Late last night, someone who apparently was searching hashtags for prison weddings found me on FB and Instagram. First off, I’d like to express that if “you don’t believe that inmates should have the right to marry,” I am confused as to why you are specifically searching for people marrying an inmate? Are you bored? Nonetheless and anyhow, Donna, this blog is for you.
Donna, I’m going to address your concerns although I strongly disagree with your opinions regarding inmate marriage because apparently, you felt strongly enough about your opinion to message me.
First though, I’m going to express how offended I was for my clients regarding your observation of downplaying their dedication by describing their love story as “Jailbirds turned lovebirds.”
This description is so narrow minded and one sided that I would best describe it as outrageous. It doesn’t even begin to adequately describe the relationships of my clients or their partners.
Your assumption that most of my clients were pen pals is also far from true. The majority of my clients knew the inmate years prior to incarceration. This is a fact and believe it or not, something my clients choose to share with me. I don’t ask why their loved one is incarcerated either.
On the flip side of the same coin, I don’t ask my traditional clients from Texas Twins Events or The Pawning Planners or ANY Client booking me through a venue I’m affiliated with if “they or their soon to be spouse has ever committed a crime and if so what it was?” No vendor would ask a question like this and I certainly won’t either. I don’t screen anyone. I’m in the people business. I help people.
A large percentage of the people my staff and I are helping have no one else to help them. Why? Because they are judged by other vendors and effectively “screened.”
I have several clients that went to school together and even lived in the same town or on the same street. Many were lovebirds as teens and young adults long before lock up.
I would like to point out statistics first to educate you regarding the number of people incarcerated in the United States who either personally know or have a relative in prison. Cornell University surveyed a representative sample of more than 4000 people.
The resulting report shows that one in seven adults has had an immediate family member incarcerated for more than one year, and one in 34 has had a loved one incarcerated for 10 years or more.
One in four American adults has had a sibling incarcerated. One in five has had a parent sent to jail or prison. One in eight has had a child incarcerated.
Today, 6.5 million adults have an immediate family member currently in jail or prison.
These are staggering numbers but the above numbers were from 2018. You had stated that “I don’t believe that there are people out there wanting to marry an inmate and if there are, they have reasons other than love for choosing to do so. Prison marriage is a fad. A trend. A plea for attention.”
This belief and statement is so wildly inaccurate that you should know that as far back as 1996, Prison Weddings were occurring in California. These weddings were not taking place because they were “trendy.” They were taking place because someone was willing to give up their life and commit themselves to someone else who was incarcerated.
Someone loved someone else SO MUCH that even though they had very little to bring to the marriage, their heart was in the right place. Their belief that love knows no bounds led them to the decision to marry an inmate.
Prison marriage isn’t new or unique and is far from being a trend. Prison marriage REQUIRES COMMITMENT! Prison marriage isn’t for the meek. To be married to an inmate is a difficult path. You raise your children alone. You pay your bills alone. You do everything alone. It’s a very heavy cross to bear to love an inmate and commit your life to loving an inmate by marrying one. People who do not make this decision lightly. They go in with their eyes wide open. How do I know? I have met them.
Among prison psychologists, it’s widely accepted that marriages between people who had close relationships beforehand are more likely to endure than those between people who met while one was behind bars.
“The marriages that begin in any situation where the woman is sort of aware of the person the inmate is prior to incarceration tend to last,” said Ronald Browne, a former prison psychologist at the U.S. penitentiary in Lompoc and now in private practice in Santa Maria.
The couples I have married “on the inside” have gone through a very lengthy process in order to be legally married. It isn’t something they decided to do on a whim.
A Prison wedding is one of the very few joyous things that occur “inside” a Prison. While you and others may feel that your opinion has an impact on my clients, their choices or even their families, I can assure you that you are incorrect.
Getting married is an act of hope. Prison marriages may be the most vivid demonstrations of this because they are undertaken in the most restrictive circumstances and hold for the husband and wife only diminished prospects for togetherness.
Prison marriage may not be for everyone but, love surpasses all things. You may not understand this but, love knows no bounds including the separation and loneliness that anyone who loves an inmate experiences. The dedication of driving every weekend to visit. The phone calls, the letters and the love locked down.
My clients are the most determined and resilient individuals I’ve ever met or ever will meet planning to marry someone else. Marriage is a merger. It’s a commitment for anyone entering into a marriage.
On the “outside,” my couples and often my brides in particular want the perfect dress, the perfect venue, the perfect cake.
On the “inside,” my clients cannot have these things. They must carefully choose their clothing. They must remove their shoes and belts. They must follow stringent guidelines.
In effect, a marriage to an inmate is far more about the other person than the frivolities of couples marrying outside of a prison.
Donna, since you apparently assume that “all prison weddings END in divorce,” I’m going to educate you with the truth and advise you that your opinion is a myth. None of my clients have filed for divorce and I’ve married many, many people inside prisons.
On the outside though, three of my couples over the years have divorced. They had everything my Prison Weddings Clients didn’t but they still couldn’t make their marriage work.
Marriage is give and take. Marriage to an inmate is mostly give for my clients because they are pulling the wagon alone doing time on the outside while the inmate does time on the inside.
Only a very strong and dedicated individual can overcome all odds and make their marriage last. My clients are very strong individuals. They are passionate and perseverant.
Long after lock up, these clients call me to schedule a Vow Renewal. That’s right. A celebration with the dress, the cakes, the music and the family who couldn’t attend their inmate wedding.
For these clients, celebrating freedom of their spouse, the celebration isn’t about impressing others with over the top extravagance. The celebration is of love that endured through a very difficult window. A marriage that made it through the rain and the pain that will finally see a rainbow to begin their life together. No more expensive phone calls, long drives to the Unit on the weekend to stand in line and screen in, no more running to the phone every time it rings to keep from missing a call they’ve waited all day to receive.
Vow Renewals for my former prison couples are to celebrate my couples freedom, endurance and dedication to one another. They made it through the rain, the loneliness, the pain and the despair. They survived love locked down and their journey together at last is something so exciting that I cannot even begin to put into words the joy of a Vow Renewal after lock up. You wouldn’t understand.
Donna, what you should understand though is that none of my clients are seeking your acceptance of their choices. None of my clients feel the need or have the desire to explain their decision to you.
I’m a sucker for a fantastic love story. I’m also a firm believer in second chances and I will go to my grave stating that love is love regardless of who people choose to love or whether or not others accept their choices…