Ilissa & Lisa — The American Visionary Art Museum — Baltimore wedding photography

For every wedding that I photograph, there is something that makes it special and memorable to me. Years after I work with clients, while scrolling through my portfolio, I can tell very specific stories about their photographs and the little moments that stick in my mind. Like Erin and Donnie’s exuberant dash down the church sidewalk while hollering, ‘We’re married! We’re married!’ Or the little flowergirl who looked so sweet and prayerful one moment and then dreadfully bored the next at Bridget and Dan’s wedding. The tears that threatened to spill out of Patrick’s eyes as Kristina made her way down the aisle toward him in the woods. The red spoons that were tossed at Anna and Abhi’s wedding, the fantastic glances that Melissa and Tim and Victoria and a different Tim exchanged while saying their vows, the amazing chocolate cake at Maureen & Mark’s reception, the fun photos on the field of Ravens Stadium with Maggie and Sean, the hilarious and heart-warming vows that Erin and Rick wrote for each other, the way the flowergirl and ring bearer at Ashley and Stan’s wedding just plunked themselves down to have a seat during a ceremony that they obviously thought was going on a bit too long. Every wedding is special and different. It’s what keeps me loving my job week after week.

But even by that measure, Ilissa and Lisa’s wedding was extraordinary. Maybe it was the vibe they set for the day — a big fun dinner party with great comfort food and fabulous hand-picked music. Or the fun venue they chose (I’ve never been to a bad wedding at the American Visionary Art Museum). Maybe it was their unusual ceremony readings — they mentioned zombies — and the inclusion of their closest friends and family as witnesses, readers and huppah holders. Or the fact that Ilissa’s father, who suffered some serious health problems this year but was doing much better, was watching the ceremony live with her brother via Skype. Maybe it was the obvious gratitude that Ilissa and Lisa felt toward all their friends and relatives who had helped them through a difficult year and had traveled through a rare October snow/sleet/hail storm to celebrate their marriage. Or the pure love that Ilissa and Lisa have for each other and that was visible in every glance they exchanged all night long. (Have I mentioned how much I love love love capturing those kind of moments for my clients?!?) Quite obviously, it was the combination of all of those elements. But this most definitely was one of those weddings that I couldn’t stop talking about to my husband when I got home. Here are some of my favorites from their snowy, rainy, sleety but unbelievably warm and wonderful day:

I adored their invitations. Navy.Modern. Classy. And oh so lovely.

Lucas and I started with Ilissa, who was getting ready with her mother and her two close friends. She combined a beautiful gown with classic cowboy boots — which she traded for Hunter rain boots for the outdoor excursions on her wedding day!

Ilissa, looking lovely.

Lisa planned to combine a fun, short dress with custom Converse sneakers. But with an ivory gown and white shoes, something wasn’t quite right. She traded them for navy Converse — which she swapped for a fun pair of lined skull-and-crossbones rain boots when she headed outside!

Getting ready with her sisters.

Lisa and Ilissa chose to see each other before their ceremony. I was beaming while photographing their reactions to each other and those of their family members. It was beautiful!

After some efficient family photos, we took advantage of the fun backdrops of the museum — and a brief let-up in the icy precipitation — for some casual portraits of the two of them.

These cute umbrellas were not just props. It was still a little rainy — and super cold — outside when we were shooting. Ilissa and Lisa were troopers!

Then it was upstairs for the ketubah ceremony — the signing of the Jewish marriage contract that precedes most Jewish weddings. Their ketubah included beautiful paper cutouts of flowers on the border.

And then it was back downstairs for the more public ceremony. I noticed this cool shadow of the wine beside their rings.

Lucas, my assistant, did a marvelous job at this wedding. He took full advantage of the catwalk that overlooked the ceremony spot to capture some really cool vantage points and all the fun art that dangled between him and the ceremony. This next photo on the left is his.

I am a huge fan of the hot air balloon that hangs between the two giant pink poodles in the museum. Such a fun spot for a ceremony!

Deejay extraordinaire John Paul Berry set up a web cam and microphone so that Ilissa’s father and brother back home in Chicago wouldn’t miss a moment of the ceremony. There was a wonderful moment when the rabbi asked the couple and their guests to wave toward the camera with a big, ‘Hellllooooo Chicago.’

The next two photos on the right are by Lucas.

I love love this little look from Ilissa toward Lisa. It came during their second reading — the one about zombies taking over the world but with a very, very sweet ending to the story.

The next two overhead shots (left and top right) — as well as the final two images from similar vantage points — are by Lucas. I love the focus on the airplane propeller with the ceremony softly blurry in the background.


A great shot from Lucas, taken just as Ilissa and Lisa stepped into the puddle of light from an overhead spotlight.

Theirs was one of the most joyful oh-my-gosh-we-just-got-married moments that I have ever witnessed. As they waited for the elevator that would whisk them upstairs, they hugged and jumped up and down together. Like, serious jumping. You can see in a few of the frames that all four of their feet are completely off the ground. It was such a joyful moment to photograph!

And we were off to the party. I’m including way more detail shots here than I normally do. There was just so much fun stuff to shoot. Event coordinator Kate Beck did a wonderful job of helping to design the entire look of the room. Shawn Nocher at the Floral Studio created one million different little arrangements for the long, low rows of centerpieces that graced Ilissa and Lisa’s dinner tables. And Chefs Expressions caterers makes such delicious and photogenic food!

I think this is pretty much every caterer, venue coordinator and event planner’s hope of how their clients will react at seeing their reception space for the first time.

A short and sweet first dance.

A series of incredibly emotional toasts from Ilissa’s mother, Lisa’s sister and the newlyweds themselves.

And there was lots and lots of singing and dancing.

My husband always says that the key to being a fun addition to any dance floor is to make a sweet face. This guy obviously subscribes to the same theory.

Ilissa and Lisa’s friends showed off the absolute best shoe and stocking combinations ever!

Remembering way back to our very first meeting when Lisa and Ilissa had told me of their great affection for the Domino Sugar sign, I asked them late in the evening if they wanted to slip outside for a few photos on the water by the sign and in front of AVAM’s famous neon love proclamation. I warned them that it was cold — like 37 degrees cold, according to a weather app on Lucas’s phone — and that we’d have a bit of a walk. They did not hesitate. The valet guys — all bundled up in down parkas and hats — could not believe that the four of us were venturing outside without coats. It was definitely worth it.

This was one of my last photographs of them that night. You can see how they are literally in the midst of a packed dance floor but also in their own little world. I love it.

Congratulations, Ilissa and Lisa. We could not have had more fun working with you and documenting your amazing day!


Photography: Jennifer McMenamin Photography

Ceremony and Reception: The American Visionary Art Museum

Officiant: Rabbi Liz Bolton

Catering: Paul Kountz and Chefs Expressions

Event coordinator: Kate Beck of Kate Beck Events

Lighting designers: Perkins Productions

Bridal attire: Ilissa wore an Anne Barge gown. Lisa wore a Watters gown. Both were from Betsy Robinson’s Bridal Collection.

Hair and Make-up: Nikki Verdecchia from NV Salon

Florist: The Floral Studio

DJ: John Paul Berry from Absolute Entertainment

Invitations: Paper Source

Ketubah: Naomi Shiek from Urban Collective

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