Green Bay Unit to Parker County and Points Between..

I’ve had several clients contact me regarding Gov Abbott reopening the state and visitation. Often obtaining an Absentee Affidavit in smaller “country towns” can be a bit of a hurdle. This morning while in Parker County because my client was turned away yesterday and “just couldn’t bring herself to going back to the Parker County Annex again, I decided to go for her while I was in Weatherford.

Parker County is always a challenge. In the summer of 2015 I organized a picket in order to get my clients, “the first LBGT couple to marry in Parker County” a marriage license. I’m all too aware of how opinionated clerks in Parker County are.

Walking into the annex, the clerks office door is STILL locked. There was a gatekeeper who immediately stopped me and asked “what are you here for?” I answer “an Absentee Affidavit.” The gatekeeper “I don’t know what that is.” My patience for businesses that elect the dumbest person in the room to answer the phone or greet visitors is zero. I wish businesses would learn how they lose business by making dumb decisions but since the clerks office is a government business, I doubt they care.

I’m often “pitched” on an answering service or virtual assistant. The reason I don’t let anyone take calls or messages for me is because my clients want answers. Why waste their time and mine by hiring someone who doesn’t have any real answers to take my calls? I return calls, emails and DM’s between clients. I have all of the answers. If a client is flying in from another state, I also assist with travel arrangements and hotel suggestions to ensure they are in a safe area. No one could answer the questions I do on a daily basis FOR ME.

The gatekeeper stands there after making her statement about not knowing what an Absentee Affidavit is staring at me. I sigh. “Can you go find someone who is familiar with the forms pertaining to marriage that include an Absentee Affidavit?” My patience dealing with a gatekeeper is waning. I’m not going to stand there and educate her about what a clerks office does. She walks into the office and locks the door behind her. I wait.

Another clerk walks out and interviews me regarding why I need an Absentee Affidavit. This is why I do what I can to prevent my clients from encountering crispy clerks. I’m mailing Parker County Affidavits this afternoon.

I look forward to meeting all of you at your County Jail Wedding soon and CAN’T WAIT to get back on the road to TDCJ Units after an entire year…

Love Is An Action Not An Idea. More Kids, Clients, Chaos & Celebrations…

Tomorrow I’m marrying a couple I had planned to marry at TDCJ Ferguson Unit. Over the next three months I’m marrying several other couples who have finally made it beyond prison walls. Couples who have made their love story last.

Dana contacted me regarding February and her loved one paroling to a Fort Worth transitional home. I’m as excited as she is that after two years we are finally going to get her married.

Michelle sent me a text about finding Mr Right after I had married her to Mr Wrong at Bridgeport Unit.

Amanda is finally free of the man she thought she had married who wasn’t what she had believed her would be after paroling to her home.

Valerie’s divorce from the Ellis Unit inmate who had wooed her and Brandi in North Dakota at the same will be finalized next month. She remains hopeful of finding love. Valerie and Amanda as well as Brandi and Michelle deserved better.

Brandi has entered treatment. For a time she was suicidal over Raul. For a time she was self destructive. I stay in touch with all of my clients and when there is chaos, try to direct them to support or help. For months, Brandi continued to have setback after setback. The only thing she had of value was her truck. She had no license and had to sell it in order to start over.

It’s been a year of setbacks for many of my clients who have continued to wait on TDCJ as well as ICE and County Jails to reinstate visitation.

Meanwhile, my twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna are arguing about the amount of time Makenna spends with her boyfriend when she isn’t working while Makenna tells Maryssa she’s always on the phone with her boyfriend when she isn’t at school since Maryssa isn’t working because her job was shut down a few weeks ago.

My friend, Julie contacted me regarding locating a sliding scale or free counselor. Her marriage is on the rocks. Julie was left unable to walk after back surgery two years ago. Her anger about this caused issues with her husband. His inability to be sympathetic and supportive have done nothing to improve the situation. Tonight she called me while I was on site with clients at Chateau Forest Park. I walked outside to take the call. “I know you’re busy. You’re always busy. But, Jim isn’t interested in counseling. I don’t think he realizes how much of my happiness depends on him. He’s inattentive towards me and overly affectionate in front of me with our daughter. I feel invisible and cast aside. What should I do?”

Issues with Jim have been apparent to Cindy when Julie was watching Makenna’s hamster as we were traveling with the twins to CA, NY and LA over a three week window during the summer and Julie offered to watch Makenna’s pet hamster. I wasn’t with Cindy when she and Makenna dropped Charlie off. Cindy “her husband isn’t friendly. I felt unwelcome and weird there. He was yelling at the dog and we are paying them to watch Charlie?” Me “Julie is a mom and will take good care of Charlie. She won’t take charity and is excited to have something to do.”

I met Jim again at a photoshoot to promote a GoFundMe for Julie to get an MRI. She had no insurance. GoFundMe accounts are hit or miss. I never know what people will or won’t donate to.

A few years ago, my friend, Glenda died in Colorado. Her daughter, Tara contacted me because Glenda had no insurance and there was no way to get her back to Texas. Within days the money to bring Glenda home had been donated.

A few years ago, my clients Burt and Deanna lost baby DeLilah born with Trisomy 18. I baptized her immediately knowing we only had a few hours. Two days later, I conducted her memorial. Three months later, Deanna contacted me to do a GoFundMe for IVF. Like Julie’s campaign, there were very few donations made.

A few months ago, Deanna called me to baptize a baby that is being carried for her and Burt. I married them five years ago and have stayed in close contact as I do with all of my clients since then. Burt and Deanna have a happy ending. Julie and Jim are headed towards a slippery slope of trying to save their marriage. I’m deeply concerned. Julie can’t make Jim go to counseling or even take an interest. She qualified for SS Disability and insurance but it won’t be enough to support her and Aubrey in the event of a divorce. I suggested going to visit her brother. Julie and her mother don’t get along well. Julie, Jim and Aubrey are living with Jim’s parents. This isn’t the first time. Since the surgery, Julie has lost her job and last month, their home. Jim blames Julie and his animosity is obvious. What part of “for better or worse for richer or poorer” didn’t Jim understand?

Maryssa and Makenna aren’t used to sharing their time together with the inconvenience of work, school and boyfriends. Frankly, Cindy and I aren’t too pleased with the twins having boyfriends but we are keeping close tabs on this new development.

Amanda was married by me at Ellis Unit. My family and I had met her prior for a photo shoot with her three boys in Eastland. Because her husnand was paroling, her landlord suddenly decided to evict her causing an undue hardship on her with three children. Amanda made sacrifices but her new husband didn’t appreciate them and the fact that she had three children who were her priorities.

Marriage is a merger. Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. Other times we don’t really know a person until the chips are down. I married young. I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to be a good wife and mother. I did all the right things. But throughout my ten year marriage, my husband found reasons to be angry. Reasons to be violent. Reasons to make me fearful of hearing that garage door close wondering which version of my husband was going to walk into the house? My divorce and child custody battle took 5 years of my life. I never planned to marry again. My custody battle was a war. It left scars.

I was working when Guy walked into my building. I wore a wedding ring because I didn’t want anyone hitting on me. I pretended to be married. It made me feel safer. He found out I wasn’t married and asked me to dinner. I took Cindy with me. I was still fighting my ex for custody. I was working two jobs to pay my bloodsucking attorneys. He offered a solution “marry me. I will hire the best custody attorney and end your war.” He kept his promise. But he never promised to be faithful and he wasn’t. Fort Worth is a small town in certain circles. Laurie would be at the Fort Worth house while I was in Arkansas or traveling. I could smell her perfume. I could tell she had worn my jewelry and put it back in the wrong place. Laurie was a ghost who haunted my 6 year marriage. After receiving a circular from the Fort Worth Club with a photo and the caption “Guy and Wendy McCollum enjoying a candlelit dinner on Valentine’s Day” I filed for divorce. Laurie was in that photo not me. I was humiliated and embarrassed. I moved out with my son. For months he begged me to come back. Promised to change. Finally, I believed him. Nothing changed. Things were worse. On the 5th year of my second marriage, Guy had me sign a joint tax return. Within months a tax lien of over 300k was sent to the house in MY NAME. They split it he owed the other half. I was furious. The affair and now a tax lien? How would I rent an apartment? Buy a car? Get a job? I fought the tax lien and won. I also filed for divorce again.

Because Guy didn’t think the car I owned when I went in the marriage was good enough, he gave my car to his nephew and put me in one of his cars. I didn’t know it wasn’t paid for. When I left him, he told me to make the $558 payments on it. I balked. $558? I was paying for my son to attend a school that helped with developmental issues that cost $750 a month. How in the Hell was I going to afford that car payment? I went to Frank Kent who serviced the McCollum cars and applied for a job. I had never sold cars. But I needed a car, income and insurance and clients. Using my modeling background, I hired a photographer and ran print ads in country clubs. I targeted my clients through photo ads. I was successful and independent when my current husband bought his first car from me. As usual, I was also wearing a wedding ring. I didn’t want anyone hitting on me I was at work to make money and support my son. A year later, Matthew walked back in to trade his SRX. I tried to talk him out of it. He was upside down. “I’m getting a divorce. My wife took my suburban and I hate this car. I want an Escalade.” Ugh. I had a demo on the lot and worked a deal. While sitting in my office, he looked at the smiling photo of my husband beside me at a Betsy Price fundraiser and said “your husband must be really proud of you.” I burst put crying and walked out of my own office. I was a two time loser. Marriage wasn’t my strong suit. I tried hard. I did all of the right things but twice I had failed to make my marriages work. I had never dated. I had always worked. I walked back into my office and told the truth. All of it. Why I wore a wedding ring. Why I was selling cars. Why I kept a happy looking photo on my desk of someone who had an affair throughout our entire marriage then tried to throw me under the bus with the IRS. Weeks later, my sister, son, nieces and grandnieces went on a date with Matthew. Months later, we were married. If he could handle my family, he was worth a shot. We’ve been together 14 years. It wasn’t always easy. He lost everything within a year of marrying. Real estate crashed. He lost his business. He lost his self esteem. He didn’t know how to do anything else. He was unemployed for 3 years. I sold everything on EBay except our house. Texas Twins Treasures became my flipping site. I replaced our expensive furniture with garage sale and thrift shop finds. I reupholstered items and worked two jobs. I swam uphill. At the same time, Cindy’s husband was laid off after 25 years at Albertsons AND her 16 year old daughter, Stephaney was pregnant with twins. Like me, Cindy sold everything too. We found furniture on the fly. We either reupholstered it or flipped it. We circled our wagons and made it through the storm. We didn’t have parents to ask for help. We didn’t have family to ask for help. We had each other, our husbands, our children and grandchildren. Our circle was small. Cindy gave up her job to care for the twins.

In early 2012, Matthew and I finally sold our house. I decided to start a business to give people the wedding I didn’t have. Cindy joined me. We brought the twins to events with us. By the time the twins could walk, our clients hired them as flower girls and ring bearers. When client’s wanted affordable photos, Cindy, my son, my daughter in law or my niece took photos for them. When clients couldn’t afford bouquets or flowers, I decided to start making my own floral designs to loan clients. My goal is and always will be to make my clients day as memorable and special as humanly possible. My family is committed to the same goals.

Not all marriages work out. The tragedy is that we don’t know this ahead of time. If we did, we would spare ourselves the pain and loss of a divorce.

I continue to hope that Jim will realize his wife needs him and understand that Julie isn’t responsible for a botched surgery. You can’t blame a partner for an unexpected health crisis.

I continue to hope that Brandi sticks with her recovery and that Valerie eventually finds someone worthy of being her partner.

Life and love are messy. For those who weather the hard times though the investment of your determination, resilience and faith pays off in having a partner committed to you long after the luster of marriage wears off. Life partners are rare but they are out there.

As a reminder to Federal Clients… visits are currently non contact. Please be aware that we cannot overcome or object to Covid visitation changes. We can’t.

State, ICE and County clients, as we continue to wait for visitation, if you haven’t emailed Gov Abbott regarding how this visitation ban is affecting you and your loved one, please do so. He shut down visitation and he has reinstated nursing home visitation as well as reopened schools while completely skipping over County, TDCJ and ICE.

Certain State facilities outside of Texas have reopened visitation. These facilities are non contact similar to Federal Facilities. Please be aware that as my client, Cindy’s client or anyone on my staffs client, Wardens expect us to be able to control our clients. What this means is that outbursts, drama or unexpected behavior reflects on us. Please don’t be disruptive on site. We have worked months to get you to wedding day. If your ceremony is non contact we must accept the things we can’t change. Thank you.

TDCJ Coronavirus Updates As Units Lockdown…

An inmate at Telford Unit has died. Sadly with cases on the rise at several Units in Texas, there has also been a death of a TDCJ employee as well.

I’ve been to Telford Unit a number of times. Four TDCJ employees are positive for Covid-19. Currently there are 36 TDCJ Employees, Staff or Contractors and 28 inmates positive for Covid-19 within Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Six prisoners at Beto Unit in Palestine have tested positive. I was just at Beto on March 10th.

How and why this virus has infiltrated Prisons continues to be a question that cannot be answered without looking at Correctional Officers who come and go to work at Units across Texas.

For two months now, I’ve watched the numbers of inmates affected by this virus. Alarmed, I knew that an airborne virus inside a heavily populated Prison or Correctional Facility could and would quite possibly “spread like wildfire.”

Federal Facilities have gone to a 14 day lockdown while state operated detention centers play it by ear medically locking down Units with the highest numbers.

Across the world, inmates are just as affected as nursing homes. Overcrowded and often understaffed, an airborne virus is easily transmitted.

Whether you feel comfortable wearing a mask in public or not, the possibility of being required to wear one is becoming reality. In Laredo, Texas, failure to wear a mask in public will result in a $1k fine.

Governor Abbott has closed state lines. You can no longer just leave Louisiana for Texas or Texas for Louisiana. Tightening the border? Yes. Mandatory quarantine if you are traveling to or from Texas or Louisiana? Yes.

As I wait for this visitation ban to lift, daily I have new inquiries for inmate weddings. Daily, I’m advising these new bookings “to hang onto their deposit” as I’m not taking deposits at this time. Why? Because I have clients from March that were cancelled at Units who had hoped to marry in April.

The possibility of my March and April clients being moved to May exists. Because existing clients will be scheduled first, new bookings are being moved to May, June and July.

Cindy and I won’t be flying to California or NY this year until August due to the current pandemic.

The best advice I can give anyone during a time like this is to stay calm. Try to remain positive.

I continue to take calls, texts and emails from past and current clients who need a friend or just someone to listen. We are all in this together and I hope to see all of you very soon at your prison weddings.

TDCJ Officiant Wendy Wortham- People, Places & Prisons…

It’s nearly 1AM and I’m still working. I’ve never been able to shut my mind off and sleep easily. Running between two hospitals for my new grandson and my grandniece for the past ten days hasn’t helped my ability to rest.

My structured pattern of going to sleep at 10PM and up at 5AM is out of whack.

People ask me why I work so much? After all, I’ve never advertised nor needed to. I could easily have retired years ago and chose not to. But, work is something I have always been good at. Perhaps better at than anything else in my life. I enjoy working now although for most of my life I was forced to work two jobs to pay the bills. I haven’t had to work two jobs for twenty years now. I don’t miss worrying every second about every penny. It’s odd not to worry about money anymore even twenty years later.

My husband is a real estate developer and president at his business. He shuts off his job duties Mon-Fri at exactly 5PM. He also has trouble sleeping worrying about numerous developments and where they are in the building process.

The one problem I don’t have in my life is money. The main problem I do have is time. Work and family as well as being a problem fixer are and can be stressful.

Mapping out my schedule for the next two weeks and answering 58 emails from today as my husband sleeps, answering questions from states two hours behind or an hour ahead of “Texas Time” rolls on into the wee hours.

For thousands of people who follow my blogs, my posts and my pages, my transparency often shocks them. I tell it like it is and all of my social media is public.

There are those who disagree with LBGT Marriage or inmate marriage that take time out of their day to voice their concerns to me while there are others who have heard about me and want me and only me to officiate their ceremony.

My reputation was and is built on honesty, integrity and transparency.

I don’t care what people who aren’t bound to me by blood, business or friendship think about my clients. My clients don’t care either.

Flying back from Galveston this evening, I was reviewing DM’s on my page and answering someone wishing to marry at Green Bay Unit.

Because I’m often contacted about county jails that don’t have a law library, we will review why a mobile notary may be a necessary expense.

If your LO is incarcerated at a county jail and you don’t have a marriage license in Texas, you need a certified birth certificate and an Absentee Affidavit.

The Absentee Affidavit must be notarized. Because there isn’t a law library at a county jail, you will need a mobile notary.

If you know your LO is going to be going away, I strongly suggest purchasing a marriage license prior to him going into the system or waiting until they are transferred into TDCJ.

Why? Because prisons have law libraries and notaries. Tarrant County Jail will not allow a notary without an attorney. Green Bay will.

If your LO is taken to Tarrant County, the odds are they will be moved to Green Bay. Wait until they are moved or buy that license before they go in. It’s going to save you time, trouble and the expense of a mobile notary.

Why won’t I become a mobile notary? I don’t have time. I’m asked this over and over again and the last thing I need is another commitment. I am on staff at several venues and own several businesses. I work 7 days a week as it is and the last thing I need is one more thing on my plate.

You can easily find mobile notaries online. You CANNOT easily find someone who is willing to go into a jail and notarize an absentee affidavit.

Why? Who knows I don’t understand it myself.

There is one mobile notary I often refer for Fort Worth and another for Dallas. Both are rather expensive but experienced with the process.

Hiring someone who doesn’t know what the Hell they are doing CAN and WILL cost you MORE money.

You need someone who is familiar with the county jail. I wouldn’t refer a Dallas notary to go to Fort Worth and I wouldn’t recommend a Fort Worth notary to go to Dallas. Why? Because travel is expensive and because both notaries have their own areas they prefer to work. I’m not in any shape, form or fashion affiliated with either of these two guys and quite frankly think their fees are exorbitant.

BUT, if you aren’t willing to wait for your LO to go into TDCJ or FBOP, your choices are limited. There are only two notaries that I know of who have successfully obtained the Absentee Affidavits in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Let’s say you “found someone cheaper.” The notary you found also screwed up the affidavit and now you have to hire someone else.

For four years now, I’ve sent anyone needing a notary for a county jail to the same two notaries. No one has had to hire someone else to go back in and do it over either. EXPERIENCE MATTERS.

Now, let’s say you don’t have a photo ID for yourself. Do you have a passport? If you don’t, you aren’t going to get into a jail, FBOP, ICE or TDCJ Unit. You will need to obtain a state issued photo ID before you do anything else.

You will also need to be an approved visitor.

You will also need to follow guidelines for the facility we will be walking into.

The continued arguments of “I live in Louisiana so why can’t I buy my marriage license here” scenarios aren’t helping you or me. You are traveling to Texas. TDCJ Units want a Texas Marriage License.

When I travel to my other service area states, I can assure you that other facilities want a marriage license from THEIR state too.

While it’s true that an out of state marriage license is valid in other states, let’s remember that state and federal facilities govern their own protocol pertaining to their Unit.

A Warden makes the decision as to whether to accept an out of state license or not.

I’m a rule follower. I like order. I enjoy routine. I don’t bend rules or break them and expect my clients to abide by the same principles I do when inside any facility whether it’s county, state or federal.

Your behavior is a reflection of me since I’m representing you.

The clothing question continues to pop up. Remember that visitation guidelines apply to wedding day. Please stay within the boundaries you know exist.

Don’t “stretch” the clothing protocol. No client has ever “happily accepted a cafeteria smock handed to them on wedding day.”

I warn you for valid reasons. I warn you to protect you. My role is to make your day as seamless and close to perfect as it can be.

Regarding inquiries for other states, my travel itinerary is currently booked 5 months out and you will be added to the list on my next trip to your state.

I do not travel to other states that don’t border Texas on a monthly basis. I travel for more than 5 clients in one state and effectively “stack clients” in travel states that require flight which is why my waiting list exists.

I cut off new bookings until March 10th to ensure my availability for currently booked clients in Texas last week.

I am not taking on new bookings until March 11th. Why? Because I have 32 clients in Texas awaiting dates at Units. I limit new bookings to ensure my availability.

Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas clients, please allow 10-21 days for your marriage license to be returned to you.

This “hold up” is from the county clerks offices being slow to process your license. I file licenses within 24-48 hours of each and every wedding via priority mail or in person.

The hold up isn’t on my end I can assure you.

Please Please Please VERIFY your address when buying your license. Why? Because IF you are calling me because you haven’t received it I can assure you that the odds of it being lost from the clerk to you ARE RARE. The issue is 99.9% of the time the address you provided when purchasing your license.

I track each and every license. I know exactly when they are recorded.

What I cannot do is track the clerk mailing the license after recording it to you because… 1. They use snail mail and 2. If you’ve provided an inaccurate address, it will be returned to the clerk and 3. You will call me because you didn’t receive it. 4. I will investigate and find out what’s going on and resolve the issue.

I will check my records and determine exactly when the clerk received your license then call the clerk with the exact date they received the license. The clerk will tell me when they mailed it. I will ask if it’s been returned. They will check. If it hasn’t further research is warranted.

If this “window” of a missing license is beyond 12-21 days, we have a problem and “the problem” in all of my years of officiating weddings is almost always due to a bad address on the license.

In over 2k weddings I’ve only ever had the clerk in Tarrant and Dallas counties lose TWO marriage licenses.

In Tarrant County last week I purchased a certified copy and mailed it to my client from January who never received the original.

In Dallas county two months ago, I had my clients meet me and purchase a duplicate I signed on site.

The odds of any clerks in any states losing your license are so rare that the fact that Tarrant and Dallas are the only clerks offices EVER in my history as an officiant that have not received the license back. This is highly unusual, irregular and concerning.

What’s going on in Dallas and Tarrant County with the mail?

Generally, the license will be returned to the clerk. A few weeks ago my Estelle client called me to tell me she hadn’t received her license.

The first question I ask any client prior to taking a license with me to file in person or via priority mail is to verify their address BEFORE I file it.

My Estelle client had confirmed her address was correct. I called McClennan County and not surprisingly they had the license. It had been returned because her apartment number was missing.

I then called her to call them to provide the correct address. Please check your address on the marriage license. Check it twice.

If you haven’t received it in 21 days, call me. I will find out what’s going on and resolve the issue.

Tomorrow I’m at Tarrant and Dallas Counties then Parker and Palo Pinto. If you are using social media to DM me this week and do not hear from me in 2-4 hours, call me as I’m traveling all week.

For states outside of Texas, we have your information on file and will contact you when scheduling to your state becomes available.

Thank you for your patience, your patronage and the opportunity to make your Dream Event a Reality…

Baylor NICU To Garza East, Allred & Roach Units. Driving To My Clients And Away From My Family Isn’t Always Easy…

Last Saturday my first grandson was born three weeks early. Our unexpected joy would become worry within 24 hours though.

Baby Oliver Glenn was having oxygen saturation issues within 24 hours of birth as well as low blood sugar and was subsequently moved to NICU.

Of course my son and his wife were devastated to learn Ollie had breathing and blood sugar issues but, my son and his wife were anxious regarding moving Oliver to NICU and away from Stephanie’s hospital room.

Cindy and I jumped right in to voice all of the reasons why NICU was the best place for Ollie.

How do we know so much about NICU? Cindy’s twin granddaughters Maryssa and Makenna spent months in NICU.

Cindy and my niece Leigh Ann also took turns sleeping in their cars in the parking garage. They both literally “lived at Cook’s NICU.”

For months during that window, I delivered food and clean clothing to Leigh Ann and Cindy before and after going to work everyday.

Having a child or twins in NICU is stressful to parents and guardians. You walk around in a daze. You are sleep deprived. You are worried. You feel helpless.

My daughter in law Stephanie was discharged from Baylor Monday night.

Leaving Ollie behind at Baylor was beyond heartbreaking.

My son felt helpless to calm his wife or fix his son. Robbie was caught in the middle.

Stephanie had decided they would sleep in their cars too. I was concerned about this idea. She had just had a baby. Leaving a hospital bed to sleep in your car isn’t a healthy option. I was strongly opposed to this idea.

To solve the issue of being near NICU, I located the same hotel that Ella a reporter who interviewed and traveled with Cindy and I had stayed near my home in August. I then booked a room for my son and his wife within 9 minutes from the NICU.

I was awake and returning calls at 6AM Tuesday. Driving 5.5 hours to Beeville to meet my bride on Tuesday morning, I had assumed that everything “back home” had calmed down. Why? Robbie and Steph would have a place to sleep far more comfortable than her Jeep and still be close enough to run to NICU every three hours to breastfeed. Cindy and the twins were doing well and had finished painting Maryssa’s room. Cindy is always remodeling. ALWAYS. Leigh Ann and Maddy were looking forward to flying to Texas in two weeks and my only worry was baby Ollie becoming strong enough to breathe and eat at the same time. But… I had more to worry about coming my way. Things I couldn’t foresee. Things no one saw coming.

Arriving at the Beeville Clerks Office I waited for my bride and the grooms mom to arrive. As they rolled into the parking area beside me, I got off a call with a client flying in from Washington. My phone never stops ringing.

Viewing the courthouse area, I had a few areas that I wanted to use for bridal photos and we had at least 30 minutes before we were due on site at Garza East.

I began unloading furs, an umbrella, tiaras and several bouquets before finding the right areas and lighting for photos.

I always bring at least 8 bouquets, 4 furs, numerous signs and 10 tiaras as well as fascinators and fun items for photo shoots.

Leaving the courthouse, my bride and the grooms mother follow me to the Unit while I quickly check in with my son and his wife as well as Cindy.

The Garza East wedding is at 4:30PM. I will be driving home in the rain and the dark 5.5 hours.

It was a long day but beautiful wedding with a cute couple thrilled to finally be marrying.

The grooms mother cried when she saw my bride and I walking out of the Unit after the wedding towards the razor wire decorated gates by the guard shack.

The grooms mother was happy looking through the Unit wedding photos that I had bought. So happy that she cried and hugged her new daughter in law.

I always buy 3 Unit photos if they are offered as a courtesy to my clients.

Driving back to Fort Worth and knowing I had another long day Wednesday, my back is stiff from the drive in pouring rain. I’m relieved to get home by 11PM. Matthew has waited up for me and I’m immediately ready for bed. No dinner. No snacks just sleep. I’ve had so little sleep this week running to and from the hospital when not driving, meeting clients, helping Cindy remodel and filing licenses that I’m literally on auto pilot.

Wednesday morning while in my bathroom throwing on my makeup and preparing to head to meet my first client in Wichita Falls, my phone rang. It was Maryssa. She was hysterical. Her twin sister had taken a handful of Xanax that she had I found in Cindy’s purse “because she can’t keep up with her AP classes and if she can’t make 100’s she doesn’t deserve to live.”

Horrified and knowing I couldn’t be there to support my twin sister or my twin grandnieces, I have Maryssa call 911 and get an ambulance.

My sister nearly needed an ambulance herself. Cindy has heart problems. She had heart surgery just a few months ago. The shock, the anger and the fear another attempted suicide with Makenna brought to her home yesterday quite nearly caused another heart attack for my sister.

I was sick about Makenna and her inability to tell us to change her classes. I was saddened that once again my beautiful niece had become so upset about school that she believed her only way out was to swallow pills.

I’m fearful. Agitated. Confused. Angry. I don’t know why anything like this could happen in our family twice in the past year. Why? Why? Why?

Makenna is under medical supervision at Cook’s Children’s Hospital. Baby Oliver is five minutes away.

My families hospital Merry Go Round continues in Fort Worth.

Meanwhile I’m loading up to head to meet two brides at two Units two hours apart. I have a tight day. Two hours to Allred then two hours to Roach. Four hours from home and my family members.

I’m crying driving from 30 to 35 headed to Wichita Falls. I’m crying because we haven’t fixed Makenna with counseling or medication.

I’m crying because I feel helpless. I’m crying because my twin sister and her weak heart are breaking.

I’m crying because for the second time in 8.5 months, Makenna has attempted suicide and twice Maryssa has found her twin sister incoherent and called 911 and literally saved her life.

I’m crying because I am driving away from everyone who needs me to keep them calm being left on their own.

I have no choice. I have responsibilities that require me to be elsewhere.

Arriving in Wichita Falls, I call my bride. She is still at her hotel. Her shower wasn’t working properly. I meet her there and attempt to curl her hair. I’m all business now watching the clock.

I know exactly what time I’m due at Allred and what time I must leave. My bride is running late. We were due at Allred at 11:30 to check in. It’s going to be 12. I know it and yet there’s nothing I can do to change it. It’s her wedding day. I want her to feel beautiful. I want her happy.

I call the Chaplain and advise him of our delay. At 11:36AM, my bride and her family load up to follow me to Allred.

My usual spot for photos is taken by a man selling yard art. I make a left rather than turn right towards the Unit and pull into a gas station.

My bride and her family follow me. I see a wall that will work as a backdrop and begin quickly unloading inventory for the photo shoot.

A quick ten minute photo shoot behind a gas station and I’m loading up to drive to the Unit with my new friends behind me.

Cindy’s sending a text “they pumped her stomach she should be okay. What can we do? I don’t want to go through this again. We need a new psychiatrist. He just changed her prescriptions last week. I think those medications are causing suicidal thoughts.” Cindy is horrified. Terrified. Guilt ridden of being unaware that Makenna was so unhappy that she was searching for a way to end her life AGAIN.

My voice text reply as I roll onto the lot at Allred was “ask them to ask her if these suicidal ideation thoughts started after changing her medication last week. It’s critical we find out how and why this has happened twice. Make a list. Ask questions I can’t be there to ask for you ask for me.”

I’m crying again. I take a minute to compose myself. I’m due at Roach Unit at 2PM 106 miles from Allred. My client and I are 30 minutes later than I had planned.

Getting out of my suv in the Allred parking lot, I take a deep breath and “I’m on.”

My husband calls this my showgirl face. Business. All business. Leaving my many “cares behind,” I walk towards my bride and we enter together.

Screening in, I advise the duty guard that Chaplain Redwine is expecting us for a wedding.

We wait as we redress. I put my belt and shoes back on. I check my watch. 12:06PM.

I worry about Cindy, Ollie, Makenna, Maryssa, my son and his wife. No one sees my fear, my worry, my anxiety about my family.

I am a great actress. I hide my pain, my fear and my anxiety from others. My clients count on me to be organized and articulate and I am.

I also compartmentalize what I cannot deal with when I cannot deal with it and I’m really good at it. Throughout my entire life, I’ve had to turn my back to the choir and focus on the congregation. From family to business I wear many hats.

Years ago, a psychiatrist who studied me asked me how I was able to “put away” things I couldn’t deal with. The truth is that I learned this technique at a very young age. Cindy and I as well as our sister were victims of sexual assault for years. The predator was a family member. I learned to act normal because I had to. I was 6 years old. I also stopped speaking for many years. Cindy spoke for me. I developed a stutter after that first assault that would haunt me many years.

For the people who “don’t believe inmates should have the right to marry” that consistently contact me to voice their opinions, I want to point out that the person who hurt me and my sisters as well as others was never prosecuted. That’s right I said never. So while you have opinions regarding my clients understand this… there are people walking around who should be in prison that aren’t. There are also people in prison who shouldn’t be that are. I never ask why anyone I’m marrying is in prison. It’s none of my business or yours either.

It will be very late before I’m back in Fort Worth from TDCJ Roach Unit. I have another long day and a head full of concerns about baby Oliver and fears regarding Makenna. We cannot allow her to have a car right now. We can’t trust her not to try this again. We must know why this is happening. We must fight to find the truth. Makenna is quiet unlike her twin. She isn’t a “talker.” She internalizes. She keeps to herself.

At 12:14PM Chaplain Redwine walks in to escort us. The walk through the garden area to the next building is always a moment where I breathe in deeply and realize that giving my best ceremony regardless of what’s going on in my life is incredibly important to my clients.

My clients have waited months for this moment. I need their moment to be as magical and memorable as humanly possible. I need to be “on.” Attentive. I always am.

The visitation area has a number of trainees inside. This is a problem. We will need to wait for them to clear the room and a guard to escort the inmate into the visitation room.

At 12:19PM, we are ready to begin. I’ve counted quarters for three Unit photos. I’ve got my script prepared and I’ve set out the marriage license. I take off my watch and put it back on upside down to keep from looking at it. I do this when time is something I can’t control. My watch faces out from under my wrist rather than on top of it.

Going over what’s allowed and what isn’t with my clients, I ask if the inmate has brought vows. He hasn’t. We begin.

The ceremony hits laughs as well as precious and meaningful moments. I’m articulate. I want the importance of commitment with the joy of love and the journey of a life together covered.

I sign the license as my couple pose for the photos I’ve purchased. I advise my bride that I must be running to Roach.

It’s 12:39PM. I’m at least one hour and 45 minutes from Roach Unit. The Chaplain escorts me to the entry gate. We discuss the number of people listing my name but not hiring me at Allred and come to a solution. The Unit will verify my clients through my office.

I run by my clients truck and let them know she will be out shortly. I put Roach Unit in my navigation and drive 80-85MPH to Childress.

I answer texts by talking to Cindy and take calls from clients and Units. My husband checks in on me. My doctor calls in a refill on my Lorazapam. My life swirls around me as I focus on getting to my next Unit and client.

At 1:57PM, my bride sends a text that she’s on site. I describe my filthy Jeep that I haven’t had time to wash since I bought it three weeks ago and we walk in together at exactly 2:07 after finding each other in the parking lot.

The crows nest guard hollers down “Wendy Wortham?” I answer “yes sir.” Everyone in my life is sir or ma’am. I don’t care who you are or what you do or where you work. Sir and ma’am are the most frequent words out of my mouth.

Ms Shoffner walks out to escort us into the visitation area. We wait on the inmate to arrive. It’s a bilingual ceremony and the librarian has volunteered to interpret. We go through the ceremony and because rings are not allowed to be exchanged with inmates due to Section K of the Administrative Directive, my bride hands her rings to the inmate to place on her fingers. I count coins for the weddings photos. I borrow a pen to sign the license. I go over what to do when the license is returned to my client. Ms Shoffner walks us out together. I’ve got a 4 hour drive back to Cook’s Childrens Hospital and Baylor NICU and I have a worried husband wondering how I’m handling a day I had expected to be filled with love and joy that was dampened by the unexpected incident at Cindys house with Makenna and the possibility of jaundice as well as oxygen saturation for Oliver. I worry how I’m going to teach my grandniece her self worth and to set limitations with school classes. Her overwhelming schedule is driving her to feel like a failure. I plan, I worry and I realize my clients are following me to the bridal shoot and hit my brakes near a lake.

Unloading items my bride and her sister find a few fun items.

I’m now driving back to Fort Worth. The rain doesn’t hit until beyond Wichita Falls. I’m fielding calls and talk texting replies. I’m wondering what I’m walking into at Cook’s first with Makenna, Maryssa and Cindy before heading to NICU to see my son and his wife with Oliver. I’m mentally preparing myself. I’ve just left two joyous celebrations. I’ve just driven over 8 hours the day after driving 12. I’m mentally tired. I’m scared. I’m worried. My family will see none of this. I am the Matriarch. I am the leader. I fix problems. I correct chaos. In last nights situations, I soothed the fear of my family. We will bound together. We will circle the wagons. We will recover and by God’s Grace my niece will learn to communicate her fears and concerns. She will learn to come to us and she will learn that she can. There isn’t anything anyone in my family can say or do that will rattle me at two hospitals. I will remain calm. I’m the calm one.

At Cook’s, Cindy is crumpled on an uncomfortable sofa. I suggest coming home with me and getting some rest. I visit with Makenna. I was right about the new meds. We discuss her curriculum. I discuss changing it. I discuss why and how attempted suicide effect the entire family. I discuss a new psychologist. I make a list of what she needs from home. I explain why I wasn’t there all day and why Cindy couldn’t ride in the ambulance as she was being screened by a second ambulance for a heart attack. I’m calm. I’ve already called Mesa Springs for outpatient when she’s medically cleared. I leave to visit my son and his wife. It’s 9:00PM.

At Baylor with Maryssa who wasn’t allowed to spend the night with Makenna, I find my son crying in the hall. We sit in uncomfortable chairs. I ask him to stay calm. Premie babies aren’t ready yet. I explain that I stayed up late researching the oxygen saturation issues being present predominantly with premature babies. We discuss the possibility of Ollie staying in NICU until his due date March 7th. My son admits he’s feeling helpless and would like to leave with the baby. I remind him the baby is safer at NICU. He asks about Makenna. Maryssa and he sit together as I walk back to find my daughter in law trying to bundle Oliver. I pick him up. He doesn’t cry. He never cries when I hold him. He’s tiny. I ask about jaundice after detecting yellow around his cheeks. Stephanie tells me “they are watching that. We just want him healthy. Robbie is upset we can’t bring him home.” I again reiterate why keeping him in the hospital is in his best interest. It’s not an easy conversation.

My daughter in law “doesn’t want to leave the hospital.” She’s exhausted. My son is exhausted. They’ve been in NICU every 2-3 hours for days and they are walking zombies. I remind her to please go to the hotel and sleep a few hours. I worry about the baby sending their fear. I remind them to sing or read and remain positive in NICU or when around Oliver. They leave with Maryssa and I headed to the hotel I’ve rented. They are so tired that I call to make sure they made it safely.

This morning at 6:45AM Cindy knocked on my door. “I can’t sleep there the chair is terrible the sofa is worse. My whole body hurts. I’m so scared why does she keep doing this? Is Maryssa up? We have to get her to school. What do you have today? I have to file three licenses and print edited photos, go to the post office, swing by Parker County Jail, email my credentials to Johnson County Jail, go to the cleaners, go to the school and change Makennas class’s, answer over 100 emails, call 17 Units for March scheduling and visit Makenna then go see Robbie and Steph.”

We made it through the day and brought Makenna clothing while telling her she was out of the genius classes that were stressing her. We give her books and stencils and snacks. We give her love and show her hope. We are masking the fear that gnaws on is hiding in dark corners. The worry of leaving her home alone and the panic of her having a car and being out of our sight. Learning to trust Makenna to talk to us will take time.

Back over at Baylor, my daughter in law is crying “I just want to go home. Why can’t he get better?” The long talk of doing what’s best for Oliver begins again. Stephanie’s hormonal. She’s just had a baby and is trying to adjust to breastfeeding. It’s a difficult time for a first time mother. She wants to stay with the baby but NICU will not allow parents to stay or sleep with the babies. You are effectively booted out every three hours you are allowed back. It’s hard.

Tomorrow I’m at Green Bay, Mercado, North Tower and back at Cook’s and Baylor. Tomorrow I will hide my fear about Makenna believing she had no other options. Tomorrow I will continue to teach my son and his wife the merits of patience. The importance of putting your children first and why NICU is keeping Oliver on the road to recovery.

Talking to my clients is always easier than talking to my family but, by the faith I have in prayer and my own patience, I hope that Makenna’s treatment and changes in her school workload as well as a re evaluation of her medication will prevent another suicidal ideation scenario. I will try to keep my son and his wife aware that Ollie is improving everyday and that when it comes to children that worrying is part of the role…

Attitude, Aptitude And Experience Are Keys To Success.

This morning while preparing to fly from LAX to DFW, a call from Waco, Texas came in. The caller was planning to marry at TDCJ Robertson Unit. I take calls 7 days a week from 6AM to 9PM. Robertson is slow to or process paperwork. A few of my TDCJ Units are. How do I know? I have 7 clients waiting on paperwork or dates at Robertson and others waiting months at a handful of Units. Lock Downs stop paperwork. Patience in the planning process is a must. 

The Certified Offender ID takes weeks and occasionally months to come in. Once it does, a copy takes an additional few weeks. It’s time consuming to wait on paperwork. Occasionally for my clients, it’s frustrating too. 

Planning your Prison Wedding requires paperwork and if you’ve never done this before, someone patient to lay out the process. I’m that person. 

While McClennan County will allow you to purchase a marriage license with a certified birth certificate and Absentee Affidavit, there are a number of counties who require the TDCJ Certified Inmate ID. Obtaining this ID can take weeks to months. Know this “going in.” 

For many clients, it’s by far easier to obtain a certified birth certificate but if you can’t, the long wait on an ID in Texas begins. Buckle up and be patient. 

You can go to ANY clerks office in Texas to buy a marriage license. Remember though that you cannot buy a marriage license in Texas without both parties being present UNLESS you have a notarized absentee affidavit explaining the absence of the other party. 

The absentee affidavit is critical to getting that license. While the option of an inmate ID or birth certificate exist there are no options regarding the absentee affidavit. 

A few clerks offices require the ID, Absentee Affidavit and Certified Birth Certificate. This is why having options to go to another clerks office are important. 

For a number of folks who think that ANYONE can officiate a Prison Wedding, it should be noted that only a handful of people actually can. That person must be authorized to walk into a Unit. That person should also know and follow all rules of procedure. That person should be reliable, honest and transparent. That person should also have a stellar track record. That person is me. 

Because the planning process can easily take 4-6 weeks in Texas, there are rolling clients on my books at any given time. Because of this, I limit new bookings and I don’t advertise. I am sought after for inmate Officiant services more than anyone else in this industry. Why? Because I care and because I know what I’m doing. I also know the ins and outs. 

A few people were surprised that LBGT prison weddings aren’t uncommon. Others offended about my diverse clients. Some of these people voice their opinions to me. Opinions are not my luggage and not my trip. 

If you are hiring a Prison Wedding Officiant, their role involves far more than just showing up. They should be holding your hand throughout a confusing planning process too. I do. My clients are important to me.What can you wear? From pantsuits to skirts and dresses to slacks, wear what’s within the guideline and what you feel comfortable in. You can wear ornamental headpieces but we must clear the Unit. You may be asked to remove hairpieces to enter the Unit. Don’t panic I will help you redress after clearing into the Unit. Who files the license? You can but I prefer to. Why? Because a license must be filed within 30 days of me signing it. I file licenses three days a week in person or by certified mail. I’m OCD. If you forget to file your license, we can request a duplicate or amend the license but it’s a lot of trouble. It’s easier for me to file it for you and I’m happy to do so.Why do you need a certified copy? The Unit and Inmate Records require a filed copy of your marriage license. While a copy is a few dollars cheaper it isn’t a legal copy. Please request a certified copy and mail it to the attention of inmate records at your Loved Ones Unit.

Why are some Unit photos better than others? Each Unit is different. One Unit has better equipment or a more skilled Correctional Officer taking photos. 

You offer free photos with your extensive inventory as a courtesy. Why? Because weddings are Life Events. I want my clients to have the flowers, the furs, the tiaras, the fascinators, the signs and fun they deserve on wedding day. I want them to have an opportunity to celebrate their marriage.My clients are warriors. They make their love story last. They endure. They persevere. They overcome all obstacles placed in their path. They are the strongest people I have ever met… 

LOVE Is LIGHT To LIFT And HARD To HOLD. TDCJ Allred To TDCJ Cole To Winstar In A Blizzard…

Texas weather is highly unpredictable but for clients who have waited months to marry, getting to Allred Unit yesterday had my husband “volunteering” to spend the day with me to alleviate his fear of me freezing in a ditch. My husband has a wild imagination. Seriously. All of our suvs and trucks are AWD or 4WD. Matthew has never been to a Prison with me and didn’t know what to expect. I advised him to “get ready to meet the most amazing people in the world!” My clients are hilarious, passionate, independent and wonderful in every way. 

Leaving Fort Worth where there wasn’t any sleet or ice and headed towards the eye of the storm just outside Bridgeport, the roads were pretty sketchy and fairly deserted. Everyone was staying off the highways due to a travel alert except the Wortham’s and my clients as well as semi tractor drivers.

Matthew and I rolled into Iowa Park two hours prior to my four Unit Weddings starting at 12:30. Because we were so early I started texting my brides to see where they were. One of my clients was across the parking lot from us. Because we were both early and because the drive to Cole Unit from Allred was three hours, I suggested leaving the Unit to do bridal photos while waiting on my other clients. Rosalinda hopped out of her car and we had some fun pulling out a fur collar and her choice of bouquet while I found a coordinating tiara. Driving back into the Unit, Matthew returned his business calls and emails while I returned emails and answered phone calls. My other clients still weren’t on site at 12:24 so Rosalinda and I walked into the Unit together to check in. 

Walking into the Visitation Area, the Chaplain advised us her wedding would be no contact due to the G4 status of her fiancée. This was a crushing blow. But we cannot change an inmates status or the protocol of contact or no contact Weddings. 

After finishing her ceremony and signing the license, I asked the Chaplain if my other clients were on site. The Officer at entry said no. The Chaplain and I went over the paperwork for reschedules and one of the names I did not recognize as my client. This problem was discussed at length yesterday. If you HAVE NOT booked services and had your LO list my name on an I60, be aware that Allred will now require you to furnish the last 4 digits of my state issued DL. Why? Because you cannot find this information unless I provide it to you that’s why. The person’s who both had listed my name on an I60 and didn’t show up yesterday won’t be rescheduling with my other clients on February 19th either. You will both need to hire and retain my services as you should have done in the first place. The Unit goes through a lot of work to process these I60’s and I’m not going to officiate a ceremony for anyone who hasn’t hired me. 

Minutes prior to rescheduling Vallecia, the Duty Guard announces her arrival. The Chaplain escorted my client and I to the front as I waved goodbye to Rosalinda and said hello to Vallecia. We followed the Chaplain back into the Unit. Following her ceremony, the reschedules of my other clients have been moved to February 19th.

Matthew was enjoying 70’s rock and ready to roll to Bonham. We hit the Whataburger and drive through small towns named Jolly and Muenster before seeing Nocona known for western boots. We both notice nearly everything other than gas stations are closed driving through these quaint towns while the townpeople stay warm and dry at home in small town America. 

Arriving at Cole Unit I send a text to my 5:30 bride to let her know I’m on site. She’s excited and thrilled to get married. The groom is just as excited. Going over their vows and watching the love they feel for each other was heart warming. I borrow a pen from the officer to sign the license while visiting with the Chaplain about his newborn son. I meet such nice people at Units. The staff are always friendly. My clients are always fascinating too. The Harlequin costume raised a few eyebrows but my bride rocked it.Leaving the Unit, sleet is falling and I find the fascinator my twin sister made for our bride and a coordinating bouquet for her bridal photo shoot. She’s fun, happy and finally married. 

I met three amazing people at Allred and Cole yesterday. The clients who didn’t make it to their wedding get rolled back into my roster. 

Headed to Winstar, my husband tells me “you are right about having the best job in the world. Your clients are thankful for your help. You get to listen to music and take calls while going from one adventure to the next. I’ve had an amazing day with you and it isn’t over yet.”

Rolling into Winstar to check in and meet my client for a late night wedding, Matthew and I have two hours for a wonderful candlelit dinner and time to hit the slots for me and tables for him before I’m back officiating another wedding at Winstar…

“JUST because you READ the BOOK, doesn’t MEAN, you UNDERSTOOD the INSTRUCTIONS, experience MATTERS”

In a world full of fluff, there are several “fake it hoping to make it” folks who think padding their resume or “fluffing their experience” thinking this sham won’t be noticed or revealed. They lack not only experience but more importantly ethics. 

People who lie or fabricate to “fluff up” their background are not only insecure but also unethical. EXPERIENCE MATTERS. 

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I had hoped to find an experienced salesperson only to realize that I knew more about the product I was planning to buy than the salesperson did. Unlike the salesperson, I educated myself. 

I’m the type of person who thrives on transparency. I hate smoke and mirrors and phonies. I’ve met many non transparent people throughout my life and can assure you that transparency wasn’t their strong suit.

Like anyone else, I have noticed over the past year that there are a large number of people who have recently been “saying” or “advertising” that they perform prison weddings who either haven’t actually performed a ceremony or have only performed 1 or 2 if any prison weddings.

Last week while corresponding with someone from TIFA, I was told that so and so had performed weddings at Roach Unit. I knew this to be grossly false and advised her of how I knew. The person she was talking about I married myself. The person she was talking about had only performed four weddings in the past year at Allred. The person she was talking about was deliberately lying about marrying anyone at Roach. Don’t pretend to have done something you haven’t. This is a trust based industry. Don’t “fluff up” experience you don’t have! 

For years now, people have contacted me after learning the person they had hired lied to them and wasn’t certified or approved to walk into the Unit. Before you pay someone, verify their credentials. I can’t stress this enough. 

I’m frequently shocked by the number of people claiming to be experienced in this industry claiming to be experts. Lol you fell into performing one Prison wedding and and NOW you’re an EXPERT? Come on. 

Experts have a history. Experts have experience. Experts are seasoned. Experts are educated. Walking into one Unit doesn’t make you an expert. Snap out of it. I’ve walked into hundreds of Units. Hundreds of times. I’m the only Prison Officiant who has not only the clients but also the stamina to perform up to 8 weddings in one day in three cities at 3 Units.

An even larger number of people who don’t know or understand the prison planning process, the rules or how to assist you if there happens to be an unexpected problem during the planning process show their lack of knowledge when a problem pops up by calling me. Don’t bite off what you can’t chew. If you don’t know what you are doing, do everyone a favor and don’t fake the experience or knowledge you don’t have while dropping a dime on me. I’m busy.

“Your MORALS, are LIKE a GOOD set of TIRES, because EVERYTHING you HAVE, is RIDING on THEM.

If you are “trying to get in the Prison Wedding Business” solely for financial gain, here’s a heads up kids, the people you are attempting to market are single income households. Snap out of it. These families have limited income and resources. 

A few people “trying to break into this business” have even had the audacity to contact me (at THEIR convenience) to ask me to train them to do my job. 

A job that they have no idea how to perform AND think ANYONE can do. Why would I create competition that doesn’t exist? Short answer? I don’t and I won’t. I care about my clients and their journey. They aren’t just clients they are my friends.

For all of the folks “saying” they perform Prison Weddings out there here’s a great question for you fakers “WHERE ARE YOUR CLIENTS?” How about “WHERE ARE PHOTOS OF YOU OR YOUR CLIENTS AT A PRISON?” Can you perform the task people are hiring you to perform? I can. 

If you haven’t educated yourself regarding marriage law and Unit Policy or Procedure, you are not prepared to be a Prison Officiant and much less a Prison Wedding Planner. Educate yourself. 

Saying you do Prison Weddings and actually DOING Prison Weddings are two very different things. “DO YOU HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE?” If you don’t, you won’t get far in this industry. No experience, no clients and hoping business will fall into your lap? Good luck buddy. You are going to need it. 

This isn’t a role you figure out along the way. It’s a role you learn and prepare for. Clients have questions and you had better have the answers. State or Federal? The rules are different. I know the rules. 

Don’t know policy or procedure? You had better learn it because making a mistake in THIS INDUSTRY could put you on the other side of the bars. I’m being serious. Educate yourself. Not just anyone can walk into a prison. If you are walking into a prison, you had better know what’s allowed or authorized and what isn’t. 

I don’t make mistakes. I’m educated and well versed on every aspect of inmate marriage within every state I conduct ceremonies at. I also KEEP MY PROMISES. Honor, integrity, intelligence and passion are my calling cards. 

For years now, I’ve been the second and even third Officiant WHO GOT THE JOB DONE. Stop pretending you know how to do something you don’t. Weddings ARE LIFE EVENTS! 

The other people taking money for a service they either wouldn’t or couldn’t perform have earned their reputations. READ THAT AGAIN. I said EARNED their horrible reputations and I meant it. My stellar reputation is built on my honesty, transparency, dedication and diligence. I have never advertised or needed to. Why? Because my reputation is built on keeping my promises and holding my clients hands throughout a very lengthy and confusing process. This isn’t a job for the person who thinks their role is simply to show up. 

The role of a Prison Wedding Planner and Approved Officiant involves far more than bothering to show up. I’m a friend, a mother, an advisor, a counselor and friendly ear to my clients before, during and after their Prison Wedding. I’m different. I’m driven. I’m passionate and I’m an identical twin. Cindy (like me) is determined to make your Dream Event a Reality. Together we are a Twin Team that care about you and your journey.The number of people who suddenly say they specialize in prison weddings is hilarious. Why? Because even a blind squirrel can find an acorn and because I perform up to 30 prison and jail weddings a month in Texas alone. If these people are performing prison weddings (as they claim they are) where are their clients? 

I am the ONLY Prison Wedding Officiant who maps out up to 5 Units in 3-4 cities in ONE DAY. You won’t find anyone doing this because 1. They don’t have the clients and 2. They don’t have the experience, drive or stamina to handle a day in my life. 

Now, I’m going to move on to people who can’t seem to book any prison weddings finding other ways to get inside your pockets. First, anyone selling a parole packet isn’t a parole attorney. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition offers a FREE that’s right FREE parole packet. Here’s the link… How To Write Parole Packets.

Secondly, anyone selling Letters Of Support are mass producing these letters. Do you REALLY think the parole board doesn’t recognize a mass produced letter? Here’s another FREE link regarding Letters Of Support… Parole Letter Support Suggestions.

Moving on to folks selling the Twogether In Texas at inflated prices. WITHOUT the CERTIFICATE I can assure you that you won’t receive the benefits. I don’t sell additional services and strongly suggest taking the course online from a vendor that 200 plus of my clients have used with NO ISSUES! The cost of the course is $29. You can stop and start as often as you like. Only one of you needs to complete the course. You receive $60 off the cost of the license and the 3 day waiting period is waived. Here’s the link… Twogether In Texas Online Course.

Be aware of the fact that you are a single income household. Protect yourself from con artists and con games. I was recently told “so and so sells parole packets.” I’m aware of “so and so” and her BBB complaints. You should be too. Do your research. Ask questions. There are also parole attorneys who have a zero success rate. RESEARCH I cannot stress this enough!

Remember that if someone is telling you something and can’t prove they have experience or worse any success, there is a reason for their failure. The reason is them. 

“YOU can’t LEAD the CHUCK WAGON, if you DONT know how to COOK, experience MATTERS.” 

I’m at several Units this week and available by phone, text or email. I will always answer phone calls and emails within 2 hours. If I miss you after 9PM, your calls and emails will be returned the following day. 

“Every job is a self portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.” – Vince Lombardi 

Patience Is A Virtue When Planning Your Prison Wedding. Timelines, Deadlines, People & Places…

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. 

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” Rikki Rogers

Last night a rather surprising text regarding wearing a costume to a TDCJ Wedding came through. While I would love for everyone to wear whatever they want, it’s something that neither you or I can “choose.” 

Let’s review attire on wedding day once more time ya all. Shoulders must be covered. Dress lengths must be within 3″ from the middle of your knee. While costumes are not directly addressed on TDCJ’s site, I have never encountered a situation where wearing a costume would be deemed “appropriate.” 

Why? Because we are at a prison and we don’t make the rules. Under TDCJ’s visitation dress code guidelines, there is a note that the Unit Captain has the final say. Why is this important? Because even if you are or feel you are within the dress code, the Captain can and will hand you a cafeteria smock if he feels you are dressed out of code. 

Each state has a visitation dress code. Certain states such as Texas allow sandals and flip flops while other states don’t. 

What to remember on wedding day at your Unit Wedding is that the majority of all of our service area states follow visitation guidelines pertaining to your attire on wedding day. what this means is that certain Units have “Allowed” wedding dresses as long as they are within the code. 

Certain Units will not allow wedding dresses. The Unit decides not us. 
On more than one occasion in Texas, my brides have been so closely scrutinized regarding dress lengths and cleavage that it’s best to bring an additional change of clothing “just in case.” Why? Because if someone at the Unit finds fault with what you are wearing, the Unit can insist on a cafeteria smock to enter the Unit. 

Clothing for my male clients has never been an issue. Perhaps because dress lengths vary and low cut shirts and blouses can be deemed “too revealing,” the reasons I address your clothing being an important aspect of our visit to the Unit is to protect you from being handed a cafeteria smock on wedding day. 

No one wants to walk into a Unit wearing a full length long sleeved button front cafeteria smock. 

If you have doubts or wish to have a second opinion about your wedding day wear, please feel free to text me photos.

TDCJ Visitation Dress Code Guidelines… 
Visitors are encouraged to dress conservatively.
Sandals, flip-flops, and open-toe shoes may be worn.
Clothing that is tight fitting, revealing, or made with see-through fabrics shall not be allowed.
Sleeveless shirts and dresses are allowed, but must cover the shoulders.
Shorts and skirts no shorter than three inches above the middle of the knee while standing, capri pants, or long pants are allowed.
Length is not restricted for pre-adolescent boys and girls, generally ages 10 and younger.

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

Note: The duty warden shall make the final decision on whether clothing is appropriate. READ THIS LAST SENTENCE AGAIN. 

Even if you are within visitation dress code, IF A DUTY WARDEN deems your attire “inappropriate,” they can and will hand you a cafeteria smock. If you refuse to wear this item, your wedding will be canceled. 

My first encounter with the “dreaded cafeteria smock” being handed to a client was at TDCJ Torres Unit. My client initially refused to wear the smock. After a visit from the Warden in the shakedown area and a lengthy discussion from me after driving 5.5 hours to the Unit though, my client in fact did wear the garment. Otherwise, her wedding would have been canceled. Remember the Warden signs off on the I60 Request For Inmate Marriage. The Warden can and does CONTROL who CAN marry at their Unit. I strongly discourage arguing with staff at ANY Unit state or federal that I conduct ceremonies at. Your behavior is outlined in my contract. 

My second encounter was at TDCJ Allred Unit. My client had sent a text of the dress she planned to wear to me BUT it was of a model and not her. My client was taller than the model and due to this issue her dress length and the “cut” of the dress wasn’t within 3″ of the middle of her knee. There’s a reason I ask for photos of you in the dress rather than a photo you found online. Allred Unit IS THE REASON. The photo of the model had the dress length hitting BELOW the knee rather than above it. Although her shoulders were covered and no cleavage was visible, the cut on the front portion left a 4-6″ visibility of her knee. Because I had nothing for her to change into, being handed a cafeteria smock literally upset her to such an extent that I had to assist her walking to the visitation area. 

Clothing near misses? I’ve had a few. At TDCJ Holliday Unit, I pulled my brides tank under her tee shirt up in the front and down in the back to prevent her from needing a smock. 

At TDCJ Polunsky Unit, my brides dress was within code in the front and out of code on the back. Why? Hips shortened the length in the back. Even after pulling the slip in the back down for the Duty Guard, the dress was still not within the 3″ guideline. Luckily, my bride had a long sweater that she retrieved to wear into the Unit. Otherwise, she would have been wearing the cafeteria smock. 

While “pushing the limits” regarding the dress code has consistently backfired for a few people that were unaware of a Duty Captain having the final call on clothing, you should know that they have the power, custody and control to decide whether what you are wearing is “acceptable” or not. 

Let’s review how and why I encourage you to send me photos of you wearing the outfit and not a photo of the outfit you found online. A model could be shorter than you. A model could be less buxom than you. A model can have a lack of hips that make the dress appear longer in the back. I need to see a photo of you wearing the outfit to check the length, the cleavage and the back of the dress as well as the fit to ensure it isn’t too tight or revealing. 

At Buster Cole Unit, my bride was told her pants were too tight and revealing. Luckily, I had been to the cleaners and had clothes that would work in my suv. Otherwise my bride would have worn a cafeteria smock. 

If your pants are too tight or too revealing, even pants can be outside the code. 

I’m going to once again revisit that regarding your relationship with an inmate that YOU ARE IN CHARGE not the inmate. Continued correspondence from clients who feel the “inmate is controlling them from the inside” are alarming. Know your worth. Know your value. You are doing it all on the outside and you are doing it alone. 

Leaving Belltower Chapel yesterday, a text from an unfamiliar number regarding “needing a divorce ASAP” came through. Because of this and because my client and not the inmate are my priority, I sent a link for a Pro Se (self filed) Divorce in Texas. 

Based on your income, you may qualify for an “Indigent Filing.” What is this and how does it work? Certain instances and situations qualify for a waiver on filing fees. Remember that if you are self filing your own divorce that you are expected to follow the Texas Family Code. If you need the link from the Texas Bar Association, here it is Pro Se Divorce Handbook Texas Bar Association.

Choosing whether to represent yourself or hire an attorney is a personal decision. Understand though that you will need to follow the Texas Code by filing in the county you reside in. 

I’m at county jails and clerks offices today and available by phone, text, email and DM on FB and Instagram social sites. I do not respond to DM’s on Twitter due to spam and my burdened schedule.