Emilie Mardigian and John Little had known each other for quite some time; John was the best friend of Emilie’s cousin. And while John was often present at family gatherings over the years, it took the widespread blackout of August 2003 to bring the two closer. With the lights out across parts of the Midwest, Emilie, her cousins, and friends – including John – gathered at her aunt’s lake house to weather the power outage, and Emilie and John spent the weekend getting to know one another.

They had dated for almost two years when John decided it was time to propose. Growing up, Emilie was a competitive figure skater, and during their courtship, she and John often took his nieces and nephews skating. One day, John told Emilie that they were meeting the kids and brought her to a local ice rink, which he had secretly reserved for their private date. With only his brother and the kids as witnesses, John got down on one knee pretending to tie Emilie’s skates and proposed.

The bride and groom, along with the guidance of her father, planned every step of the wedding day together. They knew from the onset that they wanted their ceremony to be at the Kirk In The Hills church and the reception at the nearby Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan. But assembling the correct team to fill in the details required much more consideration. While the vendors they chose needed to exhibit a certain style and ability, the bride and groom were just as concerned with hiring people they genuinely enjoyed being around. “When you click with someone you are working with, it makes the task at hand seem easier,” explains the bride.

Using a neutral palette, the couple and the floral designers created a timeless look that complemented both the gothic architecture of the church and the more updated traditional look of the hotel. Garlands of orchids were strewn from pew to pew along the ceremony aisle, culminating in large arrangements of roses and hydrangea at the first two rows. Two types of orchids were also present in the tightly packed pomander balls carried by the flower girls, in the bridesmaid’s bouquets, and in Emilie’s own abundant bouquet, which was tied together with satin ribbon. The whites and creams of her flowers stood out against the frosty-blue color of her unique gown, which took on a more silver or a periwinkle cast depending on the light. Deciding not to see John or her father before the ceremony, Emilie and her men cried their way through the first few moments of her entrance. “It was full of emotion and love,” remembers Emilie. “It was wonderful.”

But it was also bittersweet. Three months after Emilie and John were engaged, his mother Barb passed away after a forty-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis. While they carried her spirit with them throughout the celebration, “There was no possible way to do something that would truly remember her the way that she deserved,” explains Emilie. They did, however, decide to make a donation to the National MS Society in her honor.

The reception room at the Townsend was brimming with flowers – from garlands draped across the backs of chairs to the oversized centerpieces on each table. Layer upon layer of linens topped off with a final beaded overlay draped every table, and candles of all shapes and sizes lent a romantic glow. Instead of individual place cards, one giant scroll was printed with the names and table assignments of every guest. It was placed in the foyer so everyone could check their table on their way into the ballroom.

After dinner was served at the elegantly appointed tables, the dance floor became the center of the party. One of the only times the floor was clear was when the newlyweds cut their four-tier wedding cake. Each layer boasted a different flavor, as well as a distinct pattern of eyelet lace icing. But it was quickly back to enjoying the band, which Emilie and John credit with taking the party to the next level.

Emilie’s suggestion to other brides in planning mode is to “Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! I can’t stress enough that you should be enjoying the process. You only do it once!” And she’s someone who certainly took her own advice: While still on her honeymoon in Hawaii, Emilie accepted a job offer from Emerald City Designs, the company who provided the floral and event design for her wedding.