Getting my beautiful bride approved for her wedding at Bridgeport Unit took some time. Often, clients have no idea how long the Prison Planning Process actually takes.
From the ID to getting up to 6 signatures on the I60 Request For Marriage Form, marrying an inmate isn’t a quick or easy process.
The “process” can take 3-6 weeks and, if there’s a Lock Down, longer as weddings are not permitted during a Lock Down.
At a few times during the Prison Wedding Planning Process, my Bridgeport bride nearly gave up altogether due to her frustration regarding the process.
But, I walked and talked her through the process and we “hung in there together” awaiting good news.
Last week, the Chaplain finally gave us a selection of dates. It was a celebration for not only my bride but also, the Grooms family.
The bride and groom grew up together. They lived only 3 blocks from each other most of their lives.
The couple went to middle school and high school together and were friends long before “Lock Up.”
Occasionally, I refer to my clients unique situations as “love locked down” because it is. Waiting is the hardest part.
Bridgeport is a privately owned TDCJ Facility. Because of this, wedding photos are not offered. Privately owned units “dance to the beat of their own drum.” Although they fall under TDCJ, the rules can be different from one Unit to the next.
Guests are very rare at Prison Weddings and sadly, the Grooms parents and sisters weren’t allowed to witness the ceremony but, happily waited on the bride and I while inside.
Since the parents missed the ceremony, I am mailing them a copy of my wedding script as a courtesy and memento along with photos taken after the ceremony.
How rare is it for visitors to be allowed to witness a Prison Wedding? The ONLY unit in my years of officiating Prison Weddings that has ever allowed “guests” has been Sanders Estes Unit. Guests are normally prohibited at every Unit I Officiate at including privately owned facilities.
However, Estes has made exceptions for parents on 3 occasions the past 2 1/2 years which obviously thrilled the parents.
For all of my other families, I’m sorry but the “odds of visitors” being allowed at a wedding are so slim that it’s best to accept you won’t have guests other than me beside you on the “inside.”
Walking back out to the parking area, there were three vehicles of excited family members awaiting my beautiful bride and I which is unusual but was a delightful and joyous experience for not only her but also, me.
Families who “wait together” on the release of a loved one are both are strong and resilient. Due to freezing Texas temperatures, I quickly decided to “caravan the families” on our way back out of the unit to a nearby hotel and unload my “traveling photo prop” loaded SUV.
Normally, I use hotel lobbies if it’s raining or freezing because 1. Hotel lobbies are public places and great for photos and, 2. Hotel employees are accommodating and friendly. The receptionist at Econolodge was so friendly and helpful yesterday that she opened the conference room for our group.
Today, I’m mailing her a gift card and thank you note for being so helpful and kind.My bride hadn’t packed a coat and I happened to have one on hand to “gift her” on wedding day while also loaning her my hat and gloves.
I had loaned the same coat to my Ferguson Unit bride. It was cold and rainy the last time I headed back to Ferguson Unit and my bride was happy to try on several coats including a mink I had packed for fun photos. I bring an eclectic array of photo prop items as a courtesy. But, winter is nearly over and my Bridgeport bride needed the coat far more than my inventory did. It was also a “perfect fit.” I’ve listed the mink coat I had purchased for winter weddings this year at Texas Twins Treasures.
I’d also purchased a Mr & Mrs throw pillow that I presented as a wedding gift. I’ve used it a lot this season and, it needed a new home.
Since I’m always asked why most of my bridal or groom photos shoots are outdoors, if the weather is permitting, the lighting helps with clearer photos. Most outdoor photos are taken near the unit.
The wide variety of my custom created bouquets gives us several different photo options. I generally bring 5-8 various bouquets in different colors to accommodate additional guests or family members as well as boutonnières.
My Hutchins State Jail bride (below left) loved that I had so many different bouquets and props. Although she had told me that she wasn’t comfortable taking photos, she quickly shook that off and had a blast with my niece, Leigh Ann and I.
My weekends and evenings are spent accommodating “traditional clients.” Yes, I work 7 days a week. Not seasonally either. Prison Weddings don’t have a season.
I’ve met hundreds of families at Prison Weddings and all of them are thankful, courteous and kind to not only me but also, my staff. Leaving the hotel, our caravan headed to lunch at Jorge’s in Bridgeport. We saw two painted walls that made perfect backdrops and decided to snap a few fun photos to finish our day of celebration together before lunch.After lunch, our group walked over to another festive mural a few block over to throw flower petals at the bride for our last photo of the day together.
I had seen the colorful mural while driving with our caravan to Jorges restaurant and loved it. We backtracked to snap a few fun photos. While we were at lunch, I reviewed several emails but, the one from Mary caught my attention.
I review emails and take calls all day from Units regarding scheduling as well as new client inquiries and traditional event service requests. My phone is my greatest “work tool.”
Mary has been waiting to marry Lester at Allred Unit. Mary also did a news television show about their “unique union.”
What made it “unique?” Mary was one of the jurors that sentenced Lester to life in prison. I was concerned about the publicity and backlash with good reason. Why? Because I knew not everyone would accept or warm up to this “love story” and also because Prisons don’t enjoy film crews on the premises either or publicity either.
I had also declined to be interviewed as I knew that it wouldn’t be a “good idea” based on the circumstances.
I’m the “minister” but, after the Dallas Morning News interview, I’m far more selective about who I talk to or my clients.
For those who don’t know what happened after Jeff Mosier interviewed me for being an “Openly LBGT Friendly” event business in Texas, death threats and hate mail were the “bonus” of the interview for not only me but also, my staff.
I’m cautious regarding reporters and “their angles” for damn good reasons. They sensationalize the story. Jeff Mosier didn’t and look what happened to my team and I. Years of death threats. Did it stop me or my staff or change my beliefs? Absolutely not. Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. Opinions don’t dictate my decisions either.
A few months ago, my Hughes Unit bride told me while waiting on our armed escorts “you should know he’s a reality star. He was on Episode 4 of I’m A Killer.” Surprised, I knew once again that reporters would call me and, I was right. I declined all interviews knowing that the general public would get “opinionated.” A few concerned connections emailed me because they recognized him in photos. They were concerned about my safety.
I’m at no time without armed guards present. I’m safer in a prison than anywhere else. The fact that “Happy Holidays” was behind me in that photo made it seem as if we were anywhere other than a Prison. But, we were in the Visitation Area of Hughes Unit. A guard took the unit photos. For the haters and trolls out there wondering about it, the answer is yes, I also Officiate LBGT Prison Weddings.
My clients are a melting pot. If you don’t like it, it’s “not my luggage- not my trip.”
Mary told me that after the segment was aired, Lester was getting death threats. I was saddened to hear this but, hopeful that once Lester and Mary were married, things would settle down.
If you missed the interview with Mary and Lester, here’s the link– Juror Plans To Marry Inmate She Sentenced To Life In Prison. The title alone would give others the impression that Mary alone rendered the verdict. She didn’t. There were 12 jurors not 1.
Yesterday, Mary emailed me that the Warden wanted to talk to her prior to scheduling the wedding at Allred.
This is somewhat unusual but, the Warden effectively runs the Unit and is therefore in charge of either Approving or Denying an application to marry at the Unit.
I’m back at Allred March 6th and look forward to finally meeting Monica in person. Usually, my ceremonies are stacked at Units. This saves me driving back and forth twice a month but, if Mary gets scheduled on March 20th, I’m happy to make the drive to Wichita Falls twice in the same month.
Mary missed a February 20th and March 6th scheduled wedding at Allred because Lesters I60 Request For Marriage Form hadn’t made it through the “6 signature trail” to the Warden’s desk at the time Monica got her Approval for March 6th.
My Michael Unit bride had also emailed me crushed about being Denied on her I60. I was deeply saddened about this but the groom had failed to list her on his visitation list.
Because of this, getting on the visitation list will take a few weeks which is a setback but, thankfully a minor one.
In order to marry an inmate, you MUST be listed on their visitors list. There are no exceptions to this rule outlined in the Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate marriage ceremonies.
I’m hoping to get scheduled for Wynn Unit, Crain Unit, Coffield Unit, Luther Unit and Beto Unit this month for my “clients waiting on dates.” But, I’m already scheduled at Stiles, 3 Huntsville Units, Jester, Hobby and Buster Cole as well as several county jails this month.
Perseverance and patience is required for my clients awaiting dates AKA those “on the outside” as scheduling takes time.
Traditionally, timelines are 3-6 weeks start to finish on scheduling your Texas Prison Wedding. Remember though that a Lock Down will affect timelines.
I look forward to meeting all of my clients soon and wish many years of love, joy and happiness to my newest newlyweds ?