If this classy Illini Union wedding in the heart of campus town in Champaign doesn’t give you total Titanic vibes, I don’t know what will. From Kelly’s timeless updo and ethereal private label gown to Zach’s custom tuxedo with his initials embroidered on the cuff of his shirt, this wedding is one I will not soon forget. Their color palette of apple and royal purple was so rich, matched the love they share for one another effortlessly. Let’s not forget their historic university venue and how it set the stage perfectly for such an occasion.

I had been to Illini Union several times, but this was my first opportunity to photograph a wedding there. I’m already looking forward to returning because it is seriously so charming. The girls had the whole 4th floor to themselves to get ready while their planner Hillary of Hillary Rae Events set up for the ceremony in the 2nd-floor ballroom and the reception on the main floor in the room connected to the south lounge. Zach and the guys got ready in the on-site hotel, making it easy to dip over to say hello and document him getting ready.

When it was time for Kelly to slip into her gown, I had her do so in the privacy of one of the rooms on the 4th floor before moving her into the soft light of the staircase where her mom finished buttoning her gown. Her best friend and MOH, Erica, then clasped her hand-selected diamond necklace before Kelly put on the matching earrings to complete the look. It was at that moment, in that light, with Kelly’s soft complexion, complimented by her champagne gown, that I thought of Rose from Titanic. I think I may have squealed with excitement! She was beautiful. So beautiful.

Once Kelly was ready, we headed down to the Quad so she could see Zach and boy did he look dashing. His tuxedo was custom-made and not only was his tie royal purple but so was the back of his vest as well as the inside of his jacket! The first look is probably one of my favorite parts of the wedding day because it’s in that moment that the bride and groom can relax, embrace, and just be together. Their vendors stand back to let the moment unfold as privately as possible and I’m always moved to witness the unguarded emotions the couple shares with one another.

If you’ve been married before, you know that things fly by quickly – especially after the first look. Once Kelly and Zach had a moment to see each other as soon-to-be husband and wife, it was time for a few portraits, then the ceremony, family formals, bridal party, and newlywed portraits before being announced into the reception. I always tell my couples that my goal is for them to have fun and for me to work quickly so they can spend time with their loved ones at the reception.

After speeches, toasts, first dances, cake, and dinner, the dance floor opened and I snuck out with Zach and Kelly and their wedding party for the final images of the night. When they originally told me they had LED balloons planned for their exit, I couldn’t envision what they had in mind. When their planner showed them to me earlier on in the day, I got so excited because they were really neat! Scroll down to see what I mean. 🙂

Zach and Kelly, I hope you are having the BEST TIME on your honeymoon. Soak it all in and enjoy these highlights from your wedding day.

With love,



A special shoutout to their vendor dream team!

Dress: Annabella Boutique Chicago

Bridal Shoes: Steven Madden

Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Custom-Made Tuxedos

Hair and makeup: Thrive Salon and Spa

Florist: I Do Events

Venue: Illini Union

Planner: Hillary Rae Events

DJ: Complete Wedding and Events

Videography: Tori Beach Videography

Photography: Lisa Shreffler Photography

Caterer: University Catering

Bridesmaid’s Dresses: David’s Bridal

Cake: Sugar Mama Bakery