From fireworks to forever

Meeting at the Spillville fireworks in 2009, the annual light displays are special to Andre and Morgan (Kuennen) Walz, including their wedding night when fireworks were set off from Festina’s ball diamond. (Fireworks photo courtesy of Leah Kruse)

“Poof” went a cloud of dust off of the speech maid of honor Madeline (Snyder) Bahl had prepared for Morgan (Kuennen) and Andre Walz’s wedding reception July 8, 2023.

“That’s how long everyone has been waiting for this wedding to happen,” she said as the 300-plus guests laughed.

It may not have been forever, but for family and friends it sure felt like ages. In fact it was over a decade that everyone had been waiting…and asking if there was a ring in the picture yet.

Then it finally happened.

The years go by

In 2009, while Andre played little league baseball in Festina alongside Morgan’s brothers Blake and Nathan, Morgan was a fan in the stands with her parents, Mark and Linda, and she had her eye on the game. 

The first “hangout” came later that summer at the Spillville fireworks, something that has become tradition for the couple.

Both students at South Winneshiek in Calmar, Morgan was just preparing to enter her freshman year, while Andre was a bit younger in eighth grade which made for spending time together difficult. The result was many trips made by their parents to and from Calmar and Festina.

As the years went by, the young couple became more independent as their relationship continued to blossom through many volleyball, football, basketball and baseball games as the two were active high school students, supporting each other along the way. 

After her high school graduation in 2013, Morgan continued her studies at the University of Northern Iowa in education and Andre finished high school a year later, then joined her in Cedar Falls as an accounting major.

Many continued to ask the question – when are you getting married? 

Their answer? When we feel like it. 

They had a plan. Both ended up earning their master’s degrees, and it just happened that Andre had completed his degree in accounting and Morgan was nearly finished when Andre popped the question in December 2021.

“We had talked loosely about getting married during college, but as time went by we knew it just didn’t make sense to get married just because,” said Morgan. “We were not in any obvious rush.”

Timing is everything

Having talked about getting married, Andre and Morgan visited with Jill at Mark’s Jewelry to look for just the perfect ring in fall 2021. Morgan liked the look of white gold and soon after, Andre returned to the St. Lucas business and ordered one that fit Morgan. 

Then came the plan.

Morgan’s family draws names each Christmas for its gift exchange and by pure coincidence Andre had drawn his future bride. With the ring on order, Andre visited with Morgan’s father, Mark, one afternoon just before Christmas and asked for his blessing. 

“He wasn’t surprised, and he was cool with it,” said Andre. “I assumed he would tell Linda, but [the proposal] came as surprise to her, too, because he never told anyone.”

When it came time to open presents Christmas Eve, Morgan’s youngest brother, Nathan, was the only other person who knew what was coming as Andre had asked him to video the proposal.

Andre had purchased Morgan a water bottle and put the ring inside the box, so when she opened the box expecting a water bottle, she saw the ring box inside.

It was an instant “Yes!” by Morgan, filled with excitement.

Simple elegance and timeless

“After you get engaged, you are more in-tune to other people’s weddings you attend,” Morgan said. As a wedding guest, Morgan was more aware of event details, and asked herself what she liked or didn’t like about the day. 

“Andre is pretty laid back, so he goes with the flow.”

Within a month of the engagement, the couple had booked their photographer, Eleanor Kathryn Photography; videographer, One22 Studios Videography; and the venues of St. Luke’s Church in St. Lucas for the ceremony and the Festina Community Center for their reception.

Morgan took time to visit with family who had used both the photographer and videographer and knew they’d both be a perfect fit.

“I had seen the photographer a couple years ago at one of my cousin’s weddings and I really loved how clear and natural the photos looked. The videographer was at a different cousin’s wedding, and both were easy and fun to work with,” noted Morgan.

The couple chose St. Luke Church because of the connection Morgan’s family had to the church. Her paternal grandparents had been married there as well as some great-grandparents. In addition, it was close to home.

When the planning began, Morgan knew she wanted their wedding to be simple, elegant and timeless.

“I didn’t want to do anything that was over-the-top, the next fad or trend. I just wanted it to be a simple, elegant wedding,” she added.

After visiting several wedding stores with her mother at her side, Morgan picked a simple ivory dress with spaghetti straps and an elegant train from The Dress by Morgan Lynn in August 2022. Later, the couple returned to the Decorah store to select tuxedos. 

Going above and beyond, Morgan Lynn helped provide the groom’s father, Jeremy, who was in a wheelchair and unable to travel, with a sample tux to try on before the wedding, as well.

Decorations were supplied by Party Island and Party Rentals with Tammy, helping Morgan and her mother with examples of what worked together per Morgan’s vision. Morgan eventually developed a color palette that included dusty rose, mulberry and black.

“Do what you want and don’t be afraid to go against what others have done. Seek out your options, do what feels best for you, and try to DIY things if you have to,” said Morgan.

A special day

With the big day upon them, Andre anxiously dressed at the Festina Farm Guest House with the groomsmen and ushers. Alex Walz, Andre’s older brother, served as his best man with friend Riley Koehn and Morgan’s brothers Blake and Nathan as groomsmen. Ushers for the ceremony were Quinten Taylor, Morgan’s cousin, and Samuel Bahl, a friend of the couple.

The girls stayed at Knotty Pine Guest House. Getting ready all in one location, the girls’ hair was done by Alesha’s Salon and Butik and makeup was done by Renew Beauty and Wax Studio. 

Among the wedding party were maids of honor Madeline (Snyder) Bahl and Madison Homnick, both cousins of Morgan’s, along with Kennedy Balk a friend of the couple, and Ashley Walz, one of Andre’s sisters. Serving as flower girl and ring bearer were Maddie Bouska and Conner Bouska, friends of the couple. Personal attendants were Kathryn Moore, friend of the couple and Megan Rowe, cousin of the bride.

Knotty Pine was also where Andre and Morgan shared their first look and exchanged letters before the photos began.

“The first look was probably one of my favorite parts of the day because we had some time together alone. And then we finished the day alone with the photographer taking sunset photos near home. But it’s hard to pick just one favorite moment because having our family and friends together with us was so nice,” said Morgan.

For Andre, his favorite part of the day was the ceremony as he watched Morgan walked down the aisle on her father’s arm to become his wife.

Father Nick Radloff performed the afternoon ceremony with music provided by vocalists Ethan Adams and Katie Steege with pianist Annette Walter. Lector for the ceremony was Morgan’s cousin, Tanner Kuennen, with Brynlee Hayek as the server, another cousin of Morgan’s. Programs printed by Rapid Printers & Office World in New Hampton were presented by Brody and Brogan Hayek, cousins of the bride. Flowers were provided by Blooms on Main & Ossian Perk of Ossian, who had wrapped an old black rosary from Morgan’s paternal grandmother in her bouquet.

Following the ceremony, the couple and the wedding party climbed into a limousine from Red’s Limo Service. Before visiting a few local establishments and ending at the reception hall in Festina, the couple took the opportunity to take photos in front of their new home in St. Lucas, where they’d moved in just weeks before the wedding.

At the reception, the wedding party and newlyweds entered to cheers as they were introduced by Thoroughbred DJ Karaoke and Video Entertainment. Serving as hosts and hostesses at the reception were Steve and Diane Snyder, Loran and Joann Kuennen and Tim and Wendy Walz, aunts and uncles of the couple.

Guests enjoyed a chicken and brisket meal with baby red potatoes and macaroni salad prepared and served by U-2 BBQ and Catering of Calmar, along with a dessert table comprised of mini cheesecakes from Sam’s Club, mini cupcakes from Walmart and chocolate covered strawberries made by Root 43 Juicery. The couple shared a first bite of cake made by Morgan’s cousin, Courtney Kuennen.  

After a night of night of dancing, the couple concluded their special day with fireworks shot off from the Festina ball diamond.

“The fourth of July is a special time of year for us because it was when we met for the first time and. It was neat to make that connection and come full circle,” concluded Morgan.

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