While the world has shifted to staying at home and refraining from any big weekend plans, two Blugolds made their return to UW-Eau Claire’s campus to get married.
Jena Weiler, a 2013 communication sciences and disorders major, and Ryan Moertel, a 2012 business administration major were married April 18 in a ceremony south of Schofield Hall, near the spot where the two first met in the former W.R. Davies University Center.
The couple had originally planned their wedding celebrations for June at a small barn venue in northern Minnesota. As it became clear to them that it wasn’t going to be feasible for their 240 guests to safely celebrate their wedding day, they decided to tie the knot in a small ceremony conducted by Ryan’s law partner, Matt Krische (a 2006 management graduate), who is also a county court commissioner.
Ryan and Matt had already been in proximity, as the two of them continue to operate their law practice as an essential service. “It worked out well for this occasion to not create additional risk when it comes to the virus,” Ryan said. “Not everyone would have someone who can be an officiant who’s already in their quarantine bubble, so we are incredibly grateful for that.”
The couple's parents were present to witness the wedding from a distance. The Moertels donned Ryan’s Blugold football jerseys and watched from the southwest toward McIntyre Library. The Weilers watched from the southeast toward Phillips Hall, after tossing over Jena and Ryan’s rings that had been kept in their home safe until the wedding. Jena and Ryan were particularly thoughtful about everyone’s locations so that their two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who stayed in her stroller for the wedding, would not see or hear her grandparents and be frustrated to not be able to go to them.
Another Blugold alumnus, 2012 liberal studies graduate Gabe Stejskal, was also on hand with his telephoto lens to serve as the wedding photographer from a safe distance. Capturing a socially distant wedding was a first for Gabe, who works as a professional freelance wedding photographer in the greater Twin Cities area and Wisconsin.
Ryan and Jena met during Jena’s interview for a position as a UW-Eau Claire summer orientation assistant in June 2011. Ryan was a part of the interview team and recalls Jena talking about her experiences volunteering at a camp for children with special needs. “She got five out of five from me, and I definitely wanted to hire her right away,” he says. “We hit it off as soon as we started the training. I tried to start dating her before Orientation was over, but she was adamant that she wasn’t going to date anybody she was working with.”
When did the two finally start dating? The Saturday following the last day of orientation!
During fall 2011 Jena joined the Blugold Marching Band’s saxophone section, which paired nicely with Ryan’s spot as a tight end for the Blugold football team. Both also served as Campus Ambassadors during their time at UW-Eau Claire.
Following Ryan and Jena’s graduations, the couple was in a long-distance relationship while Ryan attended law school at UW-Madison and Jena pursued a graduate degree in speech-language pathology at UW-Stevens Point. Ryan returned to Eau Claire after law school to work for Michael Rajek (a 1971 history graduate), for whom he had interned while a student at UW-Eau Claire. In 2019 Ryan and Matt established their own legal practice, Krische and Moertel Trial Attorneys LLC.
When Jena graduated from her master’s program, she began a role as a speech-language pathologist with Marshfield Clinic. The couple welcomed their daughter Charlotte in May 2018.
Jena and Ryan hosted a Facebook Live video of their celebration to include their wedding party and family members in their socially distanced festivities. Jena and Ryan plan to host a celebration with their full guest list in 2021, on the last weekend day that their venue still had available next year.
UW-Eau Claire has academic advisor Kim Wellnitz to thank for learning of Jena and Ryan’s wedding on campus.
“She was going to RSVP to our original wedding date and sent me a Facebook message to ask about the plans,” Jena said. “When she asked me if our wedding was still on, I said ‘Nope, actually we’re going to get married on campus!’”
Kim shared the story of Jena and Ryan’s upcoming wedding with others on campus — a piece of good news amidst an unprecedented time of severely limited on-campus operations. Chancellor James Schmidt learned of Jena and Ryan’s plans the day prior to their ceremony and wrote a proclamation, declaring April 18, 2020, as Jena Weiler and Ryan Moertel Day on the UW-Eau Claire campus in honor of their passion for the university and their Blugold love story.
“Being a Blugold is where I found my family,” Jena said. “I found not only Ryan, but all of my best friends and my people. I made so many friends from BMB, my roommates, and all the different communities I was a part of.”
“Everything in my life right now that I consider to be really important to me, I can trace back to UW-Eau Claire,” Ryan said. “My family never would have happened without UW-Eau Claire.”