10
Jan

Cold Feet, Warm Hearts And Fresh Starts. The Prison Wedding Planning Process Begins Again…

Last August, just a few days before Eric was confirmed at TDCJ Crain Unit to marry, he called me to advise me that his bride had changed her mind about marrying. 

This was surprising but not as uncommon as you might think. Why? 1% of inmates change their mind about marrying after being given a date to marry. Not the person on the outside but instead the person on the inside? Yes. A number of factors may be the reason for this change of heart but generally months or even years later, the inmate changes their mind to follow through with the wedding which is exactly what happened with Eric. He called to advise me that they were ready and the planning process started over again. 

Eric is a really nice guy and I know he will make a great prison husband. We’ve had long talks about the struggles husbands and wives face from the outside. 

Marrying an inmate is a commitment not to be taken lightly. The expenses and loneliness of being married to an inmate require stamina and finances. From expensive phone calls to long drives to the Unit to putting money on the books, my clients on the outside do it all and they do it alone. Single income households struggle to make it all work but they do. 

Strangers and even other clients ask me frequently “why would these other clients choose to marry an inmate?” This question is better directed at my clients than at me. They know what they are in for and they accept the terms. 

For years now, I’ve had strangers email or even mail me when they aren’t commenting on my posts that “they don’t believe inmates should have the right to marry or they don’t believe in LBGT marriage.” These narrow minded folks assume their opinions matter to either me, my staff or my clients. They don’t. 

Our clients make the decision to marry. Our clients hire my staff to handle the planning and the ceremony. By the way, I have never had a problem on site at an LBGT event OR inmate wedding. No rude guests? No drunks? No idiotic demands? It’s a fact that the majority of our favorite events and the clients weren’t “traditional bookings.” Instead, the best times we’ve had on location are with LBGT clients, inmate clients and bartering clients. This unique and diverse group of clients are not only thankful for our help but also courteous to my staff, our children and grandchildren. Keep your opinions. Opinions aren’t our luggage and they aren’t our trip.

When Cindy and I decided to start an Events business, our goal was to make Life Events affordable to ANYONE. Rebranding and expanding to offer bartering shocked folks but reaching ANY economic level required tenacity, creativity, dedication and drive. 

The Pawning Planners opened a window that effectively “created an opportunity for low income families who couldn’t afford to pay for services to trade for services instead.” 

Love knows no bounds and whether my client is marrying an inmate or marrying outside of the confinement’s of a prison or jail, the variations of their commitment are often surprising to outsiders. 

“PEOPLE that FEAR the STORM, have NEVER lived THROUGH a DROUGHT.” God Bless Us All. 

While one bride wants a room full of flowers with the perfect music and the perfect venue, another bride is sending me photos of what she plans to wear and asking me if it’s within the visitation dress code. There are no divas marrying an inmate. There is no one who has “been dreaming all their lives of marrying inside a prison or jail.” 

My heart is with clients marrying an inmate rather than with the demanding divas who want perfection. I become their mother, their friend, their confidant. The Prison Wedding Planning Process is lengthy, confusing and extensive. It’s not uncommon for me to talk to clients throughout the planning process as well as after the wedding. Our relationship lasts long after their event. The majority of my inmate bookings rebook Vow Renewal services upon release to celebrate their love story with friends and family. They now have the cake, the guests, the music, the dress and the joy of life after lock up.  

I’ve been in this industry many years and I’ve also met all and worked with all types of people from diverse backgrounds. The drama and chaos of “traditional weddings and brides demanding it all or being unreasonable” isn’t exactly a “good time on location for me or my staff.” 

I’ve worked large events as a Planner and Officiant for up to 300 guests. I’ve been on site when brawls have broken out and arrests were made. The number of times I’ve also been interrupted by dip shit “guests” attempting to object during my ceremony is staggering. Who invited THAT guest? 

You could easily say that I’ve seen it all at this point of my career in the events industry because quite frankly, I can’t think of anything I haven’t seen. From the commando guest in a short skirt that had one too many and her high kicks on the dance floor creating a “memorable moment” to the groom stuck in the patio lights during the traditional “toss” to the witness literally running from a bride after effectively voiding the license by scribbling out and changing her address not knowing the consequences of her error would infuriate the bride who was unaware that I could fix the issue by filing an Amended License until she allowed me to explain, the chaos and crazy moments could easily fill a book. 

Cindy and I are “the fixers.” Experience and knowledge are important. A videographer suggested putting an emoji over “the flasher on the dance floor.” I insisted on him editing the video. 

I’m picky about who I choose to work with now. I’ve had people change their date to accommodate my schedule too. If you want it all and don’t want to pay for it though, you are wasting my time as well as your own. Move along. I’m busy. 

By the way, if you are at a wedding to object, you shouldn’t be there and if you are trying to interrupt my ceremony, I’m going to make an example of you in front of other guests and then escort you out myself. Sit down and shut up. If you can’t, stay home. 

I no longer work “over the top events” for “people who found me on the internet” regardless of what the prospective client is willing to pay. Why? I don’t have to. I prefer the intimacy of inmate weddings and the joy of Vow Renewals with previous clients instead. There are no drunks. There are no divas. There is no drama. 

From The Tardy Party Bride Who Lied in order to obtain a police discount to The Bouncing Checks Broken Tooth Bride to The Banjo Playing Ex Boyfriend Who Got The Boot, not only I but also my team have had some surprising things happen on location. All of these “surprises” were with traditional bookings. 

The Tardy Party Bride was over an hour late to her own wedding and could not provide credentials for her discount either. 

The Broken Tooth Bouncing Checks Bride wrote not one but two hot checks. While attempting discuss this matter on location, I was asked to glue her tooth. My finger became glued to the Broken Tooth. No good deed goes unpunished. My medical expenses for the damage of my finger proved that. The bride never did make good on her Bouncing Checks or her Broken Promises.

A Fort Worth Stockyards wedding without adequate security found me knocked over a table. Wrong place wrong time or wrong clients unwilling to take my advice? Open Bars are bad ideas. Nearly every time an event has had an open bar there have been problems on site.

Since returning from California, my dog Foxy has been in and out of the vet. One of our SUVs has been in and out of the shop. The beat goes on. Business and family are an everyday mix for me.I juggle clients from venues, Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners and Prisons as well as Jails in numerous states. I regularly turn down inquiries for large events or someone wanting an Elvis Impersonator. I’m not an impersonator. 

“REALITY checks, aren’t GIVEN, with INSUFFICIENT funds.” If you want an Officiant, Planner and Impersonator, I can find one for you but get ready to pay for it. 

Impersonators are expensive. I’m not opposed to dressing up or wearing themed clothing within reason but if you want me to swivel my hips wearing Elvis attire, sorry buddy you’ve got the wrong person. 

Last year I bought camo clothing after being asked by my client for a Pawning Planners Event. This was a first since I’ve never owned anything camouflage in my life but, my bride REALLY wanted me in camo to officiate so… I worked it out and found an outfit.

Working as a planner for ONE CLIENT and spending months addressing their every whim when I can easily plan and officiate up to 20 weddings a month instead? I will take the 20 happy clients over the one problem client any day of the year. No amount of money is worth dealing with a Diva to me. 

I don’t enjoy spending months listening to spoiled brides who “want it all”  who don’t realize that they “do not have the budget for all of it.” Princesses or Bridezillas don’t understand that everyone has limits even me. Let these folks tie someone else down while expecting them to pay for the rope because I’m too busy for Demanding Diva’s. 

Years ago I took on problem clients but those days are gone forever. No more  miserably counting the days to their event down for me. No thanks, I have happy clients and a good time now. No divas. No demanding mothers. No midnight phone calls about what they want that they haven’t paid for. Goodbye and good luck to them. They are far too much work. 

I’ve met plenty of Diva’s and I’ve learned they take up far too much of my time AND my patience. Time is money. Experience matters. You learn where your time is better spent. I did. It’s well spent with people who matter. Ask anyone in sales how much time and money problem clients cost them if you don’t believe me. I can assure you they will be quick to enlighten you. 

At an event a few years ago where the client had hired an Officiant, you can imagine my shock when her mother called to tell me “you have a team. We want two photographers, help with caterers and a set up and tear down team. I’m going to need you on site for eight hours.” 

Stunned, I skipped a beat before replying “an Officiant is on site for an hour. You have not paid for two photographers or a set up and tear down team or assistance with catering. Lady, I’m going to give you a wake up call and a bill for WHAT YOU WANT in order to WAKE YOU UP.” That lady was an arrogant idiot. If she planned on having volunteers for her daughters wedding at MY expense, she apparently couldn’t read or understand my contract or both. I don’t work without a contract.

 I’m really good at saying no listening to surprisingly stupid suggestions, demands or desires from “entitled idiots” who think they make the rules. I’ve had plenty of experience. You want 10 people on site for 8 hours when you’ve paid for 1 person on location for 1 hour? Come on! Pull out your checkbook or put on an apron and serve the food yourself or find your own “volunteers.” 

The Tardy Party Bride and her posse literally pushed me to the limit. Yes, even I have limits. Thirty phone calls, text messages and emails were sent to me after that fiasco of a wedding and after being lied to. In part due to her harassment, I sued The Tardy Party Bride. We were on Hot Bench in 2015. I had filed the suit in Tarrant County. After being contacted by the show, we both agreed to fly to California. The episode? “Don’t Call Me Bridezilla.” Don’t act like one and I won’t. I won the case. I always “overprepare.”

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

If lying in order to gain a financial advantage for yourself seems “okay to you” here’s a heads up, it isn’t. Also, late fees are listed in my contracts. Why? Because I’m busy that’s why. Your tardiness affects my timeline.

Being a diva on wedding day and forcing your guests and your vendors to wait over an hour is selfish. 

If you aren’t active or retired military, fire, police, first responder or a teacher, don’t lie to me to benefit yourself by receiving a 20% discount you aren’t entitled to. That’s called Theft Of Services. The Tardy Party Bride was a Bridezilla. She not only lied to get that discount but also refused to come out of the dressing room for nearly an hour and a half on wedding day. Her tardiness affected my ability to be on time and on site with three other clients the same day. Her anger regarding my request to view her credentials? Priceless. She didn’t care that her tardiness had a domino effect to my schedule or my other clients. Selfish people never do. 

Weddings are Life Events. Regardless of where the wedding takes place. I spend a large amount of my time traveling from Fort Worth, Texas to locations hours away. Traveling is a very important aspect of my role.  Monday, I’m back at Green Bay Unit and Parker County Jail. Tuesday, I head out early to Huntsville to begin my day at Estelle Unit at 11:15. From there? Bridal photos and lunch before heading to Holliday Unit at 2PM. Bridal photos with my client will follow before driving to Polunsky and meeting my last client in Livingston, Texas at 5:30PM. It will be another 13-15 hour day of driving for me. Two cities. Three Units. Three clients. One day. Next week I have 7 clients in 4 days alone. Huntsville and Livingston Tuesday. Iowa Park Wednesday. Jacksboro Thursday. Lamesa Friday. Traditional bookings take place on weekends.

I’m always asked about why I offer bridal photography or why I invested in creating an extensive inventory to loan our booked clients for their events and photo shoots, the photos of my happy clients speak for themselves. 

Bouquets, furs, tiaras, fascinators and more? You bet! We bring a trunk load of our Texas Twins Treasures inventory to all of our events. Not just 1 or 2 bouquets but up to 10? Absolutely. Our clients often bring friends or family to their photo shoot and we make sure there are enough bouquets, bouteniers, tiaras, fascinators, furs and fun stuff for large groups. 

My staff and I are dedicated to making Dream Events a reality to such an extent that I add to our inventory year round and have even loaned clothing to clients who asked. I want your day as special as you are. Finding time to squeeze in mini photo shoots with clients on a multiple booking date is tricky but worth it. Clients often tell me that their photo shoot was the best part of their day.

Wednesday I’m in Iowa Park at TDCJ Allred Unit.

Thursday I’m in Jacksboro, Texas at Lindsey State Jail.

Friday I meet two clients at TDCJ Smith Unit. Raymon and Jeremy have waited months to marry. Raymond and Jeremy are also the first male LBGT couple I will marry in a Texas Prison. I’ve married several female couples in Texas Prisons but male couples are rare for reasons I don’t understand. Outside of prisons, a large portion of my clients are LBGT. For the first few years of Texas Twins Events, nearly all of our clients were LBGT. My affiliation and support of the community is well known. My clients are also my friends.

I look forward to finally meeting Eric in person at TDCJ Crain Unit. Like Eric, I believe a happy ending of a new beginning awaits him. Prison Weddings are Rainbows In The Dark…