Trying to plan a military promotion ceremony in Washington, DC? I’m sharing all the details of Dane’s Army promotion ceremony to Lieutenant Colonel.
When Dane found out he was getting promoted, I was so happy for him, but the wheels in my brain immediately started turning to: How on Earth am I going to plan a military promotion ceremony without spending a million dollars? It seems like people really go all out for military promotions (which is great!) but we didn’t want to break the bank. Even an upscale dinner in Washington, DC with just a handful of people can get expensive, so we decided to brainstorm ways to have a special day for Dane without spending a ton of money. Turns out, it’s totally possible, so today I’m sharing all the details of Dane’s Washington, DC military promotion!
How We Planned A Washington, DC Military Promotion On A Budget
The first huge obstacle was figuring out where Dane wanted to be promoted. I’ve got to admit, trying to find a place here in DC that 1. Has ample parking 2. Doesn’t charge a fee for use and 3. Can host up to 50 people is a tall order. Parking was the big one, becaues we didn’t want friends and family to have to stress about it. It immediately eliminated having the ceremony on the National Mall and Memories, because at any given time traffic in DC can be a total bear, so there was no way of knowing if there would be any street parking, if streets would be closed, etc. For what it’s worth you can host military ceremonies there, but it’s street parking only and requires a permit from the National Park Service.
Washington, DC Military Ceremony Locations
Other recommendations we got for military promotion ceremony locations in Washington, DC included: Library of Congress, National Archives, Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, Army Navy Country Club, Marine Corps Museum and obviously on any of the local bases (Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer, Andrews AFB, etc).
Ultimately, we chose the last option which might be surprising, but I swear, it’s a gem of a find! Dane’s promotion ceremony was held at Fort McNair’s former officer’s club. It’s now an educational facility that was remodeled during the pandemic with state of the art technology for the college that is there. It’s absolutely beautiful inside! The best part about it is that there is a parking lot adjacent to the building, which makes for extremely easy parking for guests. The downside is that it does require a military/DoD ID card to enter. If you have civilians attending, just make sure they fill out the base access pass form at least 1 week in advance. We also loved that they provided the technology for live streaming and we could do self-catering with a great kitchen on site.
Tips For Military Promotion Ceremony
Once the location was nailed down, it was time to focus on the details. We planned for a 3:30PM ceremony so it didn’t involve a full meal, just a dessert bar. We also knew the timing meant that people would grab some snacks and get on the road.
I ordered custom cookies and cupcakes from Bake Creations by Lili. She took my terrible drawings and made them a reality! The total order was two dozen cupcakes and two dozen cookies for a total of $238. I cannot say enough good things about how amazing these cupcakes/cookies were both in design and taste. This was our most expensive portion by far, but I didn’t mind and enjoyed being able to support a military spouse.
We also picked up some red, white and blue mini cupcakes and sugar cookies, as well as cannoli, to fill the table. The total cost for these items was $44. I used my own cake plates and trays for presentation of everything and it worked out really well.
For drinks, we made a punch and put it in a large drink dispenser my parents had and also provided water bottles. The total cost for drinks was $40. This would have been way less but I did order custom labels for the water bottles. More on that below!
Party City was helpful when it came to simple decor (I didn’t go all out!). I used a simple red plastic tablecloth (engineer colors, of course!) with gold star confetti everywhere. For the center of the dessert bar I had a fun little table number holder that looked like a sparkly water fountain. I’m probably not explaining it very well but it was less than $10 and I thought it added some nice height. If I would have had my act together I would have put a photo of Dane on it, but I ran out of time. The morning of the ceremony I also picked up gold LTC balloons that we had at the entrance of the room when guests walked in and plastic champagne glasses for guests to use for punch. The total cost for decor was $60.
Since I wasn’t going over the top on food or location, there was some wiggle room in our budget to add special touches to the ceremony and reception. For me, that meant custom party picks, water bottle labels and drink toppers.
I ordered custom party picks with Dane’s face on them from KBDStyle and I can say that hands down, this was the best part of the whole thing. So many people were complimenting and laughing about this detail and I’m pretty sure Dane’s co-workers took them back to the office for laughs. Total cost: $25
We bought two cases of water (the ceremony was in August and it was HOT!) from Costco, but the bottles left much to be desired from a visual standpoint, so I ordered custom labels. Total cost: 100 labels for $25
At the last minute, I had the idea for custom drink toppers, which are edible designs you can float in drinks. I thought it would be a fun and unique addition for guests drinking punch. Fran’s Cake + Candy in Fairfax made it happen! I designed the topper and they printed them. Total cost: $20
All in all, it was a perfect day with minimal stress and I would highly (highly!) recommend Fort McNair for a Washington, DC military ceremony!