05
Jul

Crain Unit, Country County Clerks, Chaos & Coming To The Rescue? Travels Of The Texas Twins…

Last night while at the Aladdin movie with my twin sister and twin grandnieces, a text from my Ferguson Unit bride asking “if I ever give rides to my clients” came through. With Makenna telling me “turn off my phone,” I walked out of the theater to call Savannah. In my line of work, there aren’t any “off days.” Cindy followed me out of the theater. We both have tight schedules and getting a text on a holiday is a literal “heads  up Houston because we may have a problem moment.” 

I need to know what’s going on in order to plan and prepare accordingly. All of my clients realize this because I reiterate it over and over again. Keeping me “in the loop” keeps you from encountering problems. I cannot fix what I’m unaware of.  If you are sitting in your car crying because the clerk wouldn’t issue your marriage license, CALL ME. If your car broke down and you don’t know how you are going to get three hours from home to a Unit, CALL ME. If you aren’t sure about what you plan to wear being okay, text me a photo. 

On a handful of occasions (based on the distance and my schedule), I’ve driven a few of my clients to their Unit Wedding and taken them home again. 

Certain clients are also very uncomfortable about driving in the country where deer freely bounce in herds across the road. Just call me, I will pick you up at your hotel near the Unit. I work with you to limit your anxiety. Stay calm. I’m not intimidated by a herd of deer. Cindy isn’t either. 

I also have a friend that has a transportation to and from Prison Unit based business. If you need her contact information, just let me know. She is based out of Houston and owns AM Transportations. She is also happy to help you by driving you to a visit or your wedding. I trust her to take great care of you. Remember though, there is a fee for this rideshare service. 

Based on your distance from my location to you and the Unit, there can be a fee for me to pick you up as well. Sadly, there isn’t a “gas fairy” filling up my tank. 

It’s rare for me to be a shuttle driver but it’s happened before and may happen again. Be aware that I’m based in Fort Worth though so I’m not going to drive to Houston to pick you up to go to Tennessee Colony. If you are more than one hour from my location, I will need you to use public transportation to get as close as possible to the Unit. Your officiant fee DOES NOT cover transportation. I will work with you to find a solution but remember I have several clients that warrant my time and attention. 

No one “plans” car trouble on wedding day. Once I’ve confirmed a wedding date with the Unit, we really need to honor the schedule. If you are having an emergency, please let me know ASAP so that I can notify the Unit and reschedule your date well within 48 hours. 

Rescheduled ceremony dates can and do give cause to the Unit to REQUIRE a new I60 and the entire process of getting permission to marry to start all over again. There’s a reason I frown upon reschedules. The reason is that the clock may very well start ticking all over again. I strongly encourage you to show up on a scheduled and confirmed wedding date because you’ve waited months to get that date. The next date (if you have rescheduled your original date) might not be as “easy to change as you think.” It most cases, it isn’t. Also, my own schedule is quite tight. If I’ve “held a date for you only to have you change it at the last minute,” you are effectively put back in line behind my other clients waiting on dates. There is no line jumping. Confirmed dates are important to the Unit. They are accommodating us into THEIR SCHEDULE. 

Line jumping “because you’ve changed your mind regarding a date” affects everyone else on my books. Please be courteous and understand that you are NOT my ONLY client. 

I’m generally juggling 10-20 clients per month planning prison weddings in Texas alone. We also service county jails and other states as well as Texas Twins Events Clients AND Pawning Planners Clients AS WELL as venues that I’m on staff at. “Changing your mind less than 48 hours before a confirmed event” affects everyone on my books. That “particular date” could have been used for another client after all. 

A few years ago, I needed a ride from Allred Unit myself. It’s highly irregular for me to need a ride. In fact, I doubt it Kay ever happen again. What happened? An ice storm had came through North Texas. I don’t drive on ice and had decided to take a Greyhound bus to Wichita Falls. The bus station in Wichita Falls had closed due to inclement weather and effectively left me afoot. No taxis and bad luck were making it look as if I would be finding a hotel. 

Thankfully, my wonderful new bride and her mother and new mother in law gave me a ride back to Fort Worth and my SUV at the Greyhound station. 

Hitching a ride can work in most cases and only takes a certain amount of “working it out” based on scheduling. If I can’t accommodate your needs, I can help locate public transportation or AM Transportations to get you where you need to be. 

Last year, my Estes bride was coming from Houston on Greyhound and needed a lift to the Unit. We enjoyed breakfast with my family at Ole South Pancake House before driving to Venus, Texas. Estes is nearly an hour from Fort Worth and my new friend and I had a great day together. After leaving Estes, I drove to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden to get bridal photos before driving my client back to Greyhound. 

Occasionally, I’m at more than one Unit on the same day. Taking a moment to look at my schedule next week, I told Savannah “I will need to leave Fort Worth to pick you up in Dallas by 9AM. There’s road construction of 45 so the estimated timeline of 2 and a half hours to Ferguson is incorrect. We need to leave Dallas 3 hours earlier in order to arrive with plenty of time to clear into the Unit.” I’m ALWAYS looking at timelines. 

Savannah had offered to meet me in Grand Prairie which is closer to my location. However, Savannah also wanted me to meet her in Dallas the following day (Thursday) to file her license (because she was uncomfortable having me file it and the clerk mailing it to her) I decided that I would drive her to the Unit and get bridal photos arriving early near Ferguson, perform the wedding, return to Dallas, file the license with her and THEN take her home. 

Thankfully, on the day of her wedding, I’m not scheduled at another Unit. Because I’m not, I have time to accommodate her need for a ride. 

I make exceptions frequently but, my schedule is key to “working it out.” If I have more than one Unit on the same day of another Unit wedding, the client needing a lift will be spending the entire day with me. I cannot “alter my schedule” to run you home. 

Let’s review more than one Unit in one day. I call this “Unit Stacking.” If your Unit is within 1-2 hour of another Unit, I stack the secondary Unit. If there is more than one client at the same Unit, you MUST ARRIVE on time in order to accommodate other clients. 

I’m going to catch everyone up on why I send you to cities to purchase a marriage license ONE MORE TIME. Coryell County Clerk now requires you to have a birth certificate, TDCJ ID and Absentee Affidavit. 

Crain Unit WILL NOT SEND the TDCJ ID or Absentee Affidavit and much less BOTH anywhere other than the courthouse. This is ongoing issue with Crain. On yet another phone call to the law library pertaining to two of my clients needing these documents in order to purchase their marriage licenses, the clerk at Crain literally told me “we will not send an ID to anyone other than the clerks office.” 

My suggestion FOR ALL CRAIN CLIENTS is to have Crain send the documents to ANY clerk other than Coryell County. 

Since April, Gary has been to Coryell County at least three times attempting to purchase a marriage license. The combination of Crain Unit and their refusal to mail the required documents to purchase a marriage license to the grooms (or brides) like every other Unit TDCJ Unit does along with the Coryell County Circus stipulations that no other County Clerk in Texas has have continued to “hold up the prison wedding planning process.” I’ve alerted the Courts In Huntsville to the fiasco regarding Crain refusing to mail the documents necessary to buy a marriage license to the people on the outside attempting to do so. 

Traditionally, the inmate will visit the law library to order a TDCJ ID. The person on the outside will send an Absentee Affidavit which will be notarized in the Law Library and mailed to the person on the outside to purchase the marriage license. 

Why Units “change things up” I have no idea. BUT a few Units do. If we cannot overcome their process, we instead hunker down and spend months going through THEIR process. 

Thankfully, Gary FINALLY has a birth certificate. Eric and Gary, I cannot wait to finally meet you both in person and get you married. Gary it’s been a process and had Crain simply allowed Aimee to mail you her ID and Absentee Affidavit, you could have easily purchased a marriage license in Harris County without going through repeated visits to Coryell. Smaller counties continue to make their own rules.

Last year, another client arrived to meet me at the Coryell County Courthouse for his photo shoot prior to driving to the Unit for the wedding. He had driven from Austin. He had also assumed that I had a “copy” of his license. There are no copies of the ORIGINAL marriage license. Only the person purchasing the marriage license has the marriage license. There is only one marriage license. PLEASE BRING IT WITH YOU. After your marriage license is signed by me AND filed at the clerks office, you can purchase a Certified Copy Of Your Marriage License. 

Since a question of name changing being automatic after marriage “came up” last week, your name is not “automatically changed because you are married.” Changing your name AFTER marriage is a legal process. To perform the process, you will take your marriage license AFTER I’ve signed it and filed it with the clerks office to the DMV to change your name. You will then go to SS to update your name there as well. The DMV has a fee associated with your new drivers license. I.E. it’s not free to change your state issued ID to reflect your new name. 

YOU MUST BRING your VALID ID and MARRIAGE LICENSE to Unit weddings at Prisons. We are on site specifically for a legal marriage. If you do not have the documentation, there will not be a wedding. Your Unit wedding will be rescheduled. Getting married at a prison is a process. However, getting your marriage license shouldn’t be as complicated as “country clerks” and a few TDCJ law libraries are making it out to be. For years now, I’ve sent my clients to CITIES to purchase marriage licenses. Country clerks in small towns are wholly and entirely unfamiliar with inmate marriage. Unless of course, the clerk is in a town near a prison unit in which case they may be aware of the legal rights for inmates to marry but, you are taking a chance if you don’t bother calling first I can assure you. 

A few days ago, my Ellis Unit bride, Amanda went to buy her marriage license in Eastland, Texas. The clerk refused to accept the documentation that ANY city clerk would. Amanda called me. Amanda had also taken the Twogether In Texas course that waives the three day waiting period. Since she’s marrying at Ellis Unit Tuesday, I suggested buying the marriage license from Huntsville on the morning of her wedding scheduled at 1PM and then filing it in Huntsville rather than trying to convince Eastland of her right to purchase a marriage license. 

I send you to cities because I’m all too aware of the issues that country clerks have put other clients through. How? Because like you, everyone else called me when they couldn’t buy a license too. Yes, my phone rings all day long and my role is to solve problems. I excel at problem solving on a regular basis. 

If you are near Dallas or Fort Worth, both counties are familiar with Absentee Affidavits and inmate marriage as is Harris County, Travis County, Bell County and many others. City clerks are friendly and helpful. Country clerks continue to upset clients by telling them they cannot buy a marriage license unless the absent applicant is armed forces. 

There’s a reason I’m sending you to a city. A few months ago, my Hobbs New Mexico bride was having problems getting a license and called me. I mapped out the closest clerks to her location and called them PRIOR to sending her to buy the license. Lubbock County issued the license. 

If you are having problems buying your license, contact me. Officiating your wedding involves FAR MORE THAN SIMPLY SHOWING UP. I cannot stress this point enough to ANYONE planning to marry an inmate. 

Everyone it seems is hopping on the TDCJ Officiant bandwagon but, not everyone knows how to solve unexpected problems. I do. I also keep my promises. The role of an Officiant pertaining to inmate marriage can be and is all encompassing. From a mother figure to the maid of honor to a bridesmaid to a photographer to a planner to an Officiant, my role covers every base. 

I hold your hand through a very confusing and lengthy process because I’m well aware that marrying an inmate isn’t “simple” and much less cut or dry.  A few weeks ago, LeBlanc refused to Approve a wedding for one of my clients because “the inmate is already listed as being married and therefore not entitled to a marriage ceremony.” I called the Chaplain and after a lengthy conversation, called the Courts in Huntsville to overcome the issue. Knowing how to address unexpected issues is part of the prison wedding process. If you are entrusting your prison wedding to someone who THINKS showing up on wedding day encompasses THEIR ROLE, you have hired the wrong person. When you run into a problem though, you will call me. I fix problems. I know how to. I’m seasoned and experienced. I know Procedures and Policies. For everyone else assuming that officiating a prison wedding is easy and they can do it too, good luck to you and please don’t call me to tell you how to perform a task you have no idea to do. 

I’m not in the “training others to compete with me business.” I’m in the wedding and event business and I know every aspect of my job or role. No one trained me. I educated myself to all aspects of any business I’ve ever worked in including prison weddings. I’m not going to train you either. 

For a few years now, other TDCJ Officiants have asked me to refer them my clients. Sorry kids, I trained my family members instead. Two generations of my family now handle prison weddings that I don’t have time to address myself in numerous states. They are educated to unexpected issues as well because I’ve trained them to be. Nearly once a week someone contacts me to “teach them how to do what I do.” I’m not about to create competition that doesn’t exist because you took the time to ask me to do so. I’m busy addressing my clients. 

For months now, undoing a CLM status at Telford Unit in order to obtain Approval to marry was another issue. It was also one that was overcome. Hire someone knowledgeable. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve been the 2nd and even 3rd Officiant my clients hired because they initially hired the wrong person. 

In certain circumstances like Hobby Unit, I’ve been hired AFTER a client has paid “other Officiants” not once but twice. I not only married her but even drove this client from Grand Prairie to Hobby and back again! This poor lady trusted not one but two other Officiants who let her down. I AM RELIABLE and trustworthy. If I tell you I’m going to do something, you can bet that I am. Unlike “other officiants” I exceed my clients expectations which is why I’m so sought after in this industry. I also took my Hobby Unit bride to lunch and shot her bridal photos on the way back to Grand Prairie. I’ve had questions regarding retakes of Unit photos. Please do not complain about the quality of Unit photos. Guards are not professional photographers. They are doing the best they can with the equipment they have. 

Holiday Unit is hit and miss on photos. We may have good photos at one wedding and fuzzy photos at the next. If you are on Instagram looking through Unit photos on my account and not paying attention to the Unit, the reason that Estes photos are clear is that they are emailed. The photo quality of emailed photos is crisper than printed photos.

McConnell does a great job on photos as does Hodge. Michael also has great photos too but, the ONLY photos we are going to have of you with the inmate are going to be Unit photos so please do not send complaints about your Unit photos to the Unit or the Courts. 

Outdoor photos and white clothing create a glare. This cannot be overcome. Overexposed photos are due in part to the camera as well as sunlight. Certain Units like Ferguson now have a disclaimer regarding photo quality they go over with us prior to taking photos at your wedding. They are doing the best that they can. 

Poses for photos. I will pose you for Unit photos. Don’t worry about how to pose at the Unit. I know you are nervous and in certain cases like the photo below, guards will hand me the camera to take the photo myself. I’m very familiar with photography and poses and want you to have the best photos you can at your Unit wedding. 

We cannot control the quality of your Unit photos. What I can do is give you beautiful wedding photos taken with me and my inventory before or after your ceremony to ensure you have beautiful photos to remember your wedding day. I’m at several Units in the coming weeks and looking forward to finally meeting all of you at your prison wedding. While getting your paperwork and buying your license can be somewhat stressful, pat yourself on the back because you’ve finally made it through the process. 

It’s a lengthy process but, you chose an Officiant (me) who walked you through the process and held your hand for weeks or even months and in the Torres Unit case, waited for over a year to finally meet you at your Prison Wedding. We did it. You’re married now. It wasn’t easy and it took time  (a year) but, you made it. Questions about the glass continue to roll in. If the inmate is G4 or G5, there will be glass. Accept this because the glass will be a part of your ceremony. It pains me as much as it pains you that your wedding will not be “sealed with a kiss” but, it’s something that cannot be changed.

I’m back at Holiday Unit in the coming weeks and will once again go over why wearing loose fitting clothing subjects you to a search. Although tight fitting clothing is not permitted, loose fitting clothing can hide many things which is why wearing a loose fitting, flowing garment will require a more thorough pat down in the privacy of the restroom. 

If you arrive at your prison wedding in a oversized garment or dress, be prepared to be asked to go into the restroom. 

Please do not argue with TDCJ personnel regarding this request for a private pat down. It’s actually not a request. 

We are on site and the entire Unit is accommodating your request to marry at a prison. Attire is outlined under the visitation dress code. Your attire on wedding day falls under the same guidelines. If your clothing is loose, you will be asked to go into the bathroom with a guard. If you are wearing an underwire bra or corset, you will also be asked to go into the restroom. You MUST CLEAR INTO THE UNIT. 

If you are wearing a weave, clips, pins or other metal items in your hair, you will be asked to remove them. DO NOT GET UPSET. We must clear into the Unit. 

Veils are allowed but must not cover your face. Veils must be worn in the fashion below with the fabric going over your back not pulled over the front. Hair clips, bobby pins, crowns, tiaras, fascinators, wigs, weaves, hairpieces and extensions containing metal products must be removed. Please be aware of this. You will be allowed to go into the restroom and put your hair back up or on. 

If you need assistance with your hair, I can help you after we’ve both cleared into the Unit. But, clearing the machine is a REQUIREMENT. Any metal products are going to set off the machine. From underwire bras to girdles or corsets, the wires are going to set off the machine. 

Wearing white. I’ve had many questions about my Estes bride wearing all white. She also wore a red scarf into the visitation area that was removed for her ceremony and put back on when leaving the visitation area. 

Inmates wear all white. Because of this, you will need to add another color to your attire on wedding day. Whether it’s a cami, scarf, or other item, it needs to be a color that isn’t white. 

I’m on site all weekend with traditional clients and rather than using FB or Instagram messaging, request that you text or email me as I’m rarely on social media on weekends. Thanks.