Friday, November 17, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Wedding song with a beat he can dance to

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TAMPA

The white tea-length dress swayed as Britney Benbow arched her back to get the notes out.

"It's very seldom that you're blessed to find your equal/Still play my part and let you take the lead role," she sang.

As she belted the words to Beyonce's Upgrade U, her groom, Jerry Clerveaux, danced around her, keeping the energy up for all their guests at the Pebble Creek Golf Club.

The karaoke performance was a surprise — not even close family knew what would happen when the newly married couple strode into the reception hall.

"We were practicing in our living room up until family members started to come into town," Jerry said.

The payoff: 110 shocked faces as the couple gave the performance of their lives.

"Everyone was so surprised," said Britney, 27, a second-grade teacher at Gibsonton Elementary.

The song had meaning for the couple. They first performed it at an Applebee's karaoke night in 2010, and it was the start of something special.

"I think that's the first time she started to like me," said Jerry, 27, an associate branch manager at MidFlorida Credit Union. "She saw another side of me."

Up until then, he was too shy and reserved, Britney said.

"He loosened up," she laughed.

It was a mutual friend who encouraged Jerry to reach out to Britney when his job at MidFlorida took him from Miami to Lakeland. The Houston native didn't know anyone in his new town, so he began texting and calling Britney.

They made dates to work out together, and Jerry would drive from Lakeland to Tampa to exercise with his new friend.

"How could she not think I liked her? I wasn't driving 45 minutes just to work out," he said.

Sometime after their fated performance at Applebee's, Britney used another song, Alicia Keyes' Unthinkable, to ask Jerry his feelings on a relationship.

"She texted me 'I'm ready,' " he said. So was he.

Britney brought Jerry all the way into her life — including her church, Allen Temple AME in Ybor City. "When he joined the church I knew that he was committed," she said.

Jerry's job transferred him to Town 'N Country and cut the distance for the budding couple.

After months of ring shopping, Jerry decided he'd found the one and bought it Nov. 13, 2011. His intention was to wait a few days and plan the event. He called his mother, brother and friends and told them about the ring. By the time he got home, he was too excited to wait. So he walked back out to his car and called Britney's mother, Kay Benbow, to ask for her blessing.

With the go-ahead, he walked into the house to find Britney eating Popeye's chicken and watching television in the living room.

He walked past her toward the kitchen, then suddenly spun around, slid across the floor and knelt in front of her.

"She didn't believe it until she saw the ring and she spit some chicken out," Jerry laughed.

Britney had been fooled before.

"For months he would be around the house and I would be washing dishes or doing something else and he would get down on one knee in front of me and then get back up," Britney said.

But when he finally presented her with the ring, the answer was yes.

The couple set about planning their wedding at Allen Temple, with the reception at Pebble Creek Golf Club, for July 28.

On June 4, Britney's mother died suddenly of a severe blood clot at age 61.

Kay Benbow, a veteran teacher in Miami, was honored at the wedding with a memorial table filled with pictures and flowers.

"I just kept thinking 'My mom wants me to marry Jerry,' " Britney said. "Now, I've gained a husband that will take the place of my mother and be there for me."

And she'll do her best to return the favor, just as she sang on their wedding day:

I'll be the help whenever you need me.

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