Couple celebrates wedding surrounded by Blugold family

| Judy Berthiaume

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Ryan Shaefer and Heidi Hietpas

Heidi Hietpas and Ryan Schaefer’s many family members gathered with them last summer to celebrate their wedding, adding even more love to an already joyful day.

But having 60-plus members of their beloved Blugold family at their August celebration was the icing on the cake for the college sweethearts who now are newlyweds.

“We’re very proud to have attended UWEC, and very much enjoyed our time there,” Ryan says. “It means a lot to us that we have so many great friends and family who also attended UWEC.”

Heidi and Ryan were students at UW-Eau Claire when they met through a mutual friend who was involved in UW-Eau Claire’s intramural sports program.

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Ryan Schaefer and Heidi Hietpas are proud Blugold alumni.

Ryan played in many campus softball and volleyball leagues, and Heidi was a frequent fan and fill-in sub for some of those intramural teams.

After their mutual friend introduced them, the rest, as they say, is history.

“We have so many great memories from UW-Eau Claire,” Heidi says of their time on campus. “Some that come to mind are floating down the river with friends, going to Big Falls, Water Street festivities and intramural sports. We also returned to UWEC after graduation to visit friends and family while they were still attending.”

Heidi graduated with a degree in biology in 2012, and Ryan earned a degree in elementary education in 2011.

After they graduated from UW-Eau Claire, Heidi continued her education, earning an associate degree in nursing. She now works as a registered nurse at St. Clare’s Hospital and Marshfield Clinic in Wausau.

Ryan is a sixth-grade math teacher at John Muir Middle School in Wausau.

While they moved away from Eau Claire after they graduated, both Ryan and Heidi have continued to nurture the many friendships they made during their college years.

“It’s always great to be able to converse and reminisce on our experiences and stories from our time at Eau Claire,” Ryan says of their large circle of Blugold friends. “It’s amazing to see how proud everyone is to have attended such a great university.”

As they made their wedding plans, the couple knew that there would be many Blugolds on the guest list.

After all, Ryan’s father, Jamie Schaefer, is a 1986 graduate of UW-Eau Claire. His brother, Tyler, earned a degree in 2013, and his brother, Dustin, graduated in May.

Many of Heidi’s aunts, uncles and cousins also are Blugolds.

“We knew there were going to be many Blugolds at the wedding given our family connections, and we both have stayed close to many of our friends we met while attending UWEC,” Heidi says. “But we weren’t sure on the total number of Blugolds at our wedding until we started planning out a Blugold picture.”

It turns out the 60-plus Blugolds at their celebration made up nearly a quarter of their wedding guest list, Ryan says, noting that 12 members of their wedding party are Blugolds.

Given their love for their alma mater and the large number of Blugolds at the wedding, the couple decided to add a Blugold photo to the list of their must-have family wedding photos.

“We’re so grateful to have met each other and to have formed so many lasting friendships at Eau Claire,” Ryan says. “Our years at UWEC are definitely some of the best years of our lives and we wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Top photo caption: Having 60-plus members of their Blugold family at their August 2016 celebration was the icing on the cake for UW-Eau Claire alumni Heidi Hietpas and Ryan Schaefer.