30
Jan

Patience Is A Virtue When Planning Your Prison Wedding. Timelines, Deadlines, People & Places…

The past week has been one surprise after the other. February 5th I’m at Allred Unit at 12:30 with four brides before literally skidaddling on over to Buster Cole Unit in Bonham at 5:30. Due to this “time crunch” and the possibility of Chaplain Redwine adding on another client at Allred, bridal photos will be taken prior to Unit Weddings at Allred due to my schedule. 

“GOOD things take TIME, and GREAT things take PATIENCE.” 

“Perspiration is the perfume of persistence.” 

Planning a Prison Wedding IS A PROCESS. There is paperwork there can be delays. The timeline isn’t something you or I can control. Contact or No Contact Ceremonies are based on an inmates status. “Contact” refers to the glass separating the inmate from my client and I. 

While Arkansas will allow up to 6 guests and ring exchanges, Texas won’t. 

Arkansas like the majority of my other service states also has a 3 month waiting period and the additional burden of transportation costs to the clerks office. 

Texas clients don’t have this expense due to the use of an Absentee Affidavit removing the requirement for an inmate to be transported to the clerks office. 

Every state is different. Every protocol is different. Knowing the variations is key to getting the job done for me. I am the most in demand prison Officiant in this industry. Why? Because I care and it shows. I have never advertised any of my businesses and I will never need to. My reputation is my calling card. When someone contacts me to perform their ceremony they know that I will be determined to make it as worry free and special as humanly possibly under unique circumstances.

I’m frequently contacted by production companies and reporters. I’m leery of reporters seeking sensationalism and controversy or production companies expecting me to send them my clients. Why? I’m not in the referral business of doing a strangers job for them by “finding and or securing the talent.” If you are casting a prison or inmate based show, your job is to find the talent not mine. 

Last year in March, someone contacted me regarding gaining access to Units as well as finding the talent. This “someone” also sent me an unsigned contract and with my burdened schedule expected me to do his job for him. 

Heads up kids, this isn’t my first rodeo with media or production companies. My focus is on my business not yours. If you are sending me a contract for review, you might bother signing it and understand that I’m not interested in being tied down with rope I’m paying for. What? Don’t try to tie me down with what you want at my expense. I’m busy. I don’t have time for smoke and mirrors or bullshit. 

By the way, regarding access to Units since that “someone” was unaware how to obtain it on their own last March, media must go through TDCJ Communications AND requires consent from the inmate. A reporter traveled with me in August to numerous Units and yes I helped Ella gain access. I know policy AND procedure.

For a few years I have posted flyers for Love After Lock Up on my pages and if my clients are interested, I’ve shared the contact info to producers. 

The producers at Sharp Entertainment unlike that “someone casting  a prison show” last year and expecting me to work for him while assuming I was a hillbilly with nothing better to do than his bidding were by far more professional. The producers at Sharp are straight up about why they are contacting me. What they were asking me to do takes a few seconds to post on social media. Candor and transparency go a long way with me. I don’t have hours to educate someone on policy or procedure. If you are contacting me to do something you are too lazy to do on your own, do more research but don’t piggy back your workload this way Buddy. I operate 4 businesses. I’m on staff at 3 venues and I volunteer as a hospice clergy at Baylor and Harris. I.E. I’m busy. 

My clients are fragile and aware that not everyone can understand or accept their choice to marry an inmate. Unlike my “traditional clients,” these clients are unique, driven, passionate and unspoiled. There aren’t any divas marrying an inmate. 

A few months ago, I met my Goree Unit bride and her sister in Huntsville at the Unit. Surprisingly, the Chaplain met me in the parking area to advise me that the marriage would not be taking place due to the inmate being listed as common law married to someone other than my client. 

The CLM issue continues to pop up. In many cases, a Dissolution Agreement and Verification Letter from the state can and do dissolve this inmate status but Goree wouldn’t accept the Dissolution Letter or Verification Letter. Because of this, I will be marrying my couple outside of Walls Unit. 

The frequent occurrence of an on the fly wedding ceremony at Walls Unit after release might surprise a few people but patience is a virtue. 

My Goree Unit client did have time for bridal photos after leaving Goree devastated about her inability to marry. Cindy and I had a great time with these amazing ladies and can’t wait to see them again in May at Walls Unit.For the folks who assume “people only marry inmates to obtain conjugal visits,” ignorance speaks without forethought. Conjugal visits are only allowed in four states. Read that again. Only four states currently allow conjugal visits, otherwise known as extended family visits, and they don’t exist in the federal prison system. The states are California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington. 

Please stop assuming everyone is marrying an inmate solely to obtain a conjugal visit. Educate yourself and THEN CONTACT ME. 

I am consistently surprised by the number of people posting comments or emailing me with radically stupid or uneducated opinions. If you don’t know what you are talking about, please sit down and shut up. Stop emailing, calling and posting comments advertising your opinions. My clients don’t care what you think and I don’t either. 

Other readers and followers have legitimate questions or concerns such as “Wendy why are you occasionally wearing a visitor badge and other times you aren’t?”  Certain Units issue me as well as my client a visitors pass. In exchange for the passes, our state issued ID’s are on file in the shakedown entry area. 

Our ID’s are returned for the visitor passes when leaving. The level of security often dictates whether or not a visitor pass is warranted. “How did your business shift so fluidly To Inmate Ceremonies verses the traditional client?” Good question and observation. 

Four years ago, my bookings were 85-90% “traditional clients” and scheduled on weekends. Jail and Prison visitation is on the weekend and therefore weddings are scheduled during the week. 

Inmate Weddings PERFECTLY fit my existing schedule years ago. I’m happier at a prison than a venue! Why? Because my clients are amazing that’s why. “How did you get so successful in this niche industry? Can you teach me how to do what you do?” No. Why would I create competition that doesn’t exist? Do YOU care about these people and their journey? Are you compassionate? 

If the ONLY reason you want to try breaking into the Prison wedding business is money, this isn’t the business for you. This is a people based industry. By the way, asking someone successful to teach you how to find the success they worked for and earned is the most entitled and narcissistic idea I’ve ever heard of.

“No one has more admiration for a narcissistic person than themselves. Anything not directly related to them isn’t important to them. The only thing good about a narcissistic person is their ability to keep a secret.” Say what? Narcisstic people don’t listen to any conversation unless it’s about them. Hence their ability to keep a secret. 

“Gratitude is the difference between appreciation and a sense of entitlement.”

“Pigs get fed and hogs get slaughtered.” Never heard this farmers term that lays out greed and throat cutting? It’s a true and accurate statement and term my husband’s father told him for years as a child. This quote dates as far back to the 1800’s. Author Unknown. 

“How many of your clients are still married?” From which business? The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins Events, TDCJ Officiant venues I’m on staff at? The total number of divorces from all of my clients in all of these years is 6. 

“I’ve read that you started Texas Twins Events to give others the wedding you didn’t have and to spend more time with your family. Is that true?” Yes it is. Cindy took on raising her twin granddaughters and gave up her day job. Finding a way to spend time together while helping others was the best decision I’ve ever made.