March 9, 2014 at 12:42 PM ET
When Eva Cioffi started chatting with Rich MacConnachie through an online iPhone game in Sept. 2011, she never imagined she would date her new friend, let alone marry him.
“It was just friendly banter,” she told TODAY.com. “I had no thoughts of dating anybody. I was bored at work.”
But it wasn’t long before their conversations steered in a different direction, as Eva found herself sharing more intimate details of her life with Rich. Only days after chatting, it became clear that they both wanted to be more than pen pals. There was, however, one glaring problem: Eva lived in New York while Rich resided in England.
After a week of communication, Rich called Eva up on the phone and said he had booked a flight to visit in November. He slept little during the next few weeks, staying up until the early hours of the morning to chat with her because of the time difference.
“He’s from another time,” Eva, 27, said. “I don’t know if it’s the British thing, but he is an old-world gentleman, and I’ve never been spoken to or treated like that in my entire life.”
When the day of their first in-person meeting finally arrived, Rich was nervous Eva wouldn’t be waiting for him at the train station. But she was there. He painfully remembers the first kiss she gave him — on the cheek.
“She gave me the cheek, which is probably the worst thing she’s ever done to me,” Rich, 27, said with a laugh. “I knew straightaway that I wanted to marry her, but obviously I couldn’t tell her that.”
After sharing the week together, Rich returned home and came back again within a month. The two weeks they spent apart were “torture.” During his second trip, they decided that Eva should move to England for six months so they wouldn't have to be apart any longer.
They returned to the U.S. after those six months, and in the fall of 2012, Rich proposed while they were in bed watching "Hocus Pocus," a childhood favorite they had both discussed during one of their initial conversations.
“When it ended and the captions came up, he said ‘Baby, I’m yours,’” Eva recalled. “He had a box in his hand and asked me if I could marry him.”
Eva said yes — even though he never got down on one knee. “We had a fight about that,” she joked.
The bride-to-be knew that if there was one thing she wanted to have at her wedding, it was snow. She’d already floated her idea for a winter-themed wedding with Rich in England, long before they made their engagement official. Rich, also a fan of rustic aesthetics and wintry weather, was happy to help Eva carryout her vision.
“I’ve always wanted to get married in the snow,” she said. “That’s all I thought about for many years.”
They picked a day when there would likely be snow on the ground: Jan. 25. After much deliberation, they chose Bill Miller's Castle in Branford, Conn., as the venue. Eva wished the property was surrounded by mountains, but it had an aisle of trees to walk down, which suited her obsession with natural winter landscapes.
Though Eva had a clear idea of what she wanted from the start — a nontraditional, wintry wedding with old-world touches — she confessed to being a “haphazard” bride.
“Nothing was organized,” she said with a laugh. “I had to have people help me stay on budget.”
The process may have been chaotic, but the ceremony would look far from it. Eva bought silver bells to use as festive table decorations, transformed mason jars into romantic lights around the alter and turned lit lanterns into bucolic center pieces for their reception tables, adding to the castle’s tavern-like feel.
“A lot of my tavern ideas came from living in England,” she said. “I wanted to bring some pieces of England back.”
It was important to Eva and Rich that the ceremony feel natural — like a big celebration rather than a formal event.
“The princess thing is just not me,” she said. “At the end of the day we were having a really big party, and I didn’t want to try to be someone else.”
She even meant to wear a “hippy dippy” wedding dress, until she fell for a lush Maggie Sottero number that looked too good on her to pass up. Eva made it her own with a bright red sweater to match her crimson lipstick. Rich, in keeping with the low-key vibe, went for a J. Crew suit with a smart but laid-back look.
All those preparations came together when the couple wed in front of 125 friends and family members on Jan. 25, 2014.
The day didn't go exactly as Eva had planned. A snowstorm swept through the area just days before, preventing her from walking down the tree-lined aisle and others from making it to the ceremony at all. She was disappointed by the last-minute changes and started to feel anxious, but those feelings melted away when she made her way down the aisle as snow began to fall.
“It was so incredible,” she said. “I could have just cried.”
Eva’s grandfather, an ordained minister, led the ceremony. The couple exchanged their own vows, then planted a tree with soil from Eva’s garden and Rich’s home in England.
“Her vows were more comedy, and if I had known we were going to make them funny, I would have attempted it,” Rich said. “She did hers first, and I wasn’t looking forward to doing mine.”
After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their guests grooved on the dance floor with the help of a DJ who toted along an indoor snow machine. At one point, Eva cleared the dance floor for a special surprise of her own: a choreographed lip sync to One Direction’s song "What Makes You Beautiful."
“She originally told me it was going to be for my best man,” Rich said. “I was really into it.”
Less than two months after the wedding, the couple is enjoying newlywed life at their new home in Kings Park, N.Y., though they hope that one day they’ll be able to move to a more natural setting in Vermont or Canada. They still look through their wedding videos and photos, remembering the special day.
“It was the best day of my life,” said Rich, who works as a dental technician. “I’d probably been waiting for that since the day since I met her.”
And they have something even more permanent to remember the event with: matching tattoos they got during their honeymoon in the Poconos.
The tattoos are an inked inscription of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous words (which the couple featured at the wedding): “We loved with a love that was more than love.”
Check out more beautiful photos from their nuptials below, and click here for more from the TODAY Real Weddings series.