Starting my day driving out to Palo Pinto County Jail, a call from my husband had me laughing regarding his statement “every song I sing, I sing for you. Everything I do, I do for you.” The statement itself wasn’t humorous but the memory of my Sanders Estes Client asking me to sing at her wedding a few years ago was. Frankly, I’m not a singer and although I’ve got the passion to belt out a line, I don’t have the voice. My husband doesn’t either but his attempts at singing are hilarious nonetheless.
My Estes client had wanted music and music isn’t allowed at inmate weddings. To overcome this issue, she had asked me to sing the song for her. Always willing to give any request my best shot, I agreed to do so. Mid song at the Unit though, my bride turned and said “Miss Wendy, I really appreciate you trying to sing the song and all but it’s okay to just say the words instead.” I did lol.
There are performers out there who really can’t sing but are so outrageous and animated that most people overlook their pitfalls. When it comes to singing, I’m animated but I’m not a singer. Like many of my friends who are drag performers though, I can lip sync and give a helluva performance but without music, my skills are limited to my talent as a singer. On the rare occasions that I have belted out lines, it was because the DJ either didn’t have the entrance music or the CD wouldn’t play. In such cases, I ask the guests to join me in singing whatever the song may be. With my back up, my singing skills or lack of them are barely noticeable. Why? Because there is strength in numbers that’s why. I’m not singing alone because the wedding guests are singing with me.
One interviewer asked me “how would you describe your experiences as a Prison wedding Officiant?” This was an odd question because the majority of my “experiences” with a client are outside of the prison in the weeks and months of establishing a relationship with my clients. The inmate isn’t the client. The person on the outside is. Prison Weddings are Rainbows In The Dark. Prisons are dark places. Weddings are and always will be a joyous occasion for me regardless of where they take place. Searching my experiences with an army of amazing and determined prison wives and husbands who have chosen to marry an inmate, the best way I can describe my experiences is by first establishing a relationship with my client and then by holding their hand through a confusing and lengthy process before finally meeting on wedding day. My staff and I rarely spend more than an hour “inside” a Unit with clients. We frequently spend several hours driving to and from the Unit to meet our clients however.
This morning my Estelle Unit client had sent me a text regarding the “Chaplain being evasive about the date.” My job is to be a hand holder. A problem solver. To solve this problem, I called the Unit and confirmed the date and time myself with the Chaplain. It’s always easier and speedier for me to contact the Unit than it is to wait for the Unit to contact me. #ProblemSolved.
August 22nd is completely booked. Please do not tell any Unit that this date will work for you and I. It won’t. My schedule at Texas Prisons is booked 2-3 weeks out.
If your Unit is within 2 hours of a confirmed booking at another Unit, I can perform my confirmed booking in the morning or afternoon and accommodate hours in the morning or afternoon. The secondary Unit must be within 2 hours of my currently booked and confirmed Unit. Certain Units and cities offer a degree of flexibility due to the number of Units nearby in Huntsville, Gatesville and Tennessee Colony.
The busiest and most popular Texas days for a Prison wedding are Tuesday and Thursday. Be aware that Tuesday and Thursday are always booked first and don’t simply assume that I “can squeeze you in.” Double bookings or more than one Unit in any given day are subject to my availability and discretion.
Bouncing from one Unit to the next takes a large degree of planning. For years now, I’ve performed 2 and on rare occasions even 3 weddings on the same day but…it’s stressful and exhausting. I prefer to “max” myself at 2 weddings per day whenever possible. I can do up to 6 weddings and the same Unit and I have which is far less stressful than moving to another location to perform another ceremony at a secondary Unit.
This afternoon on a call to Leigh Ann after seeing 2 messages from California regarding prison weddings, yet another argument ensued about how “stressful” walking into a prison is for my niece.
Cindy and I have been “footing the bills” for our adult children all of their lives and it’s not an easy decision to tell my niece to suck it up but, it is a conversation that I was forced to have with her because I cannot fly back and forth to California to perform prison weddings when my mainstay of bookings is in Texas and surrounding states. I have people contacting me for Prison Weddings in California. I have a niece that bought a new car against the wishes of her mother and I and I have a niece who is a shopaholic that loves living the fine life. On a seamans salary with a young child and eventually being stationed at Point Mugu, Leigh Ann must take on gigs in order to pay her bills.
For nearly four years, Leigh Ann moved home while Alex was stationed abroad and didn’t pay rent or buy groceries. Her mother and I paid all of her expenses while she shopped, got her nails and hair professionally done and then decided months prior to moving to California to buy a new car?
How do you teach your adult children about entitlement? How do you teach them to supplement their income by working gigs and figuring it out? The conversation with Leigh Ann was less than friendly because quite frankly, if I have to travel to California to perform these weddings myself, I’m assuredly not going to pay Leigh Ann while I’m performing the work myself.
Conversations with Leigh Ann regarding money are consistently infuriating for not only I but also her mother. We love Leigh Ann but at some point educating her about caviar wishes on a beer budget are in order here.
Her husband, Alex is studying to take a test that will increase their income however, the possibility that he won’t pass the test exists. I asked Leigh Ann “what are you going to do if Alex doesn’t pass?” It’s a valid question. Alex is shouldering all of the responsibility.
I’m highly concerned about teaching Leigh Ann to budget or to work to supplement her income. I cannot book a gig in California unless I’m certain that Leigh Ann is going to show up. Cindy and I discussed this at length. “We could stack them and rent two cars then spread out and get everyone covered” Cindy suggested.
Cindy is effectively “simplifying” our schedules because we are already booked in California with other events. I can’t be everywhere and Cindy can’t either.
Will Leigh Ann overcome her fear of entering a prison without having a panic attack? Only time will tell. Leigh Ann can certainly book beach weddings as an Officiant and photography. She’s a very experienced photographer and has a portfolio.
What will I do if my niece doesn’t want to continue performing prison weddings? Cindy and I will have to travel to other states as we do in Texas to perform them ourselves.
Today Leigh Ann is upset with me but, when she realizes that her mother and I won’t continue to cover her expenses, reality is going to bite.
Meanwhile, my son had called yesterday while leaving New Boston and heading to Chocktaw Casino to meet a couple who had met there and wanted to marry in a parking lot. I literally have no down time. Cindy listened as I explained that my son’s wife birthday party must be moved to Monday as there isn’t any way I can squeeze it in on Sunday.
My son is acting very overprotective about his wife’s pregnancy and he’s also been pretty cranky lately. Last month he turned down a wedding at Tarrant County and told me “I’m not comfortable there. It’s difficult to park and a real hassle.” Hmm, working and travel are a hassle? Picking and choosing Units? I could go on and on here.
Attempting to educate our adult children about finances is a never ending saga. I don’t have a money tree dropping bills every morning and no one else does either. Cindy and I are both overwhelmed with trying to keep our families happy while our families continue to want more, more, more.
This afternoon in Parker County, my niece Stephaney told me “I’m bored. I hate staying at home. I want to go have fun.” What the? Go have fun? Fun costs money.
For several months now, Cindy has been buying Stephaney’s cigarettes and gave her a credit card “for emergencies” when we are on the road. Those “emergencies” have included taking friends to lunch or dinner and buying cocktails.
In one week alone, Stephaney charged over $300 for “emergencies.” As usual, Cindy told me “we eat at fast food restaurants, I never buy anything for myself. I color my own hair. I wear the same clothes and I cannot for the life of me get any help from anyone in my own house. The twins stay in their rooms unless they want something. Stephaney is bored and spending money like water. I bend over backwards trying to accommodate everyone putting my own needs last and now we are looking at the twins wanting cars and paying for drivers ed while Steph complains about not having a car. These people think we are rich. How do I tell her to stop charging this card up?”
This was a problem. Cindy never tells me problems until they are so big that they begin to weigh on her.
My twin is soft. She’s easy. I’m far more challenging when it comes to our adult children. Cindy and I walked into Whataburger to order a chicken salad while looking over the latest $300 plus charges to that “emergency credit card.”
Sitting down to wait on our salads, I fell Cindy “here we are eating at Whataburger while I look at charges from Chili’s, On The Boarder and other “nicer than we are eating at” restaurants. What the? Your husband is eating at truck stops and we are either packing our lunches or hitting convenient spots to grab a bite on the run while Steph is out parting because she’s bored sitting at home? You cook, you clean, you pick up after the entire household and the last thing you need to be doing is handing out a credit card to someone who doesn’t work and has no plans to start. Steph needs to start pitching in and helping you. She’s never paid rent. She’s made plenty of mistakes. She wants another car because she’s went through 4 in 4 years AND NOW the twins each want their own car? Teach these people to fish. Let them go find a job and save up to buy a car while buying gas and insurance. Teach them to be thankful for what they have and what we go through to make sure they have it. Cut WAY back and the next time someone tells you they are bored, hand em a broom and tell em to start cleaning. We work our butts off. Our husbands work their butts off. We have given these people everything we never had and it’s still not enough. Start saying no before the stress of shouldering all of these monkeys kills you.”
Over our $6 lunches, I also added “none of them appreciate all of the cars we’ve bought, all of the repairs we’ve paid for or anything we’ve given or provided that no one gave us. Fifteen years old and on our own, we figured it out. We had no one. They have both of us.”
My son has a new truck and a new custom home. Leigh Ann and Alex are moving to a beautiful two story townhome and spending two months in a Marine Hotel in San Diego while spending their free time shopping and enjoying the beach with Maddy.
Our kids live well but they live well because Cindy and I cover the overdrawn checking account here or there or we send money via Paypal and all of our children and grandchildren know that we will fix whatever because we are the fixers.
But, one day my husband and Cindy’s husband will retire. One day this gravy train is going to stop rolling and when it does, I’m very concerned about our adult children and their expectations colliding.
I’ve been trying to “ween” my family for ten years now. Since I turned 45 years old and realized that giving my son a credit card was a mistake. I had quickly realized that my son and his friends were having a grand old time at my expense.
I’m “tougher” than Cindy and my sons question after months of living the high life were ended with him questioning me “why are you taking my credit card?” HIS credit card? What the?
Parents, do yourselves a favor and DO NOT GIVE your kids a credit card. Make them go to work and get their own credit cards. Make them pay the bill. Teach them to fish.
Cindy has time to teach Steph to fish by taking that credit card back. Man, if our husbands had any real clue what we spend on our children and grandchildren, they would FLIP OUT. They have no children or grandchildren. Why these two have stuck around with our circus of a family I have no idea. Unconditional love must surpass everything is the only answer I can find to my consistent question of why my husband still comes home to “chaos central” around here. There’s always something going on. ALWAYS.
Steve wishes he was home every night? Cindy wishes she was on the road 5-6 days a week and AWAY from home. You get the point.
Cindy and I are literally all over the place the next few weeks and who knows what September holds as Prison Weddings in Texas aren’t scheduled until 7-10 days prior to the wedding. I was recently asked “what’s your schedule in October” by someone wanting to film in October. I can give you my weekend schedule but my weekdays go in 2 week intervals since I’m not notified of scheduling until 2 weeks prior to the event.
My traditional bookings and Vow Renewals on evenings and weekends are scheduled years in advance but if you want me to tell you what Units I will be at in October, I have no idea until mid September in Texas.
Other states only allow prison weddings once a year, twice a year, every three months and so on. Texas weddings are either on Tuesday, Weds, Thursday or Friday the 1st and 3rd weeks or the 2nd and fourth weeks. You may go a week doing nothing then the next week working Tuesday through Friday. Scheduling prison weddings is unpredictable and chaotic because the Officiant doesn’t control the scheduling. The Chaplain calls with dates but finding a date that works with my existing schedule is challenging. Often, I must choose the 2nd and rarely 3rd date options.
I’m hoping that Leigh Ann adjusts in California and becomes bolder about walking into a prison. I’m also hoping my son and his wife learn patience with this pregnancy and Cindy learns to limit her generosity. I’m hoping that the twins starting school next Thursday flows smoothly and I’m hoping that eventually Stephaney decides to go back to work and buys her own car but, expecting Cindy and I to pay for everything for the rest of our lives isn’t going to continue to happen. We are trying to teach our children and grandchildren to be independent and it’s not an easy conversation or conversion…