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High school sweethearts' sweet wedding at the Barn on South Ridge

Emily & Austin exchange "I do's" at rustic venue in La Crescent.
Sydney Stevens

High school sweethearts Emily Hilby and Austin Kilburg met as sophomores and their relationship grew while on the high school track team together in 2011. As Emily’s crush on Austin grew, she tempted him with brownies she brought on a team fishing trip, and he was hooked. Austin planned to propose three times, but each time, various obstacles prevented him; he finally had the chance in 2020 during a hike at Whitewater State Park. “I joke that I ‘blacked out,’ because I don’t remember exactly what was said, other than being deliriously happy and being sure that I said ‘Yes!’ at some point,” Emily says. On the big day, the bride wore an emerald necklace passed down from her grandparents, inspiring the color palette of deep green and white. Frequent travelers and adventure enthusiasts, Emily and Austin had guests sign a globe in lieu of a guest book; ceremony programs that looked like passports and luggage tags served as favors. Emily’s grandma was the flower girl, and the bride says her heart stopped when she saw her best friend awaiting her at the end of the aisle. Emily’s “something blue” — a heart-shaped piece of her dad’s old work jeans sewn into her gown — made his spirit a presence. A table was dedicated to photos of loved ones who had passed, who, Emily and Austin knew, were in heaven having a celebration of their own.

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