Driftless Wedding Series: A fairytale all their own

By Jennifer Bissell

Ryan and Brigid (Berns) Whalen of Waukon were married Sept. 16, 2023. (Photos by Brittany Tilleraas of BMW Photography)

It’s a love story with a rich history for newlyweds Ryan and Brigid (Berns) Whalen of Waukon. 

The two have known each other since they were children, spending time together as family friends. It wasn’t until they started college that their love bloomed. 

After a picture-perfect engagement, the two were married in front of family and friends on Sept. 16, 2023.

Falling for each other

Brigid and Ryan have known each other their entire lives. Their parents, Brad and Erin (Mooney) Berns and Paul and Gail Whalen, were friends growing up. As children, Brigid and Ryan often got together while their parents spent time together. Once they were in school, Brigid said the families didn’t see each other as often. 

All that changed after high school. Brigid graduated from Waukon High School in 2019 and attended Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., for nursing. She currently works at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon as a registered OB and medical surgical nurse. Ryan graduated from Kee High School in 2019 and attended Western Technical College in La Crosse for the HVAC technician program. He currently works for Winona Controls in Caledonia, Minn.

Brigid said they began spending more time together once they were in La Crosse and eventually started dating.

On Easter Sunday, April 15, 2022, Ryan and Brigid were spending the day at Brigid’s mom’s family farm in Harpers Ferry. They wanted to take a family photo in front of “The Old Rock House”, built in 1853 by Brigid’s relatives. That was when Ryan got down on one knee. 

“It was an easy yes,” said Brigid. “We then went on to have our first look on our wedding day in that very spot.”

A wedding for ‘them’

Wedding planning came easy for Brigid and Ryan. They went with a rustic theme, utilizing dusty rose, maroon, navy and blushing pink. They chose St. Patrick’s Church in Waukon for the ceremony site, with the reception at the Allamakee County Fairgrounds Pavilion. Father John Moser officiated the ceremony. 

Brenna Berns served as the maid of honor, with Kaylee Horsman, Maria Miller, Emma Franks, Brooke Berns, Gillian Anderson and Makayla Manning as the bridesmaids. Morgan Van Ruler, Megan O’Neill-Monroe and Emily Steele were personal attendants. On the Blue Crew were Gabbi Marti and Kaia O’Neill. 

Evan Whalen was the best man. Groomsmen were Brock Berns, Bubba Rud, Jack Mooney, Michael Headington, Sean Liddiard and Pat Mahr. Ushers were Tyler O’Neill and Jacob Berns. 

The Whalens got their rings from Elliott Jewelers in Waukon, with other accessories from Marti & Co. of Cresco. Flowers on the Farm from rural Waukon provided the flowers. Decor came from BD Productions. 

The bridal party turned to Gemini Salon and Spa, Luna Salon and Lisa Regan, Waukon, for hairstyling, while Emily Dahlstrom of Gemini Salon did their make-up. Brigid purchased her bridal dress from Charlotte’s Bridal & Formal Wear of La Crosse. She chose a romantic yet elegant dress, with lots of sparkles, a long traditional train and a cathedral veil, perfect for the traditional church wedding. The bridesmaids’ dresses were purchased online at azazie.com. The grooms and groomsmen attire came from Teslows Formalwear of Waukon. Their seamstress was Mary Ann Kelly.

Brittany Tilleraas of BMW Photography was the photographer, and transportation was provided by Berns Family Farms Wagon. 

Lane and Eric Rich and the St. Patrick’s Church Choir provided the music during the ceremony and Steven Hill was the DJ. 

Be Catered of Waukon served the meal, with the cake coming from Quillins of Waukon. For a wedding favor, the Whalens provided homegrown pumpkins from the family farm.

Planning the wedding, Brigid said they wanted to make it all about their family and friends enjoying their day. 

“We wanted our day to be intentional. We gave all of our most important family and friends special jobs and included as many as possible. I sang a song as Ryan walked my parents down the aisle that my mom and I used to sing together at weddings. ‘Mama’s Song’ by Carrie Underwood has beautiful lyrics for a wedding day,” she said. “The main diamond in my ring is actually my grandmother’s diamond from her wedding ring from my grandpa Mooney. The rosary around my bouquet is a family heirloom on my Berns side and has been used at many family weddings. I have grown up going to St. Patrick’s Church in Waukon and always imagined getting married in the old, beautiful, traditional church. It was truly magical.”

Those special touches continued to the reception.

“Ryan and I did a grandparents’ dance after the other traditional dances. He danced with my grandma and I danced with his grandpa because they are so special to us. They are the only grandparents we have left, so the dance was a tribute to our grandparents and other family members who have passed.”

Seeing a room full of their loved ones was what made the day unique. 

‘My favorite part was sitting at our reception and looking over all the people and feeling so grateful and joyful. All the people in the room loved and supported us. They were all there to support our marriage and celebrate us. That was truly so special and I have never felt more loved,” said Brigid. 

“Ryan’s favorite part of the day was dancing the night away with all our favorite people.”

Love and support

Since their wedding, the Whalens have settled into married life and have moved into their home in Waukon, which they remodeled themselves. 

Looking back on the big day, Brigid said she’s thankful that they made the decisions they did to celebrate how they wanted.

“I remember the feeling of everyone being there to support us. Just knowing everyone drove from all over just to spend the day with us and celebrate with us. It was such a blessing and so special to us,” she said. “Ryan kept looking at me throughout the day and saying ‘this is such a fairytale.’ He was so right, it was just truly our best day ever.”

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