Want to marry in D.C.? Better start planning now

The Meridian House in Northwest D.C.

Anna Rappaport still gets giddy when she talks about her engagement at the Tidal Basin last April. Her fiancée got down on one k nee and, she says, it came as a complete surprise.

But when it comes to planning her wedding, it's been one big headache. All of the vendors and venues Rappaport wanted to use were booked solid.

“They were already making bookings into 2013,” she says. “I'm wondering if some of these girls are jumping the gun.”

That's likely the case, says local HJ Planners President Heather Sala. She says the demand is so great because many women and couples are making reservations at coveted venues before there's an engagement ring.

Sala says 20 to 30 percent of her clients aren’t even engaged but want to put money down on a venue.

She says a sharp rise of destination weddings in our nation’s capital and a big boost in same-sex weddings since the legalization of gay marriage in D.C. make it more competitive than ever. Because of that, she suggests putting a hold on at least two venues if an engagement seems to be coming soon.

“By the time you get the ring, you'll at least have one of them pretty much ready and waiting,” she says.

A Splash of Elegance wedding planner Victoria Wagner says not every bride-to-be has to start making reservations before there's a ring, but she does say having an idea of what you want helps.

She also says wedding planners can take out the stress of booking venues and vendors since many of them already have relationships with them.

Bridal consultant Julie Daniel, also with a Splash of Elegance, is single, but already has her own preliminary wedding plan in place. She said knowing what she wants now takes the stress out of planning later.

According to wedding, 36,000 weddings are planned in the D.C. Metro region this year. That number is projected to jump seven percent in the next five years.

For Rappaport, it's an 18 month engagement. She finally booked her wedding for next fall in Charlottesville.

“I definitely wish I had a list of what I wanted before the date even happened,” she says. “Then again ... I didn't want to scare my fiancée.”