Love, Accidentally

They say that love isn’t hard to find, that it often lies right in front of you. And such was the case for Emily and Dan Houlihan. Friends for years, the two became co-workers before dating.

They say that love isn’t hard to find, that it often lies right in front of you. And such was the case for Emily and Dan Houlihan. Friends for years, the two became co-workers before dating. “We were in the same industry, and as it happens, he became my boss,” says Emily. Unexpectedly, their friendship turned into love. “We fell in love accidentally—we tried to keep it on the down-low, but eventually we had to let the cat out of the bag,” she says.

The couple dated for a year and a half before Dan popped the question on a trip to Canada. “We had been working crazy hours and took a trip up to Quebec,” says Emily. “I think he intended to propose on Friday night, but he couldn’t wait and asked me when we got there on Thursday night.” From that moment, the pair began sculpting plans for their Big Day.

Step one for Emily and Dan was choosing a location that held significance for them as a couple. With Dan from Cape Cod, and Emily hailing from Amherst, New Hampshire, they also wanted a spot convenient for both families. “We wanted a nice wedding, but something that was just for us,” Emily says. “Boston is our town, it’s where we met, fell in love, work and live.”

To accommodate both of their large families and numerous friends, Emily and Dan decided to hold their ceremony at the Old South Church in downtown Boston with a reception for 250 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. With the location set, Emily went to work on the theme. “Fall was our first choice, and I always envisioned having bright, vibrant, deep colors,” she says.

Marcia Brown, owner of Petals & Pearls in Quincy, helped develop Emily’s theme even more. “Emily has a great love of flowers, and when we sat down and started talking I got a feel for her taste and look,” says Brown.

Emily’s bridesmaids wore black dresses from L’élite Bridal Boutique on Newbury Street, and she wanted the flowers to pop against the dark dresses. “Emily wanted her colors to say ‘fall’ but not traditional fall, and that’s what we did,” says Brown. Deep red garden roses, mango-colored calla lilies, apple-green orchids and orange ranunculus tied off with green French ribbon made up the bridesmaids’ bouquets, while Emily held an English-wired cascade bouquet of burgundy calla lilies held together with a double-sided burgundy satin ribbon with black pearl detail—the perfect accent to her Vera Wang gown. “I loved my gown, it was perfect for an urban wedding—it made me feel simultaneously like a bride and a rock star,” she says. Rather, a very elegant rock star—the strapless A-line gown was made of ivory tulle with floral sequins on the top that trailed off at the waist.

Emily’s invitations from Rugg Road Paper Co. on Charles Street also let her guests know of her nontraditional fall wedding theme. Shimmery cream paper with classic black type was placed on top of burgundy paper. “The flowers and invitations were the least stressful aspect of planning,” Emily says. “Every time I came out of the shop, I was even more excited about the wedding.”

With a nod to Dan’s Irish heritage, a single bagpiper greeted guests outside the Old South Church, where the aisles were dressed with paper cones filled with hydrangeas, orchids and roses hung with ribbon. “Cones on the bride’s side of the church were monogrammed with the initial of the bride’s last name, while cones on the groom’s side were monogrammed with the letter ‘H,’” says Brown. But while the bagpipers and flowers created a magical atmosphere, it was the ceremony that truly touched the couple. “The ceremony was for us; it was about the two of us getting married,” says Emily. “And that really sums up our relationship—we love to be social, but it is so nice to just be together.”

The Houlihans wanted their first pictures as husband and wife to be taken in the Public Garden, so after the ceremony they, along with their bridal party and immediate family, were whisked away by limousine to the park for photos. Before the wedding, Tiffany White, principal partner of Alternate Angles in the Greater Boston area and Newport, Rhode Island, sat down with the couple to talk about how their photos should look. “They are definitely a fun couple, they’ve known each other for years and they’re best friends, so they were excited about having fun photos taken.” Alternate Angles also shot photos of the couple strolling down Newbury Street. “Emily is so enthusiastic, and her enthusiasm for the wedding, the photos and Dan was contagious—she was so open to giving us the time and freedom to create beautiful images.”

Crystal chandeliers, gold-leaf detailing on the walls, multi-paned windows, a balcony and a sky mural on the ceiling are just a few of the touches that awaited guests at the Grand Ballroom of the Fairmont Copley Plaza. “Emily had a very clear idea of what she wanted,” says Christina Niles, catering manager at the hotel. “She wanted something elegant and beautiful, but fun at the same time.”

Gold lattice linen, gold charger plates and gold Chiavari chairs (also known as ballroom chairs) were the perfect setting for Brown’s bold high and low centerpieces. Brown collected antique silver teapots of different shapes and sizes (which guests could take home) to serve as the lower centerpieces. She rented crystal and silver candelabras for the higher part of the centerpieces, and she filled both with burgundy dahlias, deep red garden roses, red nerines and chocolate cosmos. “The centerpieces really summed Emily up,” says Brown. “She’s a very warm, elegant and detailed person—it reflected her, and when that happens we’ve done our job.”

A martini bar serving tropical, green apple, dry and dirty martinis helped get the party started, along with a little help from the DJ, Groove Entertainment. “My sister loves cosmopolitans, which is one of the reasons we decided to have a martini bar,” says Emily. Later, guests were treated to a five-shrimp cocktail, tomato and buffalo mozzarella napoleon with baby arugula, green-apple sorbet in sugar-rimmed martini glasses, and chicken and mushrooms wrapped in puff pastry with a bordelaise sauce.

Rounding out the meal was another favorite part of the wedding for Emily—the cake. With five layers, the chocolate square cake was decorated with white frosting and inscribed with an Irish wedding blessing.

When all was said and done, Emily and Dan couldn’t have been happier with their urban affair. “I can honestly say it went as smoothly as I could have imagined,” she says. “I had this vision in my head—and the end result just exceeded every expectation.”