Houston couple have visited 16 countries in three-and-a-half years together.
By Henry V. Thiel
Tiffany Shay Turner says she met Kira Marie Bilecky at a friend’s painting class at the H.E.B. in Montrose, where they were both attempting to create their first masterpieces. Bilecki, meanwhile, says they met at a mutual friend’s birthday party.
But it doesn’t really matter who is right, because Bilecky was seeing someone at the time and Turner was on a sabbatical from dating. That meant they would just be friends for the next 11 months.
“Our first date was really not a first date—to Tiffany, at least,” says the 31-year-old Bilecky, who works as a logistics and customer-service manager at Shell. “She still calls it our ‘date non-date.’” Bilecky asked Turner if she wanted to grab dinner, and since they were already friends, she suggested hot dogs. As soon as she realized that hot dogs were not great first-date material, she threw in a concert featuring an acoustic duo at a local venue.
Bilecky describes the 37-year-old Turner, an HES manager at Chevron, as extremely kind and giving, with a vibrant, approachable glow. “That’s pretty opposite to my outwardly stern disposition—which lured Tiffany in quickly,” Bilecky jokes.
They continued to see each other until it dawned on Turner that Bilecky was asking her out more than a normal friend would. Even though Turner had to admit to herself that she was attracted to Bilecky and they were really connecting, her biggest question was how they would transition from friends to something more. Bilecky soon showed her by planning a real first date to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple where they attended an outdoor sunset meditation. But as soon as they settled in, the wind picked up and the sky turned from a warm orange to a threatening dark-blue. After they ran barefoot to the car, Bilecky opened the door for Turner and kissed her in the pouring rain. “It was a movie-worthy moment, and completely magical,” Turner says. “Kira doesn’t usually appear vulnerable in front of people, and this date focused on what she knew I’d love. It went nothing like she planned, and she rolled with it perfectly.”
Turner says she knew Bilecky was the one when she met her family and got to see her in her “natural habitat.”
“Kira lights up when she’s around her family, and I knew I wanted to be a part of who she calls family,” Turner says.
“I knew Tiffany was the one when I found out that she could keep up with my desire to travel, and my style of exploration traveling,” Bilecky says. “We’ve visited 16 countries in just three-and-a-half years.”
While attending an opening party for the renovated Buffalo Bayou Park, with the downtown Houston skyline in the background, Bilecky got down on one knee and asked Turner if she would marry her. Bilecky says her exact words are hard to recall because she was so nervous, but Turner’s response was memorable: “Are you f–ing serious?! . . . Yes!”
A few days later, Turner added another member to their family, Minnie, knowing that the canine “fur baby” would make a perfect prop for Turner’s own proposal to Bilecky a few months later, with Christmas lights as a backdrop.
Bilecky and Turner decided to wed at the Bell Tower on 34th Street in Houston, which is close to their home and convenient for family and friends coming from all over the world. They wanted a venue with both indoor and outdoor elements, in case the weather didn’t cooperate. The Bell Tower has a beautiful wine-cellar-inspired ballroom and is connected to a stone courtyard featuring trees adorned with twinkling lights. They tied the knot in October 2016, with Bilecky’s brother, Raul, as the officiant.
Turner had planned to sit out the traditional father/daughter dances because her dad was not a part of her life growing up. When Bilecky’s father found this out, he asked Turner if he could dance with both brides. After Bilecky joined her dad for the dance (where he whispered in her ear that she couldn’t have chosen a better spouse), he opened his arms wide and invited Turner to join them. “The image of him, with his arms opened wide and a smile on his face, is exactly what it is supposed to feel like to dance with your dad on your wedding day,” Turner says.
After the wedding, the couple realized they had not said the words “I do” because they had crafted an original script and kept the ceremony simple. Wine is one of their shared passions, so they chose to have a wine ceremony with Gibran’s quote to guide them: “Love one another, but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from one cup.”
Part of the ceremony required them to pour red wine into each other’s glasses, which was a nail-biter since they did it while wearing white wedding gowns. Thankfully the gowns came through unscathed.
They also broke with tradition by having both of Bilecky’s parents give her away, while Turner’s sister gave her away. They decided to forgo bridesmaids in favor of asking family members to form the bridal party. All three wedding speeches—one from each of the brides, and one from a former roommate—included references to the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson, even though Bilecky has still never seen an episode of the show.
The couple honeymooned in South Africa and Mozambique, where they fell in love with penguins and South African wines. They currently reside in the Heights, and are awaiting a visit from the stork.
This article appears in the January 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.