From dance partners to life partners: Couple brought together by ‘Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring’ benefit weds

Johnston Sun Rise ·

The Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership (RIMP) is known for bringing children and mentors together to form lasting relationships, but no one could have guessed their annual fundraiser would spark a completely different kind of union - the marriage of Briana Faiola and Ryan Crowley.

“If you had told me I would meet the love of my life through ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ I would have never believed you,” Briana said. “But this was meant to be. We were matched up on purpose.”

The newlyweds first met one another through the non-profit’s annual fundraiser, “Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring,” which partners community leaders with professional dancers from The Dancing Feeling for months of training before a public performance competition.

Briana, 29, had taken different dance classes growing up. While in college, she joined Rhode Island College’s ballroom dancing club, which was run by the owners of The Dancing Feeling, Kathy St. Jean and Randy Deats. Briana enjoyed it so much that she ended up training to become a teacher herself and currently teaches at the studio part time.

With only so many women on staff, Briana was asked to join the “Dancing with the Stars” team in 2011. Even though it is a competition, she said the excitement and camaraderie built between partners and the other dancers make the show worth it.

Ryan had started attending the show as a guest with his mother and her friends and became captivated. It wasn’t until 2010, after he was hired as a communications associate for Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, that he would have the proper platform to not only dance but also raise money for RIMP. He began throwing his name in as a contestant, and when he was finally asked to participate in 2012, he immediately said yes.

“I like to dance, but I am no good at it,” he said. “I’ll always be the first on the dance floor, though.”

Before the couple’s first practice, Briana’s boss kept building up that she was getting to work with a “cute, young guy who works in the governor’s office,” but Ryan unexpectedly walked in with sweatpants rather than a suit.

For Briana, things were all business. She intended to keep a professional student-teacher relationship straight through the performance, where the two danced to “Party Rock.”

Ryan knew about his feelings for Briana before the performance. It clicked for him after a practice session in which they never got to dance because they had ended up talking the entire time.

Ryan decided to ask Briana to a “thank you” dinner after the performance.

“I had a plan,” he said. “If things didn’t go well, I had a coupon, but if they did go well, I wouldn’t [use it] so I didn’t seem cheap. I never used the coupon.”

The couple began spending more time together until all of their limited free time was spent together.

“When the how was over and I found myself still wanting to hang out with him, that’s when it hit me that there might be something there,” Briana said. “I never expected to fall in love with one of the stars I danced with.”

Both fans of Jason Derulo, the artist’s “It Girl” became the couple’s song. In May 2015, the two had plans to see the singer in concert, but unbeknownst to Briana, Ryan intended to propose that night.

“You would have thought he was a kid on Christmas morning and I had no idea why he was so excited,” Briana said.

A surprise voicemail told the couple that as contestant winners their seats had been upgraded and they were given backstage passes. Briana, oblivious, thought of what luck they must have had, not knowing Ryan had orchestrated the night’s events months in advance.

The couple was invited out onto the stage under the guise of being introduced as the show’s contestant winners, but then, in front of thousands of people, they asked if Ryan had anything to say. He replied that he wanted to ask Briana to be his “it girl,” and he got down on one knee and presented the ring as Derulo’s song began to play. They were the lead in to Derulo’s performance, and Briana of course said yes.

“I felt so special, it was perfect,” she said.

“It was incredible. All I did was send an email to a radio producer,” Ryan said. “We were working out details even just a few days before. If it didn’t work out, I had a plan B and C or just waiting forever, but they were all so happy to be part of our moment. I wanted it to be everything and more for her.”

The couple was married on July 9 of this year at St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown and held their reception at Easton’s Beach Ballroom, which very appropriately was “one big dance party.”

On the day of, although the couple did not see each other previously, they did exchange gifts. A longstanding joke between the couple is that they did not win a trophy the year they competed with one another, so Briana got him a dancing trophy for their wedding.

For their first dance, not only did the couple dance to “It Girl,” they also re-enacted the dance that brought them together at “Dancing with the Stars.”

“No one knew we were going to do that so the crowd went wild,” Briana said.

The newlyweds also invited numerous members from RIMP and The Dancing Feeling that helped bring them together.

Jo-Ann Schofield, president and CEO of RIMP, said that although the organization’s members consider themselves “relationship specialists,” they could never have anticipated the love that would be fostered between Briana and Ryan during their annual fundraiser.

“You can imagine our delight when we learned that the dance partners we brought together would become life partners,” she said. “The love and joy were palpable. Such a fun wedding!”

Not only did Briana and Ryan invite members from RIMP, but to give back to the organization that brought them together, in lieu of favors at their wedding, the couple decided to donate $500 to the Mentoring Partnership to continue helping the non-profit match children in need with mentors.

“They all helped to bring us together, and we wanted to recognize them for that and all the good they do for the community,” Briana said.

Schofield said the organization was grateful for the generosity of the newlyweds and their continued commitment to the partnership, knowing the difference a mentor can make in the lives of children.

“Kids need positive influences, a role model, a shoulder to lean on, and someone to learn from,” Ryan said. “This does so much that goes unnoticed. It really lifts our entire group community up.”