Rachel hadn't planned on going out that mid-January night in 2012, but girlfriends Meredith and Casey persuaded her with the news that Rob, whom they'd all known since their summers at Camp Nock-A-Mixon, was coming.
Rob brought his friend and fraternity brother Colin, and Colin and Rachel ended up sitting next to each other at the Devil's Alley bar.
They ordered a wine-tasting sampler. Colin enjoys sharing what he learned in a wine class at Cornell, and that night, made a game of it, mixing up the wines and asking Rachel to guess what she was drinking. "He was flirting, and everyone could tell we were making a connection," Rachel said.
After dinner, Meredith and Casey headed home. Rachel stayed. "When Rachel stuck with us when her two friends left, I took that as a sign that whatever I was putting out was working," said Colin. Even when Rob left, she stayed.
Colin and Rachel, who are both now 30, talked more.
She grew up in Fort Washington, earned a bachelor's in communication studies from West Chester University, and was living in Center City and working at an advertising agency.
He was raised in Lincoln Park, N.J., held a bachelor's in applied economics and management, and had moved to Philadelphia to earn a master's in actuarial science from Temple. He and Rob were neighbors in southwest Center City.
Colin called the next day to set up their first real date.
Rachel loves the Sixers, and she's also a Kim Kardashian fan. Kim's ex Kris Humphries was in town with the New Jersey Nets. So, after meeting at Gayborhood bar Vintage for drinks, the couple saw the game, then had a late dinner at the Continental.
"I liked that he was very kind," Rachel said. "You can tell how smart he is, but he was very humble about it. There is this quiet confidence about him."
Colin had already ascertained that Rachel is a people magnet and the ringleader among her friends - the same role he has in his group. He appreciated her outgoing personality and confidence. "I can be stubborn and opinionated at times. I want someone to tell me I'm being over-the-top when I'm wrong. Rachel was not going to be walked over."
Also, her smile is magical, he said.
Two weeks before they met, Colin had accepted a summer internship with Travelers Insurance in Hartford, Conn. They dated with that internship looming. About five months after they met, he moved north.
The summer separation, punctuated by train or car trips north and south, taught both of them something important: "What we had was very real, and we loved each other," Rachel said.
Colin returned for his final semester at Temple. They did all things Philly every night and weekend. Travelers offered him a full-time job after graduation, and he couldn't say no to an actuary's dream job in the insurance capital of America.
Colin moved in February 2013. Rachel stayed in Philadelphia, and they saw each other every other week.
How does forever sound?
Late that December, the two vacationed in the Dominican Republic. They had talked of marriage, and Colin said one night's dinner would be fancy. Rachel admits that her heart rate was up as she straightened her hair and put on a favorite dress, but the night out passed without a proposal. "Get over it," she told herself, so disappointment doesn't taint a wonderful trip.
Colin woke her at 6:30 the next morning. "Do you want to go see the sunrise?" he asked. Not as much as she wanted to continue sleeping. "I think it's raining," she said.
"No it's not. It's beautiful!" said her annoyingly alert boyfriend.
On the beach, Colin sat in a chair, and Rachel on his lap. As the sky turned pink and orange, he pulled a jewelry box from his pocket.
"Rachel, will you . . ." was all he got out.
"Yes!" she said, jumping up to kiss him.
They returned to engagement parties with friends, his parents and hers.
Everyone was preparing for her eventual move to Hartford, and she had to prepare mentally, as well.
"I am grounded in Philly, and it was very hard for me to move." But in May, she did. The law firm where she had been working for a year is allowing her to work from home - a home that's now in Hartford.
It was so them
Rachel had always wanted a December wedding, like those of her parents and grandparents.
Rachel is Jewish. Colin was raised Catholic. They were married in a Jewish ceremony by a rabbi who performs interfaith weddings.
There were 10 bridesmaids, 10 groomsmen and three ring bearers. Colin's grandfather, Joe, who is 95, was an honored guest.
Rachel's mother, Debbie, helped her establish a winter wonderland theme. She made shimmering snowflake place card ornaments for each of the 260 guests, and hung them with filament and crystals.
The couple's first dance was to "Home (Is Wherever I'm With You)." But then the couple put on sunglasses and segued into a two-minute hip-hop routine to "We Could Do This All Night".
Rachel's brother David plays the bass guitar, and just before the cake cutting, he joined the band for two songs. "It was magical and unbelievable. It felt like an actual concert," Rachel said.
Colin's mother, Joan, and his father planned and hosted the rehearsal dinner and a next-day brunch.
Waiting in the bridal suite with her mother and father, Rachel heard the music that meant it was time for the bridal party to walk down the aisle. "My mom and I looked at each other, and she said, 'We cannot cry,' and my dad was trying to make a joke. But I was thinking, 'Wow. In minutes, I'm going to be someone's wife."
Performing that hip-hop number with his new wife felt great, Colin said. And then he looked up to see his father, Bill, and Rachel's father, Steve, laughing together with delight. "I felt like I had made the right choice," he said. "I already knew that, of course, but that feeling really reminded me."
A bargain: The bride's mother crafted the save the dates, thank you cards, escort cards and hotel gift bags.
The splurge: A rose petal cannon fired a snowfall of white petals when the couple was announced at the reception. "Was it necessary? No," Rachel said. "But it was beautiful."
Two weeks on three Hawaiian islands.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld, of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth Abraham of Carmel, N.J.
Venue: Vie, Philadelphia.
Photography: Carley K Photography, Philadelphia.
Videography: Apogee Video Productions, Ambler.
Flower and Lighting: Frannies Fancies & Beautiful Blooms, Philadelphia.
Dress: Bijou Bridal, Ardmore.
Band: RIO, EBE Talent, Philadelphia.