This Classic DC Couple’s George Washington Masonic Memorial wedding was stunning. They completed their first look and wedding day preparations at the Canopy by Hilton DC The Wharf and visited Meridian Hill Park.
A few highlights include: a golden retriever in a tuxedo, witnessing Marine One mid-flight, a wedding dress designed by the bride herself, a teary first look, incorporating Matt’s architectural background, revisiting the place that they first met, an incredibly personal ceremony, a wild dance floor that incorporated Polish traditions from Ellen’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You don’t want to miss this!
My wedding photography approach was eclectic, as I balanced my coverage between epic scenic views of various venues…
… authentic emotional moments
… and more traditional wedding-day portraiture focusing on loved ones.
Why Rhinehart Photography?
Ellen shared, “We were immediately drawn to your photography and knew we wanted to choose you for our wedding right from the start, as you had everything we were both looking for in a photographer! I personally liked the variety you offer– everything from architectural and scenic to candid and posed photography and wedding day details.”
Matt added, “I really appreciated how you were able to capture the beauty of the location. I’m a big fan of architecture and saw you capture that time and again. ”
When I saw this scene out the window, I knew I would need to somehow incorporate that for Matt, who spends most of his days planning scenarios just like this one.
Ellen explained, “We also have a large bridal party and family (so lots of different combinations of people to get in pictures the day of) and a lot of details, so we knew we needed someone who was organized, can move on a schedule, and is also professional.”
Matt added, “We loved how you made photos not only capture emotions, but made the backdrop of the photos unique. Her photos aren’t just snapshots, they are art.”
I love to bring in interesting elements. In this case, ellen’s wedding dress helps to tell the story as she finishes her make-up silhouetted by a vibrant blue sky:
I had a blast photographing their engagement session during arguably the most insanely packed time of the year, in the National Mall, during the National Cherry Blossom Festival on the peak day!! I know!! It took me hours to travel a few miles into the heart of DC, ubering for a part and walking part elbow to elbow with perfect strangers, lol!
Ellen shared, ” We had such great experience with Lisa and not only because of how our engagement photos turned out, but how she was able to handle the hectic location we chose and somehow made it look like we were the only ones there!”
I bring that same skillset on a wedding day, this room was filled with probably 20 people, and 20 people’s stuff, while the bridesmaids kept asking me if they could assist me by moving something, I’d just show them the back of my camera, and they’d be like– ‘Woah, no phone chargers, steamer, trash or underwear in the shot? Impressive, haha!’
Preparing for the first look in The Canopy by Hilton
Oh my goodness, this hotel!!! I was blown away by the natural light, incredible views, and chic, clean lines of the brand new Canopy by Hilton Hotel in Washington DC’s Wharf.
Ellen’s bridal suite featured floor to ceiling windows and an open floor plan that overall made the space feel so open despite having well over a dozen people inside.
Here she puts on her engagement ring in preparation for her first look with Matthew
As she looks out the window, she is able to see The Wharf Marina, and most surprisingly Matthew fully ready for the first look!
I like to pack in as much as possible into a single photo to really tell the story. here you can see Ellen, the emotion on her face, her attire and bouquet along with the Wharf Marina, and two reflections…
Matt’s Wedding Morning
Let’s take a step back though to show a little bit of Matthew’s story:
Here he opens a hand-written letter from Ellen:
Looking dapper as he puts on his final touches…
Traveling down the gorgeous Canopy Hilton stairwell with groomsmen #7, Finn, more on this sweet pup to come…
Teary First Look on the Pier of Washington DC’s Wharf
Can you feel the anticipation? I love to tell a story with all of the layered parts packing the frame– this one has everything from their Hotel, to the Marina to both of them and even a few tourists observing via cell phone haha…
Matt shared, “Seeing her on the wedding day blew me away!”
Matthew’s single tear says it all!!
Here Ellen wipes it away:
Ellen shared, “One of the things I love most about Matt is his caring personality, he makes me feel so special.”
Ellen laughed, “I loved how emotionally present Matt was on our wedding day! I’m pretty sure he cried a little more than me!”
It’s not every day you see a parade of helicopters following along the Potomac that includes Marine One!
Matt beamed, “I knew that Ellen designed her wedding dress herself, but as someone who has an architectural background, it truly was a masterpiece of art.”
And Puppy Makes Three
Finn joined his parents out on the pier in the wharf, he has to be one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met!
Finn was awesome all day long, from walking so nicely on the dock to putting his paw on top of the happy couple’s hands:
Re-visiting Where They First Met!
Ellen smiled, “It was one of those moments that you see in a movie where two people literally bump into each other, exchange numbers, and meet up for a date later.”
She smiled, “While we met at Mad Hatter briefly, our first date lasted hours. We shared stories with each other about our families, our life goals, religion, politics (all the things you don’t talk about on the first date) and what brought us to DC, and realized that we had so much in common.”
Meridian Hill Park
For someone who loves architecture like Matt, Meridian Hill Park is a must! All those steps!
In Washington DC, in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson had a geographic marker placed on this large hill as it was centered exactly north of the White House, this marker helped to establish a longitudinal meridian for the city and the nation! So this is why it is named Meridian Hill Park— cool stuff!
What Matt Loves Most
Matt waned sentimental, “What I value most about Ellen is her willingness to put her friends and family before herself in almost any situation.”
He smiled, “Her generosity, independence, and “assertive personality” as Nina (matron of honor) put it keep life lots of fun!”
Ellen shared, “I love how well we work together as a team in everything that we do. ”
She continued, “Traditionally, I feel like a lot of people assume that the bride picks out a lot of the smaller details for the day and communicates with all of the vendors. TYhis was not really the case with us.”
She went on, “While all my Pinterest Dreams came true; a lot of it was possible because of Matt’s attention to detail and determination to find all of the most amazing vendors to make our day special.”
She smiled, “In fact, he did most of the communicating with them, after checking in with me of course.”
While most of my day is spent capturing natural moments, I make sure to take a few more traditional photos, too throughout.
Here is one of Matt and Ellen with the Meridian Hill fountain in the background:
Getting Creative with Lighting
When I ask people why they chose me as their wedding photographer, answers vary, but creativity is usually pretty high on the list.
I know a lot of photographers prefer overcast days, and I have to agree that they are easy to shoot in as the light is so evenly diffused in every direction… but I also LOVE sunny days.
Intense sunlight creates vibrant colors (check out the blue skies, especially at the Wharf Pier), and these intense shadows below. I think literally adds some visual oomph and artistry to the photos, you just need to know how to work with it. 😉
This real-life Cinderella moment happened on the steps of Meridian Hill Park as Ellen switched from heels to flats for her photos with the girls.
I love when people take the time to be comfortable, there is nothing harder than to be emotionally present and enjoying things when your feet hurt, even if your shoes are amazing!
I also love capturing real moments and telling stories through photography!
Bridesmaids in Emerald Green
Photographing these stunning ladies was a pleasure! Here I capture a more traditional portrait:
This less traditional photo uses a tilt-shift technique and shows the entire Meridian Hill Fountain and stairs.
The tilt-shift and camera settings allowed even the top of the fountain to be in clear focus drawing the eye up to the architecture.
7 Lords of Leaping!
With the holidays right around the corner, I couldn’t help but show this little part of the story
While I was by Ellen’s side, my second photographer, Jim, captured the shenanigans of the groom’s party.
Have you seen a better jumping wedding photo? This would be hard to beat!
Lots of laughing and fun with these guys, all around! Gigantic bridal party, no problem for this photographer! 😉
One last shot before we head to the George Washington Masonic Memorial for the Wedding!
GW Masonic Memorial Wedding Ceremony
The processional began with bridesmaids walking at the steps just below the memorial as guests watched above just below its base…
Aw such joy! I love to see this on Matt’s face:
A golden hoop draped with florals provided a lovely focal point for this DC couple.
The golden hoop, golden hour, her golden hair, gold tones in the marble– wow!!
Touching Moments from Mom
Ellen’s mother spoke very touching words during the ceremony. Here Ellen’s step dad watches as she speaks…
Matt shared, “I am extremely close to my grandparents. While I wish I could take credit, I would like to thank all my family, including my parents, uncles, and aunts for doing whatever was necessary to bring them to us in some capacity. My family is all over 300 miles away from Washington DC.
He added, “My family made a tireless effort, and it truly is humbling that they were willing to go to such lengths to be there for Ellen and I. It will truly be something I will never forget.”
Here several significant members gather and react with beautiful emotion to Ellen’s mother’s words:
Tears of joy:
George Washington Masonic Memorial Wedding Vows
What a stunning couple and venue, and to have it all to work with just as golden hour begins, wowza!
Here they exchange wedding vows and rings in front of the GW Memorial in Alexandria:
Even the maid of honor needs to pause for a tissue break! I love capturing candid moments like this. Sometimes the moments that tell the most are unexpected, even Matt’s sister’s expression in the background.
George Washington Masonic Memorial Wedding Kiss
Here the golden hoop backdrop is even more visible and beautiful.
I used a tilt-shift here to draw focus on the couple and their bridal party:
Best Friends Dreams Come True
Ellen shared, “Nina and I are very close and have been in each other’s lives for a long time. It is one of those things you talk about growing up with your best friend, your dream wedding.
Here Nina smiles in the background (pregnant with baby #2) as Matt and Ellen kiss:
Ellen continued, “Of course whoever got married and had kids first would get to be in the other person’s wedding as a ring bearer or flower girl! We didn’t anticipate Nina being this pregnant during my wedding, haha, but it was such a joy to have her son chase be our ring bearer.”
Yay! Here chase holds a banner as he totally steals the show, haha, all eyes on his cuteness for sure!
Golden (Cocktail) Hour
Golden Hour at GW Masonic Memorial in Alexandria Va was quite simply the best.
Here Ellen and Matt enjoyed a glass of champagne alone before joining cocktail hour.
I love how you can see the George Washington Masonic Memorial building, their wedding backdrop, in the background!
The Impact of “Knowing My Stuff” haha!
One of the comments Ellen made about me was, “You really know your stuff!”
I feel comfortable working in pretty much any setting, and that is part of my job. I have a lot of tools at my disposal, too.
Here I change my aperture to be super wide to bring focus to the champaign glasses and Matt’s brand new wedding band.
Here I change my aperture to be very narrow. It brings into sharp focus the GW Masonic Memorial and the cocktail hour going on just below.
Rather than overexposing to capture the light and airy feel of Ellen’s wedding gown, my focus is the incredible sunset. I underexpose the people so that they and the trees are silhouetted.
If you look very closely you can see wedding guests and even musicians in the distance. This would look awesome as a canvas!
I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen this exactly before, but it seemed that the sunset itself was projected onto the side of the building!
The colors were just incredible! Again I underexposed to show that off and like the romantic look, it gives the couple, too!
Wedding Reception at GW Masonic Memorial Ballroom
As we moved inside, Ellen’s gold and green color scheme continued, this time in gorgeous centerpieces.
It is my goal at the end of a photography session to tell a full story. Not just what people look like, though that is part of it, but to capture the physical space
Here you can see the ballroom, the happy couple and all of their excited guests!
The first dance was beautifully choreographed and impressive even to the guys :).
Here Matt’s brother gives his speech. I have several more traditional images of this, but here I wanted to really capture the emotion and candle-lit vibe.
Open up the Dance Floor
Ellen shared, the band was a huge hit and I’ve had so many wedding guests comment on how incredible they were!
(More information about them and all of the wedding vendors below).
As usual, kids were the first to creep their way out onto the dance floor:
Ellen shared, “Mya, our flower girl is a seasoned pro. She is my youngest cousin and also was the flower girl at another cousin’s wedding.”
Pittsburgh Wedding Shots Tradition
I’ve seen this done a few times over the past decade of shooting and must say that it is one of the most fun wedding traditions!
It’s very simple, guests line up, gathering in a circle. When they get to the front of the line, they approach the maid of honor who is wearing an apron.
They give her money for the couple and take a shot off of the tray and dance with either the bride or the groom.
Here Ellen’s mother dances with Ellen, I can’t help but see the resemblance!
Kisses from the maid of honor, can you see the apron?
Dancing the Night Away
The Polish wedding dance is pretty much guaranteed to fill up that dance floor!
… and put everyone in a full party mood!
End of the night at GW Masonic Memorial in Alexandria!
Matt shared, “Planning a wedding during a pandemic isn’t anything I’d wish on anyone. The experience though showed what a great team we are together. We saw how we can choose to work together when life throws curveballs our way. We learned how incredibly supportive our loved ones are of us.”
He continued, “Friends and family often remark on how fast the wedding day went and that they could barely remember it. For me, because we had “legally” already got married, our public ceremony was more relaxed and I felt I truly could enjoy it. I was fully present and remember it clear as day!”
He laughed, “It is truly unconventional (which isn’t usually our style), but so was 2020, so we feel like it was only fitting!”
Matt and Ellen, I feel like I’ve come to know you both so well! From navigating the packed sidewalks to Washington DC during the National Cherry Blossom Festival to planning and replanning your wedding day timeline to accommodate for a pandemic, we’ve done a lot together. 🙂
It is my hope that these photos and the hundreds of others that will be coming your way of capturing this special time in your life and experience fully. Not just how you looked, but how you felt the people and places that are so important to you, and all those little stories that made your wedding so unique!
If you want to see more of Matt and Ellen check out their engagement session here.
Washington DC Area Wedding Vendors
(and shout outs from the bride and groom)
- Photographer: Rhinehart Photography “Creativity, variety, professionalism– Lisa really knows her stuff! Her photos aren’t just snapshot, they are art.”
- Ceremony & Reception: George Washington Masonic Memorial
- First Look & Prep: The Wharf Canopy by Hilton
- Planner: Perfect Detail Event Planning “Victoria was our therapist, haha, we probably could have not done it without her. She made sure we could still have the wedding we wanted no matter what happened.”
- Band: Spectrum Band “Weeks later we were still getting texts and compliments on the band – incredible!”
- Florist: Maryam Flowers “Maryam is so fun to work with and her flowers were stunning”
- Caterer: Spilled Milk Catering “Great working with them over and over to replan; Heather with Spilled Milk was great!”
- String Quartet: Washington Talent Agency
- Beauty: Absolute Beauty by Wendy
- Tailoring: BeFitted Tailoring
- Men’s attire: Men’s Warehouse
- Cake Oakmont Bakery – “Desserts were transported from their Pittsburgh location”
- Transportation: ConnectBBC Transportation
- Videographer: Love in Color Films
- Rentals: Select Event Group
- Caligraphy: WriteLizWrite
- Bridal Gown: The Exquisite Bride
- Hotel: Hyatt House at the Wharf
- Women’s Attire: House of Jonlei Atelier
- Beverages: ACE Beverage
- Rehersal Dinner: Lavagna