It’s been two weeks of running here, there and everywhere while fielding calls and being positive for one young lady in North Dakota who was swindled by a poison pen bearing inmate at TDCJ Ellis Unit playing her for his own gain.
In all honesty, I was hoping the other woman STILL actually planning to marry him would have second thoughts. She doesn’t. Blindsided because North Dakota realized she was being played by the inmate, she’s taking it in stride. In fact, the woman the inmate planned to marry and used the pen pal to obtain the necessary paperwork planned to marry next Tuesday. Due to a Lock Down though, this wedding is now on hold and we can only hope that during this period, everyone involved has time to heal from a very unexpected ordeal.
Why the actual fiancée isn’t holding the inmate accountable for his con or doubting his trust after confronting him about North Dakota I have no idea. The pen pal was a pawn and cast aside after months of sending money.
The inmate had been writing love letters and was also on numerous pen pal forums soliciting new victims who might fall for and believe his sappy scripts of loving them madly. Such scenarios leave victims. Brandi shared these love letters with me as well as the actual fiancé.
Brandi has been sending four hundred dollars a month to this inmate and believed that he was planning to marry her.
The inmate was also using Brandi to obtain information from me as to how to go about planning and executing a Prison wedding.
Brandi contacted me in August. I advised her to download an absentee affidavit for Walker county where the inmate is located.
I didn’t hear back from Brandi until someone on a prison page recognized the inmates name and that he was marrying someone from San Antonio AND that I was the Officiant for not only Brandi but also Valerie. What the? Yep, Brandi hadn’t booked services though which was why I had no idea of the inmates name or that she was planning to marry the same inmate my other client was.
Such shocking things as this are rare but for the inmate writing pen pals who only care about themselves, the possibility of these widespread script writing prison con artists may be far more common than anyone (especially me) had ever previously thought possible. Let’s face it folks, inmates have a lot of time on their hands.
Several months ago, a Dutch filmmaker contacted me regarding pen pals from Europe to Texas Death Row Inmates. I didn’t have any pen pal clients from abroad but have kept in contact with her and posted several inquiries on my pages. It’s very rare for me to marry a pen pal. How do I know? My clients share far more information than anyone realizes with me. Brandi and the fiancé didn’t. Hence my surprise. I’m wary of pen pal love stories.
Traditionally, pen pal marriages of my clients are between United States based males marrying female inmates located at Gatesville, Texas Units.
For the weeks I’ve spent talking to Brandi while trying to give her insight and advice, it’s become a battle between two women over one man and if it were me, I would drop him like a hot potato but, one woman is hellbent on marrying this inmate.
Valerie and Brandi have both been contacting me about each other daily for two weeks now. They have also both changed their last names to the inmates last name on social media. The shocking tit for tat went even further when family of the inmate began targeting Brandi who was already a victim of a con game that led her to believe the inmate loved her. I advised Valerie to stop this online bullying immediately after reviewing screenshots sent to me by Brandi. Bullying is never okay. Bullying someone who has already been victimized is despicable. I want this to stop and I’m intolerant of bullies. I’ve become a friend to Brandi. She needs a friend.
Yesterday while coordinating with a journalist traveling to DFW to interview me and accompany myself and my twin sister to four Units on 10-22-2019, Brandi sent me a text regarding the inmate still being on several pen pal sites. This was alarming because like Brandi I was certain that Valerie should know this information in an effort to prevent yet another “incident” of two women and more drama. There could very well be more than two women involved in the Don Juan due to his numerous pen pal accounts.
Due to two weeks of vicious online attacks and bullying by the inmates family against Brandi who was already victimized by the inmate, Brandi was once again suicidal. Her last text to me read “she can have him. The real Mrs Fuentes wins.” I was shocked and alarmed and with a client when the text came through.
I immediately contacted suicide prevention to do a welfare check after being unable to reach Brandi following that very alarming text message. She is now doing okay and knows that she can contact me at any time.
Bullying hurts everyone. Bullying someone who has been played and had their trust abused is something I cannot and will not tolerate. I advised Valerie to tell everyone concerned to cease messaging Brandi immediately and that if something happened to Brandi due to this bullying that criminal penalties would result.
For people unaware of this, bullying anyone into suicide is usually documented and easily obtainable by authorities. Brandi had screenshot these messages to me. I in turn sent them to Valerie and told her flat out to stop anyone doing this to cease doing it immediately.
Brandi told me that “I was the mother she had never had.” Brandi deserves someone worthy of her. The inmate and his poison pen need to stop making broken promises.
This morning after responding to an email from Elena regarding her documentary about pen pals and death row inmates, my Coffield Unit client, Cassandra called me about her fiancée catching a chain out of Coffield. We had been scheduled to have their wedding at Coffield 10-22-2019 @9:30AM. Cassandra and I will now be following the groom. Who knows where this wedding will wind up?
My beautiful bride, Tiffany met me at Wallace Unit last week. For months trying to undo a CLM status was preventing the wedding from taking place. HOWEVER, the inmate was 17 when he went into the system and by law underage. Tiffany fought for this marriage and deserved to at least hold her Fiancee’s hand but lost the ability due to a charge involving a cell phone photo that he and numerous other inmates happened to be in moved the inmate to a G5 status which effectively put him behind glass.
Tiffany was devastated about this as anyone planning to hold their loved ones hand would be. She also asked the warden to make an exception. The warden declined to make an exception. Further, I was told that the Unit camera wasn’t working which prevented Tiffany from having wedding photos.
Weddings are Life Events and due to circumstances beyond Tiffany’s control, her wedding ceremony wasn’t what she had planned. Her bridal shoot was though! Her mother and the grooms family were waiting for her near Wallace Unit and our caravan headed to Colorado City Park together.
Unloading items I had packed in my suv for the photo shoot, it quickly became apparent that Tiffany’s mom and the children were really going to enjoy playing dress up!Headed back to DFW, I stopped at Parker County Jail to meet a client and catch up my emails and text messages. My Ramsey Unit bride is finally going to marry in November. Cindy’s performing a ceremony in Jacksboro at Lindsey State Jail.
This weekend I’m back on location with traditional clients and Vow Renewals and preparing for a memorial graveside ceremony in Dallas next weekend.
Monday I’m in Dallas for a bridal photo shoot with my Holliday Unit Client, Leantrinette at Omni Hotel.
Tuesday, Cindy and I hit the ground running for four Prisons in three cities in one day.
Can’t wait to see all of you very soon at your Prison Wedding, Vow Renewal, Babtism or other Dream Event. For our California clients, we will see ya all in December.. Leigh Ann has finally moved into her new townhome and is ready to get to work and meet ya all too…
After a long weekend of “peopling” at events for twelve days in a row, Sunday evening our caravan of SUVs headed to Dallas, Texas for a 6:30PM birthday party at Pappadeux for my TDCJ Holliday Unit client Leantrinette who had requested photography services. Meanwhile, across the street at Pappasitos, a going away party for my niece, Leigh Ann and her daughter, Maddy was going on with retirement party at the same location. Three events at the same time? Yes! It isn’t easy being the Texas Twins ya all.
Arriving and jumping out of my SUV with Cindy while her husband got behind the wheel to follow Leigh Ann, Cindy and I met Leantrinette and her children in the parking lot. This was a surprise birthday party for her mother. We really enjoyed meeting everyone and were hoping our other events across the street were going well without us on site.
Cindy and I spent about forty minutes visiting with Leantrinette and her family capturing photos and visiting awaiting her moms arrival to get photos of the entire birthday party group.The lighting inside Pappadeux was an issue so Cindy decided to move the families outside for group shots. Photography is and can be challenging when trying to capture the perfect shot.
Last week while trying to get four year old twins to pose perfectly in Dallas, my Ellis Unit client was determined for the perfect photo but working with children all of these years has taught us to let the children play or do what they want while keeping our cameras in sport mode.
When we are working with large groups, getting everyone facing the camera at the same time especially when children are on site isn’t always possible. Because of this, my twin and I have effectively learned “roll with it” and allow children to express themselves naturally rather than instructing them to smile or pose on location. Letting children play and have fun together rather than trying to offer direction is the best way of capturing their personalities on film. Leantrinettes children and their cousins were happy and playful. Running from Pappadeux to Pappasitos since all of our SUVs were on site at Pappasitos, Cindy and I said a quick goodbye to Leantrinette and her mom after group shots to see how things were going at Pappasitos. A text had alerted me to the possibility of one of the retirement party guests having a “few too many” so I was anxious to get back across the street and address the issue.
One of our clients at the retirement party had a bit too much Tequila and needed a cab. This happens at events with alcohol frequently so it’s essential that getting anyone home safely is planned well in advance. Thankfully, the retirement party went on without further interruption.
Meanwhile at Leigh Ann’s going away party, her daughter, Maddy was having a great time. My other niece, Stephaney and her twin daughters love Pappasitos. It’s rare we have three events at the same time within a block of each other but, I always try to factor distance from Event A to Event B due to travel time. When Leantrinette needed a photographer on short notice, I had already decided that being within close proximity to the other celebrations would make everything work.
Driving home with Cindy, Steve, Maryssa and Stephaney in my SUV, I saw a text from my Wynn Unit client that read “do you have time to talk?” I called her back on Bluetooth and spent forty minutes going over the reasons I would contact the Unit and cancel her wedding. This call was rare in that it’s not often I instruct clients not to marry. In general, all of my clients are determined to marry. But now and then, when I hear the details, I give solid reasons for my clients to step back and re evaluate. I also give them my reasons for doing so.
An interviewer surprised that none of my Prison clients had divorced point blank stated “Wendy isn’t it true that even after marrying your clients that they contact you for advice and insight?” The answer was “yes, that it is true because my clients often have very little support on the outside.”
I’m everyone’s mother. I never stop taking their calls and I don’t want anyone I’ve ever married to regret their decision to marry. Because of my firm belief that it’s far easier to marry than divorce, I will always advise any of clients with cold feet to hold off.
After listening to the history of my client and the inmate, alarm bells were going off not only with me but for everyone in my SUV. Apparently, this offender has a history of violence and drug abuse.
My client has a child and she had previously believed that “the inmate would change.” After a recent visit at the Unit and subsequent two hours of verbal abuse from the inmate, my client like myself no longer believes this to be true.
Driving back to Fort Worth, I continued to listen and grow even more concerned. Twenty three minutes into the call, I advised Melissa not to marry this inmate. “He calls up to thirty times a day which is very expensive. He’s demanding, angry and manipulating.”
The list continued to grow. From demanding phone calls to accusations of infidelity and even having other inmates loved ones calling Melissa when she didn’t take his calls, this inmate was attempting to control her entire life “from the inside.”
I told Melissa “he is thoughtless and has a history of violence towards you. He is destroying your emotions and your finances aling with any degree of peace or joy in your life. He is also not “the one.”
Giving her a moment to grasp the reality and extent of control that was occurring with this inmate, I strongly advised Melissa “you must put your own needs first. You must put your child’s needs by far above the inmates. You must also change your phone number and move forward in your life. I will contact the Unit and cancel your paperwork. When you find Mr Right, call me. I will marry you myself.”
The plumbing at Cindy and Steve’s house was on the fritz due in part to having all three of her granddaughters as well as both of her daughters and her son in law, Alex and Cindy’s husband Steve in the same house. The shower wasn’t working Saturday morning which caused a great deal of chaos. I attempted to find a plumber but because we were off site all weekend working and Leigh Ann was moving to California on Monday, Cindy decided to wait until today to locate a plumber. She also instructed her entire household to “bathe in the pool.” Being overwhelmed is a constant factor at my sisters house and in her life. She has a peanut gallery of people living under her roof.
Monday morning with a heavy heart, I drove to Weatherford to help pack up Leigh Ann and Maddy’s room. The loss of Maddy in Cindy’s house would be immense. I knew it. Cindy knew it. We also knew that Alex cannot pack a vehicle. How so? Three years ago, Alex attempted to pack a VW Jetta and it would be Cindy and I (as usual) who finally got the car packed for Leigh Ann and Alex.
Arriving at Cindy’s, there were bags everywhere. After seeing just how many items Leigh Ann WANTED to take and what would fit, I drove to Walmart and bought vacuum bags. Cindy began emptying the Ross bags Leigh Ann had filled while I began loading the vacuum bags. It was exhausting.
Leigh Ann and Alex had waited until the last minute to even begin packing. When I tell you my family is unorganized without Cindy and I taking the wheel around here, I’m not kidding. With my dog, Foxy who had ridden with me to Weatherford for a 2PM vet appointment running wild and watching Maddy play with him while my twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna cried about losing Maddy moping around the house, Cindy and I continued to get the work needed completed. Leigh Ann and Alex must check in at San Diego on August 31st. Leigh Ann and Alex were busy trying to add more items that were never going to fit without the use of vacuum bags. Their other household items are in Navy storage in Oxnard. Thank God the Navy packs and moves for them because if they didn’t, Wendy and Cindy would have to drop everything and go move Leigh Ann and Alex just like we move my son and his wife.
Alex arrived at DFW three weeks ago. Three weeks ago, Cindy and I knew we would lose Maddy. The baby who brought joy into Cindy’s home and our lives. We knew this day would come and yet we were unprepared for the sense of loss telling Maddy “goodbye for now.” We both worried about not being there to give sage advice about swimming lessons or worrying about Maddy falling or wandering off while Leigh Ann was busy shopping or preoccupied. We both strongly discussed the importance of watching Maddy at all times. Cindy and I were even more concerned when Alex was loading a few items Sunday morning and allowing Maddy to wander around in the driveway. Cindy had been backing out of the garage when her daughter Stephaney screamed “Stop! Stop! Stop!” Cindy was on her Bluetooth with her husband, Steve at Lowes trying to buy items to repair the shower and didn’t see Maddy walking behind her SUV. Poor Alex who hasn’t been around Maddy in two and a half years has no idea of how quickly taking your eyes off Maddy can turn into a dangerous situation. But, Cindy and I took this moment to advise both he and Leigh Ann that “nothing is more important than watching Maddy.” Alex loves Maddy but Maddy has had our entire family watching over her for three years. Maddy won’t have twin MiMi’s or twin cousins looking after her in California. Maddy will only have Alex and Leigh Ann. Am I worried about this? Yes. There are valid reasons I stood in Cindy’s driveway yesterday going over what not to do with two parents of a precarious and curious toddler who is a handful. The reasons are that Cindy and I won’t be there “watching over Maddy.” Leigh Ann is accustomed to our entire family watching Maddy. Alex isn’t accustomed to his young daughter saying no to everything he asks her to do. This is going to be a transition ya all. A huge transition. With their SUV finally packed, I went over removing electronic devices at the hotel there prevent a break in. I went over putting Maddy in the car seat before doing anything else. I went over putting Maddy in her stroller at the hotel. I went over using a buggy at grocery stores to keep Maddy from running off. I went over making sure Maddy can’t open doors by using the child safety locks Cindy had packed. I went over that Maddy needs constant attention at all times especially in public where she could wander off. Cindy went over never letting Maddy out of their sight. We both cried with Maryssa and Makenna and Stephaney while Maddy waved “bye see you soon.” My son and his wife are at their OB/GYN appointment this morning to check her pregnancy. I’m waiting and writing this blog while answering emails and worrying about Maddy. They made it to the hotel. Steve left for Canada at 6AM Monday. He’s on the road and worried about coming home to “no Maddy.” He will miss her. We all will. Good grief I’m heartsick as is Cindy.
I’m leaving my son and his wife’s appointment to pick up my Roach Unit client, Ashley who is afraid to drive in downtown Fort Worth to drive her to the clerks office myself to buy her marriage license.
My schedule is jam packed and I’m working a California trip into October before Leigh Ann and Alex move to Point Mugu. Leigh Ann will almost certainly return to Texas for the holidays while Alex is on sea duty. Our homes are so empty without Maddy.
Please keep my beautiful Michael Unit bride in your prayers as she continues her treatments. We love you Carmela.I’ve been emailing and calling plumbers since yesterday morning. Getting a plumber isn’t easy. Cindy and Stephaney attempted to repair the shower themselves with disastrous results last night. The end result? Cindy called the city to turn off the water. Ugh.
Having plumbing problems and missing Maddy aren’t helping Cindy’s stress levels. My husband is on vacation next week an I’m on site at five different Units. My husband doesn’t understand my schedule or what I do. My husband has decided to join me at Hilltop Unit on Tuesday and Buster Cole Unit on Friday. Cindy will be rolling with me on Wednesday to Roach Unit to finally marry Ashley and on Thursday to Connally Unit to marry Victoria.
Well the trip to the clerks office with Ashley was a bust because the clerks will no longer accept a notarized copy of the inmate ID. Clients, please make sure your inmates ID is on the TDCJ issued Offender Identification Certification Form photo of the ID. This form must be notarized. Here’s a sample photo of the correct form. Ashley called inmate records regarding getting another ID on the correct form only to learn that the inmate had Chained Out of Roach Unit so we will be following the groom again. Many Chain Outs are occurring in Texas. Please verify prior to visitation to ensure the inmate hasn’t been put on a chain ya all. The likelihood is high right now due to Trusty Camp closures.
As usual, I’m on the run and returning calls to clients and plumbers. I haven’t heard from Leigh Ann and Alex. They were in New Mexico last night. Hopefully, a plumber gets to Cindy’s house soon because four females and no running water are a volatile mix…
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…
This morning while dashing off to meet my gorgeous brides, my husband told me the “Stinky Skunk Scenario In Springtown” still hadn’t been solved. We’ve tried chlorine. We’ve tried Killz being painted. We’ve tried knocking down walls and replacing them. We’ve removed bathtubs. We’ve done everything at the “Stinky Skunk Development.” Not surprisingly, every idea has failed miserably. My husband’s latest idea is to put 6 ozone machines in the house. To date, the expense involved in trying to remove the smell is so far over 4K. The number continues to grow. Heavy sigh.
Dealing with the stinky development has really upset my husband to no end. In fifty years of developing and building custom homes, my husband has never dealt with anything like this before. Only time will tell if this latest idea will work. A few months ago, our roof caved in. The insurance sent 6 Hepa machines to get the dust out of our home for the repairs to begin. I had assumed Hepa and Ozone to be the same machine. Apparently, they aren’t.
Thanking my lucky stars that we no longer live in each development and subsequently move every two years anymore, I was anxious to make “a run for it from WorthamWorld” in order to miss morning traffic on my way to Tennessee Colony, Texas. A literal “City of Prisons.”
I know, ya all think Huntsville is the only city full of Prisons but, it isn’t. Tennessee Colony isn’t the only “other city of Prisons” either. Gatesville, Texas is “home of the female prison” city. I’m there frequently with male clients marrying females and female clients marrying female clients.
While others were fighting the traffic to get to an office job, I was fighting traffic to get to my first prison.
“Thank God for Toll Roads. I have no idea what I would do without them. Whether it costs me $100 a month to use the express or a thousand, they are worth every penny due to the amount of travel I do across Texas highways.”
Wendy M Wortham
TDCJ Coffield Unit is remarkably close to TDCJ Michael Unit. Convenient right? I thought so too. Close proximity Units are how and why I can “cover several Units in the same day.” Michael and Coffield are even behind the same guard gate meaning there was no need to drive out and re enter either Unit. I was cleared for both upon entry.
My first bride, Blanca, had brought her mother and the grooms mother with her. You will hear me complain about photo quality at certain Units and wonder why? To better show you, I’m adding the photo from Coffield Unit with Blanca.
There’s a reason I do my own photos. The reason is to give my clients an opportunity to celebrate and have clear photos of their wedding day.
Sadly, I can’t take my own photos at Units and also, the inmate can’t leave so, Unit photos are a must have for clients whenever they are available for purchase at $3 each. I always buy at least 2.
Blanca and I waited for a little over an hour to finally meet her fiancée who was hilarious. Seriously. He should be a stand up comedian. I’ve never laughed so hard while conducting a wedding before. Due to the wait to perform the wedding at Coffield and another wait for the photos to be printed, I left Blanca at Coffield to drive right over to Michael Unit and meet Bridget.
Heading out of Coffield, I stopped to update both moms on what Blanca was doing and that I would meet them again after meeting Bridget at Michael Unit.
Arriving at Michael Unit, I checked in with Bridget and ran back to my SUV to grab the handwritten vows the groom had mailed me. Bridget went back to her car for quarters.
The amount of walking I do at Prisons should have me losing weight I often think. However, a sonic corn dog and Diet Coke or other “road trip” snack items prevent me from getting skinny. Heavy sigh.
While back at my SUV, I check in with my husband and Cindy who is busy in Weatherford with the twins, Maryssa and Makenna who were both “less than thrilled” about STAAR Testing today and tomorrow.
The twins hate STAAR Testing but what student doesn’t? Maryssa is not nearly as driven as Makenna when it comes to stellar grades.
In fact, Maryssa (below left) is social. Makenna (below right) has a meltdown if she doesn’t make A’s 100% of the time.
Little Madyson is loving speech therapy so much that she’s now talking in sentences which is a great leap from where she was only a few months ago.
All three of my grandnieces are looking forward to getting ready for more adventure together this summer. Maddy loves Hurricane Harbor and the twins love not waking up at 5:30AM. Stephaney is settling in to her new routine at home again and looking forward to finding work to keep her busy.
Yesterday, I had a call from the Attorney General about Stephaney and how she wound up in Valdosta. I involved not only the DA but also the Sheriff’s Department and Attorney General to get Stephaney home. I’m also committed to preventing this from happening to anyone else. A poster wasn’t going to bring Stephaney home. Law enforcement did.
It’s shocking to me that something like this “Valdosta situation” could happen to our family but, based on emails from readers, not uncommon.
Families lose loved ones to mental illness and addiction everyday. The only difference between our family and the family members contacting me were that eventually families gave up. We didn’t. We threatened to for years. Nearly seventeen years. It’s a very long time to deal with chaos. During that window, my twin sister developed hypertension and high blood pressure. During that nearly seventeen year window, my sister also had a heart attack.
In the same nearly seventeen year window, I developed a lump in my breast that had to be removed and thyroid cancer in the same year. Two years later, precancerous lesions in my ovaries required a full hysterectomy.
If you think dealing with a loved one who “has problems” won’t affect your health, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Ask me, I know. Ask Cindy. Stress can and does kill people. It hasn’t killed us but it’s because we are fighters. We smile to hide our pain. Cindy and I are resilient.Perhaps my twin sister and I were unwilling to give up on Steph? I don’t know but, I do know that trying to “fix Stephaney” has taken nearly 17 years of our life so far and when you invest that much time in something, it’s harder to walk away. Ask me, I know.
For most of my life, I’ve never turned down an opportunity to travel. As a teen, I traveled Texas for Whataburger Commercials with Mel Tillis.
Later, I went into print and commercial modeling. I never said no to an opportunity to see a new place. I loved adventure and being paid to travel made my life far more fun. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase and never have. I relish the adventure!
I was a frequent flyer for the the better part of my life. At 9 years old, my son was also a frequent flyer. We traveled so much that the Admirals Club was as familiar as our own living room.
I believe part of the reason I found a trip to Georgia appealing was that it would give Stephaney a chance to explore and get out of Texas. I didn’t see danger. I’ve never seen danger and I’ve traveled out of the country to Europe and Mexico with only a few hiccups in Mexico mainly due to driving the pink Jeep identifying myself as a tourist.
I don’t drive Las Brisas Jeeps anymore and discourage anyone else from doing so either.
However, having cash on hand to the people pulling us over claiming to be police officers in Acapulco was a great way to get yourself out of a sticky situation.
While Cindy panicked, a couple fifty dollar bills got us back on the road “high tailing it” right back to our luxury resort and taxi cabs. Leave the driving to someone else abroad. It’s safer.
Bridget was beautiful, bubbly and hilarious. I had so much fun with her that it was as if we had known each other all of our lives.
Walking in to the Visitation Area, Bridget told me about how she had know Pip from years and years ago. In fact, they had met in school. Bridget hadn’t seen him in thirty years.
I’m always fascinated by the back story because every client has one. These TDCJ Clients are warriors. How so? Because for one, I’m not sure if I went to Prison my husband would still be around and two, they make daily sacrifices to make their relationship work. Hence the term “warrior.”
Today, I told my Coffield groom “you are lucky. She has been driving for hours and your mom as well as her mom came with her today.” He said “lucky? How so?” I said “you are lucky to have someone who loves you enough to sacrifice for expensive phone calls and long drives. You are lucky because you have someone who is resilient and has perseverance. There are people on the outside that cannot find anyone to commit to and they aren’t even in prison. Count your blessings and thank this woman because she went through a lot to stand before you here today.” Not surprisingly, he did. I’m honest. I’m blunt and I tell it like it is.
Handing Pip his handwritten vows while he looked at his blushing bride, knowing they hadn’t seen each other in thirty years was a fascinating back story for me. I don’t even remember who I went to school with thirty years ago.
I kept the handwritten vows to send to Bridget with her bridal photos as a wedding gift. I’m corny like that. Here are Bridget and Pip happily married at Michael Unit.Leaving Michael Unit with Bridget behind me, I called Blanca and met her at the Tennessee General Store. I had over 300 emails since last night and ignored them all. When I’m with a client, the best way to reach me is text or phone call. Sorry but, get in line.
Blanca and her new mother in law and mother drove across the street to the Tennessee Colony Church for photos. Bridget met us there too.
I had packed my usual array of fun stuff for photos and had a great time with both of my new brides. Bridget waited for me to get several fun shots with Blanca and her family before they headed back home. While going through my items, Makenna (one of the twins) sent a text. “MiMi, I think I really did great on my STAAR Test today.”
I quickly told Bridget “it’s one of the twins, I need to answer her.” Bridget like all of my clients realize that my family and especially my grandnieces or twin sister are a part of my life and waited for me to not only answer Makenna but also take a call from one of my 7 Beto Brides regarding printing her Twogether In Texas Certificate.
Thank you Bridget. You are an angel and I really appreciate your patience. Here’s my favorite photos from your photo shoot today. As soon as I can find time, we are going to go have that drink! Bridget had to get back to The Colony to take her daughter to work or I would’ve loved to grab a quick bite before heading back to Fort Worth. I decided to head to The Colony instead and check it out.
But, time wasn’t on my side with a phone ringing off the hook in my SUV and a husband who still hadn’t solved the skunk infestation at his Springtown development. I’m suggesting baking soda and hydrogen peroxide next. Jeez, I will be relieved when this skunk situation resolves itself.
The Colony is actually near the airport and I’ve been by many times. I recognized The Dallas Market where I had modeled for years for so many different designers that I can’t even recall all of them.
No, I don’t miss “those days.” Twenty to forty pound bags of shoes while pulling 1-4 racks of clothes in one day? I’m good. In fact, I was thrilled to drive by the Dallas Market to such an extent today that I sped up while doing so.
No more being a hangar for me ya all! Those days are gone forever with half naked models being mean to each other and designers screaming “on the track and out of the racks.”
I won’t miss any of the years I spent in dressing rooms and on catwalks. There isn’t any real glamour as you starve yourself to be the perfect sample size and are fighting the headaches your hungry stomach gives you. I did my time and I still own many amazing couture clothes that were never “given to me” as many believe. Nothing is free. I worked in exchange for nice clothing. I also bought and brought my own shoes. There is no free lunch. I used my designer clothing to obtain high end sales positions. You must look the part and I did.
If you ever try to sell anything without having pride in your appearance, you will fail. I didn’t. I prepared. I created an amazing wardrobe by working very hard to get it for many years. No one buying from me ever knew this. They assumed that I was rich because I looked the part. From crocodile boots to fur coats and $2k silk suits, when you walked in to buy anything, you bought it from me. Not the wrinkled shirt wearing half bored salesman beside me. It’s the truth. I couldn’t afford beautiful clothes so I became a model and worked for beautiful clothes instead. Yep, I’m a pioneer.
Driving to The Colony in the event Bridget had time to meet me, I pulled over to Texas Roadhouse for an appetizer and glass of wine and sent a text to Bridget. Moments later, I would realize they don’t open until 4PM during the week? On a busy access road? Surely they must be losing business? I will have to catch up with Bridget soon as she is equally busy too and a celebratory drink just wasn’t in the cards for either of us today.
I’ve had a few questions about “action shots” on location. Leigh Ann loves getting action shots. She’s the only person on my team who is good at it.
The photo of the groom jumping was also taken by Leigh Ann. I cannot do “action photography” very well I’m afraid. Here’s the pic.
“Why do you wear suits to Prisons and Vestments to other events?” Because vestments are “flowy.” I wear suits because wearing a poncho styled garment into a Unit wouldn’t be practical or within the dress code guidelines.
Thr Administrative Directive pertaining to the visitation dress code is specific about attire and especially oversized attire. Why? An open or flowing garment can hide many things that’s why.
My Vestments are imported from Europe. Traditional Clients love choosing from a wide array of my many closets full of Vestments and suits. Last week, my TDCJ Holliday Unit bride was “shook down” due to her dress. Like a Vestment, it was flowy. Really oversized. I knew when she approached me that a shake down was coming and fully expected it.
The Warden advised me of a “shake.” Knowing why a strip search would be warranted, I offered to join my client for a “strip down.”
I’m adding the photos below to show you why I expected a strip search upon meeting my client in Huntsville. I.E. never question a Warden. I don’t and my clients don’t either.
If you are asked to strip- do it it’s not a request. Quite the contrary, it’s a demand required to enter the Unit.
The other “alternative” is to wear a cafeteria smock backwards. Effectively this “walk of shame” is the LAST RESORT for female clients so, I suggest being complacent and going along with the shake instead.
Clothing is solely at the discretion of the Unit. The AD outlines attire but the Unit has the final call on what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Flowing or oversized clothing is prohibited. Generally, all clients send me photos of what they plan to wear. The TDCJ Holliday client (above) didn’t.
“What percentage of your clients are LBGT” Well, off the top of my head and while being confused as to why this question is asked so frequently, the answer is 30-40% and that applies across the board.
What this means is whether a client booked through Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners, TDCJ Officiant or even bought from Texas Twins Treasures, a large percentage of all of my clients are LBGT.
“What percentage of your clients are rednecks or hillbillies?” Well, this question wouldn’t even be being asked if a few people hadn’t seen my shotgun/Camo themed attire. Seriously, it wouldn’t.
It’s actually not that unusual for clients to ask me to dress a certain way or “in theme.” I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me to dress as Elvis.
But, the answer is less than 5% of our bookings are Pawning Planners Clients. “Why are all of your clients so different?” Different to whom? Pawning Planners Clients have little or no money so they barter their event services. Texas Twins Events Clients are booking by paying.
Venues I’m on staff at keep a percentage of my fee. Often the percentage is more than 50% but, worth it to me because the venue is a non profit and I believe enough in the non profit to forfeit a large percentage of my fee.
I don’t HAVE to work. I choose to work. I enjoy working. TDCJ Clients are an extension of Texas Twins Events. I rebranded and expanded Texas Twins Events to include TDCJ Weddings.
The answer to these “percentage questions” is that we help ALL people from ALL backgrounds. From rich to poor and everywhere in between, no two clients are alike.
The variety of our client bases raise eyebrows. We don’t care. Our clients don’t care either. Opinions of others will never have an impact on our client bases.
In fact, I turn down at least 15-25 new requests for services each and every month all year long or move them to another date down the road. You can either choose someone else on my staff or find someone else to help you. There is only one of me.
It’s not uncommon for clients to be so determined to book with us that THEY CHANGE THEIR EVENT DATE TO ACCOMMODATE MY SCHEDULE.
I have never advertised and I’ve never needed to. I went into the event business to exceed expectations and based all of our fees on people over profit. I don’t have to work and can therefore “write my own ticket.”
I don’t take every job because I don’t want to and also because the last thing I would ever do is spread myself too thin for my booked clients who are and always will be my first priority. I’m particular. I only work as a planner by referral. Period. Planning takes months of my time. MONTHS that can be spent addressing numerous other clients.
Planning is a time consuming task. It’s not and never will be my first choice. I’ve been a planner for years and I’m excellent at it but, I can do 30-70 weddings in the time I spend “planning one.” Shocking right? It’s true.
Cindy and I work together as twin event planners. Large events need a minimum of both of us. We enjoy working together. In fact, we are happiest when we are together.
Smaller events can get away with one planner but, we often work as a team to ensure that we are over staffed rather than under staffed. “I heard you on the radio and you’re a little salty regarding language now and then.” Hmm, well, I prefer to be real and honest than fake and dishonest. I grew up on Vandenburg AFB. My first word was most likely “salty.”
Many of family members are active or retired military. I don’t apologize for a little “salty” language now and then. I work hard and I’m driven. I also am a very passionate person. Being “salty” gets my point across. No one expects it but, I’m frank. If I’m speaking salty to you, I’m probably annoyed or irritated to begin with or I’m so comfortable with you, I effectively let it all hang out. In general it’s one of the two aforementioned scenarios that my saltiness will “shine through.” Hopefully, it’s because in comfortable around you.
If I use expletives now and then, don’t be offended by my doing so. I tell it like it is and occasionally, my family life isn’t always pretty. I’d rather say something than hold it inside. But, that’s just me.
“Are you a Christian?” Yes. Absolutely. I was raised to praise numerous different religions. I’m a minister and not only believe in God but also in the power of prayer. My husband is also deeply religious. My entire family believe not only in God but more importantly in giving back.
My faith has been tested throughout my lifetime but, my faith has held true through the good and the bad through the difficult and the easy.
I listen to a lot of old Gospel music as well as country, swamp music, classic rock and even classical music. Often, it’s Johnny Cash who will sing a line that perfectly sums up the way I’ve felt at one time or another in my lifetime. Cindy and I saw Johnny perform at a California prison at a very young age and it’s something that I will always remember vividly.
When he walked out on that stage and said “hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” it was the simplest and yet the most powerful statement I had heard anyone make. As a child, I knew every lyric to the songs he sang with a touch of bitterness one minute that easily transformed to love, hope and promise in the next song. My go to music is Johnny Cash more often than not when driving to a Texas Prison.
“If I gave you time to change my mind, I’d try to leave all the past behind. Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried. Still I look to find a reason to believe.”
Throughout my lifetime, I’ve lost my faith on more than one occasion. My mother was a heroin addict. My grandfather was a child molester. My first husband beat me and my second husband was unfaithful.
The best way out of a difficulty is through it.” – Will Rogers –
At this stage of my life though, I’ve learned that God was never punishing me. Instead, God was preparing me. I would need faith and resilience. I would need strength and wisdom in my life. My hardships would teach me compassion and empathy.
“Listen to the words written down when the man comes around. Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still. Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still. Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still.”
I live and work by a very high set of moral standards. My family does too. There are no grey areas with me. It’s cut and dry. Black or white. My clients are the family I wasn’t born with. They are all like my children.
Long after a Clients event service, these former clients also become our friends. Their loyalty is also why I’ve never needed to advertise any of my businesses. Don’t be surprised, we earned our stellar reputation the hard way.
Cindy would say “close the tent- there are far too many clowns in here again.” I don’t. I can’t control the clowns.
I try to control the chaos but at the end of the day, my life is a unique combination of both my family and my business…
The clowns of course are my family. Cindy doesn’t point that out because our readers already realize this…
This evening after returning home from a long drive to Huntsville, Texas, I had a message through my FB Page, Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham regarding Vow Renewals.
The Administrative Directive is specific pertaining to inmate marriages and a requirement on “wedding day” is a marriage license from the County Clerk as well as your state issued ID or passport.
Because you cannot legally marry the same person twice, Vow Renewals are a popular way of celebrating your life together.
However, since such ceremonies aren’t authorized by TDCJ, I came up with a new way to celebrate Clients anniversaries by having them print a Vow Renewal for their years together or if I’ve married the couple, providing one myself as a courtesy.
There are a number of sites with free downloads to say “I Do” all over again and, inmates are thrilled to receive these certificates in the mail.
All you need is a computer and if you like, you can buy luxe paper to print on at Office Depot or other retailers.
Congrats to all of my TDCJ Brides and Grooms on their upcoming anniversaries and looking forward to Vow Renewals for my previous clients who have finally made it through the storm and freedom. My team and I look forward to meeting ya all again at your celebrations this year.
I’m all over in March from Allred to Hobby to Stiles to Bridgeport to Coffield and numerous Units in Huntsville and Tennessee Colony. Mid month bookings have been moved to accommodate existing bookings that already have been assigned dates.
Due to my schedule, bookings are on a first come first book basis. If you are booking mid month, your wedding will be scheduled the following month. The timeline for Prison Wedding Planning is generally 4-6 weeks.
The ID often takes up to 3 weeks on its own. The TDCJ ID will also need to be notarized. The Law Library at all Units is where the inmate will get the notary seal. You will also need an Absentee Affidavit which will also be notarized in the Law Library. Using both of these documents, you will purchase a marriage license.
After the inmate has obtained notary seals of both the ID and the Absentee Affidavit, you will have him or her go back to the Law Library to file an I60 Request For Marriage Form. The I60 Form requires up to 6 signatures and your TDCJ Approved Officiant MUST be listed on it or it will NOT be APPROVED.
Since the I60 Form requires so many signatures, it is passed from signee to signee. If a signer is on vacation or our sick, the form waits for them to return and sign it before passing it to the next signer. Because of this, there is no set timeline for a marriage ceremony to be Approved. The Warden is the last person to sign off on this document before passing it to the Chaplain who then contacts me to go over my availability before “setting” the date and time.
I require all clients to sign a contract. My reasons for this are that I almost never have met my TDCJ Clients in person until wedding day. Your behavior reflects on me as you are my client. Because of this, my TDCJ contract outlines all of the possible “no no” situations ahead of time. From what to wear to what you can or cannot bring to respectful behavior inside a Texas Prison as well as when to arrive, my contract covers all of the bases. This is key to us enjoying a worry free wedding day with no surprises.
As my client, you will at no time be alone or without me by your side once we enter a Prison or Jail. Unless of course, you need to use the restroom. In such cases, I will wait for you outside the restroom.
Most clients are nervous on wedding day because no one expected to be marrying at a Texas Prison. You will be okay. I will make sure of it. There will also be guards to escort us and the possibility of the Warden, Chaplain or both witnessing your ceremony. Focus on your fiancée and don’t be nervous.
There is no open mouth kissing, groping or inappropriate contact allowed. You can hold hands, hug and kiss (closed mouth) at the end of your ceremony.
Certain Units allow a brief visit following the wedding ceremony of 10-20 minutes but, this varies from Unit to Unit.
Certain Units offer photos of your Prison Wedding. Again, this varies from Unit to Unit. However, if photos are offered, I bring $6 in quarters and purchase 2 photos that I copy and mail clients as a courtesy. Clients can purchase up to 6 photos (if they are offered).
If you are marrying at a Death Row Unit, the circumstances are completely different than those mentioned above. Traditionally, the location is in the Visitation Area. However, Death Row Units often do not allow the inmate to leave the cell area. No photos are allowed in cell areas. Please be aware of this.
The ring issue continues to “come up.” However, the Administrative Directive specifically forbids the exchange of property to an inmate (Section K).
As my client, I must insist that you DO NOT attempt to sneak anything into the Unit. Such behavior will suspend your marriage and your ability to visit.
Because I’m committed to giving you a worry free wedding day, I’m once again revisiting the wedding ring issue. But, only a special exception from the Warden can override this rule and in three years, I’ve never seen an exception made regarding a ring exchange.
However, you can wear your ring in and hand it to me mid ceremony thus allowing the inmate to put it upon YOUR finger. If desired, I can also bless your ring as part of the ceremony. I’m happy to do so and love creative input from clients making their ceremony unique and memorable.
I strongly encourage all of my TDCJ Clients to write poetry, scripture, song lyrics or something you haven’t said before in order to make your ceremony as special as you are. By writing something yourself, you extend our time with your fiancée as certain Units only allow us to have the ceremony and then leave without the benefit of a brief visit. By writing things down and handing them to me prior to entry, I can hand them back to you and extend our visit by 5-10 minutes based on the length of your notes.
Complimentary Bridal or Groom Photography is offered to all of my TDCJ Clients as a courtesy. I have a rolling photo booth of props, bouquets and more to bring fun to your photo shoot. I make double prints of photos as a courtesy so clients can send their new spouse copies.
Wedding dresses are RARELY allowed at Prison or Jail Weddings unless it’s a minimum security Unit. It’s so rare that a bride is allowed to wear a wedding dress that I’m pointing this out.
However, if you wish to change clothes for your photo shoot with me, I encourage you to bring your dress with you.
Visitation Attire is expected at your Prison Wedding. Please do not wear tight or revealing clothing. The last thing you want is to be handed a cafeteria smock. It’s happened and it always breaks my heart. I don’t want my brides crying on wedding day so, I strongly discourage anything that might be deemed “risqué.” The Unit has the final call on Attire.
While guests are rarely allowed at maximum security Units and especially, Death Row Units, occasionally at minimum security Units such as Estes, the guest exception has been granted but, it’s only ever happened at Estes.
If you’d like to bring friends or relatives, I encourage you to because it makes your drive far more pleasant and because they are welcome to join you in photos after we leave the Unit.
Laying Out. What is it and what does it mean? I ask all TDCJ Clients to have the inmate lay out the day prior to the wedding. My reasons for this are that if the inmate is in class or working on wedding day, it’s difficult for staff to locate them on the premises. It’s not uncommon to wait up to 3 hours for a Unit to find the inmate. If the inmate has laid out, they stay in their cell and are easy to locate and move to the Visitation Area.
You cannot bring a change of clothes for the inmate. This rule is also specifically addressed in the Administrative Directive under “offender property.” I know you’d like your loved one to wear something other than state issued attire but, we cannot change the rules.
Please do not drink PRIOR to your Prison Wedding or bring anything onto the property that shouldn’t be there. Leave mace, wasp spray and other similar items at home. Your car may very well be searched and the last thing you need on your wedding day is a problem with something in your vehicle. Even if you own a firearm and are licensed to carry it, you CANNOT under ANY circumstances bring a firearm or cell phone into a Prison Unit.
By knowing what to expect at your Prison Wedding, I’m hoping it makes your day seamless and as close to perfect as we can get it. Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled wedding time to allow a search entering the Unit.
If you wear a wire bra, corset or other lingerie with metal, you may be asked to go to the bathroom for a private screening. Please be courteous to staff during this process. The guards are following protocol and it will always be a female or if you are a male, a male guard conducting a private search.
Your hands and feet will also be screened. Because of this, I can help you remove your shoes but once cleared, I cannot assist you putting your shoes back on. There are generally benches or seating available to give you a place to sit and put your shoes back on.
Please be aware that expired ID will not be accepted to enter a TDCJ Facility. If your ID is soon to expire, I strongly encourage you to replace it. Passports are accepted as ID as well as state issued drivers licenses.
I always ask clients if they wish for me to file their marriage license? There are valid reasons for this. First, marriage licenses have a shelf life. Once signed by me, they must be filed within 30 days. If you wish to file your license in person on your own, PLEASE do so quickly. If you’ve lost your license, contact me immediately and visit the clerks office as I will need to sign a duplicate.
It’s best to allow me to file your license as I file them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. If your license is from a clerk more than one hour from my location in Fort Worth, Texas, I mail it Certified/Return Receipt in order to track it and ensure it arrived timely and safely to the clerks office.
If you have any other questions, comments or concerns not addressed in today’s blog, you can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org I answer emails every 1-2 hours.
Many clients and prospects are messaging me on Instagram (wendywortham) or FB. My FB page alerts me to new messages while Instagram does not if you aren’t following me or I’m not following you, Instagram “hides” your message. Because of this issue, a delay in my responding to you might occur. Please email me or call me (682-229-6838) if you have messaged me on Instagram and more than a few hours have elapsed. My clients are important to me and a priority. The last thing I want is for someone to assume that I’ve overlooked them or weren’t addressing their needs immediately.
I’m inside Units Monday through Friday or traveling to Prisons or Jails. If I don’t answer your call immediately, I assure you as soon as I get back in my vehicle, I will.
Weekends are workdays for me too as I own Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures and The Pawning Planners as well as work at numerous DFW based venues I’m on staff at. If you are contacting me on a weekend or evening, I may be working and occasionally, my twin sister, Cindy will field calls and take messages for me.
Responding to all inquiries is important to myself and my staff. Exceeding our clients expectations will always be a priority to us.