After a long weekend of traveling to Galveston to San Antonio, my Monday started off with a bang back at Solis for my semi annual mammogram Monday morning. Why semi annual? Because over the past ten years I’ve had not one but two lumpectomies. My visits to Solis make me a nervous wreck. At 7:15AM, my shaking hands handed the tablet back to the receptionist at Solis. By 8:12AM, I was disrobed and going through my X-rays. My phone continued to ring. It never stops. For obvious reasons, I ignored the sound of Westminster chimes on my ringtone.
By 8:37AM, I was walking to the locker to get my clothing and head to the changing area. My phone rang again. It was Cindy. “Stephaney has been kicked out of rehab and is by your house.” My blood pressure shot through the roof. Seventeen years of my niece and her choices have caused more emotional and financial devastation than I could ever put into words.
Disappointment after disappointment aside, surprise phone calls about Stephaney consistently upset our entire family. Now literally throwing my clothes on to go look for Stephaney AGAIN, I rolled out of Baylor Health Systems to drive to my home wondering what in the Hell we were going to do with Stephaney NOW?! Two months into her 6 month treatment and yet again, sheer despair and disappointment were literally near my doorstep.
Kicking myself for paying her bond when she was arrested at Dallas Greyhound months ago when I Cindy and I had tried to get Stephaney into what I believed was a rehab in Valdosta, Georgia and she somehow managed to get herself into a brawl that resulted in the Dallas PD finding a revoked bond from Cotton County, Oklahoma regarding Stephaney missing her probation payment. Driving home, I wished I had let Dallas transport Stephaney to Cotton County. Would jail straighten her out? Who knows.
For three years now, my niece has had relapse after relapse to the point that not only my twin sister but also I have been hospitalized for hypertension. I reach for my Xanax as I drive preparing myself for yet another version of Stephaney blaming everyone but herself for being kicked out of treatment AGAIN.
A few blocks from home, I pull over and call the treatment center myself. Stephaney is a pathological liar and I know it. Me “my niece called her mother and said she had been released from treatment.” The center “Stephaney volunteered to leave the program by leaving the hospital.” Hmm, I knew it. Two blocks later, I see my niece at the park near my house. I bark “get in.”
Stephaney starts in with “it wasn’t my fault.” I turn to her and say “your mother has spent 15 years raising your twins. She has sacrificed her life over and over. You have cost us tens of thousands of dollars trying to fix you. You aren’t our priority. Your children are. You are 32 years old and you are killing us. I’m going to find you another rehab and you WILL finish the program!”
Stephaney barks “I want a cigarette.” My niece is selfish, self destructive and reminds me of pigpen with a whirlwind of chaos constantly surrounding her. I drive to a convenience store.
I’m deflated and depressed. I’m desperate to catch a break from Stephaney and her stupid choices. I’m determined to protect Cindy and the twins from yet another episode of “trying to Save Stephaney.” I google Oklahoma rehabilitation facilities. I need Stephaney in another state. I need to act quickly too.
By the time Stephaney walked out of Quick Way, I had located a rehab. I’m nothing if not determined. As usual, Stephaney had excuses. “I lost all of the things you bought me and my ID.” Lit, I said “what are you talking about?” My niece (laughing as usual) said “I signed a waiver giving up my property to the facility.”
More drama. More chaos. More stress. MORE EXPENSES due to a 32 year old that flat out refuses to get her shit together and be a responsible adult.
Now in order to get Stephaney into treatment, I would have to go buy a birth certificate and then drive her to the DMV as well as go to the bank for a cashiers check for the new facility. Ugh. Facilities (even cash paying facilities since Stephaney doesn’t have insurance) require proper identification.
Waiting at the clerks office, I book a bus from Fort Worth to Muskogee Oklahoma for Stephaney at 1:58AM. I have less than 12 hours to replace Stephaney’s clothes, shoes, toiletries and other items Cindy and I have replaced again and again. Grrr.
Cindy meets me at Walmart. We are miserable together as Stephaney throws item after item into the buggy. Three hundred plus dollars later, we roll out of Walmart to Fort Worth. I’m exhausted. Cindy’s too tired to cry.
My son has picked up the twins and taken them home with him so they can spend the night at his house. My son will take the twins to school Tuesday while I take Foxy to the vet and Cindy goes to an appointment. We are up all night Monday getting Stephaney on that bus to Oklahoma.
At midnight, Cindy and I sit for two hours waiting on the bus with Stephaney to make damn sure she gets on it. At 2:15AM, we realize that the bus has come and gone. SOB. I load up and drive Stephaney to Dallas while Cindy takes a nitroglycerin tablet. I swear if anybody ever believed that dealing with our family was easy they have no idea what sheer, raw, hell my niece has brought to our lives. Acting normal is a full time job waiting on the next sucker punch from Stephaney. Literally.
Tuesday morning, Cindy and I are Green Bay Unit thinking our latest “Stephaney Situation” is solved.
Leaving Green Bay to Dr Richwine, by the time Cindy’s getting an EKG, Stephaney is calling to say she missed the bus and that the three hundred dollars worth of items we had just bought Monday are on the bus. Good Lord! We are at the doctor because of Stephaney’s latest sucker punch Monday and yet hours after getting her on the bus in Dallas she gets off in Oklahoma and misses the bus?
Cindy and I both take a Xanax. The doctor wants bloodwork. We have no time. We leave the doctor to drive to Oklahoma and find Stephaney AGAIN.
Hours from Fort Worth with no sleep after staying up all night to get Stephaney on that damn bus to Muskogee. I’m beyond exhausted. Cindy’s angina is killing her. I worry about Cindy. I’m always worrying about Cindy.
We find Stephaney at Choctaw Too Travel Center. Three hours from the rehab facility. Cindy and I have had less than two hours of sleep. I call the center to pick up Stephaney’s luggage from Greyhound. I want to cry but I can’t. I’m too angry. Stephaney ignores her mother and I by listening to her music. No apologies. No thank you. There never are with Stephaney.
At 4:37PM Tuesday, I cannot find the facility. We are in a corn field. I am having a meltdown. Cindy is silently crying. Stephaney is listening to music. I call the facility and ask them to meet me near Chateau at Hookers Restaurant.
At 4:42PM, a car with two nice ladies pulls up next to us. Stephaney gets out. They invite Cindy and I to follow them to the facility. I decline by explaining “we are 6 hours from home. Wednesday morning I’m in Huntsville then Woodsville. Thursday, I’m in Pampas. I’m sorry but we have my son looking after Stephaney’s twin daughters and husbands worried about us getting home tonight. Thank you for meeting us.”
Without a goodbye, Stephaney walked to the other car…
Driving to meet Joel yesterday, I felt as if I had known him for years. His journey was one of resilience and faith. Joel works with veterans struggling with PTSD. A few years ago, Joel was one of those vets himself. He now also works as a DJ on Road To Hope Radio discussing topics pertaining to veterans as well as being an outreach coordinator at the PTSD Corporation of America.
Joel is dedicated to making a difference and changing the lives of veterans struggling with PTSD.
I could relate to Joel’s passion as my brother, Jerry was in several wars during his twenty years in the Navy and my brother in law, Steve Daniel spent eight years at Camp Anaconda as well as being one of the fuel tank drivers under attack during the Good Friday roadside bombing in Iraq.
At the time, Steve had only been at Camp Anaconda a few short months. Delivering jet fuel in Iraq was far more dangerous than trucking groceries across America but, work for truck drivers was so slow in 2003 that Steve felt he had no choice but to take on work in Iraq with his hazardous materials truck driving credentials. I spoke with Joel about my brother, my brother in law and my niece, Leigh Ann’s husband, Alex who is currently preparing to station in Oxnard, California after a few months training in San Diego this July.
Joel had a smile and excitement that was contagious. While driving to the Unit, rain and lightning were the furthest thought I had on Tuesday that started out beautifully in Fort Worth but within 30 minutes of San Saba the weather changed quickly and dramatically for the Texas Twins who were as usual traveling together to a Texas Prison.
Our road trips are fun, full of adventure and always interesting. There’s nothing we enjoy more than “hitting the road.” From junk shops to out of the way cafes, Cindy and I love having the time together that 30 years in sales took from us while working for different companies.
Joel had sent me a text that read “hope you brought an umbrella.” We were seeing light drizzle and lightening miles away but completely unprepared for the sudden downpour that made it difficult to see clearly.
I had Cindy answer Joel for me “I not only brought an umbrella for me but one for you too buddy see you soon.” I plan ahead. I’m “everyone’s mother.” If my SUV doesn’t come well stocked with whatever I need hours from home, it’s difficult to find the one thing I forgot. Because of this, I make detailed lists. I don’t forget anything because I’m OCD.
Rolling into the visitor lot at San Saba, it was a hike in the downpour to get to the Unit but, Joel and I laughed and jumped puddles together to get there a little soaked but ready to “get the wedding going” he had waited for. Planning a prison wedding can be a time consuming process.
Joel’s rainy day wedding was literally a “Rainbow In The Dark” on a cold and dreary day.
Joel loved the boutenier I had created with bling and pink accents to coordinate with his shirt and jacket.
I had a wide variety of other props but due to the rain only chose a few to keep him from getting drenched outside my SUV parked next to his. I commissioned a wooden “Mr” sign as a surprise gift to send him with his wedding photos. I love surprising and delighting my clients with unexpected gifts. Joel’s fiancée was beaming as she entered the conference room and a bit nervous as three guards watched the ceremony. She was beautiful and excited. I love my clients and making their day special.
By the time we finally meet whether it’s at a venue for my traditional clients or a Prison, I know a lot about them and they know a lot about me.
More often than not, my clients and I have spent weeks and occasionally even months on the phone or texting when not emailing updates to each other up to wedding day. Leaving the Unit, my happy new clients both gave me a hug. The relief at finally being married after the long and arduous prison planning process is always evident with my clients. They are finally married and finally through the process.
Joel is looking forward to planning their vow renewal upon the release of his beautiful bride with my team as am I.
Vow Renewals are a literal celebration of freedom, resilience and strength for my TDCJ clients as well as my other inmate marriage clients. Whenever possible, I meet my former clients on release day at the Walls Unit. It’s truly a celebration. Driving back to Fort Worth, I check in with my Ferguson bride about timelines to meet her today. I had three clients at three Units in the same day. My first was at Ferguson some three hours from my location but, my client meeting held me up this morning getting me off to a later start than I had planned.
I was planning to arrive an hour early at Ferguson to handle bridal photos before heading to the Unit at 1PM but didn’t arrive until 12:30 at Ferguson for my 1PM wedding. No matter, we headed in together to clear and get ready to meet the Groom.
My bride looked stunning in white slacks and heels. I wore heels years ago as a clothing, print and commercial model but these days prefer flats.
While waiting, my bride told me she was nervous as the guard told us both “we aren’t professional photographers.” I laughed as did my client since I’m well aware that guards are doing the best they can regarding inmate photos.
The Groom couldn’t stop smiling. He was thrilled and excited. I love what I do. The happiest moments at a Prison are releases and prison weddings.
Posing for photos was so much fun with my newly married couple! The love and the journey to finally get married are often emotional for my clients. The Groom touching his heart and reading his vows was a sweet and precious moment for the bride and I although at Ferguson Unit our “backdrop” were open cages and scattered chairs. Moving away from the cages used for non contact visits in order to “cut them” from the wedding photos, my clients nervously held hands.
Contact is within strict guidelines. Holding hands, two closed mouth kisses, one hug. Inappropriate contact is strictly prohibited.
I love handwritten vows and creative input from clients making their wedding as special as they are.
Finding good lighting inside a Unit for photos is difficult but, I think our guard did an amazing job quite frankly.
Leaving the Unit after waiting for our photos to print, my bride followed me to my SUV for a wide array of prop options.
My rolling photo booth changes frequently and I’m constantly adding or replacing inventory. The sequin veil was an instant hit as were the tiaras and fascinators. From lanterns to signs to bouquets, flower balls, banners and more, my SUV is often a treasure trove of fun items that make photo shoots as creative as my clients imaginations are. I love an opportunity to share the joy of clients on wedding day. Jumping back into my SUV to head over to Huntsville, Texas to meet my next client, I ran over a retread that had come off a semi and luckily didn’t blow out my own tire doing so. My suvs are road warriors.
I’ve had a few escapades on back roads to Texas Prisons and once even hitched a ride after hitting a deer with a truck driver in Tennessee Colony. Nothing and I mean nothing keeps me from showing up for my clients! Whether it’s with a buzzard sticking out of my broken windshield or the horrific smell of an errant skunk I was unable to keep from running over, my clients know they can count on me.
Backroads are full of semi trucks throwing rocks, work boots, tires and more. Staying alert while fielding calls from my Texas Twins Events Clients as well as my TDCJ Clients usually takes a copilot but today, Cindy was working Parker County Jail.
My son and his wife were covering Louisiana prison weddings and my niece was still editing photos from last weekend. Two weddings on Mother’s Day with family photos thrown in had her swamped and everyone else was at another booking. I don’t mind driving alone I simply don’t answer emails or texts until I’m in a parking lot and off the road.
Leigh Ann’s family photos were as usual hilarious with our family. My husband was busy dealing with one of his developments and Cindy’s husband was on the road in New York so, as usual the lone male in our family of females on Sunday was my son. He’s a bit of a ham.
My youngest grandniece, Madyson adores my son though and my son has decided not to have children since he “has four dogs and will have twins like everyone else.”
The truth is that twins run on both sides of our family and my son isn’t too far off. However, his wife does want children and one day this “baby discussion” is going to come up again for my son and his wife. My niece, Stephaney is doing well and back on track again. We’ve paved a tough road with my grandnieces mother but, once again, we’ve got her back on track.
Photos with the twins mom the last 14 years have been rare as normally Stephaney preferred to be anywhere other than with us. That’s changed now though and family time has become a priority.
With two sets of twins, young Madyson, Leigh Ann and her younger sister, Stephaney, my son was more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it but, we managed to get a few photos just the same.
I’m off to Green Bay Unit and Palo Pinto County Jail tomorrow and as usual, back at venues all weekend with Hughes Unit, Hutchins Unit, Robertson Unit, Torres Unit, Allred Unit, Beto Unit and Stiles Unit over the next few weeks.
My niece, Leigh Ann will handle both Texas overflow inmate clients as well as photography, notary services and predominately California inmate weddings after July 27th.
Cindy and I will continue to handle mainly Texas based inmate weddings as well as traditional bookings and county jail requests based on our schedules. We will still take on prison weddings and destination weddings in other states but, book early as our schedules are often burdened.
Traditional events can run up to 2 years out for my calendar and short notice bookings or requests will be bumped to my son and his wife who work as a team and handle booking in several states as well as traditional requests for an Officiant/photography team.
My twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna are available as princess characters at birthday parties as well as flower girls and are both studying videography and photography.
The twins work together as a team on location as do Cindy and I. Maryssa and Makenna both enjoy working with younger children on location and have been on site with my Team since they were two years old. I’ve had several model inquiries regarding Maryssa and Makenna so it should be noted that they are both currently already under contract with an agency and not interested in signing with a new company at this time. Please check back in 2020 for model or promotional inquiries for Makenna and Maryssa.
Young Madyson is also a model for several brands and managed by her mother, Leigh Ann. For inquiries, please use the contact us link at Texas Twins Events regarding commercial or print booking information.There will as usual be more road trips, rest areas, memorable clients and great times in store for the Texas Twins. We are now handling prison weddings in several states but, our main states will continue to be California, Texas, & Louisiana although destination inmate services are still available upon special request.
I will be offline Thursday for Iheart radio interviews with Cindy then radio interviews with Silver Linings Inspired Radio before running to Palo Printon and Parker County bookings as well as in and out of venues Friday through Sunday night.
It’s Wedding Season and the joy of love is everywhere we go. The best job in the world? The Texas Twins would have to say “you bet!” we love what we do and do what we love for our amazing clients.
If you need to speak with me or anyone on my team about your inmate wedding, traditional event or media inquiry, please leave a detailed message or email me email@example.com we look forward to meeting ya all soon…
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.
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.
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.
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:
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…
This morning while grabbing a quick coffee prior to “hitting the road,” my husband asked me the same question he asks everyday “is there anything I can do for you?” Sounds like a simple question but, the depth and the meaning aren’t overlooked by me. My husband would do anything for me and I know it. The same is true of me for him or my twin sister, my grandnieces, my son, my nieces and my clients.
I’m just as driven, determined and dedicated to making my clients day as worry free and pleasant as possible as I am with my own family.
Everyday is a “no repeat” day. There are no re takes or do overs. Being the best version of yourself might sound silly to anyone who hasn’t faced death. The fragile nature of life is lost on them. It isn’t lost on my twin sister, my husband or our children. Why? Because my twin sister nearly died in an accident at 23 years old.
For fifteen years now, I’ve faced several surgeries to fight “the C word.” I cram as many “moments into each day” as humanly possible. I don’t take any day of my life for granted. Instead, these minutes, these moments, these opportunities are viewed as the gifts they are. I’m “C free” and have been for several years but each and every check up, I literally “brace myself for bad news.” By the grace of God, I haven’t heard any in five years.
Laying out my usual array of CD’s for my drive to TDCJ Coffield Unit, Donna Summer, Elton John, Lenard Skynard, Rod Stewart, Chicago and Jim Croce would be keeping me company on this trip since Cindy was busy in Parker County, Leigh Ann had a booking on the courthouse steps and my son was on his way to Houston.
I don’t mind driving alone on Texas highways or anywhere else for that matter. Music occupies my mind and keeps me company. I know all of the words to all of my favorite CD’s.
My husband only knows the beat or rhythm to music and nearly never pays attention to the words. I find his favorite AC/DC song to be the only song he actually does know the words to hilarious. What is it? Thunder Struck. It cracks me up.
Checking in with my Thursday Beto bride to confirm timelines after passing through Corsicana and hoping rain wouldn’t ruin my Tuesday and Thursday photo shoots after Unit weddings, my 2 hour and fifteen minute trip to Tennessee Colony was running closer to 2 1/2 due to the usual road construction. Heavy sigh.
Sitting in a line of traffic, I had time to review email requests for Goodman Unit, Middleton Unit, Garza East, Ellis, Estelle, Clements, and Dominguez Units. I review at least 5-8 new requests every 2-3 days for prison weddings.
Even I am often surprised at the sheer numbers of clients wanting to marry an inmate. Texas is our highest booking state with California running second and Louisiana third in requests for an Inmate Officiant.
Since I was driving without a copilot, I called the prospective clients back rather than emailing them.
Road construction to Tennessee Colony is a virtual mess of mazes through small towns. I often wonder where everyone works or why people just abandon old farmhouses and leave them to decay. What happened?
In Texas towns that have a Prison, nearly everyone works for TDCJ. The number of employees who have retired and returned to TDCJ is impressive.
One law library clerk told me “2025 is my retirement year and I won’t be coming back like everyone else does. I will leave the bars behind me and find something to do outside of the prison.” I am fairly sure he means it. My husband checked in several times along the way and let me know he had a dentist appointment today. Like me, Matthew hates going to the dentist but, it’s a necessary evil.
Listening to Chicago “being without you takes a lot of getting used to,” I remind my husband to take an Aleve to prevent a headache at the dentist.
I then reminded myself to call Cindy since she’s the one “I was without” on my Tennessee Colony trip.
Cindy doesn’t enjoy riding with me to Tennessee Colony because “there’s nothing to do.” She’s right. There are no shopping centers or cafes and the only drop off point is the General Store. There are five Prisons though and I make the trip here at least twice a month to one or more of the five Tennessee Colony Prisons.
Rolling into Tennessee Colony with my bride a few minutes behind me, I sent my husband the “greeting” sign featuring TDCJ Units located in the city that features only one General Store.
Nearly everyone in the General Store either “knows someone employed by TDCJ or is related to someone employed at one of the Units.”
Five Units house inmates within fairly close proximity of one another in Tennessee Colony. Coffield and Michael are both located behind the same guard entrance gate. The close proximity of Coffield and Michael are convenient for me because I can move from Coffield wedding ceremonies starting at 9AM to Michael which usually schedules me in at 10:30 or later which is how I literally “bounce” from Coffield to Michael with fluid frequency to meet my clients and conduct their wedding ceremony.
Often I “stack” clients if I have more than one client at the same Unit with thirty minute intervals for each client. After I complete wedding ceremonies at Units, my clients and I find a place for their bridal photos.
Bouncing from Coffield or Michael to Beto or Gurney wouldn’t be quite as convenient as you would need to leave the Coffield/Michael Units to drive “back through town” and down another two lane road to get to Beto, Gurney or Powledge.
Coffield and Michael schedule inmate weddings on Tuesdays. Other Tennessee Colony Units prefer Thursday’s. I’m in Tennessee Colony so often that I could literally drive it blindfolded. In fact, I’m back in Tennessee Colony on Thursday. This time at Beto then on to Hodge Unit. Hodge Unit is in Rusk, Texas and forty five miles from Beto.
I’ve left Tennessee Colony Units to drive to Huntsville Units on more than a few occasions. Huntsville is also a city of Prisons and one hundred and two miles from Tennessee Colony. It’s a very long day to leave Fort Worth to Tennessee Colony to Huntsville but, it’s doable.
I’ve spent up to eighteen hours driving from Unit A to Unit B and occasionally even Unit C before heading back to Fort Worth to rise and shine at 3AM and start all over again. Whatever I can do to keep from renting a hotel for prison weddings, I do during the week as weekends often find me at Destination Events and staying at hotels. With my schedule, finding time to be home at night and see my family during wedding season is difficult at best but, I give it my best shot. Having a copilot helps tremendously as my twin and I take turns driving to locations over 6 hours from the DFW area.
Arriving at Coffield Unit, I was thrilled to see my beautiful bride wearing a wedding dress. This is a rare treat. I loved the entire ensemble. Her bouquet was perfect match to her dress.
Although my bride wasn’t allowed to bring her bouquet into the Unit, I couldn’t wait to incorporate it into her bridal photos after we left Coffield Unit. Her smile said it all.
My TDCJ clients are nervous, excited and exhilarated to finally be getting married. It’s a long and arduous process. Michael Unit won’t allow dresses or skirts of ANY TYPE inside the Unit. Advising my Michael Unit brides that only slacks are allowed isn’t an easy conversation but, it is necessary. The Rule at Michael is unbending.
The “wait” at Coffield is always surprising. Occasionally you can “get right in” while other times the wait can run anywhere from 1-3 hours inside the Unit. My bride and I checked in together at 8:50AM for a 9:00AM scheduled wedding ceremony. I had expected to be out of Coffield by 10 at the latest. Instead, it would be after 11 before we finally walked out of the Unit together.
“Screening in” can be a time consuming ordeal. I always screen in first. I decided that while my bride was being screened, I would head to the Wardens Office to sign in and pay for Unit photos at $3 each. I always buy three photos for my clients as a courtesy.
Luckily, I had bought 2 rolls of quarters rather than one since I’m at Beto on Thursday as my Tuesday bride had forgotten her quarters and realized it in the parking lot. To solve the problem, I emptied my Beto quarters into the Coffield baggie to cover us for 6 photos at Coffield. I’m nothing if not prepared.
I can (and will) get quarters for Beto on my way to Erath County on Wednesday for Beto on Thursday.
I never go to a Prison without quarters. Often my client may forget to bring quarters for photos and a wedding ceremony is the one event where clients want as many photos as they can get although the quality of the photos is often “questionable.”
If we all have our heads in the photo, it’s a good day. Guards are not professional photographers and “you get what you get.”
Amazingly, Estes Unit by far has the best Unit photos. This is saying a lot from me because all of my clients want Unit photos.
Privately owned Units rarely (if ever) offer wedding day photos. Sanders Estes takes the best Prison photos I’ve seen from any Prison in Texas.
Sanders Estes is also the only Unit where a guest or guests have been allowed to witness the ceremony.
Clear or “in focus” photos are rare at Prison Weddings. Allred actually runs a close second with Hodge Unit coming in third regarding photo clarity and quality.
Back to the waiting area at Coffield, my client and I would continue to wait while another bride waited on her “other Officiant.”
I’m well aware of this “other Officiant” because she is almost always late and always unfriendly. I pay little or no attention to her intentionally although I WISH she would pay more attention to her clients and arrive on time.
The entire Unit accommodates prison weddings and her work ethics are embarrassing and inconvenient to not only her own clients but also myself and my clients who are “effectively forced to wait on her to ride in on her broom with an attitude.” Prison Weddings aren’t planned overnight. The process is time consuming and stressful to clients who anxiously await wedding day.
From start to finish, planning a Prison wedding can take anywhere from three weeks to months. The “person on the outside” will send an Absentee Affidavit and the “person on the inside” will request a TDCJ ID that can take several weeks.
Once the “person on the inside” has the Absentee Affidavit and ID Notarized, the “person on the outside” will use both documents to purchase the marriage license. The “person on the inside” will then file an I60 Request For Marriage Form listing the TDCJ Approved Officiant on the paperwork.
The I60 requires up to 6 signatures. Once approved, the Warden will hand the chaplain the paperwork to set the date and time for the marriage. The TDCJ Officiant will then confirm the date and time assigned. I.E. Prison wedding planning is a lengthy process.
One of my clients, Mary, waited months to get approved for her wedding. Another, JoJo, waited over a year. Still another waited six months at Stiles Unit. Part of the issues these clients faced that made their journey more difficult involved Unit transfers or a CLM status or other “hiccups.” I spend months walking each of my TDCJ client facing “hurdles” through a confusing process. I also become everyone’s mother when a Prison wedding has hurdles.
I spend FAR more time talking or corresponding with TDCJ Clients than I ever will with a Texas Twins Events, Pawning Planners or other client booked through a venue that I’m on staff with. Prison Wedding Planning is by far more complicated than a “traditional wedding.”
On weekends and evenings, I’m often working with “traditional clients” or on site at a venue when a call from a TDCJ client may come in. I juggle everyone everyday and return calls every 2-3 hours.
My “job” never ends with any of my clients because they offer re book with myself and my staff for other services including Vow Renewals upon release of the inmate or Baptisms and these clients ALWAYS refer their friends and family to my staff and I. We have earned our reputation of excellence by exceeding our clients expectations. These clients are like family to my staff and I. They are far more than a “Gig” or “Booking.”
Waiting on “another Officiant” is the last thing any client needs on wedding day. Having everyone else on site for their wedding wait on “another Officiant” who obviously has a blatant disregard for everyone else’s time continues to infuriate me.
The “other Officiant” needs to buy a watch or find a new business that isn’t based on being timely, organized or articulate.
At Allred, my clients and I were forced to wait yet again due to this same “other Officiant.” It’s aggravating to me that people don’t view being late as stealing because it is. You are taking something you cannot replace. These brides or grooms have waited months on their wedding day.
The last thing anyone wants to do on wedding day is to wait on “another Officiant” who is unprofessional and uncaring. When “another Officiant” consistently being tardy to a Unit subsequently forces my clients and I to wait on their arrival for my clients wedding ceremony to take place, such conduct annoys my clients as well as pissing me off at the same time. Some people take no pride in their work ethics.
Hire someone with a stellar track record and responsible behavior. It will save you a lot of grief. It can also save you money. How? Well, if you’ve hired someone who doesn’t return your calls or answer your emails, you might very well have also hired someone so unreliable (obviously not affiliated with Texas Twins Events) that they won’t bother to show up on wedding day!
How do I know about NO SHOWS? Because I’ve been hired as second and even the third Officiant or Planner or BOTH over and over for years by clients who had “hired the wrong vendor to begin with.”
That’s right. I’ve taken calls from hysterical brides or their mothers or members of the wedding party for YEARS who found themselves wishing the had hired Texas Twins Events in the first place but instead, found themselves ALONE at a Unit or venue with a MIA Officiant or Planner (obviously not affiliated in any way, shape or form with my staff).
These “emergency requests at the 11th hour” have been going on for so many years now that I now have emergency fees in place based on our availability. After all, my staff and I DON’T HAVE EMERGENCIES. The client who hired the WRONG VENDOR is HAVING AN EMERGENCY.
I will never forget the TCU wedding party calling me years ago about “two hundred guests waiting and we can’t get in touch with our Officiant. We need someone here as soon as possible.” I had been working on a Texas Twins Treasures trunk and obviously unprepared to “run off and save the day” but, due to the hysterical phone call, changed my clothes and dashed over to the church.
Arriving with everyone upset and agitated, I had no idea what they wanted for their ceremony, names of the wedding party, who was giving the bride away or anything else for that matter. Also and more importantly, who was paying MY FEE? Upon inquiring about my fee in the midst of the circus environment of chaos, I was told “we didn’t bring any money because we paid the other Officiant.”
Oh, you mean the person who DIDN’T bother showing up? I advised the wedding party of the facts since paying the No Show Officiant doesn’t benefit me one iota. “I received a hysterical phone call on my day off begging me to drop everything and run over here to save YOUR wedding. If you don’t have funding to pay my fee, I will be leaving now and ya all can have a great party.”
Turning to leave, someone managed to come up with my fee. I am not a volunteer. I’m a staunch professional who effectively “goes to work” in exchange for consideration. If you have no money, you can submit a bartered item proposal through my sister site, The Pawning Planners.
After the “TCU incident,” and similar escapades that included excuses pertaining to paying the “other Officiant” that prevented these hysterical folks from paying me or anyone in my staff who ACTUALLY DID SHOW UP when the initial vendor hired and more importantly, PAID DID NOT, all of my sites were updated with “emergency fee structures” as well as holiday fees. I don’t have emergencies and no one on my Team does either.
I abhor tardiness. Worse, are the “consistently tardy people” who assume that by being tardy that their behavior is acceptable to everyone else who are effectively forced to wait on them.
I’m never late. Ever. I leave a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour earlier than necessary for every commitment I have. I plan ahead. Not showing up at an event? NEVER. But, I’m not like everyone else. My staff aren’t either. Our booked clients are OUR PRIORITY.
Since the other Officiant was MIA and most likely running 20-30 minutes late (as usual), her client was alone and feeling somewhat insecure about “screening in” since the alarm kept going off when she attempted to “clear in.”
The “hold up” at screening due to the other client bringing a ring box and ring into the Unit. Ring boxes have metal hinges. Metal interferes with the metal detector. Whether it’s jewelry, a watch, a girdle with boning or a bra with underwire or even a ring box, YOU MUST CLEAR the machine to enter ANY TDCJ UNIT.
I strongly advise all of my clients not to bring anything other than their current state issued ID, Marriage License, car keys and quarters. It will save you and I time screening in and make our visit far more pleasant on wedding day.
Having someone walk in bewildered and alone while wondering if their “other Officiant” is going to bother showing up is just too much for me. I often wish they had someone reliable in their corner during what is often already an emotional process but, again, I cannot save everyone from hiring the wrong Officiant. I’ve seen it happen before and I will see it happen again. I’m not only referring to Prisons either.
My office “fields” emergency Officiant calls on a regular basis because someone hired the wrong Officiant, Photographer or Planner. You know, the “other Officiant or vendor who were paid to show up but didn’t.”
Getting a call from a frantic bride, groom, mother of the bride or groom to one of our Texas Twins Events cell phones from someone in a panic because “our Officiant didn’t show up” or “our planner isn’t here” or “our photographer isn’t here and we need you to send someone over immediately” are the types of phone calls no one wants to take.
Don’t these frantic callers assume that we aren’t already on location? You know with the clients who booked with us. We can’t save everyone. What we can do is put our clients needs first and if I have any available staff, send them to the “emergency” caller. But, these emergency services come at a higher rate. Also, emergency services are based entirely on availability. Our clients don’t have emergencies because they booked with Texas Twins Events.
I’m booked up to 2 years out and no longer take on emergency Officiant bookings. The reason for this is that you are effectively “going in cold” with clients you know nothing about who are often angry, anxious and upset because “someone else” had let them down. It’s an awful situation for the client who trusted the “wrong person” but again, I cannot save everyone. My staff cannot save everyone. Our priorities are our booked clients first and foremost. Everyone else is secondary.
Emergency Officiant situations are redirected to my staff and their availability. I work 7 days a week and can’t run off from my existing clients “to save the day” for a “stranger” simply because they ask me to.
I strongly urge people who have been wronged AKA “STOOD UP” by another vendor to get a refund before calling Texas Twins Events and expecting us to drop everything because “we help everyone.” We help people who hired us in the first place. File a small claims lawsuit against the person who knowingly and willfully “ruined your wedding day.” Why? Because you paid them to show up that’s why. You trusted them to honor their end of the bargain and they failed you. This my friends is called “Breach of Oral or Implied Contract.” It you have paid for a service you didn’t receive, it’s also called “Theft Of Services.” Study up and know your rights as a consumer.
Booked clients take precedence over anyone else coming to us at the 11th hour in a panic because they initially hired someone else. Not OUR luggage- Not OUR trip.
No one on my staff has ever and I mean never will not been on site at a booked event. It will never happen in my lifetime. I have a full staff for this very reason. If someone becomes ill, there is always a backup that will not be scheduled on the same day. I have never missed a booking in my life, if I’m sick, I go to the ER or Urgent Care and get a shot before heading to my booking or after my job is through.
At Sanders Estes Unit, I had three brides and immense pain. Why? Kidney stones. I waited hours to go to the ER to ensure my clients needs were met first. I was also flying to California 36 hours after this photo was taken and terrified my pain was due to a ruptured appendix but, my bloody urine actually eased my mind. Kidney stones again. Ugh.
Would I have gotten on that plane following an appendectomy? Yes. Against doctors orders I would have. I would also have sought medical treatment in California if I experienced any complications from surgery in Texas. But, by the Grace of God, my pain wasn’t due to my appendix. My smile on the railroad tracks literally masks my discomfort. No one has the work ethics that I possess other than my twin sister, Cindy.
There are no sick days or emergencies in the events industry. Whatever is going on in my life or my staffs lives takes a backseat to our clients needs. There’s always an ER or Urgent Care facility open after hours.
“Work ethics AND morals are like a good set of tires. Everything you have is riding on them.”
The ring at Coffield shouldn’t have been there. Since many of my clients inquire about rings, I’m going to go over Section K of the Administrative Directive because the question regarding rings comes up frequently with my TDCJ Clients.
I’ve memorized the Administrative Directive and no, I don’t call wardens and ask them to make exceptions because they are running a Prison and very busy and also because as a TDCJ Officiant, it’s expected that we know and understand the rules and guidelines set forth pertaining to inmate marriage and, I do.
Offender property prevents ring exchanges and yet… the other bride was unaware of the limitations that would require her to leave the Unit with the ring she had brought.
I suggested that the guard remove the ring from the box setting off the metal detector and that the bride wear the ring herself as I also explained to this young bride that wedding ring exchanges are strictly forbidden. The bride then told me “the Warden said I could put it on but I would have to take it off when I left.” Oh, so someone called a Warden to ask to bring a wedding ring into the Unit although it’s unauthorized? Wow. It’s tough to surprise me but, calling a Warden to ask for something because it isn’t allowed isn’t a good idea. In fact, it’s something that I strongly suggest no one does.
I’m just going to put this out there because giving someone a ring on wedding day only to have to remove it and effectively “take it back” is perhaps even more emotionally traumatic than not presenting it in the first place but, that’s my opinion.
My clients are strongly advised against calling the Warden to ask for something that’s prohibited in the first place. It’s far better to follow the Administrative Directive. That’s why there is one put in place giving inmates the right to marry in TDCJ Units.
By the time my client and I were called to go to the Visitation Area, my bride and I were more than ready to “get the show on the road.” After all, we had been waiting for quite some time and having the “other Officiant” haughtily stare at me enjoying a conversation with not only my client but also her own client was more than a little awkward for her I’m guessing.
I can talk to anyone and I can certainly befriend anyone who is unaware that a ring box is going to set off the machine. “Clearing” a machine is essential to entering the Unit. Whether you need to disrobe, take your hair down, remove a ring from the box or whatever else is setting off the machine, compliance is required. My bride had to take her beautiful updo down. It’s very distressing on wedding day but, clearing the machine isn’t “optional.”
Walking through the heavy doors into the visitation area, I decided to use both backdrops for photos because lighting is often an issue at Coffield. I wanted my bride to have the best possible photos from her wedding.
The groom was nervous and thrilled to see his bride. These moments are emotional. My client and her beau have been through phone calls, confusing paperwork and long wait times to stand with me to marry. They are excited and yet, apprehensive. No one knows what to expect. I lay out the rules. “You can hold hands. You can hug. You can kiss twice but no open mouth. No groping. We will be respectful and stay within the guidelines.” I also remind both parties “although this wedding is taking place inside a prison, once I sign and file this license, you are legally married and dissolving your union will require a divorce. Do you both agree to continue?” They always do. I’ve never had anyone change their mind on wedding day but, I have had a few people hyperventilate and even vomit. I’m not specifically speaking only about Prisons either. I’ve seen pretty much everything in my years of the events industry.
My hair was a mess with humidity and my usual ponytail pulled most of it out of my face. I had cut my bangs again while waiting on a client at Green Bay Unit and as usual, messed my hair up AGAIN. I need to throw my cuticle scissors out of my SUV and stop taking whacks at my bangs but, for years I’ve been guilty of attempting to cut my own bangs and botching it. Time is something I don’t have.
My couple looked fantastic and although the groom was a little nervous, he relaxed before posing for photos.
My bride was a delight in every way. I love my clients. My “client” is the person on the outside. This confuses people but shouldn’t. The person on the outside is responsible for finding their TDCJ Approved Officiant. I don’t advertise and I never have.
Frankly, my reputation is why and how I stay booked. Referral business is a gift. If you are doing your job right, you won’t need to advertise. Moving over to the other backdrop across the visitation area, the groom wanted to see the license after I had signed it. Occasionally, the groom or bride want to view the license and I found this to be a “sweet moment.” I had no idea that this wedding had been something the couple had planned for years. The reason the groom wanted to see my signature was to know “the deal was done.”
My bride had told me something that was not only real but also raw with honesty as we stood waiting on a guard to unlock the heavy steel door. I turned to face her as she said “Wendy, I’m doing time too while he’s in here. For years I’ve thought I can’t keep doing this. He has to want to get it together and, he finally does.” She was absolutely right. I thought of the line in a song on one of my cd’s and just as the heavy steel door was being unlocked “I can’t wait upon a lovers cross for you” Jim Croce. No one can wait upon a lovers cross forever. I understood completely what my bride had meant.
The person on the outside is a warrior. They make all of the sacrifices. My bride had waited because she wanted light at the end of the tunnel and I pray she finds it.
Her new husband went before parole last week and I’m hoping he makes it. I love happy endings and will also be officiating their Vow Renewal upon his release and looking forward to seeing them both again.
I had packed my make up kit but had no time to put on any make up other than lipstick which is why I wore my “no make up” tinted glasses. Time. I have so little of it. I live every moment and I love working. I love meeting new people and I love my job.
I now have 3 pairs of glasses for my “on the dash” days where lipstick and a smile are all I have time for. Makeup? Who has ten minutes for that? I know I didn’t. My bride and I said goodbye to her new husband and walked back to wait another hour near the metal detector. Why? Because the second bride and “other Officiant” were buying photos too and rather than print our photos first, the guard was back in the Visitation Area with the same camera and SD card. It would’ve been far more convenient (for us anyway) to print our photos first but, we wait patiently.
My client and I would wait on the other bride who would come out to wait alone with my client and I on her own photos while the “other Officiant” stomped off and walked right out of Unit leaving her client to wait alone. I felt sad for her. Sitting alone and abandoned after waiting on that “other Officiant” she was now watching leave as my client and I waited with her on the wardens secretary to print out our photos first.
Weddings aren’t a “drive through.” I was glad my client and I were there to keep the other bride entertained with some good company.
Life Events aren’t “on the dash” and yet, arriving late and leaving early, the “other Officiants” behavior didn’t surprise me at all. Frankly, I’m used to it with this “other Officiant.” I always feel sorry for her clients. She doesn’t care about how important their “moment is.” She doesn’t take into consideration how long they’ve waited or what they went through to get to their wedding day. It’s a tragedy.
I can only imagine how lonely a long drive to a Unit for a Prison wedding would be. Driving home after a Prison wedding without your new spouse by your side? Even lonelier.
I had wished the other bride was able to join my client and I to celebrate her wedding and take photos with us but, I can’t save everyone.
My role is with my client. I must address the person standing in front of me although I’m old and wise enough to see how so many things that could make a day brighter for others would only take a moment of compassion, care or understanding if only the person they had hired would make more of an effort. Sigh.
Driving to Tennessee Colony, I had seen an old building I wanted to use as our backdrop and my client followed me as the mist turned to rain. No matter. My hair was already a mess.
I love how these photos turned out! My beauty and I braved the rain and had a great time together. My bride was a natural and I always try to find a unique background to give photos depth and this building was perfect.
As we both wiped the rain off our faces and I changed signs and floral arrangements, I was so glad to have the opportunity to capture my clients joy on film.
I had told the groom that I would send my beautiful bride double prints in order for him to have a set. God Bless this beautiful lady and as always, I’m honored to meet such incredible and resilient people who overcome any and all obstacles to make their relationship work.
I’ve got jam packed few months ahead and wish all of my clients, friends and followers many minutes and moments of joy. They are out there ya all. Grab them. We are all on a short window. Tomorrow is but a promise.
Take a moment to smell the flowers or grab a coffee. Remember that clients are people too. They aren’t numbers. Put yourself in their shoes and I can assure you that you will make them feel as important as you would like to be treated yourself. My clients are worth it to me. They are the fabric of my life.
Don’t forget to put your needs in the same order of importance as the people you care about. I’m hoping to find time to get my hair cut…