Behind The Glass, Absentee Affidavits, Unsworn Declarations & What To Wear To Your Prison Wedding…

No one is “comfortable about marrying with an inmate behind the glass.” Many of my clients never planned to marry in a Prison and much less to be separated by the glass.

On one rare occasion, I had a client nearly vomit due to her surprise and shock to see her future husband on the other side of the glass smiling at her. Walking into a visitation area at a Prison to marry is dramatically different from walking down an aisle. 

The glass was not only unexpected to my client but also me as she was unaware of his status being “upgraded” due to an infraction. Walking in to find her fiancée behind glass literally took her breath away. Thankfully, I was right beside her to steady her the last few feet leading up to the glass. 

Infractions can and do change an inmates status. At any point during the Prison wedding planning process, a change in the inmates status can prevent the inmate from being “on the other side of the glass” aka standing beside my client and I. 

I spent several minutes trying to calm my client who had driven from Houston to Tennessee Colony before proceeding with her wedding ceremony. She was facing a long and lonely drive home and I wanted to comfort her as much as possible. Frankly, I wished she had brought someone with her to have a ride a long. Many of my client choose to bring friends or family with them and although no visitors are allowed inside the Unit, these guests are happy to wait on my client and I. 

During the Prison wedding planning process, I become every Clients mother guiding them and directing them through the process whether they are male or female. 

One of my Gatesville clients still calls me “Mama Wendy” and is planning his vow revewal with my team next year. 

The intimacy of my Prison clients by far exceeds any amount of time spent with traditional clients. Why? Because from what to wear to what they can say or do, these unique clients rely heavily on me to get them through a confusing and time consuming process. 

I would never ask a traditional client to send me a photo of what they plan to wear. For a Prison wedding though, this is a standard question. 

Glass can be upsetting at a ceremony when it isn’t expected. The majority of my clients wait months for their wedding to be scheduled. 

Posing for a photo with glass separating my client and I from the inmate at the Unit, finding creative ways to pose was a bit of a hurdle.

At TDCJ Ferguson Unit, Nikia wasn’t at all uncomfortable with the glass. Instead, I was. Why? It was my very first time to encounter glass separating my client from the inmate. 

The photo below was taken by a guard and Nikia loved the way the glass “merged” their faces. It would be my first encounter with the glass but, it wouldn’t be my last as a Prison Wedding Officiant. 

The status of an inmate cannot be changed. If the inmate is a G4 or G5, a lifer or on death row, he or she will be behind the glass. Neither you or I can change that. We must accept that there will be glass separating you and I from the inmate and effectively move on. 

There are a number of creative ways to address your Unit photos with the inmate behind the glass and I encourage you to do whatever will make you more comfortable when posing for your Unit wedding photo if  (of course) photos of your wedding ceremony are offered at the Unit. 

Some of the most memorable prison photos were taken by Andrew Lichtenstein. These photos show families visiting inmates and give a “different glimpse” of the domestic aspects of Prisons. How so? By giving a glimpse of the children, spouses, grandparents and parents of inmates visiting them. 

Photos taken by Mr. Lichtenstein “on the other side of the glass” also feature children who may or may not understand why their parent is in prison. 

To view the gallery of “life in prison” by Mr. Lichtenstein, click this link– Andrew Lichtenstein Life In Prison.

Before my readers “zip off an email” regarding Danny Lyon’s photos taken in Texas Prisons during the 60’s and featured in Conversations With The Dead, I’m well aware of the book and in fact, I’ve read the book, Conversations With The Dead  published in 1971. It is a very emotional and heartbreaking read for anyone unfamiliar with the life of an inmate. 

Danny Lyon has long been considered one of the most original and influential documentary photographers and has produced numerous highly collectible photobooks, mounted solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, and won two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and ten National Endowment for the Arts awards. Lyon divides his time between New York State and New Mexico. 

Other Danny Lyon photography books published by Phaidon include Danny Lyon: Memories of Myself (2009), Deep Sea Diver: An American Photographer’s Journey in Shanxi, China (2011), and The Seventh Dog (2014).

In an effort to educate those who may be unaware of Danny Lyon or the access that he was given by Dr George Beto to photograph Texas inmates, I will add include the link to Magnum Photography featuring photos from Conversations With The Dead and a warning that a few of Danny’s Prison photos are graphic and might be disturbing– Conversations With The Dead. Photography By Danny Lyon 1967-1968. 

Between 1967 and 1968, Danny Lyon spent 14 months photographing inside six Texas prisons. He had already made his name with his sustained reportage from the frontline of the black civil rights struggle in the southern US states, but shooting inside high-security penitentiaries in Texas, where some of the inmates were facing the death sentence, was an altogether more soul-sapping experience. He would later describe it as heartbreaking.

The resulting book, Conversations With the Dead, was published in 1971 and immediately hailed as a classic of insider reportage. 

Times have changed since the 60’s and 70’s as photographers and/or reporters are no longer given the access that Danny was. 

Today, Unit photos are offered for sale at $3 each in quarters and occasionally given to visitors. Wedding photos at Sanders Estes Unit are emailed to myself and my client at no cost. Private Units do not offer photos at all and often Unit photos are grainy and out of focus. Guards are not professional photographers. 

Prison Unit photos are often sent to inmates from loved ones who purchased them during their visit. Other Unit photos are often framed and kept in the homes of loved ones to remember their visit to a Unit while still others are put on refrigerator doors as a constant reminder of someone who may or may not ever be coming home. 
Being married to an inmate who will never be granted parole is a difficult and serious decision. You will always be pulling the wagon alone. I discuss the aspects of marrying a “lifer” on a regular basis with clients. 

How successful are my discussions? Hit and miss. Very few clients have changed their mind about marrying someone serving a life sentence. Why? Because they had given their choice to marry months and occasionally years of thought. Their commitment and sacrifice astounds me. It also astounds most other people. 

Being a Prison Wife or Husband can be a lonely and expensive lifestyle. Your weekends are spent driving to a Unit and going through a search while waiting to see your loved one. Your holidays are spent alone. You jump to answer the next expensive phone call and you dedicate your life to the inmate. My clients give up far more than the inmate. They sacrifice on a regular basis to make their relationship work. 

My clients are usually standing beside me at a Prison wedding unless the inmate is classified at a rank that prevents contact. The client and inmate are allowed to hold hands, hug (no inappropriate contact), and seal their marriage with a kiss (no open mouths). 

My clients are advised to “keep it classy” by me long before their wedding ceremony. After all, we are in a prison and as such, I expect my clients to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner pertaining to the visitation code as well as the Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate wedding ceremonies. I.E. We follow the rules. 

I completed a follow up interview with Kate, a journalist following the story of Luther and Mary a few days ago. If you missed my interview with Mary before her wedding to Luther, here’s the link– Wendy Wortham Interview With Mary Martin Wichita Falls, Texas.

Luther and Mary will never hold hands at a visit, hug or even a few months ago, seal their marriage with a kiss. I admitted that this struck me as somewhat sad to Kate because it did. 

Mary’s photos and interview with me feature a woman thrilled to be marrying an inmate serving a life sentence. Anyone looking at my joyous bride would have no idea that her life would always be spent visiting Luther “on the other side of the glass.” Mary wearing my clothing or tiaras and holding one of my bouquets in photos taken by my niece, Leigh Ann “looks like any other happy bride.” The difference in Mary’s marriage versus my traditional clients isn’t lost on me. There won’t be a honeymoon. There won’t be dinners together at home discussing the workday. Their won’t be the normality or predictability that most married couples share. My clients accept the lopsided aspects of being married to an inmate. 

The glass is heavy and often dirty. Occasionally, there are also cracks where an inmate struck the glass. The cracks bother me. Why? Because someone drove hours to visit the inmate. Because someone went through the screening process and because someone who cared enough to come visit the inmate was on the other side of the glass when the inmate effectively punched it. 

Acting as if the glass doesn’t make me uncomfortable in front of my clients is essential to performing my job functions. I put my anxiety in “the corner pocket.” 

Marrying a couple when one of them is behind the glass will always be more emotionally challenging for me solely because the couple cannot touch one another. The glass will always be between my clients and their spouse and although many of them accept this without mourning the fact, I mourn for their loss of ever touching their spouse. 

I am a seasoned wedding Officiant and planner. I’m also well educated regarding the limitations of legal remedies for couples who aren’t married. 

I’ve seen far too many tragedies in my lifetime with couples who were not allowed to marry prior to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage. 

Whether my clients are “inside a prison or outside of a prison,” the differences between both sets of clients are often staggering to the “outside world.” 

There are many options “in the free world” that will never be offered in a Prison for a wedding ceremony. As a Prison bride or husband, it’s essential to accept the rules pertaining to your upcoming marriage and more importantly, to abide by said rules and regulations regarding inmate marriage ceremonies. 

Accepting that my Prison Couples may never touch is just as sad for me as it is for them. Silently, I grieve their inability to have contact during the wedding ceremony. 

I have also (for many years) Officiated deathbed wedding ceremonies for certain individuals that never expected to die who (upon their deathbed) want to protect their loved ones by ensuring their material possessions go to them rather than the state upon their death. 

These incredible and extraordinary “situations” are equally sad for me but, I am well aware that many LBGT Couples have lost everything to their partners family after death because they had no legal recourse as a spouse. 

Times have changed and Marriage now protects the surviving partner and more importantly, the assets the deceased wished to leave to them. Thank goodness that LBGT couples can now have insurance and the rights so many of my friends have lived a lifetime without. 

I have thousands of friends in the LBGT community and for a number of years, officiated Unification Ceremonies for those who couldn’t legally marry in Texas as well as driving to Oklahoma to marry them in a state where marriage was legal long before Texas and many other states legalized same sex marriage. 

Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News interviewed me upon the ruling regarding same sex marriage.

Previous to same sex marriage becoming legal, I also strongly suggested to my non married couples to obtain 5 legal documents that would protect their rights should one of them become ill or die. 

The reason I continued to advise my LBGT connections to obtain documents was to protect them.  I had written the blog titled “Five Legal Documents Every LBGT Couple Need” prior to Texas recognizing same sex unions because I had witnessed the fleecing of survivors in courthouses who effectively had No Legal Rights pertaining to burial or the assets of the Union. 

I’m often amazed at the failure of non married couples who don’t take the time to sign a Living Will or to get a Body Disposition Affidavit in order or at the very least, to have a Power of Attorney document in place should an accident render your partner incapable of making decisions on their own. 

But, not having any say regarding burial of your loved one can be a shocking surprise. It surprised my father. It also saddened me while we were forced to wait 30 days with Gretta “on ice” at the funeral home solely because her sister “claimed” she planned to make burial arrangements. As the next of kin, without any documentation giving my father the right to supersede Gretta’s sister, my father was forced to wait while Gretta decomposed. A month after her death, I went to the funeral home and chose clothing while carefully applying make up and jewelry to Gretta the day before officiating her funeral. Even the frigid temperatures couldn’t prevent the decomposition. It wasn’t what anyone who cared about her would have wanted. But, her sister only cared about control. Kathy never planned to make burial arrangements and sadly, my father and Gretta had failed to file for an Informal Marriage or have me Officiate a Formal Marriage due to Gretta’s sudden and unexpected death. 

No one is prepared for death. It’s often a dark stranger that sweeps those you love away before you realize how fragile life actually is.  

I’m well aware of laws pertaining to death and the loss of rights to survivors because I’ve seen the greed of the surviving family members personally. Fighting over money and assets without any degree of care regarding the impact to a survivor when  “holding up a burial” is a purely selfish act. 

If I’m advising you to protect yourself legally, I’m doing so only for your benefit because I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what my father did. What you don’t KNOW will hurt you. 

When one of my best friends, Charles, lost his thirty plus year partner, Dewitt, Charles also lost all of Dewitt’s material possessions to Dewitt’s family as well as the right to make burial decisions. Why? Because LBGT marriage wasn’t legal at the time AND because Charles and Dewitt had failed to take legal measures that would have given Charles far more legal remedies. 

Charles died shortly after Dewitt and I am guessing that his death was due in part to his broken heart. 

I was the last person to see Charles prior to his death and knew his will to live had been lost. Less than twenty four hours after my visit at Harris Hospital, Charles died in his sleep. Charles and Dewitt had shared a lifetime together but, Dewitt “came from money” and Dewitt’s family fought Charles to get the money back and won. 

At the end of Charles and Dewitt’s long life together, I couldn’t believe the ending would be as tragic as it was. Both surviving families continued to fight over the assets. Neither family wanted the treasured pets left behind though. I helped find foster homes for the cats Charles and Dewitt had loved so much. 

What is a Body Disposition Affidavit? The right to consumers in Texas to use a Body Disposition Authorization Affidavit or similar written instrument was created by the Texas Legislature several years ago and codified in section 711.002(g) of the Health and Safety Code. The provision was embedded in the law dealing with cemeteries and was overlooked by many.

This authorization form helps consumers secure the right to specify ones body disposition. This law provides that consumers wishes as expressed in such an instrument must be “faithfully” carried out by whoever has the legal authority to control the disposition.

The other primary advantage of the Body Disposition Authorization Affidavit is it’s use by people who want to be cremated. In the absence of a properly executed Affidavit, the funeral director must secure permission of ALL IMMEDIATE family members who have the authority to control disposition. 

For instance, in the case of several adult children scattered across the country, this often time consuming task can delay disposition and drive up the costs of funeral arrangements due to storing of the body until all interested parties can be located.

Using a Body Disposition Authorization Affidavit eliminates confusion and allows the cremation to proceed without unwanted delay. For those interested in body donation for medical research and teaching, the form provides for an alternative in the event the body is not accepted by the medical school because of it’s condition at the time of death.

A separate provision found in Section 711.002(b) allows consumers to designate the person or persons they want to control the disposition. The form Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains accomplishes this. If no one is appointed to control the disposition, the following persons, in the order listed, have the right to control the disposition:
1. The descendants surviving spouse

2. Any of the descendants surviving children 

3. Either of the descendants surviving parents

4. Any of the descendants surviving adult siblings, or

5. Any adult in the next degree of kinship in the order named by law to inherit the estate of the descendant.

The Appointment of Agent Form is useful in order for a persons wishes to be carried out after death. The Appointment of Agent Form avoids conflict among survivors and the Body Disposition Affidavit assures that the descendants wishes for body disposal will be carried out.

Section 711.002(g) also provides that consumers may make their disposition decision in a will or in a prepaid funeral contract.

A Living Will and subsequently the “ability to make medical decisions on your behalf” is also something I encourage my clients to consider. Whether it’s a Power Of Attorney or not, a Living Will is also essential to protecting your loved one from suffering for months in a medical setting. 

A Power Of Attorney is nice to have on hand but, it won’t give you the same amount of decision making when your loved one is facing death. A Do Not Resuscitate Order will. 

A (DNR) Order Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), also known as no code or allow natural death, is a legal order, written or oral depending on country, indicating that a person does not want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), or other aggressive interventions if that person’s heart stops. 

An advance directive is a broad category of legal instructions you may set up for your healthcare. A living will is a document that falls into the category of advance directives. 

Therefore, a living will is a type of advance directive. Other types of advance directives include: durable power of attorney (aka health care proxy), do not resuscitate order, and organ donation form.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. A durable power of attorney for health care, which is also known as a health-care proxy in some states, allows you to appoint a representative to make medical decisions for you. You decide how much power your representative will or won’t have.

What is an Unsworn Declaration? To better understand, click on this link– Unsworn Declaration VS Absentee Affidavit.

Traditionally, Absentee Affidavits were used solely for military members. The Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate marriage changed this. 

Absentee Affidavits are required to be sent to the inmate who will then visit the law library to notarize the document and mail it back to their loved one. The Absentee Affidavit in combination with a Notarized ID is necessary to purchase the marriage license without the other party present. 

“Why do I need an Absentee Affidavit?” Because the state requires this document. 

“Why do I need a notarized ID?” To purchase the marriage license without the other party present, you will need to legally explain why the other party is absent with an Absentee Affidavit in order to purchase your marriage license. 

BOTH the ID and Absentee Affidavit must be notarized. The person appearing at the clerks office must also have a valid ID and the fee for the marriage license. 

The Unsworn Declaration WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED at the clerks office. You MUST HAVE a notarized Absentee Affidavit. 

If you are a client and encountering this issue at your fiancées Unit, contact me. I will help you obtain a notarized Absentee Affidavit from the Unit. 

There are two types of marriage licenses–Formal marriage license and Declaration and Registration of an Informal Marriage (Common law). The basic requirements are the same for both types of marriage.

Both parties must appear in person.
Both parties must be at least 18 years of age.

Must have a valid, government-issued picture identification. Names will be reflected on the marriage license exactly as they appear on the IDs. 

The County Clerk’s office cannot change the name or spelling of name on ID. Forms of acceptable, valid identification include:

Driver’s license

State ID


Military ID


Must know Social Security number.

A blood test is NOT required.

Consistently, I’ve advised my clients of protecting themselves and their assets by marriage. In certain cases, I’ve also suggested Prenuptial Agreements. The “client” is the person who hired me and NOT the inmate. Often, the person who hired either myself or my staff has significantly more assets than an inmate does. If I’m giving you sage advice that on occasion may include advising you not to marry your fiancée, my advice is based solely on my observations and conversations with you. 

Please remember that your needs and best interests are my priority. I’m “everyone’s mother” when planning a wedding whether the wedding will take place inside a Prison or on the outside. I’m honest, wise and well aware of the repercussions of trusting someone you don’t know well enough to dedicate your life and quite possibly your livelihood to. 

If you and your fiancée cannot appear together to purchase your marriage license, the use of an Absentee Affidavit “substitutes” for the person not present. 

The Absentee Affidavit is to be completed if an applicant is unable to appear personally before the County Clerk to apply for a marriage license. The other applicant may apply for a marriage license on behalf of the absent applicant.

“Why can’t I fill out and notarize the Absentee Affidavit for the inmate?” Because YOU ARE NOT ABSENT the inmate is. 

There cannot be any corrections to an Absentee Affidavit. Why? Because a Notary seal make it a legal document and corrections void the legality of the document. 

Marrying an inmate is a confusing and lengthy process. Neither you or I can control the timelines involved. We wait on the ID. We wait on the I60 and we wait for a date.

“Why can’t I wear what I want to my wedding?” Because inmate weddings follow dress code guidelines. “What WILL HAPPEN IF I WEAR SOMETHING OUTSIDE THE VISITATION DRESS CODE? After all, I don’t want to look like a nun.” 

Okay, there are two options to “wearing what you want” neither are going to have the outcome you desire. First- you can be required to wear a cafeteria smock. 

Secondly- if you refuse to wear the cafeteria smock, your wedding will be cancelled due to non compliance. 

Thirdly, your payment will not be refunded because I have done my part by driving to your Prison wedding. 

I strongly discourage all of my clients about “winging it with their clothing.” I have solid reasons for asking you to send me photos and those reasons are to protect you from a “walk of shame in a cafeteria smock” or having your wedding cancelled because you refused to wear the smock. Please be aware of visitation dress code guidelines. 

“Why can’t I bring a guest?” Because rarely and I mean rarely have guests or witnesses ever been allowed inside a prison for a wedding ceremony.

In years of officiating inmate weddings, only three times have guests been authorized to attend a wedding ceremony at a Unit. 

The THREE weddings with guests allowed have all been at Sanders Estes Unit. No other Unit has offered to allow a guest to attend an inmate wedding.I’m well aware of any and all rules pertaining to inmate marriage within any state either I or my staff conduct ceremonies within at Prison Units. There are strict limitations pertaining to what you CAN and CANNOT do at a Prison. 

Although a few of my clients may wish to argue these points on occasion, please remember that my staff or myself are acting in your best interest by telling you what you can do and advising against what you cannot do. 

“Why can’t I bring a ring?” Because Section K of the Administrative Directive specifically prohibits ring exchanges. There is no “rule bending” regarding Offender Property.

“Why can’t I bring a change of clothes for the inmate? I don’t want our wedding photos with him wearing Prison issued clothing.” Because once again, Offender Property guidelines strictly prohibit bringing anything in to give to the inmate.

“What can I bring?” You are REQUIRED to bring the marriage license, your current and valid state issued ID or passport, your car keys and quarters in a clear plastic bag to purchase Unit photos if they are offered.

“What can you bring?” My ID, my car keys and my Bible as well as notes inside my Bible. If you have handwritten vows or anything else written on paper, you MUST give these to me prior to entry. I will put your notes in my Bible and give them to you at the commencement of the ceremony.

Weddings “on the outside” include guests, bouquets, vendors, cake, and all of the other elements that “weddings on the inside don’t.” 

The majority of my Prison wedding clients re book upon release of their loved one for Vow Renewals. 

Everything you couldn’t do “on the inside” including your choice of clothing, a wedding ring, guests and the like are included at your Vow Renewal. Fees are based on distance from Fort Worth, Texas.

I hope this explains and subsequently, answers your questions and I look forward to meeting you at your Prison Wedding soon… 

“Everybody Clings To Their Own Fear. Everybody Hides Their Scars” Moving On Down The Highway…

Wednesday afternoon while headed to Willow Lake Event Center, my TDCJ Beto Client called me while exiting Santa Fe towards the venue and my “traditional clients.” Sitting at the red light watching semi’s pulling out of Petro, I hit “accept” and wondered where my brother in law, Steve was driving since I hadn’t heard from him since Monday and if my niece, Stephaney would get the waitress job she had applied for at Petro? My mind never stops.

Apparently, the Warden at Beto had called my bride which is somewhat unusual. I shifted my attention to her to find out more. “He will be behind glass. The glass upsets me. I was hoping to hold his hand or hug him but, we will be separated. I’m terribly upset about this.” Dang. I was rattled myself. “The glass.” No one loves the glass. 

Since I was thirty five minutes early for my appointment at Willow Lake and only twelve minutes away, I pulled into Petro to attempt to calm down my client. 

I should note that the majority of my “upset client calls” will always be my Prison Wedding Clients. Why? Because they are not in control of a lengthy process that often confuses them and occasionally even scares or angers them. I’m the hand holder. I’m generally the go between and I’m usually the one talking to the Warden. 

The glass is something no one is ever comfortable with. Behind the glass, the inmate is also handcuffed. At Ferguson Unit, the inmate was also locked into the cage behind the glass. 

Ferguson was also the first time I would encounter an inmate behind the glass and effectively, shocking to me. I didn’t expect the glass although my client was prepared for it. Occasionally while inside the visitation area for a wedding ceremony, I will notice the glass cracked or writing on the wood. I asked one guard “how did the glass get broken?” 

The answer surprised me. “Well, Miss Wendy, the inmates get angry at visitors and hit the glass.” Hit the glass? To the person that drove all the way to the Unit? Waited in a long line. Went through the screening process? I was shocked. The wiring under (also sometimes above) the glass was how my client and I communicated with the inmate. It’s essential that the inmate can understand the commitment aspect of the wedding ceremony. 

I was more than a little nervous about the inmate hearing and subsequently, understanding me but, he could easily hear and understand the ceremony. 

The wedding photo above thrilled my client because the glass “merged them together.” Walking back to the parking lot, I hid my silent tears from my client and “braced myself” for smiles a few miles from the Unit for her wedding photos. I didn’t want her to know how rattled I was about the glass and the wedding photos. I hid my sorrow intentionally. She couldn’t touch him. It pained me. 

As a mother, the aspect of marrying an inmate is a lonely life of isolation for many of my clients marrying an inmate that is often serving 20, 30, 50 years or even life. My clients may never see their spouse on the outside. It’s not an easy path. They may never touch them. 

I worry about my TDCJ Clients and on occasion, have even talked a few out of marrying the inmate. It’s a rare occurrence but, it has happened. The “Coffield Unit Con Man” who attempted to control my client and her money needed the boot and got it. 

On my fourth phone call from my emotional Coffield client, I had suggested that she consider what the inmate was bringing to her life. If the only “gift” was strife and argument, it was a gift that she needed to give back. 

It took a month but, the Prison Wedding Planning Process isn’t “quick or easy.” If one of my TDCJ clients wants “out,” they have time to effectively “hit the highway.”

Mary was determined to marry Lester. Her path wasn’t easy. It would take months. Mary would never touch Lester. The glass would always be separating them from one another even on their wedding day. 

The glass didn’t make Mary uncomfortable as it hadn’t made Nikia uncomfortable. Mary and Nikia were prepared for the separation. I was the only one uncomfortable with the glass and the inability of my clients to touch their new spouses. It always saddens me. 

It’s difficult for me to accept that for a number of my clients, they will never touch their spouse. The glass will be a part of every visit they make to the Unit. It will be a permanent “barrier.” 

The glass is something neither I or anyone else can  change but, it always saddens me nonetheless. It’s something I must accept ascmy clients have. It’s also something “I’m working on.” G4 and G5 inmates are always behind the glass. Lifers are too. I’m never really prepared mentally to Officiate a ceremony that won’t be “sealed with a kiss.” My heart hurts. I have had hundreds and even over a thousand “other couples” to compare my wedding ceremonies to. 

From my couples “on the outside” to couples “on the inside,” the differences between both sets of my clients is significant. 

While one set of my clients worries about the perfect dress, the perfect cake, the perfect venue, the guest list, the DJ, the photographer and more, the other set of clients drives several hours to get to the Unit, worry that their clothing will be within the visitation guideline, and try to remember to bring quarters to buy low quality wedding photos for $3 each if they are even offered at the Unit. Private Units do not offer photos. 

I had finally calmed my Beto client down “about the glass” before pulling out of Petro. It wasn’t an “easy conversation” it never is when a client is upset. 

Mentally, I prepared myself for the first “behind the glass” ceremony at Beto. I wondered if they would have the phones Allred did that no one could hear using? I hoped my bride wouldn’t cry seeing the inmate behind the glass. 

I recalled my Coffield client vomiting in a trash can beside me when we walked in to find her beau behind the glass. The shock rattled her to such an extent that it took several moments to calm her before proceeding with the ceremony. She also “nearly ran” from the Unit following the ceremony. I was forced to chase her down because I feared that if she left the Unit upset, she might have a car accident. Luckily, I had plenty of time to talk her through the shock of the glass and explain to her that it was something neither of us could control. 

Normally, I leave one Unit to head to another. On the Coffield Unit day of “the glass,” I wasn’t due at another Unit for several hours and had plenty of time to spend with my client. She was so upset that she skipped doing bridal photos and I bought her lunch instead at the infamous General Store in Tennessee Colony. 

Thursday morning at 6AM, I checked in with my Beto bride. I was juggling several other “traditional clients” on my books for rehearsals Wednesday evening, Thursday evening and Friday evening for wedding ceremonies at venues on Saturday and Sunday. I was also apprehensive about how my bride would react to “the glass.” 

In fact, I was so worried about my bride that I offered to drive her myself to the Unit. This is rare but, it’s happened. My Estes bride didn’t drive and took a bus from Houston to Fort Worth. I picked her up and took her to breakfast before driving her to Sanders Estes for her ceremony and upon leaving the Unit, had a great time with her at the Botanic Gardens getting some fun bridal photos for her. 

I’m different. You will hear me say this over and over because it’s true. I care about my clients and their journey. It’s not an easy journey for TDCJ clients.

At 9:30AM Thursday, I had already been to the post office to mail photos and contracts to clients, filled up my SUV, hit the bank for quarters, met with my Saturday client to go over vendor details and driven through a Starbucks for egg white bites and a non fat latte. My Beto bride was to meet me at 9:30 and leave her car at my home. 

The drive to Beto could run two hours and fifteen minutes to two hours and thirty minutes based on traffic and road construction. 

Sitting in my SUV and responding to emails regarding Roach, Darrington, Hutchins, Bradshaw and Garza East Units while sipping my latte, I checked the time, 10:01AM. Alarmed, I sent a text to my bride to ask where she was? 

A few minutes later, she responded “my son was late to school and I need to leave him with my inlaws. They live in DeSoto.” I quickly checked the distance from DeSoto to Beto and DeSoto to my location to Beto. 

There was no way my client could get from DeSoto to me and me to drive to Beto and arrive by 1PM. Because of this, I suggested meeting me at Beto. I would arrive first and if my client was runnng late, explain her tardiness to the wardens secretary. I also immediately left my driveway headed for Beto.

With my preselected stack of cd’s beside me, it would be a day of music from artists with the first name of John. I noticed this before jumping on 20 to head to 287. Usually, I just grab a stack from my case and apparently, my husband had organized cd’s in the order of the first name. I thought I was OCD lol. 

From Johnny Cash to John Cougar Mellencamp to John Denver and John Fogerty, I opted for Fogerty and thought about the hearing and lawsuit he had won regarding being himself. For those unaware of the irony or the story, here’s the link– John Fogerty Plagiarism Suit 1988. Plagiarizing himself? How could he be anyone else. The case went before the Supreme Court. 

With “Here We Go Rocking All Over The World” blaring on my radio, I jumped onto the highway. I would be “on the dash” because I had planned to leave at 9:30AM with my client. I operate on strict timelines that allow a “cushion.” I’m not a last minute anything type of person. 

The drive through Waxahachie is often time consuming due to traffic but, I was making good time and checked in with my client on her GPS estimated arrival time. 

Taking several phone calls during my trip, Cindy and Stephaney were at her second interview at Petro. Steve was in New York. 

My son was in Arkansas and my husband was back at the “Stinky Skunk Development In Springtown.” Leigh Ann was editing photos for three clients. The skunk development has been an ongoing escapade. Everyone in my husband’s office questions “why Matthew is handling it himself?” John, the builder had never encountered a problem of this magnitude. In fact, no one had. My husband has tried everything to get the smell out of the house and if he can’t, will be the person forced to deal with the homeowner returning from Japan May 4th. The same day I’m out of town with clients and my team. Ugh.

Driving through Eureka, Texas and thinking to myself “there should be an exclamation point after the name,” I check back in with my client. She’s due to arrive at Beto at 12:47PM. I’m rolling in (according to navigation lady) at 12:32PM. 

I changed my cd to Elton John and paid attention to the words as I sang along to “let us strive to make a way to make all hatred cease. There’s a man over there. What’s his color? I don’t care. He’s my brother. Let us, let us live in peace” as I rolled on over a long bridge with a peaceful lake that no one is ever using on my trips to Tennessee Colony. Why doesn’t anyone use that lake? I wonder this on every trip across the bridge. 

Twenty minutes out from the Unit, I call Cindy before popping in John Cougar and laughing about his “hey, hit the highway!” Its funny to me because I’m always hitting the highway and “finding a lover that won’t drive you crazy” while stating that you want them to “hit the highway” is somewhat offensive and blunt to say the least. It’s also funny. John Cougar is a real character. 

The joys of road construction in Tennessee Colony continue. Now the “follow me” truck has moved from Coffield/Michael to Beto/Gurney. Jeez. I call my bride. She’s about ten minutes behind me. I remind her not to speed and get pulled over. 

As I stand in the parking area looking for my client, I decide to go to the entrance and alert the tower of my arrival. She arrives a few minutes later looking beautiful in slacks with blonde hair. I wonder if she had colored it since I had last seen her? I love the cut. As usual, I consider growing my hair out and trying to go with a new style but, who are we kidding here? I constantly try to cut my own hair and lack the patience to grow my hair out. 

Walking into the Unit, we screen in and wait. As usual, my bra sets off the metal detector and we take a seat. I’d skip the underwire but, I’m far too busty. One day, maybe when I have time, I will get a reduction.

My friendly guard comes to escort us and asks “how is your twin doing?” Cindy’s basement has flooded yet again from heavy rain and I’m headed to Parker County today after filing licenses in Tarrant County to help her mop up. The Daniel Diva house consistently floods in the basement. We’ve had twenty years of flooding at Cindy’s. It’s an ongoing escapade.

Walking in, I look for the phone or a hole under the glass. There isn’t one. The steel mesh above the glass is how the inmate will hear us. It’s difficult to get a clear photo with the glass and the area we are in is somewhat cramped. My client is doing well under the circumstances. She’s not crying or upset.

Leaving the Unit, I suggest stopping at the General Store for her to use the restroom and offer to buy her a cola. I was surprised to hear that she doesn’t consume caffeine and bought her a cranberry juice instead. 

We head to my favorite new abandoned building outside Tennessee Colony on the way back to Corsicana. I love the peeling paint and forgotten “look” of this building right off the remote back roads.My bride is joyous the wedding is over and she can now have some fun. Most of my clients have the most fun with me on location photography shoots. As I go through my rolling photo booth switching out props and changing areas, my Saturday client, Brok sends a text to confirm Saturday at 3PM. I answer “my team and I will be there with bells on.” 

Brok responds “we are so excited!” My team and I are too. I’ve been looking forward to this wedding and celebration for a month now. They are incorporating hand fasting into their ceremony and I love creative input. Brok and Ruben are so much fun. My bride loved the props I had packed and I asked “how much gas do you have? Do you have to stop for gas on your way back to DeSoto?” She did so I handed her an extra roll of quarters from my SUV and gave her a hug as I headed on to Hodge Unit to meet my next client. 

I want only good things for all of my clients. My TDCJ clients often face a difficult journey because they are effectively “pulling the wagon alone.” For many of them, the inmate faces many years but, for my Beto bride, the inmate is due for release in three. I’m happy to hear this because at the very least, she will have an opportunity to experience married life “on the outside.” 

A very large percentage of my clients will never have the opportunity. My heart is heavy for the journey they will face without ever having an opportunity to hold their partners hand. Their passion and resilience is unmatched by most couples. The sheer dedication of my clients is amazing. They don’t give up. For them, live isn’t only a four letter word. It’s their life. Love believes all things and bears all things for my TDCJ Clients. 

My husband sends a text from his office that cracks me up near Corsicana. The staff had sprinkled powder and purchased a stuffed skunk to surprise him. It’s hard to laugh about the skunk that’s caused so many problems but, my husband did.Hopefully, in the coming week, the smell is resolved before the homeowner returns. My husband saw an Elk near the new home and was amazed at the wildlife out in Springtown. I remind him of my encounter with a black bear on the patio of the lake house in Arkansas. I’m not a “country person.” If I never encounter another bear, I’m “good with it.”

Rolling back onto the highway outside Corsicana, I pop in Melissa Etheridge and “Everybody Has A Hunger No Matter Who They Are.” Melissa is right. I’m hungry for dinner back home and looking forward to sharing supper with Matthew before running off to Marty Leonard Chapel to meet clients. 

I hope my clients and connections enjoy a beautiful weekend of sunshine and enjoy a few good times, great music and Spring weather… 

TDCJ Bridgeport Unit To Allred & Good Times With Great People…

Getting my beautiful bride approved for her wedding at Bridgeport Unit took some time. Often, clients have no idea how long the Prison Planning Process actually takes. 

From the ID to getting up to 6 signatures on the I60 Request For Marriage Form, marrying an inmate isn’t a quick or easy process. 

The “process” can take 3-6 weeks and, if there’s a Lock Down, longer as weddings are not permitted during a Lock Down.

At a few times during the Prison Wedding Planning Process, my Bridgeport bride nearly gave up altogether due to her frustration regarding the process. 

But, I walked and talked her through the process and we “hung in there together” awaiting good news. 

Last week, the Chaplain finally gave us a selection of dates. It was a celebration for not only my bride but also, the Grooms family.

The bride and groom grew up together. They lived only 3 blocks from each other most of their lives.

The couple went to middle school and high school together and were friends long before “Lock Up.” 

Occasionally, I refer to my clients unique situations as “love locked down” because it is. Waiting is the hardest part. 

Bridgeport is a privately owned TDCJ Facility. Because of this, wedding photos are not offered. Privately owned units “dance to the beat of their own drum.” Although they fall under TDCJ, the rules can be different from one Unit to the next. 

Guests are very rare at Prison Weddings and sadly, the Grooms parents and sisters weren’t allowed to witness the ceremony but, happily waited on the bride and I while inside.

Since the parents missed the ceremony, I am mailing them a copy of my wedding script as a courtesy and memento along with photos taken after the ceremony. 

How rare is it for visitors to be allowed to witness a Prison Wedding? The ONLY unit in my years of officiating Prison Weddings that has ever allowed “guests” has been Sanders Estes Unit. Guests are normally prohibited at every Unit I Officiate at including privately owned facilities. 

However, Estes has made exceptions for parents on 3 occasions the past 2 1/2 years which obviously thrilled the parents. 

For all of my other families, I’m sorry but the “odds of visitors” being allowed at a wedding are so slim that it’s best to accept you won’t have guests other than me beside you on the “inside.” 

Walking back out to the parking area, there were three vehicles of excited family members awaiting my beautiful bride and I which is unusual but was a delightful and joyous experience for not only her but also, me. 

Families who “wait together” on the release of a loved one are both are strong and resilient. Due to freezing Texas temperatures, I quickly decided to “caravan the families” on our way back out of the unit to a nearby hotel and unload my “traveling photo prop” loaded SUV. 

Normally, I use hotel lobbies if it’s raining or freezing because 1. Hotel lobbies are public places and great for photos and, 2. Hotel employees are accommodating and friendly. The receptionist at Econolodge was so friendly and helpful yesterday that she opened the conference room for our group. 

Today, I’m mailing her a gift card and thank you note for being so helpful and kind.My bride hadn’t packed a coat and I happened to have one on hand to “gift her” on wedding day while also loaning her my hat and gloves. 

I had loaned the same coat to my Ferguson Unit bride. It was cold and rainy the last time I headed back to Ferguson Unit and my bride was happy to try on several coats including a mink I had packed for fun photos. I bring an eclectic array of photo prop items as a courtesy. But, winter is nearly over and my Bridgeport bride needed the coat far more than my inventory did. It was also a “perfect fit.” I’ve listed the mink coat I had purchased for winter weddings this year at Texas Twins Treasures. 

I’d also purchased a Mr & Mrs throw pillow that I presented as a wedding gift. I’ve used it a lot this season and, it needed a new home.

Since I’m always asked why most of my bridal or groom photos shoots are outdoors, if the weather is permitting, the lighting helps with clearer photos. Most outdoor photos are taken near the unit.

The wide variety of my custom created bouquets gives us several different photo options. I generally bring 5-8 various bouquets in different colors to accommodate additional guests or family members as well as boutonnières. 

My Hutchins State Jail bride (below left) loved that I had so many different bouquets and props. Although she had told me that she wasn’t comfortable taking photos, she quickly shook that off and had a blast with my niece, Leigh Ann and I. 

I loved spending my day with my amazing group of family members at Bridgeport. 

In fact, I’m putting this wedding right up there with my top 3 favorite prison weddings. That’s saying a lot for a person who performs Prison Weddings every week Monday through Friday. 

My weekends and evenings are spent accommodating “traditional clients.” Yes, I work 7 days a week. Not seasonally either. Prison Weddings don’t have a season. 

I’ve met hundreds of families at Prison Weddings and all of them are thankful, courteous and kind to not only me but also, my staff. Leaving the hotel, our caravan headed to lunch at Jorge’s in Bridgeport. We saw two painted walls that made perfect backdrops and decided to snap a few fun photos to finish our day of celebration together before lunch.After lunch, our group walked over to another festive mural a few block over to throw flower petals at the bride for our last photo of the day together. 

I had seen the colorful mural while driving with our caravan to Jorges restaurant and loved it. We backtracked to snap a few fun photos. While we were at lunch, I reviewed several emails but, the one from Mary caught my attention. 

I review emails and take calls all day from Units regarding scheduling as well as new client inquiries and traditional event service requests. My phone is my greatest “work tool.” 

Mary has been waiting to marry Lester at Allred Unit. Mary also did a news television show about their “unique union.”

What made it “unique?” Mary was one of the jurors that sentenced Lester to life in prison. I was concerned about the publicity and backlash with good reason. Why? Because I knew not everyone would accept or warm up to this “love story” and also because Prisons don’t enjoy film crews on the premises either or publicity either. 

I had also declined to be interviewed as I knew that it wouldn’t be a “good idea” based on the circumstances. 

I’m the “minister” but, after the Dallas Morning News interview, I’m far more selective about who I talk to or my clients. 

For those who don’t know what happened after Jeff Mosier interviewed me for being an “Openly LBGT Friendly” event business in Texas, death threats and hate mail were the “bonus” of the interview for not only me but also, my staff. 

I’m cautious regarding reporters and “their angles” for damn good reasons. They sensationalize the story. Jeff Mosier didn’t and look what happened to my team and I. Years of death threats. Did it stop me or my staff or change my beliefs? Absolutely not. Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. Opinions don’t dictate my decisions either. 

A few months ago, my Hughes Unit bride told me while waiting on our armed escorts “you should know he’s a reality star. He was on Episode 4 of I’m A Killer.” Surprised, I knew once again that reporters would call me and, I was right. I declined all interviews knowing that the general public would get “opinionated.” A few concerned connections emailed me because they recognized him in photos. They were concerned about my safety. 

I’m at no time without armed guards present. I’m safer in a prison than anywhere else. The fact that “Happy Holidays” was behind me in that photo made it seem as if we were anywhere other than a Prison. But, we were in the Visitation Area of Hughes Unit. A guard took the unit photos. For the haters and trolls out there wondering about it, the answer is yes, I also Officiate LBGT Prison Weddings. 

My clients are a melting pot. If you don’t like it, it’s “not my luggage- not my trip.” 

Mary told me that after the segment was aired, Lester was getting death threats. I was saddened to hear this but, hopeful that once Lester and Mary were married, things would settle down. 

If you missed the interview with Mary and Lester, here’s the link– Juror Plans To Marry Inmate She Sentenced To Life In Prison. The title alone would give others the impression that Mary alone rendered the verdict. She didn’t. There were 12 jurors not 1. 

Yesterday, Mary emailed me that the Warden wanted to talk to her prior to scheduling the wedding at Allred. 

This is somewhat unusual but, the Warden effectively runs the Unit and is therefore in charge of either Approving or Denying an application to marry at the Unit. 

I’m back at Allred March 6th and look forward to finally meeting Monica in person. Usually, my ceremonies are stacked at Units. This saves me driving back and forth twice a month but, if Mary gets scheduled on March 20th, I’m happy to make the drive to Wichita Falls twice in the same month. 

Mary missed a February 20th and March 6th scheduled wedding at Allred because Lesters I60 Request For Marriage Form hadn’t made it through the “6 signature trail” to the Warden’s desk at the time Monica got her Approval for March 6th. 

My Michael Unit bride had also emailed me crushed about being Denied on her I60. I was deeply saddened about this but the groom had failed to list her on his visitation list. 

Because of this, getting on the visitation list will take a few weeks which is a setback but, thankfully a minor one. 

In order to marry an inmate, you MUST be listed on their visitors list. There are no exceptions to this rule outlined in the Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate marriage ceremonies. 

I’m hoping to get scheduled for Wynn Unit, Crain Unit, Coffield Unit, Luther Unit and Beto Unit this month for my “clients waiting on dates.” But, I’m already scheduled at Stiles, 3 Huntsville Units, Jester, Hobby and Buster Cole as well as several county jails this month. 

Perseverance and patience is required for my clients awaiting dates AKA those “on the outside” as scheduling takes time. 

Traditionally, timelines are 3-6 weeks start to finish on scheduling your Texas Prison Wedding. Remember though that a Lock Down will affect timelines.

I look forward to meeting all of my clients soon and wish many years of love, joy and happiness to my newest newlyweds ?

Saying Yes To The Dress- Allred Unit To Tarrant County Jail…

Right up to wedding day with my Prison brides, I review options for clothing as clothing can be closely scrutinized at Prison Units. 

Yesterday’s adventure began in Wichita Falls as I rolled out of my driveway with my son and his wife joining me on a road trip to Allred Unit. Robert and Stephanie had the day off and I enjoy company while driving across Texas. 

My son and his wife are preparing to move into their first home in a few weeks and we spent the time driving going over details of what to keep and what to sell. I hate moving and know how chaotic moving can be. I bought my first home in my late 20’s not knowing the unexpected expenses that could occur. From hail storms to an A/C needing to be replaced, my first home was a money pit. I loved the fireplace but had no idea that the logs purchased at the grocery store would require chimney sweeping either. I learned a lot in my first home with the most important lesson being to put money back for the next unexpected surprise. Warily, I warned my son to plan for a rainy day because owning a home is an expensive endeavor. 

Dropping Robert and Stephanie off at Walmart some ten miles from Allred, I headed on to meet Flor. We both arrived at noon and waited patiently. Flor looked stunning in a beautiful white dress that I hoped wouldn’t be deemed “too tight” or “too sheer.” White is tricky at Prison Weddings. Attire for your unit wedding falls under the visitation dress code and although it’s your wedding day, Wardens have the final call on your clothing.

Thankfully, Flor had no issues with her gorgeous dress yesterday. Another bride was waiting on her Officiant. This normally wouldn’t be an issue but, as usual, “the other Officiant” was thirty minutes late which forced Flor, myself and the volunteer chaplain to wait on “the other Officiant.” I have no idea why “other Officiants” are always late but, they are. It’s unprofessional in my opinion and at Allred, everyone must wait to enter together. Flor was becoming nervous as was I since I needed to be back in Fort Worth at Tarrant County Jail to meet another client at 4:30PM.

After the “other Officiant” finally arrived, we lined up to walk into the Prison towards the visitation area. Normally, photography is offered and photos are sold for $3 each at Unit weddings. My last two visits to Allred though were without photos offered which upset both of my brides. I’m going to inquire about the photos and try to determine whether Unit Wedding Photos have been discarded altogether. If they have, I’m sorry for my clients as these photos are the only opportunity to have the couple in photos together.

Waiting on the Groom, Flor looked stunning and told me that the Grooms parents were planning a party for her back in Dallas. I was happy that Flor would be celebrating her wedding and had a strong support system in place.

Leaving Allred, I had Flor follow me to a road near the unit for impromptu photos. The rain had stopped but, the overcast sky affected the lighting. 

Flor and I had fun stopping traffic on the remote road to allure a few bridal photos to remember her day. I had packed my SUV with a variety of tiaras and bouquets to bring the fun and loved the way my fur stole accented Flor’s strappy sandals. Congratulating her with a hug, I jumped into my SUV to run and pick up Robert and Stephanie to head to Fort Worth. They had both enjoyed a mani/pedi and were looking forward to grabbing lunch.

My son drives to Wichita Falls frequently for Mr G’s and told me there was a gas station with a Steak & Shake outside of Decatur. The gas station had beef jerky and an assortment of other interesting items similar to a truck stop. I love truck stops because you never know what you will find. 

Answering emails for me, my son noted that an inquiry for Jordan Unit brought up two very different locations. Google listed Jordan Unit an hour from Fort Worth while TDCJ listed Jordan Unit over five hours away. Due to the confusion, I had my son confirm the unit address with Melissa. 

My fees are based on distance and a five hour one way drive with 1-2 hours inside the unit is a full day for me. Please include the actual address on unit inquiries to alleviate any confusion. PS- Congratulations Melissa. I look forward to meeting you soon. 

I’m back at Coffield and Estes Unit next week. My Estes bride is thrilled to be marrying on Valentines Day. Due to the holiday, I’m packing festive balloons for her photo shoot. This is unusual as I normally only bring props but, my bride is so happy about Valentines Day that I’ve decided to do something different. 

I’ve had a few questions regarding courthouse steps weddings and Vow Renewal Ceremonies. The location can be a park, Prison, courthouse steps, parking lot or just about any location for a wedding. A Vow Renewal is simply a “do over” of the wedding ceremony. Normally with friends and family present. 

Elopement packages offer intimate options for clients who aren’t planning a “big affair.” If you wish to do a private ceremony, I suggest the elopement package. We offer photography and a wide array of discount options for an Officiant/Photography Package to Firefighters, Active or Retired Military, Police, First Responders, Teachers, and LBGT Couples. 

While a few of you might question my LBGT Discount option, it should be noted that years ago when I started Texas Twins Events, the LBGT Community welcomed Texas Twins Events with open arms. 

Due to their loyalty, I’ve offered discounts on all services at all of my businesses to LBGT couples for nearly nine years now. I’m looking forward to meeting my latest TDCJ LBGT couple in May at their prison wedding and being a part of their happily ever after. 

I was recently asked by KTVT why my business “shifted” from traditional events to predominantly TDCJ Events or LBGT Events or a combination of both? The reason is I enjoy working with people who appreciate our help. Over the years, I’ve had more than one bridezilla and quite frankly, I no longer work with difficult people. Why? I don’t have to. The clients I choose are wonderful to not only me but also, my Texas Twins Events Team. 

While a minute amount of clients opt to barter through The Pawning Planners, it’s a very small percentage. The barter option exists in order to address a wide array of clients from nearly any any economic situation. 

Whether a client is barteting or booking directly through Texas Twins Events, creating another way to have a life event for families who wanted one took creativity on my part. I merged Texas Twins Treasures and Texas Twins Events to create The Pawning Planners. We don’t “only do weddings” either. We also do baptisms, funeral ceremonies, birthday parties, quincineras, and numerous other services including estate liquidation and home staging. I have a staff that includes four generations of my family members to address large or small events. 

Nearly all of my TDCJ Clients book Vow Renewal ceremonies upon release of their loved one from a Texas Prison. Their celebration of Love After LockUp is shared with family and friends. 

I’m headed to Luther Unit today and looking forward to “road tripping” with my twin sister, Cindy and searching for a few treasures at junk stores along our way. Finding time to spend with my family by creating a unique and diverse events business was and always will be one of the best business ideas I’ve ever had. 

It Takes Grace To Remain Kind In Cruel Situations…

While headed to San Antonio for an event this weekend, I was surprised to see a post about my bride, Mary Martin who was a juror that decided to marry Lester who was sentenced to life in prison. 

Of course, I had concerns about Mary and Lester agreeing to an interview about their plans to marry because I warily realized that not everyone could or would understand their fairly unique love story and, I was right. 

Public comments broke my heart as I hoped that Mary paid no attention to them. Mary is a sweetheart and although her love story isn’t for everyone, it’s her love story and by being interviewed, it’s now a story that everyone is talking about. 

If you are one of the people who happened to miss the story, here it is– Wedding Planned Between Felon Serving A Life Sentence And A Juror. The “tag line” alone is an “eye catcher.”

Marrying someone serving a life sentence with no chance for parole is a tough choice. It’s a choice that leaves the “person on the outside” making a lot of sacrifices. What are they? Long drives to the Unit, expensive phone calls and putting money on an inmates books for commissary. Loving an inmate is expensive. 

As a TDCJ Approved Officiant, I’ve seen my fair share of surprising unions. From former guards marrying inmates to attorneys marrying their previous client, it’s tough to surprise me anymore. Love knows no bounds. 

Dropping my niece, twin sister and all three of my grandnieces at Fiesta Texas, I headed over to the River Walk to meet my clients for the rehearsal dinner with “Mary on my mind.” I had emailed her back and forth yesterday about dates for her upcoming wedding and her paperwork that hadn’t made it to the Chaplain’s office just yet. I60’s Request For Marriage Forms require up to 6 signatures at Prison Units. It’s a time consuming process for my clients. 

I decided to order myself a drink while waiting on my clients and worrying about Mary and hoping the negative comments aren’t getting to her. 

I love the river walk in San Antonio. From the mariachi bands to the riverboats, it’s another world from Fort Worth.

Since I’m asked “what percentage of our client bases are traditional?” The answer has changed over the years. In the beginning, a large percentage of our clients were LBGT. After merging Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create the barter option with The Pawning Planners, the number of Pawning Planners bookings in comparison to Texas Twins Events or Texas Prison Weddings is remarkably small. But, addressing every economic class has been essential to our growth and success. I’ve never been afraid to take a chance on an idea and neither has my twin sister, Cindy. Did we expect that Prison or Jail Weddings would take over my calendar Monday through Friday year round? No. Who would? But, my bookings went from evening and weekends or seasonal to year round because I was willing to rebrand and expand not only once for The Pawning Planners but twice to expand Texas Twins Events to include Texas Prison Weddings. 

Everyone asks about LBGT Prison Weddings. The answer is yes, I also Officiate LBGT Prison Weddings. My businesses are diverse to say the least and we continue to have a strong presence in the LBGT Community. Did I expect a “boom” to our business from being open minded? No. But, my goal has always been to treat every client like family. To celebrate their differences and successes and treat them as the individuals they are. 

I’ve had several new bookings already this month and I’m at Bell Tower Chapel as well as Willow Lake Event Center and the wonderful Mercado Event Center. The one thing I enjoy perhaps the most is my versatile Client base and I’m never worried about getting bored. 

Variety is the spice of my life and with four generations of my family working with me to make “Dream Events a reality one family (or barter) at a time from Fort Worth, Texas,” I can assure you that resilience and perseverance along with an open mind and heart are how my team and I have weathered every storm and are still going stronger than ever rolling into our 9th year of more adventures, more families and more fun. 

I’m at Allred Unit this Wednesday with several clients and hopefully, Mary’s paperwork will be moved through the channels in order for her wedding to be approved by February 20th this month. 

At this point, getting Mary and Lester married as soon as possible might just put an end to the widespread comments regarding their unique relationship. 

The continued emails regarding my Hughes Unit Groom and his Bride continue. Yes, I know that he was on I’m A Killer Episode 4 and no I don’t google anyone who happens to be an inmate either. My TDCJ Clients aren’t obligated to disclose the reasons their loved one is incarcerated AND I don’t ask either. 

For those of you who realized that “you had seen him before” that felt compelled to email me and ask for his name, the reason I didn’t use names on the post was specifically because the Bride told me about the “I’m A Killer” while we were waiting on the groom. 

I was unaware of the show prior to booking the event but, even if I had known, it wouldn’t have altered my decision to marry the couple. Television rarely holds my interest. I prefer to read when relaxing and enjoy learning new things and spending time with my family. 

While in San Antonio for this wedding, I am enjoying spending time with my family. The luxury of creating my businesses was to not only help others needing event services but also to spend the time I had missed all of these years working for someone else with my family which is why I created Texas Twins Events in the first place. 

The twins and Maddy had a great time at Fiesta Texas and I’m looking forward to seeing them later for a late dinner. 

My niece, Leigh Ann is handling photography at the wedding tomorrow and my twin sister, Cindy will be taking care of her three granddaughters while Leigh Ann and I spend a few hours on location with our happy couple. 

Leigh Ann loves her new SUV and it is really coming in handy for our road trips too. We now have four suvs and two trucks. My team have learned that cars just don’t cut it in the event business. A few months ago, one reader asked why “most of my brides don’t wear a wedding dress?” The reason for this is that Prison Visitation Dress codes often limit what my clients can wear and at certain Units, even a dress isn’t allowed. 

Other Units are more flexible. I always wear a suit and often sandals or easy to remove footwear as I’m screened along with my Client which requires removing my shoes upon entering a Prison. If a bride wants to do a photo shoot in a wedding dress though, she changes clothes AFTER leaving the Unit. 

Trishelle wore jeans and a tee shirt to her Michael Unit Wedding but, changed clothes for her photo shoot. Most of my brides bring a change of clothes and if they bring friends or family, they wait for us while we are “inside a Unit” and then join my Client and I later for photos.

“The waiting areas”  for friends and family members tend to be cafes, thrift shops and occasionally gas stations as Prisons are often in fairly remote areas. 

I don’t ask questions about inmates. Whether it’s a male or female, I don’t judge anyone or their circumstances. 

For those who like me had never heard of “I’m A Killer,” here’s the link to episode 4– I’m A Killer Episode 4 Miguel Martinez. 

Let me add that Mr Martinez was a perfect gentleman to me who even let me borrow his readers since I’m only allowed to bring one pair of glasses into a Unit and I don’t wear bifocals. 

In fact, many inmates share items including readers. My groom told me that there are very few luxuries like reading glasses and was happy to look ke hid in order to read the fine print in my new wedding book that was difficult to see. 

The older I get, the bigger font I need and due to my fear of eye surgery, things aren’t going to get better unless of course I can drum up the courage for corrective surgery to my 50 plus year old eyes. 

Every inmate I’ve ever met when walking into a Texas Prison has been cordial and kind to me. Miguel was also friendly to me and thrilled to be marrying his beautiful bride for the holidays. 

Miguel had a welcoming smile and jovial laugh that immediately put me at ease. Although a number of my readers are concerned about my safety, you shouldn’t be. I’m not in a room alone with an inmate at any time. 

Marrying an inmate can be far more nerve wracking for my clients than it is for me because no one expects to be marrying in a Prison. It’s different than what anyone might have expected. There aren’t any flowers. There are rarely any wedding dresses. There aren’t wedding cakes, music, toasts, drunk guests or chaos either. 

I like the structure and predictability of Prison Weddings. Why? I’ve had 8 years of unpredictable clients and guests that’s why. 

Although I may never be planning a Vow Renewal for Mary or Lester, I will do my best to make their ceremony as special as they are. 

Hopefully, Mary and Lester will live happily ever after regardless of the circumstances that drew them together in the first place. 

I’m at Allred and Parker County Jail this week and Coffield and Estes Units next week and looking forward to meeting my amazing clients and their future spouses… 

Hitchin A Ride- Fort Worth To Goree Unit-Following The Groom…

Sending my twin a text this morning, my sinus infection had my head pounding while the threat of inclement weather Wednesday decided which SUV we would be taking to Huntsville. 

Cindy has AWD while my SUV is front wheel drive. As I pray that sleet and snow skip over North Texas, planning road trips during ice storms continues to worry me. 

My sister though isn’t worried at all. Her Mitsubishi Outlander has never let her down. I wonder if maybe I should trade my Hyundai Santa Fe for an AWD Mitsubishi? Ice is rare in Texas but, Prison Weddings aren’t seasonal. They are year round. 

Last February, Cindy and I left Fort Worth on a Greyhound bus headed to Allred Unit. The “plan” was for Cindy to wait at the terminal for me. What we couldn’t have “planned” was that the terminal would close. 

Thankfully, my amazing bride along with her mother and future mother in law saved the day by picking us up at the terminal and dropping my bride and I at Allred. 

It’s so rare for me to decide to take the bus that this would be the 2nd time in my life to choose Greyhound but, my fear of driving on icy roads led me to the decision last February just as it had in the 90’s when I was due in Houston and icy road conditions were being speculated. Buses don’t bother me. The people were friendly and there were convenient outlets to plug your phone in. The chairs weren’t uncomfortable and although I didn’t need to use the restroom, there was one aboard the bus. Greyhound had thought of everything. Cindy was as impressed as I was with the ease of buying a ticket and boarding the bus. 

My husband had been so concerned about Cindy and I freezing to death between Fort Worth and Wichita Falls that the bus seemed like a safer option. 

I never call in sick because there aren’t any sick days in the events industry. Last Thursday while on location at Parker County Jail my ear began throbbing. I wearily recognized the signs of a sinus infection coming on but as usual had no time to get into my PCP. 

My grandniece, Makenna was struggling with abdominal pain so rather than addressing my ear, I took Makenna to Harris Hospital and found that she had a golf ball sized cyst on her ovary. Makenna has been struggling with cysts the past year. At fourteen, this surprises me. But, we are trying to find solutions to a painful problem for Makenna.

Friday morning, I was due on location for a photo shoot. The frigid temperatures and wind certainly didn’t help my ears or sinuses but, braving the weather for three hours would get me far more sick by the time we wrapped up the photo shoot.

I had planned to go to Parker County Urgent Care for my usual steroid shot and did at 4PM but, by then I was really getting sick. My neck was stiff and both ears clogged. 

Picking up my prescription at Walmart for antibiotics, I wearily told my sister “I hope the shots and antibiotics get me over this soon. We are at Goree on the 2nd and all over the place for prison Weddings this month.” 

The weather (as usual) didn’t occur to me. My husband would bring up the weather as I miserably sat next to my vaporizer at home struggling to clear my head. My husband always watches the weather because he knows that driving to Texas Prisons can get tricky with a winter mix. 

Last February, the cold snap and combination of sleet didn’t slow down my brides mother who was driving her car through the icy streets like Speed Racer.

The roads didn’t bother her at all. We had a great time with our new friends and even stopped for Mexican food on our way back to the terminal. 

Although hitching a ride had never occurred to me before, our new friends made sure that I made it back to the bus terminal in Fort Worth safely. 

Those three ladies were truly amazing and a Godsend to Cindy and I since the Greyhound terminal had closed in Wichita Falls leaving Cindy and I without transportation.I’ve decided that if the buses are going to shut down, it’s probably better to rely on my sisters trusty SUV. It’s never left my sister stranded.

Usually, the worst months for weather in Texas are January and February. Although icy roads terrify me, Cindy takes driving in treacherous conditions in stride. In fact, today, Cindy is busy getting her SUV ready for our next road trip. 

Hopefully, my head clears up before Wednesday. I continue to sip hot tea and try to snap myself out of being down with a head cold. I should have worn a hat to the photo shoot and protected my ears. 

Hindsight is 20/20 and knowing how easily I get sick these days, protecting my ears should have been a priority but, dealing with Tardy clients had my focus elsewhere.

As others come up with New Years Resolutions, my resolution is to get over this blasted head cold. 

I’m looking forward to finally meeting my Bride. We had been scheduled for her wedding at Allred Unit when the groom was transferred to Goree. 

Transfers slow down the process even after a couple have been assigned a date. Once transferred, an inmate will need to file a new I60 Request For Marriage Form. 

Please be aware that based on distance from the original unit, an additional travel fee may apply if the inmate is transferred further from my location than the original unit was when booking your Texas Prison wedding. 

If the Absentee Affidavit and notarized ID expire, you will need to repeat the process if you haven’t already purchased your marriage license. Marriage licenses also have a shelf life. If the license expires while waiting to marry, you will need to purchase a new license.

Wishing all of my clients a wonderful me prosperous New Year and hoping ice days are few and far between in Texas…

Fort Worth To TDCJ Allred Unit To Winstar Casino To Bell Tower Chapel- Two Weddings & A Rehearsal…

Planning my schedule takes a certain amount of flexibility. Why? Because traffic, Client calls and other things factor heavily into my ability to bounce from one location to the next. 

Due to my existing schedule, a wedding ceremony on Christmas Eve wasn’t possible since I’m already booked for a Vow Renewal and Baptism in two different cities Christmas Eve. 

To solve the scheduling problem on Christmas Eve, I checked the distance Allred Unit from Fort Worth then from the Unit to Winstar Casino and, as long as I left Wichita Falls by 2:30-3PM, knew I could arrive at Winstar by 4:30-5PM. 

I was due at a wedding rehearsal at 8PM in Fort Worth so, I double checked the distance from Winstar to Bell Tower. The drive time and traffic play a huge part in my planning process. 

When you spend as much time traveling as I do with Cindy, it’s best to overestimate the commute when a Client is waiting on you. I’m always early because I don’t want to be late. 

My days and hours are far from 9-5 although TDCJ Weddings occur Monday through Friday from 9-5. Why? Travel time is a large consideration. Texas is a large state. 

Secondly, the amount of time spent inside a Unit can be “up in the air.” There isn’t a definite timeline of the Unit locating an inmate or the ceremony starting on time. 

A number of things can cause a delay once arriving at the Unit. Please be patient. 

I normally estimate up to 2 hours once inside a TDCJ Unit although I was once waiting with my Client at Stiles Unit nearly 3 hours for her ceremony. 

Since Stiles Unit was 5+ hours from Fort Worth, the additional time inside the Unit along with my travel home a FULL DAY. 

If your Unit is 3.5 hours one way, I do not schedule other Events on the same day unless of course, they are at the same Unit. 

It’s not unusual for me to Officiate 3 and even up to 8 weddings at a Texas Prison on the same day. The reason for this is travel time and the Unit working with me to “stack my Clients” at the same location.

My schedule is normally stacked whenever possible to accommodate my Clients. Since I’m also on staff at other venues including Bell Tower Chapel, flexibility is a requirement in order to address new Clients as well as existing bookings. 

It’s well known that I have a full staff and only I am TDCJ Approved to Officiate Texas Prison Weddings. My other Officiants and photographers on staff address traditional bookings as well as County Jail Wedding requests. 

The continued issues regarding clothing or attire have become so distressing to my Clients that I’m going to once again go over why it’s best to overdress rather than underdress to your Unit Wedding. 

During the Prison Wedding Planning Process, I often ask what you plan to wear in order to alleviate any issues. 

Let’s go over what you CAN or CANNOT wear to your Texas Prison Wedding as the SAME dress code applies to Prison Weddings as Visitation Guidelines: 

Offender Visitation Dress Code

Visitors are encouraged to dress conservatively.
Sandals, flip-flops, and open-toe shoes may be worn.

Clothing that is tight fitting, revealing, or made with see-through fabrics shall not be allowed.

Sleeveless shirts and dresses are allowed, but must cover the shoulders.

Shorts and skirts no shorter than three inches above the middle of the knee while standing, capri pants, or long pants are allowed.

Length is not restricted for pre-adolescent boys and girls, generally ages 10 and younger.

Clothing with pictures or language that may be considered profane or offensive by current public standards shall not be allowed.

Note: The duty warden shall make the final decision on whether clothing is appropriate.

It’s essential to understand the guidelines of marrying at a Texas Prison because unlike a “wedding on the outside,” the Client isn’t in control. The Prison Unit is. 

Today, I’d like to go over why my Client and I were left waiting for hours at Stiles Unit and why if you are asked to wear a cafeteria smock, it’s upsetting and occasionally embarrassing due to your clothing or attire being deemed “inappropriate.” 

I’ve had several questions regarding the similarities between the Stiles and Estes dresses. “Why did Stiles have to wear a smock and why were her photos taken without it?” Or, “I saw one of your other brides wearing a dress that wasn’t in the code. How did she wear that when I couldn’t to the Unit?” Or, “Your Prison Wedding at Michael had friends in her photos. Why can’t I bring friends to my wedding?” 

First off- bridal or groom photography can and does include guests. Prison Weddings DO NOT allow guests. Guests can wait while we are inside the Unit and join you in bridal photos. You can also wear whatever you want or change clothes for your photo shoot with me. 

Unless a photo is of my Client and I INSIDE A UNIT, clothing, guests, flowers and other items are taken outside the Unit. I offer complimentary photograohy as a courtesy to Clients and their friends or family. I also bring a wide array of photo booth items as well as bouquets, boutenierres and other items to pull photo shoots together. 

If Clients wish to bring friends or family or additional items or even a change of clothes to photo shoots, I also encourage them to do so. 

The Stiles dress was covered walking to the visitation area with a cafeteria smock. Only once inside was my Bride allowed to remove the smock. 

In her wedding photos, you can see she had been crying. Nothing is more upsetting to my Clients than being handed a cafeteria smock to wear walking into the Unit. 

It’s deeply disturbing and upsetting for my clients who wanted to look beautiful and certainly didn’t anticipate being to be required to wear a cafeteria smock to overdress rather than underdress.

Because of this occurring more than once, we will once again revisit Prison Wedding attire. I will always be wearing a suit. I wear flats or sandals based on the season or weather. I wear easy to remove shoes intentionally as our feet and hands will be screened. 

I can assist you in taking off your shoes prior to screening in. I cannot assist you in putting your shoes back on once we are screened. There may or may not be an area for you to sit and put your shoes back on. Please be aware of this. Putting shoes back on while standing on one foot is tricky. You may be forced to lean against a wall if there isn’t a bench or chair. 

The Estes bride borrowed one of my jackets and was able to marry in her dress covered by my jacket. First, we will look at her Unit photo in my suit jacket.Now, let’s look at her bridal photos taken by me at Botanic Garden. My Bride had arrived in Fort Worth at the Greyhound bus station. I had picked her up and drove her to my home to change clothes. 

Upon seeing her dress, I suggested bringing one of my jackets as I wearily realized the Unit (most likely) wouldn’t allow her dress. Below is a photo of the dress that is low cut and also above the knee. 

This dress on its own would never have been deemed appropriate. Rather than upset my Client, I loaned her clothes to “cover up.” My Stiles Unit bride arrived in a white form fitting dress. Although it was full length, the bodice was low cut and the dress was deemed “too sheer.” 

I had asked if she could remove the smock for her wedding photos and the Warden allowed this only once inside a private area. Look at her eyes. 

Walking all the way into the Unit wearing a cafeteria smock, my heart broke at what was supposed to be a joyous day for her turning into a “walk of shame” in that smock. Leaving the Unit, I had found a park for her bridal photos. The smock left behind at Stiles and the stress behind her, my Bride was relieved and once again, happy. 

Bridal photos give my Clients an opportunity to have fun and leave the stress and occasionally, the embarrassment of wearing a smock behind them. You can wear whatever you want to your bridal or groom photo shoot. 

You CANNOT wear whatever you want to your Prison Wedding. I don’t make the rules. TDCJ does and, it’s at THEIR discretion if your attire is appropriate. Please be aware of this. It’s essential to your wedding being pleasant and worry free. My Stiles bride was also busty and the clingy fabric of her form fitting dress which was also sheer was the main issue with the Warden. Although she was wearing a slip from the waist down, had she been wearing a cami or tank under the dress to cover cleavage, it still might have been too revealing based on the tight fit. 

In this type of situation, wearing a jacket, shawl, or even a sweater over the top part of the dress might have alleviated the need to wear a smock walking into the Unit. Michael Unit does not allow dresses. My Michael Unit Brides wear jeans. Trishelle wore jeans to her wedding and then changed afterwards before joining her friends in her photo shoot. I’m adding the Unit photo below. Leaving the Unit, Trishelle and I drove to Tennessee Colony store for her to change clothes and meet up with her mother, sister and best friends.If the offender is behind glass, you cannot touch or hold hands. At Ferguson Unit, my Bride wore a dress but, the dress covered her shoulders. We had NO issues regarding cleavage because while standing, no cleavage was visible. 

Your skirt or dress length should be at your knees or within one inch. It’s “tricky.” Once the wedding ceremony was finished, my beautiful bride and I found an area near the Unit for her bridal photos. Photos cannot be taken on TDCJ Property. 

At Luther Unit, my bride wore a dress that covered her shoulders and hit at the knee. There weren’t any issues because she strictly adhered to the TDCJ visitation dress code. I’m usually wearing ankle length or floor length slacks. I’m always wearing a jacket and occasionally, a scarf. I’m busty and if any cleavage is showing, I cover it up with a scarf as I did at Hodge Unit. Last February, my beautiful bride had an amazing wedding dress but, had to wear a coat over it. After leaving Allred Unit, we found an area for fun photos in her wedding dress.Although she had a jacket that matched the wedding dress, the dress was sleeveless. Texas Department Of Criminal Justice dress code REQUIRES the shoulders be covered during visitation. Prison Wedding ceremonies follow stringent guidelines. No spaghetti straps or strapless dresses are allowed. Please be aware of this.

Yesterday, at TDCJ Allred Unit, my Bride had previously sent me a photo of the dress she planned to wear. I’m attaching it for your review. The model has cleavage showing but, the dress could be pinned. 

The length of the dress appeared within the guidelines but, the slit in the front came up a little higher on my Client.

Brandy looked beautiful coming downstairs and I quickly eyed her dress. There wasn’t any cleavage showing and the back of the dress hit below her knees. Because of this, I believed we were fine. But, the Unit has the final call on attire. Not I or my Client. 

Brandy and her best friend had as much fun at their hotel photo shoot as I did. We were planning a great day filled with fun and promise but, once at the Unit, things would change.I had dropped Brandy’s friend to shop while we headed on to Allred Unit. Because the wedding was scheduled for 1PM, we arrived at 12:30PM and checked in with Chaplain Lawler. 

Brandy and her beau had both written their vows. My couple had put a lot of thought into their ceremony but, within minutes, a day that Brandy had looked forward to would be altered.

The assistant Warden strongly advised us both that Brandy’s dress was “unacceptable.” Because of this, I ran to my SUV to grab a scarf and pins to cover the bottom portion of her dress. 

Moments later, the assistant Warden told Brandy that she couldn’t marry in the dress at all. The only option was to wear the smock. Nothing causes me more stress than to see a Client crying because they must wear a smock to their ceremony. 

Because of this, I’m ONCE AGAIN warning my Clients that the possibility of having to wear a smock exists and if the dress length is deemed too short, warning you of the stress of wearing a smock to your ceremony will bring.

It’s better to err on the side of caution regarding clothing or, to bring a change of clothes to your Unit Wedding. Brandy had a change of clothes but, they were in her car back at the hotel. I wish we had brought them with us in my SUV but, hindsight is 20/20. 

I want your wedding to be seamless and worry free. I want your experience to be pleasant and I care about you and your feelings. 

Having a Client walking in with me upset about what they are wearing is so sad to me that I’m writing this blog in the hopes of preventing a similar circumstance happening to someone else…