Prisons, People, Phobias & Fears. Why I’m Not Afraid To Be A Prison Wedding Planner & Officiant…
I answer a lot of questions. Questions from people who disagree with inmate marriage. Questions from people wanting to marry an inmate. Questions from media about whether the Coronavirus will affect me in the future.
For the record, when I walk into the Unit with my client or alone to meet my client or clients in the shakedown area, fear isn’t part of my day.
As a prison wedding officiant, my role is and always will be to remain calm and ensure that my clients wedding day is as pleasant and memorable as possible.
I was at Beto Unit on March 10. A month ago, it was business at usual at Beto. I visited with Chaplain Strange. We waited for my clients fiancée to arrive in the visitation area with an escort.
I’m never in general population with inmates at any Unit in any State, Federal or ICE Detention Facility.
The number of people my client and I are with at a wedding can range from 2 correctional officers to 1 and the Unit Chaplain or several correctional officers based on the day or whether the visitation area is being used for training.
It’s not uncommon for the visitation area to be “in use” on wedding day at many Units. When this occurs, my client an I are often redirected to either another room or we wait for the visitation area to clear.
Generally other than my client and their fiancée, one officer and the chaplain, we are alone.
Prison weddings are remarkably intimate. There are very few people present. Often I have more than one client at the same Unit on the same day. Certain Units will allow all of my clients and I to enter together while other Units only allow me to enter with 1 client at a time while the others wait for me to finish my ceremony then return to the shakedown area with my next client.
I’m often asked “how can you do so many Units in the same day?” This works in Texas and other states based on timing and distance from one Unit to the next. It’s not always possible to pull off a multi Unit day but it happens with frequency the past three years for me. Why? I’m the most sought after prison officiant in the United States. Why? Because I make every clients wedding as special as they are. It’s important to me. From creating a massive inventory of bouquets, tiaras, stylish hats and more to crafting an individual and unique ceremony script for each client, weddings are Life Events to me and a one time shot to get everything as close to perfect as I can under extraordinary circumstances.
“Your twin sister and your niece are also prison officiants. Your son and daughter in law officiate are county jails and BOP facilities. Do you see moving your son and daughter in law into state ceremonies?” For now, my son and his wife are on a paternity leave and generally I’m able to cover all of my clients by stacking Units.
“The visitation ban has affected your booking schedule. Will you be overwhelmed when visitation is reinstated with reschedules?” To a certain extent the answer is yes. My March clients were canceled and will be scheduled first. Bookings in Texas State Facilities are often scheduled on either a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Mondays and Fridays are rare. They can happen but not on a regular basis.
“How do you map out your day on the road?” I usually start in Tennessee Colony on a Tuesday or Thursday as most Units in Palestine (Beto, Powledge, Gurney) schedule on both days as do Michael and Coffield. Generally I’m in the Tennessee Colony/Palestine area very early in the morning. I then move to Huntsville Units. Frequently, I can also move to Polunsky by evening as they schedule after 5:30PM.
“How many miles do you drive a week as a traveling prison officiant?” In Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, I drive and can easily drive up to 3k miles a week. I fly to other states in order to save time.
“Are you concerned about traveling with Covid-19 being widespread at this time?” To a certain extent a bit but I’m a germaphobic and have always sanitized my area on the plane when I fly as does Cindy.
“Will you be nervous when the visitation ban is lifted and you return to visiting 1-4 prisons on the same day again?” I will follow my same protocol of washing and sanitizing my hands prior to walking into a Unit as well and be aware of everything I touch. I go through 2 gates to enter most Units and these are the same gates that staff and visitors use so I’m well aware of the number of hands touching the gates. I will no longer shake hands in greeting my clients fiancees or the staff at Units to limit what I touch and with whom.
“You don’t bring your own pen into Units? How do you sign marriage licenses?” A pen can be used as a weapon and I’ve always borrowed a pen from the chaplain or an officer in the visitation area. Like the gates though, I will be washing and sanitizing my hands after using a pen on site.
“I’ve read that a small number of clients from your other businesses and venues you are on staff at are alarmed regarding your other clients. How do you address someone who realizes that you officiate LBGT unions or prison weddings?” Well, it’s complicated and rare for another client to express concerns regarding my other clients but it has occurred and may occur again in the future. I cut them loose. I move on. I must focus on my congregation. That congregation being the majority rather than the minority of my client’s. I’ve learned over my lifetime that negativity regarding my diverse client bases is viewed as “the choir.” I turn my back on the choir an focus on the congregation. If someone is concerned about my other clients and people that they will never meet or much less share their event date with then that’s “THEIR luggage and THEIR trip” not mine. I cut them loose and wish them luck. I’m not going to change who I am or who I help based on opinions of others.
“THERE Is No ENTRANCE For KNOWLEDGE In A CLOSED Mind.” Cindy Daniel
“Did you see yourself walking into prisons to conduct wedding ceremonies when you decided to start an event business?” No but I was open to anything as was my twin sister. We wanted to make life event’s affordable to anyone anywhere and we have.
Texas Twins Events was the first people over profit based event endeavor for my twin sister and I. Two years in we recognized and realized that a handful of clients couldn’t afford even low cost options. To solve this problem, we merged Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create a barter option, The Pawning Planners. We were never trying to “be like everyone else.” That market was saturated.
What we wanted to do and have accomplished was to be the people we would like to meet…