23
Jul

Twelve Hours On The Road And The Expenses Of Being A Prison Wedding Officiant. Risk, Reward & Reality…

When people come to me seeking an Officiant many of them say the same thing. What is it? “I just need someone to walk in and officiate my wedding.” The problem? Your prison wedding location is 5 hours or 6 or more from my location ONE WAY. “Just walk in?” You are “simplifying the process of getting there” far too much my friend. 

Travel is expensive. When you drive as much as I do, it doesn’t take your accountant to point out the facts. Driving 2k-3k miles a WEEK is a hefty investment of my time to walk into a prison and officiate your wedding ceremony. Leading up to wedding day, I’ve talked to you numerous times. I’ve answered your emails. I’ve addressed your concerns and I’ve committed myself to simplifying a very confusing process. I’ve overcome any and all issues to assist you in getting your marriage license by sending you to another county clerk or refiling an I60 that had previously been denied. Education and experience are key elements to a Prison wedding Officiant. If you don’t know what you are doing, this isn’t the business for you. 

You aren’t “just hiring someone to officiate your wedding.” You are hiring someone to plan it and someone to drive hours to get to it too. 

You aren’t just hiring an Officiant. You are hiring a driver. A planner. You are hiring someone who will take your calls for weeks or months. Someone knowledgeable about the rules pertaining to inmate marriage is DIFFICULT to find but you found me. I didn’t advertise because I didn’t need to either. My reputation is built on my dedication to making your Prison wedding as close to perfect as it can be.,

“My MORALS, are LIKE a GOOD set of TIRES, everything I HAVE is RIDING on THEM, and you can TRUST me to perform the task I’ve been retained to perform.” 

My brother in law, Steve is a truck driver. For fifty plus years now he’s been paid to drive someone else’s truck. He’s paid by the hour to roll across highways nationwide while dealing with muscle aches from doing so. Steve doesn’t pay for gas, repairs or insurance. He’s paid to drive. A traveling prison Officiant is also paid to drive. In fact, I drive up to 3k miles a week. 

What you REALLY need is to know is that whoever you hire to officiate your inmate wedding will show up. That your officiant will be on time, realiable and have adequate transportation. That your officiant will take your emails and phone calls while answering and addressing your questions and concerns. That your officiant will walk you through an often confusing process. That if you encounter a denial to your inmate marriage that your officiant can educate you as to how to have the inmate refile the I60 or correct the issues of the denial. The last part of your Prison wedding process is knowing that your officiant will show up on time and ready to go to work. 

My role is far more than just showing up to officiate your wedding. I’ve spent weeks and months talking to you, calling the Unit and guiding you through the process before gassing up my vehicle and risking another broken windshield. The cost? $350 plus for the windshield alone. Tires? Michelin Defenders at $995 a set. Mounted and balanced? $1127. Synthetic oil changes? $69 plus $19.99 for the filter. Gasoline? $35-40 a tank. I don’t “cheap out” when it comes to “getting there.”

Hours on the road? Both ways? Easily a minimum of 5-12 hours A DAY. Miles on my vehicle? Tens of thousands. When I worked as a brand marketing consultant, I was paid forty nine cents a mile. See where I’m going with this? 

By the way, I’m on my third SUV in two and a half years for those wondering just how much time I spend driving. In fact, in 25k more miles to Texas Prisons, I’m getting another SUV. I don’t keep SUVs beyond 100k miles to ensure I don’t have mechanical issues or problems. It isn’t inexpensive and much less easy to be me. I read each and every Administrative Directive update specifically to read educated to protocol within ANY state I conduct inmate marriages within. For those who assume my role is easy or fluid, a wake up call is in order here. My role is by far more involved than anyone realizes. 

For anyone thinking “I can do that” you will need the education to overcome unexpected issues during the prison wedding planning process. You need to know the rules and policies. You need to have the clients. You need to have income set aside for unexpected expenses and you need to be able to support yourself getting into this business. It looks easy to others because they have no real idea what my role entails. 

I’m sought after for solid reasons and I earned my reputation. This isn’t a job for the meek, the halfhearted or folks who plan to get rich quick at a single income families expense. 

Being a Prison wedding Officiant is a job for someone dedicated, financially sound and honorable. This is a job for someone who has the answers to questions. This is a job for someone willing to take calls and address concerns at any hour of the day. This job takes planning. Preparation. Patience. Your are the clients best friend. Their advisor. Their go to. Their strongest advocate. You are bold, brave, resilient, educated and responsible OR you won’t last long in this industry. These are facts that anyone following me and assuming that Cindy and I run from one fun filled day into the next need to understand and more importantly comprehend. I know policy and procedure within any state I officiate prison weddings. I have to in order to overcome a hurdle a wrench in the prison wedding process solely in order to overcome such issues. My clients encounter hurdles on a regular basis. From chaining out to catching a charge to being listed as CLM to the law library refusing to notarize an Absentee Affidavit to the county clerk refusing to issue a marriage license to the Warden denying to request to marry, I’ve seen it all and I’ve solved it all. I know how. This isn’t a “flying by the seat of your pants” endeavor. This job isn’t for anyone planning to “wing it.” Your clients count on you to know the answers and address their concerns. You need to be well versed on marriage laws as well as policy and procedure. You need to take calls from clients devastated about a denial and find solutions. You are in it for the long haul. A Prison wedding can take weeks, months and in my Torres Clients case even a year to plan and execute. Patience and perseverance are only a part of what I do and whom I do it for. Dedication is a requirement. 

Are you willing to put your clients needs above your own? Are you righteous? In the heart of a Public Servant there must a regard for others whom you serve as being more important than yourself (cf. Phil. 2:3 ff.). God requires that leaders whom He appoints to govern a country, His ordained Institution of the State (cf. Rom. 13:1) be a blessing to the people it serves — benefactors to the world in which they live. Ecclesiastes 8:9 specifically speaks to the selflessness a leader must possess in his job: A man has exercised authority over another to his own hurt. This is a powerful way of putting it: a leader is to be so selfless that it hurts him or her. 

Being a Prison wedding planner and Officiant REQUIRES putting your own needs last. Your other clients and even your own family can take a back seat when a crying phone call comes in that requires your immediate attention. I’ve answered crying phone calls from clients at all hours of the day or night. My clients know they can count on me to solve problems. My clients call me first because they realize they can trust me and that I will drop everything to find the answers they need. 

Let’s take my Ellis Unit client, Amanda. The Unit wouldn’t notarize an Absentee Affidavit. The Absentee Affidavit is a requirement to purchase a marriage license in Texas. An Unsworn Declaration will not and cannot be accepted in place of the Absentee Affidavit. 

TDCJ Administrative Directive
IV….

Notary Public Services
Documents: Under both federal law (28 U.S.C. § 1746) and state law (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 132.001), offenders incarcerated in Texas may use an unsworn declaration under penalty of perjury in place of a written declaration, verification, certification, oath, or affidavit sworn before a notary public. 

A. Documents for which notarization is requested by an attorney, documents specifically exempted from the laws on unsworn declarations, and documents destined for another state or country requiring notary public service shall continue to require notary public service.

B. Scheduling: Offenders may request notary public service by submitting an I-60 to the unit ATC supervisor. Offenders requesting notary public service shall explain why an unsworn declaration will not be legally sufficient. Requests shall be acted upon, either denied or provided, within 72 hours of the receipt of the request.

In order to obtain the notary seal on an Absentee Affidavit, the inmate must provide reasons why an Unsworn Declaration is insufficient. If you cannot buy a marriage license, you aren’t going to be getting married. After overcoming the Units refusal to notarize the Absentee Affidavit, Amanda encountered not one but two county clerks unwilling to issue her marriage license. I instructed her to go to Walker County where she was finally issued a marriage license. A Prison wedding planner and Officiant needs to know what to do and how to do it. 

See where I’m going with this? Many of the “I can do what she does” folks have no real idea of what I can do. What I’m aware of or the length of time spent reviewing and understanding policy and procedure. 

What you are paying for is hiring someone reliable who you know will be there. Someone who hands over the responsibility of walking their dog to their husband or having their husband eat dinner alone while I’m on the road. 

My home life and my other clients booking traditional events on the weekend are all part of my life. In any given month, I’m literally juggling 10-15 prison Units and clients. Each and every client is important. I treat all of them with the attention they deserve. I never decline calls. If I’m on duty, Cindy answers texts, emails and phone calls for me. 

 “CHARACTER can be DESCRIBED in THREE words, ATTITUDE, HONESTY and ACTIONS” God bless us all.

Cindy Daniel

What you are also paying for is someone who doesn’t drive ten to twelve hours across Texas alone. My twin sister, Cindy accompanies me and has her household run by others while she’s away with me. My husband isn’t comfortable having his wife driving across Texas alone for 8-15 hours in a day. 

My sister is not only my copilot and navigator as she is also my secretary on the road. “We’ve got Goree Unit asking about the law library filing the I60.” My response? “Call her and I will walk her through checking the status with inmate records.” A text comes in. Cindy reads it “Buster Cole needs to reschedule because the Unit is requiring a letter from her P.O. And she can’t get it before the wedding.” My answer? “Call Buster Cole so I can reschedule.” After rescheduling, I call the client to tell her exactly what I need her letter to say on the rescheduled day of her Unit Wedding. My Gib Lewis client calls and I answer on Bluetooth. “We have been denied.” I must find out why in order to better understand what needs to be done. I ask questions. An I60 is a very specific document. It doesn’t simply read Approved or Denied. I call Gib Lewis while driving then call the client then call the Courts in Huntsville. Twenty four hours later, the I60 is Approved and I schedule the wedding. 

Anyone riding in my SUV would be surprised at the number of times my cell rings or a text comes in. It’s shocking. From family to clients to Units to venues to inquiries, my phone literally never stops ringing. A joyous call from my Michael Unit client to schedule her Vow Renewal? You bet. I’m the first person any client calls when the inmate makes parole. Why? Because I have a strong bond with my clients and also because they want a real wedding and want me to officiate. They want their friends and family. They want to wear a wedding dress that doesn’t cover their shoulders. They want more than two peck kisses and hugs at their ceremony. They want it all and for previous clients who married at a Unit, they get it all. These Vow Renewals ARE and ALWAYS WILL BE a true celebration to the testament of love enduring all things while overcoming all things. 

The amount of time I spend driving to a Unit is surprising since my clients and I only have 25 minutes “inside” for the ceremony. Getting approved and getting there are only part of my day with a client. 

Upon leaving the Unit, Cindy and I find great areas for bridal or groom photos and unload my loaded SUV full of bouquets, bouteniers, tiaras, furs and more. We love our photo shoots with clients and our clients love them even more. I’m always asked “why do you provide free photos and why did you go to the expense to create an inventory for your clients to use at photo shoots?” The answer is that Unit photos are disappointing to my clients. They are also $3 each. I buy 3 Unit photos on wedding day and give them to my clients. 

Having anyone be “thrilled” with their Unit photos on wedding day has never occurred yet. A few of my clients have even cried about the often disappointing quality of wedding day photos at Prisons. 

To overcome the problem, I decided to do my own photo shoots for clients and gift them bridal or groom photos as a courtesy. Cindy is often the photographer while I grab a new bouquet or change my clients tiara or go find a fur stole I think would coordinate with the bouquet. We work as a team on location. 

My husband likes to have me home regardless of what hour it might be. I never rent a hotel in Texas although I always do in our other states. Why? To keep my TDCJ Clients costs lower that’s why. Outside of Texas clients incur lodging expenses. 

My brother in law drives 8-10 hours a day. It’s not uncommon for me to drive 8-12 hours a day. Steve is regulated on driving hours. If he goes over his hours, his company pays for a hotel as well as an hourly rate for Steve to sit and wait to drive again. 

What you are paying for is dependability. You might have hired me AFTER hiring someone else that let you down on all counts but… you chose to take that risk. You gambled on someone else giving you the same quality of care that I do. You also lost your money by placing that bet to the “other Officiant.” Get it back. Demand a refund. THEN CONTACT ME. 

For over two years now, brides and grooms planning a prison wedding have come to me AFTER INITIALLY hiring the “WRONG OFFICIANT” in Texas. This “other officiant” who didn’t bother show up also took your money. 

The “other officiant” you have already paid who should have been doing all of the above I’ve described is also guilty of theft of services. These “other Officiants” ALSO owe you a refund. Get it and THEN call me. 

By the time a few of you have come to me, you have almost always “lost money to that other officiant.” Get your money back. I cannot stress this enough. Verify your Officiants credentials and track history while you are at it too. Educate yourselves. Quality, Consistency, Reliability and Loyalty are what make Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins Treasures and TDCJ Officiant DIFFERENT. WE KEEP OUR PROMISES! 

“Don’t EXPECT a BLUE chip EXPERIENCE, from a BOTTOM of the BARREL business. RELIABILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY and EXPERIENCE matter.” 

When you hire myself OR my staff, you can rest assured that unlike these “other Officiants,” you will never have to worry about us returning your phone calls, addressing your concerns or much less and Heaven Forbid– showing up on wedding day. You can count on us which is far more than I can say for these “other Officiants.” 

Cindy and I are stopped all the time by others reading banners on our SUVs for Texas Twins Events and TDCJ Officiant. When we tell these folks that we perform prison weddings, they are at first shocked then intrigued then interested in how we can teach them to do what we do. True story. 

Cindy and I have been interviewed by production companies, radio stations and news media about how we made this work and how we got into this business. We give people the weddings we didn’t have. The flowers, the photos, the attention to details. 

One interviewer actually asked me “can you elaborate and tell others how they can get into this business?” My answer? “No. Why would I create competition that doesn’t exist?” I meant it. 

While others including a few of my own family members laughed years ago about “my plan to create affordable options for event services,” Cindy and I didn’t. 

Perseverance pays off. Merging Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create a barter option? More laughs but, the people NO ONE ELSE wanted to help came to us. 

From rich to poor, we literally covered every base. From LBGT clients to others wanting to marry an inmate, we have never limited creative requests. Quite the contrary. Instead, we’ve rebranded and expanded to address any and all creative requests. We’ve also earned a stellar reputation in an industry of no show Officiants AND Planners who take no pride in their OWN performance. 

Today’s blog will outline why making the mistake of hiring someone else isn’t my luggage and it isn’t my trip. Quality and reliability aren’t inexpensive. You get what you pay for. If you’ve paid the wrong person, get your money back and then contact me or my staff. I cannot stress this point enough. 

The expenses of being a traveling prison officiant are expensive. The vehicle, the repairs, the maintenance, the hours on the road and the role of an inmate Officiant are many. You have questions I have answers. Experience matters. Experience isn’t inexpensive either. 

Reliability and consistency aren’t inexpensive and I can no longer take on everyone else’s previous client at a discount because they hired the wrong person to begin with making your burden and subsequent mistake my expense. 

Before you hire someone to take on the role of your prison wedding Officiant, understand that this is a serious job that requires a hefty investment of my time, product knowledge of marriage laws as well as policy and procedure at Units within each state I officiate as well as my vehicle and my pocketbook. I prepare for these trips by ensuring I have no mechanical issues that would impede my ability to be there on time and ready to work. 

Leaving home in the dark and arriving home in the dark are very long days. Unexpected broken windshields are an expense to anyone driving across back roads to Prisons. Tires, gasoline, and even the possibility of an accident and more are part of the expenses of being a prison Officiant. 

When a traditional client books me to officiate their wedding within the DFW area, I ask “is there a rehearsal?” Why? Because there is an additional fee for a rehearsal. Do you know why? Because I’m driving to the same location twice. A rehearsal is a separate ceremony. 

There’s a reason that I also ask “what is the location?” Because there is an additional fee for travel. Time spent driving is time that could be spent doing something else like spending time with my family. 

My time is valuable. My time on your wedding day is spent making your Dream Event a reality. 

The fee for a JP to officiate your ceremony in Texas is $100. The Judge isn’t leaving his job to travel to you. Instead, you travel to them. 

These days everyone wants or thinks they can be a prison Officiant. The MANY WHO THINK MY ROLE IS SIMPLY TO SHOW UP are mistaken about my job being easy. It isn’t. It’s complicated. It’s knowing where to send you to get that marriage license. It’s knowing marriage law. It’s understanding the Administrative Directive to find solutions to YOUR PROBLEMS. It’s answering crying and hysterical phone calls 24/7 from someone who encountered a problem either with a CLM Status or a Denial on an I60 Request For Inmate Marriage. 

There are many “who think they can do this job” but there is only one of me. While I have others on my staff who are authorized to officiate your prison wedding in many states, it is I who have the answers to unexpected problems. When someone on my Team encounters something unexpected, they call me. I know what to do. I didn’t “suddenly wake up educated to finding solutions” either. I educated myself spending hours pouring over policy and procedures in numerous states as well as Texas. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours reading and retaining knowledge to overcome the unexpected. Corrective Affidavits? Yes. A Warden unaware that a CLM couple are entitled to a legal wedding? Hang on while I fix this and contact the Courts to call the Unit. Visitation revoked, let me tell you how to file an Appeal. Yes, I know what to do. 

These “other Officiants” BELIEVE THEIR ONLY RESPONSIBILITY AND REQUIREMENTS are to show up on wedding day. These “other Officiants” are often guilty of failing to even do that! I’ve had a FEW FOLKS contact me after making the mistake of hiring someone else. If you want someone to get the job done, you hire me or my staff FIRST. We don’t have mistakes or excuses. We know what to do and how to do it. We exceed client expectations and give you a beautiful day with beautiful photos as a courtesy. 

WE DO YOUR EVENT DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE WE CARE WHEN THESE “OTHER OFFICIANTS” DON’T. 

I can’t tell you how many clients have told me “I want to do what you do.” But, these folks have no real idea of what’s involved or the expenses of what I do and more importantly who I do it for. They don’t realize that knowing what to do or how to do it are based on education and experience. They fail to realize that it takes money to make money. Operating a business or even several is a hefty expense. I do not and will not advertise. Why? Because this expense would result in raising my fees and I don’t market new clients. My role is to focus on existing clients first. In fact, I limit new bookings specifically to keep from spreading myself too thin for existing clients. 

It’s impossible to work another job and officiate inmate weddings. Why? Because you must be available that’s why. You must have reliable transportation and you must have knowledge of the Administrative Directive when problems arise. It’s also your job to be the fixer. It’s your job to overcome a snarky county clerk refusing to issue a license to your client. It’s your job to hold someone’s hand unfamiliar it’s the process and the timeline involved. It’s your job to mail that license, maintain your vehicle, juggle your home life and family and make it all work. 

It’s your job to exceed expectations and earn a stellar reputation in an industry that these days has everyone jumping on the bandwagon to become a prison Officiant with little or no clue as to what is actually involved. Unlike these others, I’m well versed. I’m educated. Knowledgeable. Reliable. Consistent. 

I don’t find my clients. They find me. Many find me AFTER they’ve hired and paid someone else. I can no longer make exceptions and or discount YOUR fee because YOU hired the wrong person to officiate your prison wedding. 

My soft heart has cost me money again and again. How so? Because I’ve made exceptions based on your story. I will no longer “make exceptions” because you’ve hired the wrong officiant. You chose to make an expensive mistake. Experience is a great teacher. You’ve learned but your mistake cannot and will not be my burden. 

Frankly, it’s unfair to my other clients as well as myself and staff to do so as well as a financial burden to me because you’ve trusted someone else who let you down. GET YOUR MONEY BACK FROM THE “OTHER OFFICIANTS!”

Get your money back but don’t expect me or my staff to make special exceptions because you’ve trusted the wrong person. We operate a business. This business has Expenses. This business also has a web designer, accountant and other factors as well as time, insurance, vehicle repairs, gasoline, tires and windshields or EVEN the possibility of having an accident while driving to your prison wedding. 

Today’s blog is an update to changes for people coming to me who paid someone else then expected me to discount my fee because they had done so.