Spring Surprise Proposal at the National Cathedral

National Cathedral Surprise Proposal | Nikko + Christina

engaged couple sitting on the grass together at the National Cathedral in Washington DC


Why choose the National Cathedral?

If you’re a romantic at heart, planning to capture your love story in a unique and memorable way, then I would highly recommend looking into the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This iconic and majestic location offers the perfect backdrop for an engagement session that beautifully blends romance with history and architecture. Here’s why photographing your engagement at the National Cathedral is a fantastic choice for lovers looking to create timeless memories:

1. Architectural Marvel:

The National Cathedral, officially known as the Washington National Cathedral, is a masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture. Its soaring spires, intricate stone carvings, and breathtaking stained glass windows create an enchanting atmosphere that exudes romance. Every corner of this grand structure offers a stunning visual experience, making it an ideal place to capture the essence of your love story.

2. Unique and Memorable Setting:

Your engagement session should reflect your unique love story. Choosing the National Cathedral as your backdrop ensures your photos will stand out. Unlike traditional indoor studios or outdoor parks, the cathedral’s dramatic architecture adds an element of grandeur and sophistication to your images. It’s a setting that tells a story on its own, complementing the story of your love.

3. Not as Tourist-y as other DC locations:

The National Cathedral isΒ the perfect spot if you feel like you and partner would like to be more private and would like to be out of the way of strangers’ eyes as possible. There’s a lot less foot traffic here compared to the other memorials, meaning you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to ensure there’ll be no tourists photobombing or getting in the way of your session.

4. Versatile Photo Opportunities:

The National Cathedral offers a wide range of settings to suit your style. Explore the elegant architecture with its intricate chapels and majestic nave, or venture into the peaceful gardens surrounding the cathedral for a more natural backdrop. There’s also an open lawn within the gardens that I’ve seen people set up a picnic at. It’s so serene, and it’d make for some really cute photos if you want to cuddle up with a book with your partner and bathe in the sun for a bit.

5. Seasonal Beauty:

The National Cathedral’s beauty changes with the seasons. Whether you’re planning a spring engagement with blooming gardens, a summer session with clear skies, a fall shoot with colorful foliage, or a winter wonderland with snow-dusted spires, this location adapts to your vision, providing year-round photo opportunities.

Overall, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., offers a captivating and romantic setting for your engagement session. Its architectural splendor, historical significance, and versatility make it a perfect choice for lovers seeking to create timeless memories. Your engagement photos captured in this remarkable location will not only showcase your love but also become cherished keepsakes that tell a unique story of love and history intertwining.

Applying for a permit

If you’d like to shoot at the National Cathedral, then you’ll have to apply for a permit on their website.

It costs $250 to be able to shoot there, and I recommend sending in that application at least 2 weeks prior to the date you’re planning on shooting there by. If you’d like to shoot during golden hour for best lighting, I would suggest allotting the time for the evening, around 6:30-8:30pm before daylight savings hits, or around 4:30-6:30pm after daylight savings. The earlier you go, the less tourists there are, but I’d say even during the summer months when it’s peak tourist season, I was still able to get around photographing my couples without having to dodge too many people throughout whatever time of day!


Spots to propose at

The arched hallway leading to the Cathedral Garth and the All Souls Memorial garden is a nice choice to pop the question! It’s my go-to when my clients ask me for my suggestion. This is due to the fact that it’s easily accessible from the parking lot (which is free!) and is by the roundabout loop that Ubers drop people off at, so you can be there instantly upon arrival. It’s also shaded from the sun, so you don’t have to worry about harsh lighting if you can’t make your timing to line up with golden hour, which is usually the case if you’ve made celebratory reservations happening at a specific time after the surprise proposal. It’s also just so gorgeous architecturally, you can’t go wrong there.



The Bishop’s Garden, inspired by medieval walled gardens, is another great option. There’s many different areas within the gardens that you can go down on one knee for, such as the stone steps leading into the garden, the open lawn, or the Shadow House, which is an eight-sided garden gazebo deeper into the back. There’s a lot of foliage to keep the harsh sun out throughout the grounds.



If you’d like to have the top of the castle-like roof in the backdrop of your proposal moment, then I would recommend photographing in the open grassy area at the front, since the back of the Cathedral is usually under construction.


engaged couple kissing each other with the beautiful and emotional surprise proposal at the National Cathedral in Washington DC as the background


There’s also the obvious choice of the front entrance of the Cathedral itself. The photos explain themselves 😍


engaged couple standing on the grandiose steps of the National Cathedral in Washington DC


If you’d like more tips about plan the perfect surprise proposal with a photographer in mind, hop on over to my other blog post that goes over all the ways you can go about making the experience exactly what you want it to be!





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