Woodend Sanctuary

Chevy Chase, Maryland
This post comes to Venue Safari courtesy of  Washington, DC Wedding Planner Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events. Janice is creative, resourceful and experienced; here is her take on the layout and logistics of a successful Woodend wedding. 

One of the most popular venues for weddings in Montgomery County, Maryland is the stunning nature preserve Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, managed by the Audubon Naturalist Society. The 40-acre property boasts a permanent tent (April – November) adjoining a Georgian Revival Mansion, plus the tranquil Hemlock Grove.

Most couples opt to marry in the Hemlock Grove. There are a number of back up options for your ceremony, if the Hemlock Grove is too wet from previous rain, or if the weather isn’t altogether cooperating. You can have your ceremony on the lawn behind the portico or on the lawn behind the tent. This allows you to avoid a possibly muddy Hemlock Grove, as these areas are on higher ground and have better exposure to the sun. They also offer potential live musicians cover during their performance. You can also do a ceremony in the main room in the Mansion with limited seating.

Your cocktail reception is usually hosted on the lawn adjoining the patio, where a bar will be set up for the night. I recommend that you have drinks on trays ready for when the guests walk up the hill after the ceremony – this will relieve the pressure on the bar. Many couples also offer a pre-ceremony beverage for their guests. There are two small trees near the patio that work well for hanging escort cards – this eliminates your need for an escort card table.

Dinner is hosted in the tent (with fans and chandeliers included) and dancing takes place inside the Mansion. There is ample space for a band or DJ, but I would recommend that if you plan on doing toasts inside the tent, the entertainment should bring a set of speakers for the tent. I generally set up the small “Conference Room” with coffee and guestbook tables as well as some café seating.

Woodend is not climate controlled. There are fans to help circulate the air during the warmer months, and heaters in the tent for the cooler months. I recommend that you consider this when planning your menu, and ordering your beverages.

There is an office where the groomsmen and vendors often gather or use to store personal items. There is also a bridal suite on the second floor, with an attached bathroom. On the main level, there are 2 single restrooms, which often results in a line, so make sure you post a sign or ask your planner to refer guests to the third bathroom up stairs. (Not the one in the bridal suite though – this one is three right turns from the top of the stairs)

Woodend has a list of select caterers that you must select from, and you have to bring in all rentals. You are able to provide your own alcohol, and usually you can drop it off the day before your wedding, which is really nice. There is a fee for holding your rehearsal there, so make sure you schedule that in advance. The Woodend website states that the tent holds 150, which is definitely a comfortable number in there, but I have seen larger events there in the past. Woodend hosts a lot of weddings. They host Friday weddings, up to two weddings on Saturdays, and Sunday weddings as well. If your rental period begins at 5:00 pm, your event should not start before 7 pm (7:30 pm is better) in order to give your caterer the necessary time to set up before your guests arrive. If you are getting married in the Fall, and the sunset is on the early side, you will need to book the venue for the whole day, preventing an earlier event being on-site until 5 pm.

Nearby: Most couples exclusively use the Bethesda Marriott as their wedding weekend hotel, and often as well for their Sunday Brunch location. But another option is the Doubletree.

Restaurants abound in Downtown Bethesda for your Rehearsal Dinner. I vote for either Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Grapeseed or Sushi Ko!


Rebecca Robinson
Director of Rental Events, Woodend
8940 Jones Mill Road
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
301-652-9188 x38
Photographs by:  The Observatory and Blink Photography
Main house photograph via AudubonNaturalist.org  

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