Dumbarton House wedding ceremony

Dumbarton House Wedding Costs: How Much Should I Budget? – Updated 2024

How much will your wedding at Dumbarton House in Wahsington DC cost? This is what you want to know, what you need to know, right? I’ve planned my fair share of weddings at Dumbarton House, and I have a firm grip on the cost of weddings there. So, today I will do a deep dive into the costs associated with a wedding at Dumbarton House. I present: a sample Dumbarton House wedding budget!

Dumbarton House sample wedding budget: $948 Per Person

First, please note that the wedding budget below does not include any costs for wedding attire, accessories, or alterations. There is simply no way for me to predict what you will spend on those items.

Second, this wedding budget is based on 130 guests. Having worked many events there and having created many many floor plans for the Lower Terrace and Belle Vue Room, I feel strongly about transparency in realistic floor plans and guest lists.

I find it interesting that the venue, catering, dessert and alcohol come to about 48%. Traditional advice was that your reception should be 50% of your wedding budget and I think that still stands, to an extent. Photo/Video is about 13%, decor is about 11%.

Dumbarton House Wedding Floor Plans

Dumbarton House DC wedding reception floor plan 152 seats with a DJ

If you have a band, 136 is your maximum capacity. If you have a DJ, you can accommodate 152 as a maximum headcount. When you are maxing out seating capacity at Dumbarton House, there is no space for a dessert buffet, a coffee station, a photo booth. All you’re setting up are your dinner tables, a dancing area, the entertainment, and a bar. The staircase in the rear of the Belle Vue room is the main path to the restrooms and needs to remain accessible.

I would plan on a generous 85% acceptance rate for your guest list. If you want to be at 136 guests, you need to limit your invitations to 160 guests (136/85%.) To be at 152 guests, you should limit your invitations to 178 (152/85%.) If you want to read more about RSVP response rates, check out my previous post on real wedding statistics.

Dumbarton House DC wedding floor plan with band - 136 seats
136 Seats with a Band and Dance Floor
Dumbarton House DC Jewish wedding ceremony outside chuppah
Love Life Images

Dumbarton Wedding Cost Breakdown

Wedding Reception Costs

Dumbarton House wedding rentals are by the hour. The minimum you will need for a wedding is ten hours. You need 3 hours before your ceremony call time and 90 minutes to load out on the back end. This still allows for 5.5 hours of event time, which is typical. If you have many different companies all trying to load in at the same time, you may need more than 3 hours on the front end. Dumbarton House hosts many events every day of the week, and you cannot count on earlier access unless you book it in advance. I recommend booking 10 hours from the outset to be on the safe side.

There are quite a few options when it comes to tents. You can do a pole tent or a frame tent. Remember, opting for a pole tent, although more budget-friendly, will affect your table placement due to the presence of center poles within the floor plan. With a frame tent you can do a white top or a clear top. You can do a basic lighting package or upgrade to bistro lights or twinkle lights. I recommend you add the tent leg drapes. And you may want to add heaters or fans, depending on the weather. All of these options will increase your tenting costs. We also need to install a catering tent in the parking lot, just off the Lower Terrace, as there is no other suitable area for them to work at Dumbarton House.

Catering for weddings has a lot of variables, but given the challenging layout of working at Dumbarton House, I think $250/person is a minimum spend here. This will include rentals like linens, tables, chairs, and china/silverware/glassware. It should also include ice, bar fruit, and all your nonalcoholic beverages. Sometimes, you can squeeze dessert costs into your catering budget. Dumbarton House allows their wedding clients to bring in their own alcohol, and this can save thousands of dollars. Plan to schedule the drop-off and pick-up within your rental time period.

Dumbarton House DC wedding reception tented

Love Live Images

Wedding Costs: Service Providers

There is a lot of variances out there in photography and videography costs. But I tell every couple that they will likely want a minimum of 9 hours of coverage on their wedding day. You should plan on an engagement session with your photographer, and you will want a short film and a long film from your videographer.

Wedding stationery is a place where you can spend a lot more than I noted here. And you could probably spend less than I listed as well.

This is a fair budget for your wedding flowers to cover much ground at Dumbarton House for your wedding. Please make sure your ceremony flowers are pulling double duty at the dinner reception.

Wedding entertainment is a personal choice, so I’ve noted a few options here. I recommend cocktail hour entertainment that does not need power. There is only one power source near the North Terrace, and the location is a little awkward.

MUAH stands for Make Up and Hair, aka beauty services. I included a minimum spend for one bride only. My clients often spend around $3000 to cover beauty services for their wedding parties as well.

You must consider how your guests will get to and from your Dumbarton House wedding. Is your guest list mostly young local folks who will take a Lyft? Or older locals who will drive themselves in from the suburbs? Do you have a large contingent at a hotel room block who would appreciate a shuttle bus? Street parking presents confusion and limitations. You could hire 2 buses or you could hire valet services and spend about the same amount. The Dumbarton House parking lot will be full and double parked with your wedding pros before your guests arrive.

I am biased, but I believe you should at least have an experienced, professional wedding coordinator for your Dumbarton House wedding. If you’re interested in partial or full planning wedding services, expect double or triple the cost.

Dumbarton House wedding ceremony

Liz Fogarty Photography

In DC, you do not need to hire a professional wedding ceremony officiant. Anyone can get one-time permission from the city. You are required to list your officiant on your marriage license application, so their forms need to be processed before yours. Ensure this is on your planning schedule.DC also now offers the option to “self marry,” which allows you to sign your own marriage license. If you decide to get married offsite (Dahlgren Chapel, below, is popular option), I would estimate that your church costs will be around $2000. (Related: how to write your own wedding ceremony script.)

DC Dahlgren Chapel Georgetown  wedding ceremony
Photography by Steve and Jane

Often Forgotten Wedding Expenses

Specialty rentals are optional but a nice touch for your North Terrace cocktail hour. For prime wedding months, some rental companies will have a higher minimum, maybe $5000. You can meet this minimum by renting more standard items, such as chairs, charger plates, or glassware, through them.

Favor and welcome bags are completely optional, but I put some placeholder figures in here that I think are fair.

You do not “need” uplights in Belle Vue, but they can be a nice addition. You can swap this line item out for a stage for your band, which will make them look much better and give your guests a better dance floor experience as well. (Below, we tried to install a stage, but it was the wrong size/shape, and we had to strike it during load-in.)

Dumbarton House wedding lounge
Dumbarton House wedding reception band

Liz Fogarty Photography

Wedding pros do not expect gratuities, but we always appreciate them. Budgeting for them in advance is always smart. Remember, catering, bands, set-up teams, and others are often tipped at weddings.The idea that you don’t tip a business owner is a myth. If someone does a good job, reward them.

I always include a miscellaneous line item. I keep it at $1000 for secular weddings, and it can include your marriage license and your guest book. For Jewish weddings, I bump it up to $1500 so that we can cover the kippot, challah and ketubah.

Many venues require that you carry an extra layer of insurance for the wedding. I put this on all my client’s budgets as a placeholder, and most opt to get it. Every contract you sign will say that you indemnify that vendor, and getting your own insurance policy will allow you to execute that indemnification should the worst happen.

If you enjoyed reading about Dumbarton House wedding costs, I have more for you. Decatur House wedding costs. Meridian House wedding costs. Hotel Monaco DC wedding costs. Woodend Sanctuary wedding costs. DAR wedding costs. I also wrote a post about how much different wedding decor pieces cost.

You can fill out this form and I will send you a DC wedding budget custom to your specifications!