Student Voice


December 4, 2023



Making love, education coincide

March 23, 2007

In addition to writing term papers, studying for exams and preparing for a career, some students are adding another element to their rigorous college life: planning a wedding.

This year, July 7 (07/07/07), which is being considered the luckiest day of the millennium, just happens to fall on a Saturday.

Many couples, including actress Eva Longoria and her fiancé, professional basketball player Tony Parker, are preparing to walk down the aisle that day. UW-River Falls seniors Justine Benzen and Bryan Ryba have also secured the date for their wedding.

Planning a wedding and careers

Engaged since March 10, 2006, seniors Justine Benzen and Bryan Ryba, who met at UWRF in 2005, will tie the knot July 7, less than two months after receiving their diplomas. This means the couple has been planning the wedding while attending classes and they will also begin searching and applying for jobs soon, which can be a lot to handle all at once.

“I think the overall planning hasn’t been super stressful,” Benzen said.

The future bride also said that future employment and living arrangements have garnered the most stress for the couple.

“[The] most conflicting part of getting married after graduation is trying to find jobs relatively close in location to each other and trying to find a place to live that we can afford.”

This semester, Ryba is student-teaching in preparation for his career.

“Because Bryan is a math education major, he will be certified to teach in Wisconsin, which is what he wants to do. It would only take him a test to be certified in Minnesota, but because he’s from Wisconsin, he would like to stay in Wisconsin.”

Benzen is from Minnesota and said she would prefer to live near the Twin Cities after she graduates. “[I] feel my job will be located in the metro area, which if I live in Wisconsin, don’t want to be driving 40 minutes to work every day,” she said.

Seniors Leianna Rude and Jon Hellinga will also be getting married this summer.

The couple, who have selected June 16 for their nuptials, will be graduating from UWRF on May 12.

Unlike Benzen, Rude said her experience planning a wedding while attending college has been very stressful.

“It’s very hard,” Rude said, adding that having her friends as bridesmaids and roommates makes some things easier on her.

Rude also said she goes home every weekend to plan wedding-related matters with her mother.

Participation in planning

Most future brides tend to take a more active role in wedding plans than their significant others.

Rude is no exception.

“I let her take control,” Hellinga said, commenting on his involvement in the wedding planning.

Rude said her fiancé is only responsible for getting his groomsmen fitted for tuxes and she does the rest with help from family and her bridesmaids.

Benzen and Ryba have taken a different approach.

“Justine and I have split the wedding plans 50/50,” Ryba said.

Benzen said Ryba has taken an active role in getting the ball rolling on several aspects of their upcoming marriage.

“He did all of the calling around for the DJ, contacted the pastor to start our pre-marital counseling, asked all his attendants to be in the wedding and paid for the [Hawaiian] honeymoon,” she said.

Benzen said she and Ryba collaborate before making any final decisions about their impending wedding.

“We do everything together - except bridesmaids’ dresses and color,” she said. “We also ask for the other’s opinion before we make a decision.”

Scheduling around school

Benzen said she has tried to coordinate planning her wedding so that it doesn’t interfere with her academic studies.

“We planned a lot of our wedding over the summer and finished most of it during winter break,” Benzen said. “If we need to plan more, we usually do it on the weekends, so it doesn’t cut into our school schedule.”

Rude, on the other hand, has been planning throughout the 2006-07 academic year and has also had to deal with two bridesmaids living outside the United States this semester.

She said the most stressful time for her was during finals week in December.

Tests, planning and the departure of two of her bridesmaids to Australia combined to add extra stress.

Rude said it has been a trying task to keep up with all of her studies while preparing for her walk down the aisle.

“It’s hard to give up schoolwork because it’s really important,” Rude said.

While in the midst of earning his teaching degree, Ryba said it has been difficult to find time for everything.

“ ... It has added extra stress and pressure, especially trying to manage time for wedding planning and write lesson plans for my student-teaching.”

Ryba is also a member of the Army, which adds another level of pressure to planning a wedding.

“With being in the military, I never know what might happen and it can be a lot of work sometimes,” he said. “It is like Justine and I are planning two weddings sometimes because of trying to plan possible backup plans.”

Ryba shares an apartment in River Falls with Benzen, which he said is advantageous when it comes to planning their upcoming nuptials.

“ ... We can talk about and work on the wedding plans whenever we want,” he said.

Managing marriage and college

Senior Kelly Hartvig knows exactly what Ryba and Benzen and Rude and Hellinga are going through. In June, she married her high school sweetheart, Andy.

“It was stressful,” Hartvig said. “But when is planning a wedding not stressful?”

Hartvig said she relied a great deal on family to get all the wedding plans completed.

Taking on the role as a wife, Hartvig said her life has changed considerably.

“There’s a lot more responsibility,” she said, adding that dinner plans don’t always go as planned with the couple’s busy schedules.

Hartvig also said marriage has an impact on her social life, though it isn’t necessarily negative.

“I don’t go out a ton,” she said. “I’d prefer to be at home with [my husband].”

Hartvig said her husband recently started a new job, so he’s gone five or six days a week. Being a 2006 graduate of UWRF, Hartvig said Andy can relate to his wife’s hectic schedule.

“He doesn’t have to do it anymore,” she said. “But he knows what it’s like.”

Hartvig said certain aspects of college classes make it more difficult to live the life of a normal married couple.

“Anytime I have a project or test, it’s harder and more stressful,” she said.

Allotting enough time for schoolwork to get done is also something Hartvig strives to accomplish in order to spend time with her husband.

“I plan to have stuff done so I don’t have to choose between [my homework and my husband],” she said.

Hartvig said having a serious commitment such as marriage, along with the added responsibility, has had an impact on her studies.

“I think it made me a more serious student,” Hartvig said.

Last-minute preparations

With her wedding date quickly approaching, Rude said last minute preparations are taking a toll on her nerves.

“Invitations are crazy,” Rude said. “Getting addresses from people is hell.”

Rude said one of the most stressful wedding issues she is facing is the reception hall, which her and Hellinga have yet to see. The hall is undergoing remodeling and the couple was told the construction would be completed by the first of February, but has yet to be completed.

Rude said one reason she worries about the hall is because family members and friends attending the wedding were given contact information for the locale and no one is around to answer the calls due to the remodeling project.

“We have a lot of people that need places to stay,” she said, acknowledging that she is nervous about whether the venue will be done on time.

Rude said she worries whether everything will turn out as planned, while Hellinga maintains his composure.

“He stays calm,” Rude said of her fiancé’s lack of qualms during the wedding planning process. “I worry for the both of us.”