of all vendors.
  • The use of the Smithsonian name, including the name of specific building is prohibited, except to indicate the address of the rental event AND lessees are prohibited from using the Smithsonian logo.
  • Many, if not all of the buildings prohibit the use of selfie sticks.
  • Several museums have a limit of four weddings per calendar year, and not more than one per month (specifically, the Castle and Museum of Natural History).
  • Many buildings have a policy that no red wine, red beverages, or red foods (berries, red sauces, etc.) can be served during standing receptions. Red beverages and food are allowed at seated dinners.

 

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