When Brittany met Emerson, she thought they could have some fun together for a few weeks before she moved to Georgia for a master’s program. “I thought we could have a fun fling for a few weeks, and I would move away and never see him again, but the day I flew out of Washington, I called Emerson and asked if he would be my boyfriend,” she says.

They had a long distance relationship for that first year. “We talked every night on the phone, and he visited as often as he could, until he ended up moving to Georgia with me in 2012,” she says.

The couple knew they were destined to be together, so they actually started planning their wedding even before Emerson proposed. “We put the deposits down on the caterer and photographer before we were ‘officially’ engaged, because you [have to] lock the good ones down! We had chosen the date about six months before Emerson actually proposed.”

While it was a given that they were headed toward wedded bliss, Emerson still wanted to surprise Brittany with his proposal. “I was irrationally nervous considering I was asking a question I already knew the answer to, but there is always a lingering nervousness, not in the response, but in whether or not the manner with which you propose will measure up,” he says.

Brittany knew he was planning something special when he banned her from checking the mail for months. “Unbeknownst to me, Emerson had emailed all of my friends and our families asking for letters of support for our relationship,” she says. “On the day he proposed, he gave me a scrapbook with letters from our parents and close friends explaining why we make a great couple and why we should be together. I also have a friend who drew an incredible portrait of both of us, which he gave me as well. It was the sweetest thing I ever saw. I was in my pajamas on the couch and had to take a break from everything because I was crying too hard.”

The wedding was chock-full of DIY touches, including a family unity quilt Brittany made with pictures of every family member and notes from them as well. She said it took a year to execute, and she gave herself regular deadlines to keep herself on track.

She also made her own wedding dress. It took about eight months, and she made five practice dresses during the process. Emerson was her source of support when the task would overwhelm her. “Emerson was so patient with me at that time,” she says. “He took me out for a beer and reassured me that everything was going to be fine. Through the whole process, he also helped me make the dress—pinning me into the bodice and holding up mirrors so I could check all aspects of the gown. He was wonderful about it—although obviously we broke the rule of the groom not seeing the bride in the dress until the wedding day!”

Looking back on the day, they both agree it was a blur. “Your mind is atwitter with absolutely any and everything it can be, and your biochemistry is in shambles,” Emerson says. “That said, I remember how at ease I felt when I finally got to interact with Brittany.”

—Kourtney Jason