When Evan McCarthy asked Emily Boylan out for their first date, her friends cautioned her against it.
The two had met online, in what Boylan described as “the very modern love story of Tinder.” After only two days of communicating on the app, McCarthy suggested a nighttime visit to the Iowa Old Capitol Building, where he was working at the time and had access to when it was closed to the public. He wanted to give her a tour and go ghost hunting.
“My roommates discouraged me from going on a dark, after-hours tour with a complete stranger,” she recalled. Turning down his initial idea, she met him at a coffee house and then they went to a few bars in Iowa City, where they both were living. The two later agreed they’re not really bar people.
On the evening the couple were interviewed for this story, it was the fifth anniversary of that first date.
But it was the second date the next night that took place after hours at the Old Capitol Building, as Boylan quickly felt comfortable and secure in McCarthy’s presence. A tour and hunt for ghosts packed the evening with intrigue and adventure. At this time, it was November 2017 and Boylan was a senior at the University of Iowa and McCarthy was in his second year of law school there.
Boylan is a 2014 graduate of Evanston Township High School. She is the daughter of Laura Henry of Evanston and Thomas Boylan of Chicago. McCarthy is the son of Patty and Paul McCarthy of Iowa City, Iowa.
When asked what drew them to each other on the dating app, they both laughed. “She was cute,” said McCarthy. “You didn’t give much information about yourself,” he added.
Boylan’s online search was fueled by frustration. “I had reloaded the [Tinder] app because I was desperate and sick of college boys. I was just looking to date people,” she said. “He was really cute and his cat was in his profile picture. And he was a vegetarian.”
Boylan and McCarthy quickly fell into a relationship. “We went on seven dates in the first 10 days of knowing each other,” said Boylan. She soon felt the need to define their status. “I think I texted him, ‘Are we dating?’ I was home for Thanksgiving and it was on my mind and I wanted to ask.” Evan confirmed her query: “I said, ‘yes.’”
Move to Milwaukee
Following graduation in the spring of 2018, Boylan moved to Milwaukee to begin law school at Marquette University. The couple dated long-distance for 10 months while McCarthy finished law school. Two days after his graduation, he moved to Milwaukee and into Boylan’s 400-square-foot apartment. To support them both while McCarthy studied for the Wisconsin bar exam, Boylan worked three jobs.
“I had an internship at Disability Rights Wisconsin, I was working a terrible job at a vegan restaurant and walking dogs on the side,” she said. Although holding down three jobs while she was still in school herself wasn’t easy, she knew McCarthy couldn’t work at the time. “Studying for the bar is a full-time job,” she said.
McCarthy passed the bar and began doing immigration work in Milwaukee while Boylan finished law school. Both Boylan and McCarthy now work for Legal Action of Wisconsin. Boylan works on eviction defense and McCarthy works in the student legal aid program. They continue to live in Milwaukee with their three cats: Bella, Prudence and Vesta.
Both Boylan and McCarthy knew early on that they were a committed couple. “We had known the whole time that we wanted to get married,” Boylan said.
“Neither of us was thinking about a future that didn’t involve the other. It was very natural that I would go to Milwaukee,” McCarthy added. “We were planning very early in the relationship on how to be with each other.”
By the fifth month of dating, Boylan proposed to McCarthy. She said, “Hey, if you’re not busy in 10 years, want to get married?” To which McCarthy replied, “Ten years? You want to wait that long?”
As for their continued adventures off-the-beaten-path, the couple are intentional in their planning. “We still go on a date once a week and try to do something different,” McCarthy said. “We go to the local college planetarium regularly. They have presentations on different constellations and the different cultural stories behind them.” The couple has also “been hacking around the botanical gardens. We go on lots of fun and different dates.”
While the couple stayed close to Milwaukee during the pandemic, it was a long-awaited trip to Iowa City when the two formally became engaged. It was April 2021 and “we had just gotten our second dose [of the COVID-19 vaccine]. We waited the full two weeks and went to see his parents. We hadn’t seen them in a year,” Boylan explained. While there, “Evan was taking me around to all our old dating stops. I knew the proposal was coming.”
McCarthy proposed on the front stairs of the Iowa Old Capitol Building, the location of the couple’s second date. No one else was present at the engagement, save for one person. “There was a moment where there was a guy, maybe a freshman? He was just sitting there. I almost had to ask him to move, but he finally left on his own,” McCarthy remembered. To be sure McCarthy purchased a ring to his fiancee’s liking, Boylan participated in the process. “I sent him the picture of the exact ring I wanted. There were no surprises,” she said.
Mimosas before the ceremony
Boylan and McCarthy were married Oct. 2 at the Colvin House in Chicago. Bennett Thompson, a mutual friend of the couple, officiated in front of 75 guests. As for the 18-month engagement, both bride and groom were in agreement. “We wanted to have a fall wedding. And it felt natural to wait that long,” Boylan said.
The wedding incorporated tradition as well as special touches the couple planned. “The thing that kept sticking with me is this is the day that people who love you from all phases of your life come together,” Boylan said. Friends came from as far as South Korea and Poland to be with the couple.
“It was emotionally overwhelming to me at first. It felt very special that people wanted to celebrate us,” Boylan recalled.
“I was originally pushing for a courthouse wedding,” she said. “I wanted it to be very nontraditional.” In the end, the Colvin House was the perfect setting for their celebration. “The planning process and venue were amazing. Food, flowers, everything,” said McCarthy. He added, “Having and celebrating our relationship in front of the people who we love and who love us” was especially meaningful.
“We struck the right balance of traditional and nontraditional, while keeping it low-key and keeping it to our personalities. [We wanted] a celebration of ourselves that felt true to us and allowed everyone else to celebrate in the more traditional ways,” McCarthy explained.
For the late-morning wedding, the couple greeted their guests for a pre-ceremonial party. The bride wore an emerald-green crushed velvet dress that she made herself, having learned how to sew during the pandemic.
“We wanted to avoid the fanfare of not seeing each other before the wedding,” Boylan said. “We had mimosas and breakfast pastries before the ceremony,” she said.
For the nuptials, Boylan then changed into her traditional white wedding dress, one that she had picked out with her mother. “One of my favorite moments was after I changed,” she said. “We walked down the aisle together, mostly because we felt we had been married in our hearts for a long time.”
McCarthy added his sentiments about the wedding day. “I wasn’t expecting that it would be a blur, but it is a blur in my memory, in a good way,” he said.
“It was really comprehensively perfect. The feeling of being with all of our friends from all over the world and being present with us was so special. That’s something that I really value. It felt really amazing to spend quality time with all of these people,” he gushed. The “weather was amazing, it was a beautiful fall day.”
McCarthy summed up the couple’s wedding by adding, “I don’t think there was one thing that I’d do differently about that day, and I can’t say that about another day in my life.”