My brother in law, Steve has been a truck driver for fifty years now, Steve can tell me where I am by simply giving him a mile marker in Texas, California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and darn near any city in the United States. For twenty five years, Steve drove for Albertsons. Retiring from Albertsons, Steve took a fuel tank transport job in Balad Iraq for KBR at Camp Anaconda for 8 years. Steve has seen it all. He was also a survivor of the roadside bombing on Good Friday in Iraq. Driving over bombs during mortar attacks isn’t something anyone ever forgets and my brother in law won’t either. Steve is on the road 5-6 days a week driving for Ryder. Steve calls my twin sister, Cindy and I daily while we are driving here, there and everywhere. Steve knows the best places to buy lunch or grab gasoline. Steve knows exactly where we are by simply texting a photo or giving him a mile marker. This amazes my husband who always asks “what city is that next to? I’ve never heard of that highway. Is there a major highway nearby?” My husband worries while I’m on the road at least 3 days a week driving to Prisons. My brother in law doesn’t.
Steve knows every back road there is. My husband doesn’t. Matthew is a Fort Worthian. He loves the city and he isn’t a road tripper unless it’s to go view land for a development. Matthew drives as much as I do but he’s driving to job sites Monday through Friday viewing jobs. He travels to the same locations while I’m always headed to somewhere new as well as somewhere I’ve been before. I have far more variety than my husband by a long shot.
Last week, my husband took an unexpected week off from work and joined me at several client meetings and accompanied me to a few Prisons as well as county jails and two rehearsal lunches with my Texas Twins Event Client as well as a previous TDCJ Client who had rebooked her Vow Renewal with me. My husband quickly learned that I’m in the “people business.” My husband deals with contractors, foremen and plots of land or custom homes in various stages of development. He rarely interacts with people aside from contractors.
Matthew is reserved while I am outgoing. We are a Compensating Personality couple. It works for us and it’s been working for years. Matthew is far less social than I am. Cindy’s husband, Steve can and does talk to anyone. Steve is a good ole country boy who grew up near San Antonio, Texas and like Matthew, has lived in Texas all of his life. Cindy and I have moved and even kept homes in more than one state for a number a years. My twin and I are far less tied down to Texas than Matthew and Steve. I doubt either of our husbands would consider moving from Texas. They’ve been here all of their lives. Cindy and I are originally from California and have moved back and forth several times throughout our lives.
Last Thursday, Cindy and I rolled out at 4:30AM to head Kennedy, Texas and meet Victoria. It’s hard for others to understand that I rarely meet clients in person prior to their wedding day but, I’ve talked to them, I’ve texted them and I’ve emailed them. I text my clients from the parking lot to let them know I’m on site. We walk into the Unit together. We screen in together. We wait together for an escort. We walk into the visitation area and await the arrival of their fiancée. We begin our ceremony and end it with photos if they are available. I sign the license and we wait together for the photos to be printed. Occasionally, the Unit photos are printed in the wardens office while other times they are printed in the visitation area. These are the only photos that will have the bride and the groom in them. The quality also varies from Unit to Unit.
The Connally photos were exceptionally clear and Victoria was happy with them. I’ve had clients cry regarding the clarity of photos so when a client is happy, I’m happy for them. Weddings are Life Events for my Prison wedding clients too. Unit photos of prison weddings are the only wedding photos my couples have.While some Unit photos are clear and colorful, others are grainy and out of focus. It’s hit and miss finding great Unit photos but, correctional officers aren’t professional photographers. They do the best they can with the equipment they have.
Cindy and I followed Victoria to file her marriage license after the wedding ceremony and loved the courthouse across the street so much that we used it for bridal photos. Jordan had exciting news. Her husband was finally released and they are now enjoying life after lock up. I’m thrilled for them as I am all of my clients who will no longer be lonely or driving hours to a prison or paying for expensive phone calls.
Their journey beyond the bars finally begins and it’s a celebration you would need to see yourself to understand. Inmate release at Walls Unit is the most exciting place near a prison that I’ve ever been. Why? Because families and loved ones sons hours anxiously awaiting the release of inmates. They visit with each other. There are joyous tears. They’ve survived the painful journey of having a loved one locked up. For a few clients who couldn’t get permission to marry at the Unit due to a CLM status, I’ve married them just outside the Walls Unit. Others I’ve married at other locations. Previous clients and bookings have rebooked their Vow Renewal.
Seeing my clients again at the Vow Renewal while wearing whatever they want without the rules, the fear the and anxiety of marrying inside a prison is something that words cannot adequately describe. The variations are so remarkably different. There’s cake. There’s guests. There’s music. There are no guards. There is joy. The journey of making it to the other side and planning a wedding ceremony where you can do all of the things that other couples do at their wedding is liberating and exhilarating. Not only for my clients but also for myself and my team.
Heading to New Boston this morning, Cindy wasn’t surprised that I still had my Glen Campbell CD in from my trip to Connally Unit. In fact, I’ve been listening to it for over a week now and only occasionally change cd’s. Cindy swaps them out daily. My sister has her favorites of course but she gets tired of the same artists far more quickly than I do.
My bride sent me a text letting me know where she was and checked in with me. I decided to leave my SUV at the end of the lot with Cindy answering client calls and still listening to my Glen Campbell CD. It was hot walking across the lot but my stunning bride looked truly amazing in a white wedding dress with flowing hair and impeccable makeup this morning.
As usual, we walked in together. Screened in. Waited on our escort. We spent a little time visiting and sharing our lives together. My bride had booked months ago. There was a “hold up” due to a CLM status. It took months to overcome the status and get permission to marry. My bride was also just a little nervous. Walking into a prison to marry is nerve wracking. I’ve had brides nearly faint because they are THAT NERVOUS.
There weren’t any walls I liked for the backdrop other than one colorfully painted wall. This wall had a heavy table in front of it. I moved it. Whenever possible, I try not to use the wall with glass visitation windows and telephones. Why? Because all of my clients who cannot have contact visits or weddings feature the glass, the phones and the isolation. Each weekend my clients drive hours to a Unit and many sit on the other side of the glass. No one “likes the glass.” Because of this, unless it’s without any other option, I choose a brightly colored or solid wall inside the visitation area. The ink in the printer (as usual) was uneven and for some reason in two of my three photos with the couple, my lipstick appears to be black rather than red. I have no idea why the ink made my lips darker in these photos but, Unit photos “are what they are” and my primary focus is on my clients. I want them perfect. I want the inmates Uniform collar straightened and my brides hair perfect. I want everything for them to be as close to perfect as I can possibly get it regardless of where the ceremony takes place. I’m OCD. Leaving the Unit to head for bridal photos, my SUV read 104 degrees outside. It certainly felt like it too. My bride was going to file her license, change her drivers license then to the social security office. I didn’t want her beautiful makeup to melt and due to the heat, Cindy and I tried to keep her in the shade but the shadows made lighting somewhat more challenging. Cindy and I had another great day with a great lady and the red doors on the building nearby made the perfect backdrop for my red multi bouquet. I love my clients and I’m blessed to have the honor of sharing their Life Event with them. Cindy and I headed off to meet our next clients at Choctaw Casino from New Boston. It was about forty minutes out. Due to traffic, of took us an hour but our Chocktaw clients lived in the city near the casino and understood that by being added to the calendar today that an approximate time would be set for them. Texas to Oklahoma? Sure. I drove it all of the time to meet my Oklahoma Prison brides too.
It’s all in a days work and can’t wait to meet the rest of our clients this week at their inmate weddings as well as our weekend Vow Renewal and new bookings through Texas Twins Events. We love what we do and who we do it for. Our clients are amazing, resilient, warriors who overcome all odds to make their love stand the test of time…