photographed by Lauren Love Photography

A couple marks their marriage with a Halloween-themed monster mash.

The waning months of the year have always prompted people to think about the important things in life—it’s no coincidence the calendar gives us All Hallow’s Eve, the Day of the Dead, and Thanksgiving all within a few short weeks. There’s also a certain romantic magic in the air once the days grow shorter and leaves start to turn. So, really, is there a better time to celebrate a life-defining day? For Brad and Megan Burns, there was no question.

The love story

Brad Burns grew up in Alderson, Greenbrier County. Megan Coffman grew up just outside Cumberland, Maryland. They met in 2009 in a risk management class at West Virginia University. “I heard the professor call his name and looked over and saw his smile, and decided I wanted to get to know him better,” Megan says.

She looked him up on Facebook and sent him a message asking if he wanted to get together to study. “I think she played me,” Brad says. In the end, he got a B in the class and she got an A. “I definitely didn’t need help,” Megan says. But they started hanging out more and more, and officially became an item a short time later.

While both knew early on the relationship would be a keeper, they didn’t rush into anything. They both finished their degrees, began their careers, and bought a foreclosed house together, fixing it up themselves.

But when they didn’t get engaged after more than a half-decade together, their loved ones began wondering about their plans. “I think it got to a point where it took me so long, her dad was starting to question whether it was a dead end,” Brad says.

So he headed to Jacqueline’s Fine Jewelry in Morgantown where, with some help from Megan’s best friend, he spent a few hours designing an engagement ring he was certain she’d love. A few weeks later Brad and Megan went to the store together, at Megan’s request. To his dismay, Megan started fawning over rings that were very different from what he’d designed. “I pushed her toward the band design I went with, and she was flat out, ‘I don’t like it.’” So Brad snuck outside and called the store’s owner and told him he needed to make some changes.

When he received the ring, he knew he would have to give it away soon—before any more hitches in his plan arose. He planned a date night at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania, including dinner reservations at the resort’s Aqueous restaurant.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” Brad says. “I was a mix of emotions. I was happy and nervous, because I wanted everything to be right and be perfect.” But according to Megan, he didn’t show it. “He’s got a great poker face and poker attitude.”

The couple arrived a little early for their dinner reservations, for good reason—Brad wanted to propose before the meal, so he could enjoy the rest of the night. He grabbed the doorman, telling Megan he wanted the man to get a picture of them in their dress-up clothes. Brad actually asked the doorman to take a video as he got down on one knee in front of the restaurant’s big stone fireplace.

She, of course, said yes.

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Making a plan

Wedding arrangements began not long after Megan got her ring. The first issue was choosing a date. They wanted the ceremony to fall on a date that ended with a 9, since they’d started dating on September 9 and gotten engaged on December 19. They started planning to get married on July 29, 2017, but ultimately decided the weather would be too unpredictable in summer. Instead, they went with October 29, 2016. It turned out to be the perfect decision. Both Brad and Megan love Halloween, so much that they decorate their house in early September and keep certain decorations out all year long.

Because Megan’s job keeps her on the road all week, she and Brad knew they wouldn’t have time to make many of the arrangements on their own. So they hired wedding planner Yohana Williams to lead the charge.

Now with Yohana onboard, one of the first orders of business was to find a venue. “We said, ‘We want a dark elegance,’” Megan says. The couple also wanted a venue close to home so their elderly grandparents could attend. “We looked at at least a dozen places,” Brad says. It was an exhaustive search that included places in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Finally, they visited Highgate Carriage House in Fairmont. “It had a gothic look,” Megan says. It was exactly what they wanted. “It was perfect,” Brad says. “We didn’t have to do much decorating to give it the look we were looking for.”

Next came the dress. This, too, was a long process. Megan visited five stores and tried around 30 dresses on. Finally, at Bridal Beginning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her mother spotted a gold and ivory lace gown embellished with beading from top to bottom. It had a mermaid silhouette, V-shaped neckline, natural waist, and chapel train of English net.

“It’s funny my mom ended up picking the dress that I ended up loving,” Megan says. “For every high school dance I went to, my mom always ended up picking out my dress and it was always the last one I tried on.”

The same was true for her wedding dress. Although her mom was initially unsure about eschewing the traditional white dress, her mind immediately changed when she saw her daughter in the dress. “I put it on and it was perfect. It was a great moment. Lots of tears.”

Everything was coming together, but Megan and Brad still had one crucial piece to figure out—the flowers. “The flowers were dead last. That was the very last thing we did,” she says. They knew they wouldn’t need lots of decorations, but wanted some dark flowers to play off the old, dark stone at the venue. Megan didn’t have specific requirements, but traded photos with the planner to convey what she wanted. “I wanted something that had to do with that witching-hour vibe,” she says.

They lined up a florist to bring the vision to life but then, just a few weeks before the ceremony, the shop backed out. Their wedding planner scrambled to find a replacement, winding up with Mt. Lebanon Floral in Pittsburgh. The arrangements were simple but elegant. The aisles were lined with lanterns topped with autumn-colored flowers, with two larger lanterns in front to serve as a focal point for the ceremony. Bridesmaids carried lanterns, too, instead of traditional bouquets. And Megan carried a cascade bouquet with more than 15 varieties of flowers and plants in a purple, red and gold palette—hanging amaranthus, hydrangeas, roses, dahlias, berries, seasonal blooms, and textured greens. The bouquet also included ribbons and a piece of lace from her mother’s bouquet that had been dipped in gold.

“I truly think this other florist backed out so we could find the perfect one,” Megan says.

The day of the wed

On the day of the wedding, Megan and her bridesmaids got their hair and makeup done at a spa in Cheat Lake. When they were ready, Megan had a first-look photo shoot with her father and Brad. Then the bridal party rented a party bus and headed to Fairmont for the wedding.

The “short and sweet” ceremony lasted only 12 minutes. Both sets of parents gave their children away. And, as a sign of both their love and their mutual interest in boating, the couple tied a rope knot as part of the ceremony.

While the wedding party stayed behind for photos, guests were treated to a cocktail hour with mini–grilled cheese sliders, pepperoni rolls, and three soups prepared by their caterer, Dale Hawkins of Fish Hawk Acres.

Then it was on to the reception tent. The Halloween theme continued there, but in a less moody fashion—the decorations popped in livelier shades of orange and purple, and there were masquerade masks for guests. The lanterns from the aisle were reused as centerpieces and the bridesmaids’ lanterns were hung by the wedding party’s table, while the larger lanterns adorned the bride and groom’s table.

The menu consisted of chicken piccata with penne pasta, roasted prime rib au jus, au gratin potatoes, a cucumber and tomato salad, and a garden salad. For dessert, guests enjoyed Hawkins’ signature Jack Daniels cake, a DIY brownie bar with blondies and fudge brownies, and fresh apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream.

The food was so good the party hit a lull—but DJ Eric Wenning made sure that didn’t last long. As soon as he cranked up the tunes, “the dance floor was packed for the rest of the night,” Brad says.

Megan had long joked she wanted the Backstreet Boys to perform at her wedding. Her bridal party couldn’t make that happen, but offered the next best thing—they rewrote the lyrics to the band’s “Backstreet’s Back” for the newlyweds and performed a choreographed routine with Brad’s groomsmen.

At the end of the night, everyone boarded the party buses and headed back to Morgantown. The bridal party had planned to go out on the town but were partied out. Brad and Megan changed clothes, walked downtown, grabbed a slice of pizza, and went to sleep.

The newlyweds decided to wait until March 2017 for their honeymoon. “We wanted to have that time to recoup and recover from the wedding,” Megan says. They took a week and a half off, spending a few days in Las Vegas, Nevada, before heading to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Now Brad and Megan have settled into life at their Cheat Lake home. She still spends each week traveling the country as a software trainer while Brad runs an outdoor supply company. But they still relish the memories they made on their long-awaited wedding day. “It certainly was the best evening we could have asked for,” Megan says. “We joke and say we threw the best Halloween party of our lives.”