Monday while traveling from the Tarrant County Clerks Office to Parker and Palo Pinto Jails, my husband send me a text that read “buy toilet paper we are out.”
This wasn’t an unusual request from my husband as I had left with a list of weekly items that I normally buy and stock once a week.
I do not buy toilet paper every week because there are only two of us at our home and we don’t need or warrant more than 4-6 rolls at a time. But, this simple request would become extraordinarily difficult to find for me.
Welcome to the toilet paper controversy with hilarious memes and people laughing at others buying toilet paper this past Monday.
By Friday, the people laughing weren’t laughing.
By Friday people in small town Weatherford were getting into fist fights over Charmin.
By Friday I had seen the world change before my eyes. Hoarding and flipping hand sanitizer for $100 on eBay? I’ve seen it.
Toilet paper for $20 a roll on FB Marketplace? I’ve seen it. People buying all of the cold medicine, alcohol, hand sanitizer and wipes as well as canned food items, sugar, meat and food while wiping out supplies for anyone else? I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen some of the wildest scenarios in four days that I could ever imagine. I wish I hadn’t but I have.
On Friday, Cindy and I took a break between clients to go to Walmart. Shelves were empty. Baskets over turned by angry customers left lying on their sides. Ransacked shelves empty greeted shoppers who didn’t expect this type of “mission” to buy toilet paper or anything else for that matter.
Cindy and I left Walmart and headed to Dollar Tree. No toilet paper. No hand sanitizer. No bottled water.
We then drove to Dollar General and found alcohol for the injections my husband gives me at home because going to the doctor once a week with my schedule isn’t convenient. The alcohol was 50% rather than 70% but it was better than nothing. We also found 2 packs of 4 roll toilet paper. There were only 2 packs of 4 roll TP in the store.
We then left Dollar General and went to Albertsons. Still no hand sanitizer. There was coffee and cream and bread as well as eggs. The panic that would arrive a few days later hadn’t “hit yet.”
I bought cantaloupe, watermelon, broccoli and my usual staple items including coffee and cream as well as salmon and chicken breasts and a few cans of soup.
Had I known that there would be food shortages for my Sunday or Monday shopping depending on my schedule, I might have bought a few cans of soup more, some rice and even some beans or ramen noodles but, hindsight is 20/20.
Monday prior to the hysteria and hoarding going on around me, I arrived home and prepared my suv for the drive to Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony on Tuesday to meet my bride. I had loaded furs, bouquets, hats and fun items from my Texas Twins Inventory and planned a leisurely drive to Beto Unit.
Tuesday, I stopped in Corsicana to visit the Walmart and buy my new grandson the diapers and wipes since I couldn’t find at Cindy’s Walmart Monday.
I would have a few problems finding either the diapers or the water wipes my daughter in law prefers in Corsicana.
There weren’t people agitated racing down the aisles. There was bottled water. There wasn’t hand sanitizer or toilet paper, baby wipes or paper towels.
I needed a few rolls of paper towels but decided I could wing it if I had to by using my tea towels at home.
By Tuesday I still wasn’t alarmed. A few things were difficult to come by depending on where you went while others weren’t. No mass hysteria just YET.
I left Corsicana Walmart and headed to Tennessee Colony/Palestine Texas to meet my client at Beto.
While driving there, a herd of wild hogs came running across the 2 lane road with cars traveling 70-80 miles an hour. I saw the “hub bub” about half a mile ahead and slowed down thinking it was deer or elk.
On closer inspection, it was something I had never encountered on the 300,000 miles I have driven getting to Units in Texas.
Wild hogs? They were huge and could easily flip a car as their girth is low to the ground. I tip toed my way around the herd and traveled on wondering where they had come from and if a driver not paying attention wouldnt slow down until it was too late?
Arriving at Beto, I find my bride in the parking lot. We walk in together. She’s thrilled. Her smile shows her joy. We clear in and wait on the chaplain.
We walk to the traditional photo wall at Beto and it’s coveted with Coronavirus signs.
Frankly, I don’t want to use the wall and have my clients photo peppered with Coronavirus signs on wedding day. I request using the tropical wall in the vending machine area instead and we are granted the privilege to do so.
Leaving the Unit, my bride follows me to an old church just outside Palestine. I begin unloading and finding my favorite areas based on lighting and background. We are laughing and having a great time together. I hand her a bottle of water from my trunk and we spend a few minutes trying different areas and have fun celebrating her marriage.
I love my job. We hug and say goodbye as I head to Dallas North Tower to meet my next client.
Cutting through Tennessee Colony, I’m leery about another encounter with those wild hogs I saw a few hours earlier. My fear is confirmed when I see a hog on the side of the road outside of Cayuga, Texas. Someone wasn’t paying attention.
Backroads in Texas give you a wide variety of surprises such as deer, elk, possums and armadillos which can jump straight off the ground four feet right into your grill. Wild hog herds though were a new one for me.
Cautiously driving towards Corsicana aware that something else could jump out on the road, I’m unaware of the widespread panic spreading across America.
I take calls from clients and Units. I check in with my husband and let my son and daughter in law know I will drop off diapers and other supplies I’ve found to them in the morning. I’m not worried about baby wipes because I assume I can find them. I will later realize I can’t.
By the time I leave North Tower in Dallas, a phone call from my niece at Point Hueneme, California regarding “people fighting over toilet paper and water.” This IS DISTURBING. Toilet paper?
Leigh Ann is frightened. People at the military base are no longer touching and running her ID. Instead, they are now simply looking at it.
People are acting differently. Leigh Ann plans to go to Ventura and try to find bottled water. I advise her to wait until her husband comes back from work since her 4 year old, Madyson is a handful.
Checking the clock on my Sahara, I don’t have time to file licenses in Tarrant County and decide to do so Wednesday morning on my way to drop off cold supplies to my son who has sinusitis and diapers for my grandson.
I decide to stop in Lake Worth to buy groceries, juice and soup. There are no paper towels, water or toilet paper at Walmart. I buy meat, pasta, bread, lunch meat and cheese as well as juice. The supplies are low but I assume the trucks are coming or running behind.
There aren’t entire empty shelves other than cleaning products, hand sanitizers and toilet paper or water. There is still fruit and vegetables. There is still soup, rice, beans and other staples.
Wednesday morning with my Jeep loaded for my sons house, I head to the clerks office. There are signs regarding the Coronavirus everywhere. The governor of California has revoked visitors to prisons. This is alarming.
I have 5 Units next week. Will TDCJ follow suit? I’m thinking no but my husband is thinking a strong maybe on my phone call to him leaving the clerk. “They are cancelling major events. NASCAR, golf, basketball. This is spiraling out of control. Update your clients and stay on top of changes. They will need to know what’s going on. Stay calm. This will pass but it may take a week or two.”
I’m worried but helpless to change what’s coming. Leigh Ann is increasingly concerned watching the news by Wednesday. Costco and Sam’s are running out of everything.
There is no hand sanitizer available anywhere. My son needs it as he is sick with a new baby. Cindy and I decide to make our own hand sanitizer.
My son is getting better but still answers the door in a mask. I begin unloading an full of items for my son and his wife and begin cooking lunch for them while checking on the baby.
Ollie is three weeks old and doing well but he’s fragile. He wears an Owlett sock to monitor his breathing, blood sugar and heart rate.
Leaving my son fully stocked other than baby wipes, I drop in on my husband down the street from my sons development. McBee Homes is just a few miles away. I invite my husband to lunch.
We choose Boo Ray about 1/2 a mile from McBee. It’s dead. There are very few people eating out. I notice it. My husband does too.
My husband decides to ask about my schedule next week and any possible changes. It’s a full plate. I’m at Green Bay Unit Monday. Wallace and Middleton Units Tuesday. Allred and Roach Units Thursday. Estes Unit Friday then back to Green Bay and Parker County. I will be driving about 2300 miles.
My husband again advises me “TDCJ may follow California. Caddo Parrish is also suspending visits.” Matthew like me is following prison news.
I consider cancelled visitation at prisons before answering my husband. “Weekend visits are thousands of people at prisons. My client and I are two people. I’ve decided to add to my booster shots a phnuemonia shot just in case and after Cindy’s heart surgery, believe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for her either.”
I’m still not even entertaining the possibility that TDCJ will cancel my confirmed dates. I cannot imagine having to tell my clients who have waited months that another delay looms in the future. I worry. I fret.
I also head to Dr Stern for an adjustment. The stress of Leigh Ann in California and people hoarding along with the possibility that my clients could be rescheduled has me with a stiff neck.
Dr Stern has been my trusted chiropractic go to for twenty years. He knows when I’m stressed I hold stress in my shoulders. My left shoulder is out. He pops it back in and goes over the importance of finding time to relax. I have none. Time is something I never have.
Thursday morning, Cindy arrives at WorthamWorld. We have a list of things to buy for an upcoming wedding at Botanic Garden and head to Hobby Lobby. We both discuss the news media and coverage of this mysterious virus. We worry about Leigh Ann and Maddy in California. But, we don’t think mass hysteria is going to come to Weatherford or Fort Worth. We are both wrong.
I talk my twin into getting a phnuemonia shot with me at Walgreens. We both walk into prisons on a regular basis. Keeping our vaccines up to date is important not only for our own health but also to keep from getting ill and possibly getting our family or clients sick too.
I buy colloidal silver. I buy zinc. I listen to Cindy complain about her arm pain. I have it too but it will get worse later. So painful was my left arm and shoulder by 1AM that I woke my husband crying out in pain. I go get Aleve.
My arm feels like it weighs 100lbs. I worry I’m having a bad reaction.
At 3AM, I call Cindy. Her arm is killing her too. We are both highly concerned this pain will be permanent.
I consider buying a sling the pain is so intense. After reviewing answers from others who have had the same shot, I decide to use my arm rather than prop it.
Friday morning, I drive to Weatherford. Cindy sits for me to meet her after Parker County Clerks Office. We can’t find feminine items for Cindy’s twin granddaughters and decide to set out on a mission. The twins are picky. They are also brand loyal.
Walmart is a mad house. Empty shelves and angry shoppers abound. We leave and go to Big Lots. We then leave and go to Albertsons. We then leave and go to Brookshires then H E B. We come up empty. There are no hygiene products to be found the Twins brand or otherwise.
There’s a fist fight at Brookshires. In small town America? Willow Park of all places? Two grown men fighting over toilet paper.
Someone is honking and yelling at someone else to pull out of a parking lot space. Angry honking which is rare in Texas is everywhere. People are agitated. Angry. Scared.
Governor Abbott announced a state of emergency. He also suggested removing visits from nursing homes, prisons and large gatherings of people.
Fifteen minutes later, TDCJ suspends all visitation. But, does this affect my clients and I as we go into Units during the week. I begin calling Units for next week. The revoked visitation affects my clients. Their dates are cancelled.
Arriving home, I’m still fielding panicked clients in Texas and other states. I have no idea how long this will last.
An email from Chaplain Rentz of Bridgeport Unit that reads “I’ve just got off a conference call with all Chaplains in TDCJ and they have Cancelled all Volunteer entryinto Units throughout the state until further notice.”
I’m still trying to determine if my clients are affected when I find that they are. Everyone will need to reschedule. People who havewaitedmonths for a very important date. People who will be saddened and disappointed. My people. My clients.
Leigh Ann sends me photos and videos of mass hysteria in California. I advise her that Texansareequallyterrified, angry and behavingin a manner I’ve never seen before.
I’m 55 years old. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve lived through the gas crisis in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve never seenpeople fighting over food. I’venever seen people fightingoverwater or toilet paper.
I’ve never seen anything like this mass hysteria occur in my lifetime. I hope I never see it again..watching people fight over gas as a child was something neither Cindy or I can or will ever forget.
We are all in this together. Please don’t hoardessential items that others need. Please don’t leave home if you are ill and please wash your hands…
This morning as I prepare to head to Belltower Chapel where I’ve conducted wedding ceremonies for several years, I’m also looking forward to meeting my twin sister at Mesa Springs to bring Makenna home from treatment for suicidal ideation. Her feelings of hopelessness stemmed entirely from school and a bully.
Between client meetings and bookings this week, Cindy and I have worked closely with Makenna’s school to make curriculum changes while remodeling her room from Disney theme to teen theme. We would have accomplished this sooner but Makenna rarely leaves her room which made a remodel daunting.
Last night at visitation, my grandniece was excited about changes to her class schedule and her new room. Makenna was positive and had learned coping skills at Mesa Springs. She is an introverted teen while her twin is outgoing and outspoken.
Maryssa mirrors Cindy while Makenna mirrors me. I spent years of my childhood not speaking due to a chronic stutter. Speech and special education classes along with my homemade clothing, buck teeth and other factors made me an easy target for bullies. Cindy was far better at handling bullies than I was back then. I understand Makenna and her drive and ambition to be the best student. Have the best grades. But, bullies destroy self esteem. They leave scars that never really heal.
As an adult, the most liberating thing that ever happened to me was not caring what others thought or said about me.
In my line of work that many view as “controversial,” having a tough shell is a priceless commodity.
This Wednesday I made my first trip to Priairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas. This is a Lasalle property for immigrant detainees. My client had first contacted me last year to marry her in Denton County Jail.
However, Denton County Jail only offers video visitation. Because of this hurdle, she was forced to wait on her fiancée to go to another facility to marry. This isn’t uncommon. I have another client who contacted me to marry her at another county jail and due to video visitation we waited for him to go into TDCJ. He’s now at Holliday Unit.
From Federal to State to County to ICE Facilities, my schedule during the week involves a lot of driving. I easily drive 1-3k miles a week to Inmate weddings. While the ceremony generally takes 20-30 minutes, planning a ceremony “inside” can take months and on rare occasions, years.
Why? Whether the inmate chained to another state or changed his mind about marrying or had a CLM issue or other unforeseen hurdle, paperwork and process dictate the timeline. My client and I wait on the process. These clients roll over on my books month after month and rarely year after year.
Next week my week kicks off with a bang at Palo Pinto and Parker County Jails Monday.
Tuesday I travel to Garza Units in Beeville.
Wednesday I start my day at Cole Unit then drive four hours to Roach Unit.
Thursday I drive to Hutchins Unit then Dallas County Jail.
Friday I drive to Stiles Unit.
Saturday and Sunday I’m with traditional bookings. I work seven days a week and also volunteer as a hospice clergy and crisis counselor. Occasionally, based on my schedule, I’m also a premarital counselor with Twogether In Texas. I stay busy.
Trying to cope with and comprehend why my beautiful niece didn’t come to Cindy or I before taking a handful of pills hasn’t been easy. We are confused, frightened and horrified about this turn of events and determined to make necessary changes.
Last Tuesday I traveled to Coffield Unit to finally meet Melissa. She had started the planning process months ago but a CLM issue caused a timeline setback. I was excited to finally meet her and get her married!
Wednesday morning I drove to Prairieland to meet a client who had stayed in touch with me for nearly a year. She also brought her sister and mother for the ceremony. There are no photos allowed at Prairieland but guests were allowed. There was also a ten minute visit following the ceremony.
Leaving the Unit I located a nearby hotel for her photo shoot. Due to the cold and wind I had decided to find an indoor location. Pulling into the lot, I began unloading my inventory.
Walking inside I asked the receptionist if “we could borrow the lobby?” As usual, she said “sure.”
A few months ago, I married someone who had contacted me five years ago. I regularly perform vow renewals for previous clients and stay in contact with them.
My son and his wife finally took baby Oliver home last week and are on paternity leave from County Jail Ceremonies.
Because they are on a break, Cindy and I are bringing my niece Leigh Ann to Texas to have coverage for our clients since neither I or Cindy “can be everywhere.”
After leaving Belltower today, I will meet Cindy and Maryssa to pick up Makenna. I’m excited and hopeful about Makenna recovering from depression and anxiety with counseling and a strong family on hand to support her.
Teaching her to communicate with us will take some time but Cindy and I as well as the rest of my family are determined to learn how to communicate and stop future problems before they start.
Makenna will be forced to “toughen up” to bullies because there will always be someone somewhere with a negative attitude and negative actions but by using her coping skills we pray that we never have another incident like this occur again…
I spend 3-5 days a week inside state and federal prisons as well as county jails, venues, military bases, backyards and other locations. I am the busiest Inmate Officiant in the United States. I’m also not limited to Texas. I’m licensed and certified to conduct inmate ceremonies in numerous states.
What I’m not is “available to anyone.” I’m picky. I regularly turn down “traditional requests.” Why? I can and if it isn’t fun for me I’m not interested. I’m on staff at numerous venues and for years now the only traditional clients I’ve had were booked from a venue I am on staff at or repeat bookings.
Frequently people “who found me on the internet” contact me. These people are neither prospects or interested in retaining services. These people are production companies, reporters or even others “who saw how successful I am and want me to teach them how to do what I’ve done or educate them regarding what I “do or who I do it for.”
I’m not in the education industry. I’m an entrepreneur and expert in the prison weddings industry. If you’d like me to educate you, hire me as a consultant. If you’d like me to create competition I don’t have move along.
I’m out of the demanding diva business. Instead, I focus on helping people who are thankful and appreciative. I can assure you none of my traditional clients send Christmas cards or check on my sister.
My clients marrying an inmate are honest, real, raw, passionate and down to earth. I prefer working with them. I prefer driving down the road listening to music on another adventure. I don’t prefer working with divas. Thanks anyway.
I don’t work for money anymore I work for fun. However, I’m not a volunteer and my time, experience and knowledge are valuable. I know my worth.
Standing inside a prison with my clients gazing at razor wire glistening like diamonds in the sun, I’m often on the inside looking out. Literally.
A few months ago, I married a client on the outside who had been inside for twenty years. Johnny had been to three TDCJ Units. I knew all three. I’ve been to them many times over the years. Johnny is a success story. He is an amazing husband and good friend too.
Johnny was beginning life after lock up. I met Johnny and Brenda and drove them to the clerks office to buy their license. My team and I loaned the flowers and set up their backyard for the wedding. On February 3rd I had first met David at the Tarrant County Clerks Office. He was nervous about buying the license. Most of my clients are.
Since I was filing licenses from my weekend of weddings, I told David to meet me at 9:30AM. David like all of my clients was excited and nervous.
The clerks office can be intimidating but Tarrant County is one of the friendliest clerks offices in Texas. The number of times I’ve met clients at Tarrant, Dallas and Parker County Clerks Office’s surprises people. But I’m by far more than “just an Officiant.” My role is that of an advisor, a hand holder, the mother of the bride and often in such cases as David, a mother figure walking him through a complicated process.
Today at Marlin Unit, David married his best friend. Their joy was evident. I’m performing their Vow Renewal in just a few months in Fort Worth. I love happy endings.
I get things done. I have a jam packed schedule and I’ve never advertised. Each and every ceremony is custom created for my clients. Their ceremonies are as special as they are.
I am detail oriented and OCD. I’m a list maker, task taker, pioneer and trailblazer. David like all of my clients had “heard about me.” My reputation is my calling card. He knew he could entrust me with the complicated process of getting him married and he was right.
This morning as I headed to Green Bay Unit for an 8:30AM wedding, I took a call from someone who had listed my name on paperwork at Allred but HAD NOT HIRED ME. For weeks now, phone calls from this someone who thinks I’m going to alter my schedule to accommodate her needs without following my booking procedures has been stressful. I don’t need stress in my life. I enjoy what I do and I don’t have to work. I certainly don’t work for anyone who hasn’t bothered to hire me.
I cannot stress this point enough.., if you haven’t hired me I will not be conducting your ceremony.
Due to the workload of a Unit often spending weeks to process the I60, Allred Unit will now call me to verify client status. I advised the caller today of my tight schedule and why attempting to schedule herself on February 19th at Allred wouldn’t work. I’ve had this discussion before with her regarding February 5th when she failed to hire me and also failed to show up. I don’t have time to play games with anyone. Pay me don’t play me.
My patience with this young lady as well as the Chaplains patience at Allred Unit have been with paper thin. I CANNOT and WILL NOT commit to anyone who has not committed to me. Arguing with her after learning she had called Allred and attempted to put herself on my schedule February 19th when I obviously don’t have time since I’m at Roach on the same day was an escapade in Futility. My schedule is tight.
On Wednesday after consistently telling the two people who used my name without hiring me to send money or stop contacting me, I posted the following update to enlighten anyone unaware that Cole to Allred or Allred to Roach or Cole to Hodge or Hodge to Ferguson are an all day affair of driving for me and why I will not commit to anyone who isn’t a booked client to clarify…
Attention TDCJ Allred Unit Clients, after a lengthy conversation with Chaplain Redwine and due to my schedule which often has me at other Units on the same day (Roach, Cole and Goree specifically), the Unit will NOW CALL ME rather than you to schedule. Why? Because a number of people have been using my name and credentials without hiring me to obtain a date at Allred Unit.
Each couple has 20 minutes. My schedule is TIGHT. I allow for 20 minutes per couple in each Unit. I must factor time inside the Unit as well as travel in order to address additional clients on the same day.
I can’t just “add someone” because I’m on site. That’s not fair to my existing clients and certainly won’t work with my schedule.
On February 19th I have a confirmed client and only one confirmed client at Allred. Why only one? Because this client was initially booked on 02-05 but didn’t have her marriage license so we rescheduled. After rescheduling at Allred, another client was Approved at Roach. Because of this and the distance between Units, I knew that I only had time for one wedding at Allred before heading to Roach.
Because I am also at Roach Unit on 02-19, I must leave Allred no later than 12:15PM in order to be at Roach by 2:30PM . Roach is 106 miles from Allred.
Adding another client at Allred would effectively add another 20 minute ceremony at Allred. Because of the timeline I have I’m not adding anyone else on February 19th onto my schedule. I know my limitations and know who I have on my roster at Allred. If you aren’t on my roster though you aren’t a booked client and will need to book services. You will roll to March too. I have zero flexibility for any other weddings on the 19th at Allred.
Since I have discussed this “time crunch” issue regarding several units on the same date at length with Chaplain Redwine, we are working together in order to make your Dream Event a reality at Allred Unit.
Timing is critical for me. I’m never late and I never rush my clients. Whether I’m moving from Cole to Allred or Allred to Roach or Hodge to Goree since all of these Units use Wednesday’s, my schedule is carefully planned and mapped out.
While Ferguson is also a Wednesday Unit, I rarely (if ever) schedule another Unit on a Ferguson Wednesday day. Why? Because Ferguson schedules at 1PM and after. Unless the other Unit is Goree, the possibility of moving from Allred, Cole or Roach to Ferguson on the same day isn’t even a remote possibility. Goree and Ferguson are close enough to be a possibility and schedule on Wednesday’s as well.
The distance from Cole to Ferguson is approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes. The distance from Allred to Ferguson is approximately 4 hours and 22 minutes. The distance from Roach to Ferguson is approximately 5 hours and 43 minutes. The distance from Cole to Ferguson is approximately 3 hours and 19 minutes. The distance from Ferguson to Goree is approximately 30 minutes which makes a shift from Ferguson to Goree even possible on the same date.
I know the exact distance between Units because I have to. While it’s possible to move from Tennessee Colony to Huntsville to Livingston, it’s not always possible to move from a Unit outside the distance of 2 hours to another Unit without careful planning.
Only once have I moved from Huntsville to Gatesville on the same day. Why? Because the distance is nearly 3 hours. I prefer Units be within 2 hours on the same day to give me some degree of flexibility. Moving from Allred to Cole or Cole to Allred or even Cole to Roach is far and beyond two hours which is why I would never book Allred, Cole and Roach on the same date. It’s humanly impossible.
Subsequently, I would never book Allred and Ferguson or Goree or even Hodge on the same date. The distance from Hodge to Allred is approximately 4 hours and 19 minutes.
I prefer to book Hodge when I’m scheduled at a Huntsville Unit. Why? Because I can easily move from Rusk to Huntsville. Approximate distance between Rusk and Huntsville? One hour and thirty nine minutes.
For a few years now in Texas, I’ve had Units and even people I’ve talked to that didn’t book services call me “about a date.” If someone or the Unit is calling me “about a date” and I don’t recognize the name, the person isn’t my client. This is a real problem and it continues to happen.
To correct this continuing issue of people listing me on I60’s without bothering to book me, Units are working with me to stop working on paperwork for a wedding that isn’t going to happen.
Last year, Hodge Unit called me “about a date with my client.” I didn’t have anyone on my books for Hodge and advised the Chaplain of this fact. The Chaplain at Hodge Unit gave me the contact information of this person and I called her. She had expected me to officiate her wedding without hiring me and was surprised to hear that “I wasn’t in any way obligated to drive 3 hours one way simply because she found my name on the internet.” After a phone call with her and carefully explaining why “I wouldn’t volunteer to drive 6 hours round trip at my own expense because she found my name on the internet and used it on the I60” I called the Unit and cancelled.
For anyone unaware of this, an Approved I60 with my name on it for someone who hasn’t hired me is a problem for them because I can cancel the wedding. Using my name and not bothering to book me doesn’t obligate me in any form to show up hours away. Why? Because I have booked clients that followed procedure expecting me on site at their wedding and if I’m not on site there won’t be a wedding.
If you aren’t my client, don’t expect me to drop everything and volunteer. I drive 1500-3k miles a week. I’m busy. I’m driving to meet clients who actually HIRED ME.
Further, I cannot and will not “move another client” who has followed my booking procedure and has been waiting for 1-3 months aside just because “someone else” who hasn’t followed booking procedures expects me to do so.
Don’t ASSUME my schedule or my availability. Don’t assume that you are more important than someone else. Everyone waits. If you are holding a contract and haven’t returned it, I can assure you that calling me about a date isn’t going to go well. I know exactly how many clients are on my books each and every month. Many roll over during the waiting process. Meaning that as well as roll over clients I have new clients each month.
At any given time I have up to 30 clients waiting on dates. I limit new bookings in order to be available. I never overbook myself. This is to ensure my availability.
My priority is the booked client. My priority is getting to my next Unit in time. My priority is keeping my promises. I ALWAYS KEEP MY PROMISES.
What my priority isn’t is accommodating someone or even several someone’s who were aware of my being on site at a Unit and expecting me to simply “add them into my schedule as a courtesy.”This isn’t how my booking procedure or my schedule work.
Let’s review how and what create a client relationship one more time. 1. I mail you a contract. 2. The contract outlined the terms of the deal and requires a deposit. 3. When a client returns the contract we create a client file and return a receipt and signed contract to the client. If you are returning a contract without a deposit, the contract requires a deposit. Because this has occurred in the past I’m going to go over why we hold a contract and wait on the deposit prior to creating a client file, I cannot commit to someone who isn’t committing to me.
My contracts are very specific and require a booking deposit.
Expecting me to officiate your wedding simply because you are aware I will be on site is not only line jumping but also arrogant.
My booked clients and my schedule are my PRIORITIES.
If you are NOT ON MY BOOKS YOU ARE NOT ON MY SCHEDULE.
If you have not returned your contract AND your deposit, you are not a booked client and not my responsibility. I cannot be clearer about this.
I do not advertise. I do not book more clients than I can address and I regularly bump new inquiries for bookings to the following month in order to ensure availability for my existing clients.
Many TDCJ Units are now requiring the last 4 digits of my drivers license number to limit people pulling my name and then using my credentials to obtain a date for marriage at a Unit. This has to stop. It creates work for the Unit and surprise phone calls for me. I don’t like surprises and Units don’t either. Without an Approved Officiant on site there won’t be a wedding.
The paperwork on a Units end to process an I60 is time consuming. Because of this, processing paperwork for a wedding that isn’t obviously going to happen without an Officiant, Texas Units will now requesting information about me that isn’t listed anywhere on the internet or having me contact to confirm. If you are not my client, I will advise the Unit of this and “your date” will be cancelled.
While driving to meet my client at Ferguson Unit, one of the people who had listed me on the I60 at Allred but not bothered hiring me at Allred called me. Driving along I prepared to go over why and how rescheduling on the 19th weren’t going to work for her.
She has now had three weeks to actually book services and still hasn’t bothered to do so.
While she’s holding that contract though my schedule continues to book up with actual clients effectively bumping her opportunity to actually book services AND obtain a date with me.
Since this bride had been on the schedule 02-05 as Chaplain Redwine has added her knowing I had four other clients on the same day. Chaplain Allred was unaware I was also at Cole on the same day.
She had bothered to call Allred to cancel 02-05 but didn’t bother contacting me regarding this matter as she assumed my availability and somehow assumed she didn’t need to book services either.
I confirm bookings at Units. Why? Because my schedule requires planning that’s why. First, this bride doesn’t book or retain services THEN assumes she can reschedule her wedding and my schedule without retaining me? What the? Now you are catching on as to why obtaining your Officiant and services is and should be a priority. Without following procedure, I can assure you that no one else is going to officiate your ceremony either.
Frankly on 02-05 I had “timed to the second” my actual booked clients at Allred and the drive time necessary to get to the Unit along with icy roads.
The timing was critical as I had not only clients at Allred but also clients at Cole on 02-05. I could not be LATE to either Unit. I am NEVER late.
I advised her of all of the reasons that assuming she could just show up and I would have time to address her although she had made no commitment to me wouldn’t work on 02-05 OR on 02-19 AND she still hadn’t booked me EITHER.
On 03-04 I’m at Cole and Roach. I advised her that she would need to actually booked me for a secondary date in March and that 03-04 wasn’t an option either as I don’t have time for Cole, Allred and Roach on the same day. I’m being serious. Cole to Allred is 3 hours. Allred to Roach is 2 hours.
Pertaining to my actual clients at Allred, the arrival time at Allred is going to be changed after 02-16-2020 to 10:30 check in for 11AM ceremonies after 02-19-2020.
Outside of the McClennan County Jail waiting on my clients, Allred Non Client called me AGAIN. She had sent another text that read “Chaplain Dooley won’t believe me. You have to call him.” Why would I? She still hadn’t booked me and quite frankly I don’t want to be a nervous wreck adding another client at Allred on a really tight scheduling day.
I don’t have to do anything for someone who hasn’t hired me going behind my back and attempting to piggyback my tight schedule.
Because I had 41 text messages by the time I walked out of Marlin today, I had my Apple play app read text messages as I drove towards Waco. It’s easier to talk text and drive and safer.
Persistently pesky non client continues to disrupt my day again today. What she didn’t do was send money. I had ignored her latest text. Why? Because at 10:44AM this morning I had already told her to wire money. I meant it. Chaplain Redwine and Dooley are well aware she hasn’t hired me. How? I told them.
I would not call the Unit an add her onto my burdensome schedule UNTIL she paid my fee in full. By the time she left the text while I was in Marlin Unit, she had finally realized that she couldn’t simply add herself to my schedule. Yet she refuses to send money? She’s a waste of my time. I know it, The Unit knows it and I’m guessing she knows it too.
She has consistently refused to follow protocol. NOW she was texting me? On a 7 Client day? My contracts require payment in full SEVEN DAYS PRIOR TO THE EVENT DATE.
Either you are serious about marrying an inmate or you aren’t but I can assure you that I’m not going to cut a booked clients event short or risk running late because someone who has consistently failed to follow my protocol assumes they are entitled. They aren’t.
You are either a booked client or you aren’t and if you aren’t, you are not on my schedule. PERIOD.
Due to the consistent misuse of my credentials by people pulling my name off the internet, Units are now requiring me to contact and verify client status.
I’m leaving Mercado Event Center to head to Belltower Chapel before heading to Omni Hotel for a midnight wedding. I have another full weekend of events. What I don’t have is time to deal with people who cannot or will not follow my protocol. My time is valuable. I don’t waste time on people who aren’t worthy of my time or my attention…
The past week has been one surprise after the other. February 5th I’m at Allred Unit at 12:30 with four brides before literally skidaddling on over to Buster Cole Unit in Bonham at 5:30. Due to this “time crunch” and the possibility of Chaplain Redwine adding on another client at Allred, bridal photos will be taken prior to Unit Weddings at Allred due to my schedule.
“GOOD things take TIME, and GREAT things take PATIENCE.”
“Perspiration is the perfume of persistence.”
Planning a Prison Wedding IS A PROCESS. There is paperwork there can be delays. The timeline isn’t something you or I can control. Contact or No Contact Ceremonies are based on an inmates status. “Contact” refers to the glass separating the inmate from my client and I.
While Arkansas will allow up to 6 guests and ring exchanges, Texas won’t.
Arkansas like the majority of my other service states also has a 3 month waiting period and the additional burden of transportation costs to the clerks office.
Texas clients don’t have this expense due to the use of an Absentee Affidavit removing the requirement for an inmate to be transported to the clerks office.
Every state is different. Every protocol is different. Knowing the variations is key to getting the job done for me. I am the most in demand prison Officiant in this industry. Why? Because I care and it shows. I have never advertised any of my businesses and I will never need to. My reputation is my calling card. When someone contacts me to perform their ceremony they know that I will be determined to make it as worry free and special as humanly possibly under unique circumstances.
I’m frequently contacted by production companies and reporters. I’m leery of reporters seeking sensationalism and controversy or production companies expecting me to send them my clients. Why? I’m not in the referral business of doing a strangers job for them by “finding and or securing the talent.” If you are casting a prison or inmate based show, your job is to find the talent not mine.
Last year in March, someone contacted me regarding gaining access to Units as well as finding the talent. This “someone” also sent me an unsigned contract and with my burdened schedule expected me to do his job for him.
Heads up kids, this isn’t my first rodeo with media or production companies. My focus is on my business not yours. If you are sending me a contract for review, you might bother signing it and understand that I’m not interested in being tied down with rope I’m paying for. What? Don’t try to tie me down with what you want at my expense. I’m busy. I don’t have time for smoke and mirrors or bullshit.
By the way, regarding access to Units since that “someone” was unaware how to obtain it on their own last March, media must go through TDCJ Communications AND requires consent from the inmate. A reporter traveled with me in August to numerous Units and yes I helped Ella gain access. I know policy AND procedure.
For a few years I have posted flyers for Love After Lock Up on my pages and if my clients are interested, I’ve shared the contact info to producers.
The producers at Sharp Entertainment unlike that “someone casting a prison show” last year and expecting me to work for him while assuming I was a hillbilly with nothing better to do than his bidding were by far more professional. The producers at Sharp are straight up about why they are contacting me. What they were asking me to do takes a few seconds to post on social media. Candor and transparency go a long way with me. I don’t have hours to educate someone on policy or procedure. If you are contacting me to do something you are too lazy to do on your own, do more research but don’t piggy back your workload this way Buddy. I operate 4 businesses. I’m on staff at 3 venues and I volunteer as a hospice clergy at Baylor and Harris. I.E. I’m busy.
My clients are fragile and aware that not everyone can understand or accept their choice to marry an inmate. Unlike my “traditional clients,” these clients are unique, driven, passionate and unspoiled. There aren’t any divas marrying an inmate.
A few months ago, I met my Goree Unit bride and her sister in Huntsville at the Unit. Surprisingly, the Chaplain met me in the parking area to advise me that the marriage would not be taking place due to the inmate being listed as common law married to someone other than my client.
The CLM issue continues to pop up. In many cases, a Dissolution Agreement and Verification Letter from the state can and do dissolve this inmate status but Goree wouldn’t accept the Dissolution Letter or Verification Letter. Because of this, I will be marrying my couple outside of Walls Unit.
The frequent occurrence of an on the fly wedding ceremony at Walls Unit after release might surprise a few people but patience is a virtue.
My Goree Unit client did have time for bridal photos after leaving Goree devastated about her inability to marry. Cindy and I had a great time with these amazing ladies and can’t wait to see them again in May at Walls Unit.For the folks who assume “people only marry inmates to obtain conjugal visits,” ignorance speaks without forethought. Conjugal visits are only allowed in four states. Read that again. Only four states currently allow conjugal visits, otherwise known as extended family visits, and they don’t exist in the federal prison system. The states are California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington.
Please stop assuming everyone is marrying an inmate solely to obtain a conjugal visit. Educate yourself and THEN CONTACT ME.
I am consistently surprised by the number of people posting comments or emailing me with radically stupid or uneducated opinions. If you don’t know what you are talking about, please sit down and shut up. Stop emailing, calling and posting comments advertising your opinions. My clients don’t care what you think and I don’t either.
Other readers and followers have legitimate questions or concerns such as “Wendy why are you occasionally wearing a visitor badge and other times you aren’t?” Certain Units issue me as well as my client a visitors pass. In exchange for the passes, our state issued ID’s are on file in the shakedown entry area.
Our ID’s are returned for the visitor passes when leaving. The level of security often dictates whether or not a visitor pass is warranted. “How did your business shift so fluidly To Inmate Ceremonies verses the traditional client?” Good question and observation.
Four years ago, my bookings were 85-90% “traditional clients” and scheduled on weekends. Jail and Prison visitation is on the weekend and therefore weddings are scheduled during the week.
Inmate Weddings PERFECTLY fit my existing schedule years ago. I’m happier at a prison than a venue! Why? Because my clients are amazing that’s why. “How did you get so successful in this niche industry? Can you teach me how to do what you do?” No. Why would I create competition that doesn’t exist? Do YOU care about these people and their journey? Are you compassionate?
If the ONLY reason you want to try breaking into the Prison wedding business is money, this isn’t the business for you. This is a people based industry. By the way, asking someone successful to teach you how to find the success they worked for and earned is the most entitled and narcissistic idea I’ve ever heard of.
“No one has more admiration for a narcissistic person than themselves. Anything not directly related to them isn’t important to them. The only thing good about a narcissistic person is their ability to keep a secret.” Say what? Narcisstic people don’t listen to any conversation unless it’s about them. Hence their ability to keep a secret.
“Gratitude is the difference between appreciation and a sense of entitlement.”
“Pigs get fed and hogs get slaughtered.” Never heard this farmers term that lays out greed and throat cutting? It’s a true and accurate statement and term my husband’s father told him for years as a child. This quote dates as far back to the 1800’s. Author Unknown.
“How many of your clients are still married?” From which business? The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins Events, TDCJ Officiant venues I’m on staff at? The total number of divorces from all of my clients in all of these years is 6.
“I’ve read that you started Texas Twins Events to give others the wedding you didn’t have and to spend more time with your family. Is that true?” Yes it is. Cindy took on raising her twin granddaughters and gave up her day job. Finding a way to spend time together while helping others was the best decision I’ve ever made.
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…