Best of 2018 | Year in Review

Hooooooooly wow, it’s been a big year! I’m incredibly grateful to all of the couples and clients who trusted me to capture meaningful images for them… being a wedding photographer is being trusted by complete strangers to capture a huge milestone in their lives… and hopefully somewhere along the way, for me, becoming friends. I shot the most-ever weddings this year, clocking in at 18! (I posted 17 to Instagram a few weeks ago… only to realize I had miscounted.) It’s been quite a year for growth, reflection, and figuring out exactly what I want this little business (that maybe isn’t so little anymore) to be.

I can’t believe my first wedding was all the way back in 2013… oh, how far we’ve come since then! This adventure started out with just me + Kian, and this year, because I can’t do it all myself, Chris and Kian and Matt all became associates, lead shooting weddings of their own under my brand. Plus, family (hi Mom!) is helping out with some of the behind-the-scenes office stuff.

On a personal level, 2018 has brought a lot of struggle, as I’ve worked to balance my photography with a very fulfilling more-than-full-time job that takes up my 9-5, as well as some scraps of a social life. I’ve had some missteps and stumbles along the way, but leaning into our crazy-amazing team and asking for help when I’ve needed it, and here we are with another year on the books.

Thank you to every single one of my clients, and team members, and everyone who’s had a hand in making Aimee Custis Photography come alive for another year. It was a real challenge to narrow it down, but here are some of my very favorite images from this year… hopefully with enough context for you friends reading along at home to enjoy it as well. :)

This is, hands-down, my favorite momma-daughter moment of 2018.

Embrace imperfect moments — there’s no such thing. This photo is so honest! 😂

Y’all, I hope EVERYONE has a squad that looks at them this way. Love, and emotional support takes a village, not just a partner.

We met some SERIOUSLY cute kids this year! 😍

And captured ceremonies everywhere from secret neighborhoods parks in northeast DC (do you recognize this one?)…

…to gorgeous country clubs in Maryland.

We had some really magical ceremony moments this year…

Like when not one, but TWO(!) of the judges the groom had clerked for officiated!

Or when the bride (not the groom) smashed the glass at the end of this Jewish ceremony. Up with feminism!

…And this traditional Kenyan ceremony at Mt. Airy Mansion, which they ended by jumping the broom, in honor and memory of so much history.

Confession: I love a good solo portrait. I always try to make room for a few, even if they’re not formally on the schedule (for men too!) I think these are so important, given the toxic beauty culture we live in. Everyone — EVERYONE! — deserves a photo in their lives that makes them feel as beautiful as they naturally are. If not on your wedding day, then when?

Ooooh, getting serious… when it all starts to feel real.

Not sure what to get your New England-leaning mixed-gender wedding party? Alison’s got your answer covered… 😂

Y’all, this is from our last wedding of 2018, just a few weeks ago. Kian took this photo, really pushing himself to do something different with regular groom’s portrait. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It’s a joy to watch Kian, Chris, Matt, and Megan grow their photography over time side-by-side with me.

In-between moments are the best.

On the other hand, when your bride and her bridal suite could anchor a major ad campaign, you go with the mood.

Speaking of mood. People and moments are always my favorite photos of the year, but… YOU GUYS. I accidentally captured a Rembrandt still life of bridal details! I LOVE window light, and this is why.

Okay, back to people! Love, love, love genuine moments and the palpable connection between two people (even the rain can’t break that connection).

Bonds of love and real moments come in all shapes and sizes.

Confession: I really love doing formal portraits before the ceremony (even fam!) so that we can all go to one of the best parts of the day — cocktail hour! It’s like a receiving line, but with a signature cocktail and snacks!! 😁

Not everything this year was a wedding! I had a blast going above-and-beyond to help this charming Utah groom propose (she said yes!) and take his lovely bride-to-be on an exploratory photo session around DC, culminating in cherry blossom portraits. And my dear friend Sarah gave birth to her first child. Capturing the stillness and newness of this family on a hot day at home this summer is a memory I’ll always hold dear.

Another crazy thing: I taught my first workshop this spring! The whole team (plus some other great photographers) came out. And in between sessions, we had a bit of fun. Behind every strong woman is… three incredibly goofy-yet-talented men?

Oh, you guys, THIS is what I look like when I’m in photographer mode?!

Very dapper and beautiful humans, at the end of a long and rewarding workshop day.

Fun fact: I was honored to shoot new campaign photos for DC Councilmember At Large Elissa Silverman this fall! I’m a big Elissa fan, and it was suuuuuper-fun to see photos I had taken all over social media and direct mail pieces during campaign season.

I ALSO got a call from my dear friends at my favorite venue — President Lincoln’s Cottage — asking if I would be willing to come shoot some promotional photos of two new wedding venues they have coming online at the Old Soldiers’ Home. Um, are you kidding me?!? Yes!!!

Back to weddings… oh… where were we? Hanging with your besties at your parents’ house? Yes please?

What’s happening here? While I was off with the couple, orchestrating their first look on the balcony, these sneaky sneaky bridesmaids (and my second, Megan) were spying from the bridal suite window!!

I do love a good first look, y’all. They’re different for every couple, and it always feels just right.

What spurred this look?

…this gorgeous woman, of course.

Y’all , it rained A LOT this year…

Y’all , it rained A LOT this year…

Whatever. We don’t care. We’ll just enjoy ourselves regardless (thanks, Rachel + Ben! 🙌)

An outdoor ceremony at perfect golden hour is totally worth huddling under an umbrella with 25 of your closest friends and family to wait for a summer thunderstorm to pass.

But you guys, it rained a lot. When we weren’t taking shelter under umbrellas…

But you guys, it rained a lot. When we weren’t taking shelter under umbrellas…

… we were under overhangs. But you know what? That’s really great. Because sheltering from the rain is a great excuse to take photos at home, whether you live in a grand old Art Deco apartment building…

… we were under overhangs. But you know what? That’s really great. Because sheltering from the rain is a great excuse to take photos at home, whether you live in a grand old Art Deco apartment building…

…or the house you bought together in #southeast dc! And I LOVE taking photos at home, because it’s a guaranteed place-that-has-meaning-for-you.

…or the house you bought together in #southeast dc! And I LOVE taking photos at home, because it’s a guaranteed place-that-has-meaning-for-you.

To be fair, it didn’t rain ALL year…

To be fair, it didn’t rain ALL year…

In fact, I love looking back at perfect photos taken in less-than-perfect circumstances. Like these AMAZING pink sequined bridemaids? Well, it was almost 100 degrees out when we took these group portraits. I’ve never worked faster… I think we were back inside (including the walk back to the hotel from the park) in < 25 minutes. And you know what? I thrive under pressure because we. killed. it!

In fact, I love looking back at perfect photos taken in less-than-perfect circumstances. Like these AMAZING pink sequined bridemaids? Well, it was almost 100 degrees out when we took these group portraits. I’ve never worked faster… I think we were back inside (including the walk back to the hotel from the park) in < 25 minutes. And you know what? I thrive under pressure because we. killed. it!

Another perfect day: this sunrise elopement (just the two of them) on the glowing marble of the US Supreme Court.

Another perfect day: this sunrise elopement (just the two of them) on the glowing marble of the US Supreme Court.

Plus, DC has lots of gorgeous indoor spaces… like this stairwell at the Hotel Monaco.

Plus, DC has lots of gorgeous indoor spaces… like this stairwell at the Hotel Monaco.

And hey, sometimes perfection is perfection.

And hey, sometimes perfection is perfection.

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A moment of just two hearts, frozen in time.

A moment of just two hearts, frozen in time.

…slipping out to practice your first dance one last time before showing off your dancing lessons.

…slipping out to practice your first dance one last time before showing off your dancing lessons.

Twirling together!

There’s always room for bromance on a wedding day.

There’s always room for bromance on a wedding day.

And patriotic footwear choices!

And patriotic footwear choices!

Was it worth getting up at sunrise on a chilly day to rock some sweaters, coats, and silly faces? Yes!

Was it worth getting up at sunrise on a chilly day to rock some sweaters, coats, and silly faces? Yes!

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More honest in-between moments that make my heart sing. 🥰

So, I think this might be what happens when Kian is behind me, and I tell him “dance, monkey, dance!” to get the wedding party to laugh….

So, I think this might be what happens when Kian is behind me, and I tell him “dance, monkey, dance!” to get the wedding party to laugh….

And laugh they do, bless them!

And laugh they do, bless them!

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Since we lost my dad last year, parent-child photos tend to mean more to me now. I tear up most father-daughter dances, and if the moment seems right, I always encourage this photo — one I’ll never get on my wedding day with my own dad.

Since we lost my dad last year, parent-child photos tend to mean more to me now. I tear up most father-daughter dances, and if the moment seems right, I always encourage this photo — one I’ll never get on my wedding day with my own dad.

Seriously, there’s a lot of joy on parents’ faces to capture if you can tear yourself away from the couple, like Sam’s mom looking at generations of family photos on display at City Winery this summer.

Seriously, there’s a lot of joy on parents’ faces to capture if you can tear yourself away from the couple, like Sam’s mom looking at generations of family photos on display at City Winery this summer.

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I love shooting in places that mean a lot to my couples, but I also love shooting in my own neighborhood. Dupont Circle, I’ll never tire of you…

I love shooting in places that mean a lot to my couples, but I also love shooting in my own neighborhood. Dupont Circle, I’ll never tire of you…

…no matter how cold it is outside.

…no matter how cold it is outside.

Ahh! The story of the bike! Early in the fall, we were strolling down P Street during this engagement session, and I saw prettiest bike! We posed for a photo in front of it… and when I posted that photo to Instagram, it BLEW UP with my friends in the bike community. Everyone commented not just on the gorgeous couple, but the gorgeous bike! We quickly sleuthed out what kind it was… and as it happens, I’d been researching to find a great commuter bike to buy for my very first bike. (I like to joke that I was the only professional bike advocate in the city (day job) who didn’t own her own bike!) Well, wouldn’t you know that as it happened, the bike in the photo was the perfect bike with the perfect features at the perfect price point for what I’d been looking for! I went to test ride one a few weeks later, and ordered it on the spot! Sadly, it wasn’t available in that gorgeous red, but I could get it in a very nice bright blue and I decided that was okay! A few weeks later, I rode my shiny blue steed down to this elopement at the DC War Memorial… and the couple, who’d featured a bike on their wedding invitation, asked if we could take a photo with the bike. UM ARE YOU KIDDING YES! ABSOLUTELY! And thus the perfect circle of photography → bike → photography came to pass!

Ahh! The story of the bike! Early in the fall, we were strolling down P Street during this engagement session, and I saw prettiest bike! We posed for a photo in front of it… and when I posted that photo to Instagram, it BLEW UP with my friends in the bike community. Everyone commented not just on the gorgeous couple, but the gorgeous bike! We quickly sleuthed out what kind it was… and as it happens, I’d been researching to find a great commuter bike to buy for my very first bike. (I like to joke that I was the only professional bike advocate in the city (day job) who didn’t own her own bike!) Well, wouldn’t you know that as it happened, the bike in the photo was the perfect bike with the perfect features at the perfect price point for what I’d been looking for! I went to test ride one a few weeks later, and ordered it on the spot! Sadly, it wasn’t available in that gorgeous red, but I could get it in a very nice bright blue and I decided that was okay! A few weeks later, I rode my shiny blue steed down to this elopement at the DC War Memorial… and the couple, who’d featured a bike on their wedding invitation, asked if we could take a photo with the bike. UM ARE YOU KIDDING YES! ABSOLUTELY! And thus the perfect circle of photography → bike → photography came to pass!

Oh, and their ceremony? Picture-perfect right at sunset. 👌🏻

Of course, no best-of collection would be complete in my mind without some fabulous reception moments. We had some fantastic dancers on some fantastic dance floors this year, really cutting a rug!

Of course, no best-of collection would be complete in my mind without some fabulous reception moments. We had some fantastic dancers on some fantastic dance floors this year, really cutting a rug!

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best wedding photography washington dc authentic aimee custis
When your bridesmaid dress is this great for twirling? You twirl!

When your bridesmaid dress is this great for twirling? You twirl!

Not all receptions are dance parties, and that’s A-okay in my book, believe it or not. For this intimate wedding, I was only supposed to (by the schedule) be at the ceremony, but we ended up finishing up early (it was cold!) and so I headed over to the reception at Fiola Mare in Georgetown to spend the rest of the time at the reception. The dapper men! The beautiful cocktail bar! The besequined women! I’m so glad I did.

Not all receptions are dance parties, and that’s A-okay in my book, believe it or not. For this intimate wedding, I was only supposed to (by the schedule) be at the ceremony, but we ended up finishing up early (it was cold!) and so I headed over to the reception at Fiola Mare in Georgetown to spend the rest of the time at the reception. The dapper men! The beautiful cocktail bar! The besequined women! I’m so glad I did.

And this one? Because CAKE. Enough said. 🎂✨💕

And this one? Because CAKE. Enough said. 🎂✨💕

This year-in-photography has been incredible. Challenging but so rewarding. It means so much to me to be part, however small, of so many love stories.

Photography for us will always be a labor of love, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I often say that when seeing the Lincoln Monument lit up at night doesn't give me a thrill anymore, it'll be time for me to leave DC. Just like that, when every single wedding day doesn't leave me in tears and with an appreciation for family and love, it'll be time to hang up my camera.

Thank you to all of my 2018 clients for being a part of my story, and inviting me to be a part of yours. If you know someone whose story I should be documenting, please send them my way! I've never advertised, and hope that my love of craft will carry on to new, wonderful people each season. Thank you so much.