Your Guide to Your Tidal Basin Cherry Blossom Engagement Session | Wedding Planning

I’ve been dying to write a post about these gorgeous fluffy blooms for a WHILE y’all! Peak bloom is in full swing down in DC, and to honor the occasion, I wanted to offer up some of my best tips and tricks to help you out as you plan your cherry blossom engagement session! These blossoms are a TREAT! They are so beautiful and so worth the extra planning… so much so that they get their very own spot here on the CKP blog. DC’s cherry blossoms bring millions of tourists to the District each year, and I know that if you’ve landed here, you are either one of them planning a session or are a local who has been dreaming of their session for years and years! Whatever group you fall in, welcome to the blog! I hope today’s post helps you feel prepared (and excited!) for your time with the blossoms!

While a lot of these tips may be a little late for this year’s sessions, I know they’ll come in handy for years to come, so if you’ve been dreaming of your own cherry blossom session in Washington, DC, be sure to bookmark this post to come back to because it breaks down nearly everything you need to know!

Let’s dive in right away!

Logistics and Planning

Cherry blossom sessions come with the need for a little more logistical planning and flexibility! Be prepared for scheduling changes and leave a few open mornings on your calendar once the blossom forecasts are released, just in case the weather isn’t cooperating.

Blossom Forecasts:

NPS releases the anticipated cherry blossom forecast during the first week of March (Typically on March 1). This is the anticipated bloom date based on previous years’ bloom data, the current weather patterns, and the current tree/blossom status. While the forecast isn’t 100% guaranteed to be spot on (That’s why I encourage couples to stay flexible— these blossoms can be real picky about when they want to bloom!), I will only start putting cherry blossom sessions on the calendar after the peak bloom forecast is released. This helps to reduce the number of times we’ll reschedule, just in case bloom dates are different from the previous year! To keep things organized in pre-blossom booking seasons, I do keep a “Cherry Blossom Watch List” that will be emailed for official session scheduling the week-of-peak bloom forecast release! (Send me a note if you want to hop on the list!)

To take a peek at NPS’s bloom watch page, click here!

Permits + Pre-booking:

National Parks Services (AKA NPS) requires permits for photography on their properties. These are typically $90 for the application and $50/location, pending group size. Permit applications do typically travel through the mail and are processed by hand by NPS’s team which means cherry blossom sessions must be booked in advance. I typically try to have permits to NPS 3-4 weeks before a session date which means… don’t wait when it comes to scheduling your blossom session! While there is a little flexibility with rain date scheduling when your permit app has already been sent, it is a lot more challenging to accommodate last-minute bookings.

I take care of the permit application process for my clients and bring the permit with me to sessions, so no worries there! Know that the cost will be added to your final invoice.

That said if you did want to check out the current application, click here! (Note: this is the current application as of March 2022! The link may change in the future)

Sunrise is WORTH IT

I only photograph cherry blossom sessions at sunrise! I know sunrise sessions may be really early, but it is SO worth it for slimmer crowds and gorgeous sunrise glow! Keep in mind, millions of tourists and locals come to check out the blossoms each year… getting there right at sunrise ensures that crowds are just a little bit smaller! Yes, there will still be crowds, but they’ll be a lot slimmer than later in the day.

Prep for Parking

I’ll be completely honest: if you can avoid parking down near the Tidal Basin, that would be my recommendation! If you are local, I highly recommend taking an Uber or Lyft into town as this cuts down on so much walking time (And stress from a potentially full parking lot!). That said, there are a few parking lots in the area with metered parking. If you search “Jefferson Memorial Parking Lot A/B/C,” you’ll find what I’m talking about! Last I checked, they have parking through ParkMobile, so it may be helpful to set that up in advance to save time. You can also pay through the digital meter on-site! Keep in mind, these lots fill pretty fast, so it doesn’t hurt to research a plan B if you’ll be driving in.

Real Talk on Weather

Cherry blossoms remind us all of spring, but sessions are actually pretty cold! I know you see gorgeous blossoms paired with spring pastels and attire, but these sessions are COLD! (Sorry!) Sunrise temps can fall anywhere from below freezing to low 50’s (Plus the potential for wind chill!). Be sure to bring along a coat, a warm change of shoes, hot hands, and maybe even a blanket. All the layers will really help keep you warm between shots, promise!

Keep in mind, cherry blossom peak bloom is often in early spring when weather patterns are a bit unpredictable. We’ll be working with the cherry blossom bloom schedule AND the weather forecast, so stay flexible! I know it can be hard to have a session date change a few times, but the flexibility is so worth it. We both want you AND the blossoms looking their best (And that isn’t in the rain!).

I use two sites (Weather.com | Dark Sky) to keep an eye on the forecast, just in case you want to watch along with me! 

What to Expect

The blossoms are absolutely STUNNING! Get ready for all the gorgeous pastel fluffy blooms! That said, know that there will be plenty of tourists and other photo sessions joining us down on the Tidal Basin— it adds to the energy (Expect lots of congratulations from people passing by!) but know that it can also add to our time too. Some locations may require a moment of waiting and we may need to get creative with positioning at other spots for the best, crowd-less, views. Know that it is going to be beautiful (And worth the wait!) but that you’ll also want to bring your patience with you. If you are someone that may be shy around lots of people or who currently feels uncomfortable in a crowd (Both are more than understandable!), know there are plenty of gorgeous cherry blossom views around town with slimmer crowds. Don’t be shy about asking your photographer for recommendations.

Finally… expect to walk! The Tidal Basin is pretty large and to get to lots of the iconic spots, we’ll be doing a decent bit of walking. Bring along a comfy pair of walking shoes (Bonus points if they are warm slip-on shoes like hard-soled slippers or moccasins!) in addition to the shoes you’ll be wearing in front of the camera. You can thank me later!

I so hope this was helpful! I tried to pack *as many* of my best tips as possible into one spot, so thanks for hanging with me, y’all! If you were hoping to book your own cherry blossom engagement session, click here to send me a note!

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