01 Jun 2020


Lost Capitol Hill: Marrying in the Capitol

In researching the story of newlyweds in Washington, I also came across indications of actual weddings performed in the Capitol itself. This was a fairly rare occurrence. Much more frequent, at least in the early 20th century, was seeing young couples coming to the Capitol in hopes of getting their marriage licenses there. In fact, Captain Howard F. Kennedy, chief guide of the Capitol, had one young man whom he referred to as “Cupid”

This youth has an interesting occupation. It is his business to pilot to the proper place all young couples who desire a marriage license. Many young people come to the Capitol building believing that this is the place were licenses are issued. They get the idea that the government is not only at Washington, but that it is in the Capitol. Whenever an application is made there for a license Captain Kennedy always sends “Cupid” up town with the pair to show them where the license can be procured.

These couples often wished to be married in the Capitol – and, in particular, on the dome of the capitol, but Captain John P. Megrew, head of the Capitol police (and to be seen above) discouraged “weddings in the Capitol on account of the notoriety they bring.”

The article from which these two quotes are taken, published in the Feb. 22, 1903 Indianapolis Journal, continues:

One pair a few years ago succeeded in persuading the officials at the building to allow them to have their way and they were married on the dome. Notwithstanding the fact that the matter was kept as quietly as possible, a big crowd was present.

More recently, there is an article in The Hill in 2005 which describes several romantic moments in the Capitol, including one Capitol Police officer who proposed to his girlfriend while on top of the Capitol dome. The article also includes the following tidbit:

Without pictures of weddings to post, we go back to a few pictures from an article about honeymooners in D.C. (LOC)

But for all the romantic activity around the Dome, there has only been one marriage there, said Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie – it was in 1904 between two amateur photographers. Tripod in hand, the newlyweds began snapping pictures as soon as the ceremony was over.

Further information or, even better, some of the pictures taken by these two intrepid photographers, has not been forthcoming. Since this event, all religious ceremonies are prohibited from the Capitol, and that includes weddings. (If you want to be married in a capitol, there are a number of state capitols that positively invite them)

In trying to nail down the story told by Ritchie, I stumbled across the story of other attempts to film at the Capitol, which led stochastically to the history of tour guides at the Capitol, and I never did get back to my bridal pairs until today. And, sadly, without pictures or names of those who married, the result is a bit dull.

If you want to have a wedding in a public space here, the Park Service offers only the D.C. World War I memorial, the George Mason Memorial or the west lawn of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as options.

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