Text by Melanie Saxton | Photos by Candace Byers Photography
Not many junior high crushes lead to the altar, but Jennifer Ruth Benefield and Troy Anthony Kisner can claim this unique distinction! Their road to forever began with a crush that blossomed during seventh and eighth grade Spanish classes and continued at Clements High School and The University of Texas in Austin. Ultimately, the couple tied the knot in a spectacular wedding at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston, followed by a festive reception at Garten Verein on October 18, 2014.
Jenni comes from a family of educators and coaches. Her mother, Mindy Benefield (now retired), was the women’s athletic coordinator and department head for 38 years at Dulles High School, also coaching volleyball and gymnastics. Her father, Sonny Benefield, is in the A&M Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Fame. For 42 years he has coached and been an administrator for many school districts, and was an assistant coach for Rice University 1985-1988. He coached basketball and was an assistant principal at Lamar Consolidated High School from 1994-2005. He currently coaches girls basketball at Galveston Ball High School.
Jenni attended her mother’s alma mater and was the Zeta Tau Alpha president in 2007, majoring in elementary education. After graduating with highest honors she taught at Creech Elementary for five years in Katy. During summers she worked for Sugar Land Realtor Terri Kurkjian, and in 2013 became Kurkjian’s full-time assistant. She also volunteers at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
Troy’s family has lived in Sugar Land since the early 1980s. His parents, Mark and Judy Kisner, recently celebrated a 37th wedding anniversary. They grew up in Hays, Kansas and are both alumni of Kansas State University. His mother is a hair stylist who owned her own studio before retiring in 2008. His father is an engineer who has run a variety of businesses over the past 35 years.
Troy followed a similar career path by majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in business, and was a member of Delta Tau Delta. He graduated with high honors and has worked in oil and gas for the past eight years as an engineer in multiple basins in the U.S. and West Africa. He currently works at Hess in Houston overseeing wells in North Dakota.
Troy caught Jenni’s eye because he was tall. She told a mutual friend in Troy’s junior high Spanish class that she thought Troy was cute, and the friend told him. The next day by the school lockers, Troy asked Jenni to be his girlfriend. They broke up two days later and were forced to stand by each other outside during a Popsicle fire drill.
Then Troy accidentally called Jennie on her mom’s phone line, which doubled as an Internet dial-up. This disconnected Jenni from AOL instant messenger (very annoying) and she answered, “Who is this?” Troy answered, “This is Troy.” Jenni replied, “No it’s not!” assuming she was being pranked by the mutual friend who introduced them. Troy hung up and was scared to ever call back!
Jenni logged back on AOL to scold their mutual friend, then realized it might have actually been Troy who called. She logged off the Internet and pressed *67 to dial the number back. The family’s Spanish-speaking housekeeper answered and told Jenni that he had just left for the country club. Jenni thought she was Troy’s mom!
After that confusion, they started hanging out with friends in the neighborhood and at the country club that summer. They officially became boyfriend and girlfriend again and have been in each other’s lives ever since.
Jenni and Troy are blessed to have two sets of loving and supportive families. The couple especially cherished time spent with Jenni’s older sister, Melinda Finch Rao, who is married to Jonathan Rao. Jenni also has a precious niece, Alicia Rao. Troy has an older brother, Travis Kisner, and two younger sisters, Heather Kisner Hayes and Summer Kisner.
The couple attended countless UT football games and tailgating events. A mutual love of the outdoors had them frequenting the beach and Troy’s parent’s lake house in Conroe. The couple also loved traveling on numerous skiing escapades to Colorado and visiting many states in the U.S. with several trips abroad.
Jenni is nearly impossible to surprise, but was caught off guard by Troy’s unique proposal. Both sides of the family were in on the scheme. It helped that she and Troy had begun preparing for their wedding before officially becoming engaged.
They were “supposed” to meet with a caterer in Galveston, and took separate vehicles because Troy was driving from downtown Houston after work. Jenni drove from Sugar Land with her mom, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Everyone arrived several hours early so they could look at some beach houses as potential places to stage wedding photography. Of course, that was part of the ruse.
Troy called Jenni and told her to come look at a specific beach house. As they pulled up, Jenni wondered why he was in beach clothes. Then she saw the Tiki torches with rose petals. She had gotten her hair done previously that day and was still in the big white college t-shirt she wore to her hair appointment. She began walking towards him, but quickly turned around to go change her shirt. Her family wouldn’t let her though, so she kept walking. After he proposed, Jenni saw his family running towards them, jumping and screaming. Jenni’s dad had also arrived, and Troy’s sister Summer joined them on Facetime.
They celebrated with champagne, took pictures and headed towards Benno’s for dinner. The newly engaged couple loved sharing this special afternoon.
Troy and his brother bought a townhouse in Midtown in 2007. This would eventually become his and Jenni’s home after their wedding, but it needed to be transformed from bachelor pad to a home for newlyweds. Much of their engagement was spent painting and adding wood floors and iron railings.
On the Thursday before the wedding they enjoyed a hog roast on the beach. Their rehearsal dinner was held at Olympia Grill.
The bride planned a classic wedding themed in simple, neutral elegance. Both her choice of church and reception venues have historic significance in Galveston. The city also has personal meaning to the bride and her family. The bride’s grandparents, the late Andy and Alicia Stirton, had renewed their vows at Sacred Heart. In fact, her grandparents were active in the community and helped bring the Flight Museum to Galveston. Her grandfather was the first non-BOI (Born on Island) King Frivolous of Mardi Gras, and he and her grandmother were both members of the Krewe of Momus. Her grandmother served as Mistress of the Robes and was in charge of the ball gowns for the Duchesses. The bride and her sister were both Duchesses (at the age of 21) for Mardi Gras.
Jenni’s grandmother was also good friends with George Mitchell, and the bride stayed in his old apartment suite at the Tremont Hotel before the wedding.
Attire: The Mikaella by Paloma Blanca gown was a tulle fit and flare with a cross-over ruched, tunic bodice and a small sweeping train. Her lace-edged fingertip veil by Erica Koefler doubled as her “something borrowed,” courtesy of her sister. She wore Ralph Lauren silver strappy sandals with embellished crystals. One blue crystal symbolized her “something blue” and a bridesmaid loaned her a “something borrowed” sixpence that was taped to her shoe. Troy gave her a handkerchief with a special message, as well as David Yurman pearl and diamond earrings (her “something new”) and second wedding band to wear during the ceremony. Bridesmaids wore full-length dresses from Bill Levkoff in Petal Pink.
The groom looked handsome in a black formal tuxedo with white vest, white shirt, and white bow tie. He also wore David Yurman black jewelry (previously purchased by the bride as a birthday gift), a handkerchief with a special message, and Submariner watch as a wedding gift. A few of his groomsmen also attended UT and were in each other’s weddings. They decided to buy tuxedos back in 2011, and this was the fourth wedding where they have collectively worn them. The rest of the group rented a similar black tuxedo with black vests and bow ties.
Bridal Party: Father Michael Grey, a family friend of the bride’s great-aunt, officiated. Melinda Rao served as matron of honor. Heather Hayes, Summer Kisner, Lauren Burgess, Kelly Bronson, Barrie Kay Lee, Whitney Loxterkamp, Taylor Terrell, Nicole Jabsen, Alicia Reis, Jennifer Tully, Shelly Watson, Kelli Strickland, and Janie Richards served as bridesmaids. Niece Alicia Rao served as flower girl along with daughters of bridesmaids Ellie Watson, Kinley Watson and Riley Terrell.
Travis Kisner served as best man. Ross Hayes, Jonathan Rao, Matt Cohen, Roddy Castells, Wes Zurovec, Jesse Chando, and James Pocza served as groomsmen.
Décor: The bride’s bouquet included over 30 white “David Austin” garden roses, porcelino roses, Sahara roses and champagne roses. Bridesmaids carried nosegays with white hydrangeas, porcelino roses and champagne stock, and cream mojolika roses. Clusters of white and champagne-peach stock gathered with champagne ribbon were suspended in the church with cream satin wide sashes.
Top Wedding Moments: The bride remembers feeling both anxious and excited during her walk down the aisle, which was full of smiles. Family members carried single stem roses during the procession to honor the memory of grandparents who had passed away.
The Garten Verein, a German establishment and part of Galveston’s Historical Foundation, was meaningful to the groom’s family and their heritage.
Floral and Décor: A light nod to “the beach” was evident in the seashell place holders. Champagne Capri Dupioni linens covered tabletops. In total, the couple utilized over 600 roses. Arrangements included white hydrangeas, Sahara roses, vendela roses, peach stock, and touches of branching. Bubble bowls were stuffed with white hydrangeas, champagne stock and vendela roses. Bride and groom bridal wreaths were comprised of cream vendela roses, white stock, peach stock with touches of white wax and spray porcelina roses.
Wedding Cake: Four round tiers of white ivory cake included white almond with raspberry filling and Italian cream with Bavarian cream filling. More than 35 clusters of porcelino roses, cream stock, champagne stock cascaded down the topper and sides.
Instead of a traditional groom’s cake, the couple served Benno’s bread pudding. In fact, the owner of Benno’s was also a good friend of Jenni’s grandmother and catered the reception.
Top Reception Moments: The band, Commercial Art, played as the bride and groom danced to “My Best Friend” by Tim McGraw. It became “their song” when they first started dating. They took two dance classes but realized the wedding dress would prevent dance moves, and instead opted to dance very slowly.
The bride’s father had always called her his “baby girl,” and they danced to “I’ll Always Be Your Baby” by Natalie Grant. The groom and his mother danced to “You’ll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins.
Everyone enjoyed the German Wedding March and favors which included cake balls at each table, personalized koozies, and water bottles.
Party buses took everyone to and from hotels, beach houses, church, and the reception.
During a wonderful 21-day trip to Europe, the couple went on sightseeing excursions in London, Paris, Venice, Positano, Rome, Murren, Interlaken, and Frankfurt.
MEMORABLE WEDDINGS Jenni & Troy
Category: Memorable Weddings