People Who Shine From Within Don’t Need A Spotlight-

Last night my Ferguson Unit Bride sent me a text. I was saddened to hear that she was planning to cancel her wedding scheduled for January 16th @1PM due to financial difficulties. Alarmed, I called her. She was crying and I told her to calm down that I wasn’t going to cancel. 

This decision is one that most likely no one else would make but, what makes me different also makes me far more sought after. I advised my Bride that she could pay out the balance and send a small deposit instead. 

Ferguson Unit is about three hours one way from Fort Worth. My last visit to Ferguson was a bit of a surprise because it was the first time that the inmate was behind glass. I wasn’t expecting this and after walking into the visitation area with my Client, felt saddened that my Bride wouldn’t be able to kiss her Groom.

Apparently, my Client wasn’t nearly as bothered by the glass as I was and she loved the photo of them together that merged their faces. Since I’ve been asked if inmates can hear and understand the ceremony, the answer is yes. 

Occasionally, there is a phone that my client and I take turns talking into but usually, there’s a small opening under the glass. Leaving Ferguson Unit, I was grappling with the glass in my mind and wishing my client could have held hands or even hugged her new husband but, my Client wasn’t upset by the glass. It was only I who felt sad about the circumstances.

My niece, Leigh Ann was waiting for me in the parking lot and asked “what’s wrong?” I told her that the glass had scared me initially as to whether the inmate could understand the ceremony and secondly I was hoping my bride could at least “seal the deal with a kiss.” 

A few miles away from the Unit, we pulled over and began unloading many of the items I had packed for our “rolling photo booth.” 

Although my heart was heavy about the glass, it wasn’t at all weighing heavily on my client who had a great time with us and was thrilled to finally be married. 

I have learned to put my own feelings aside for weddings that take place in less than celebratory locations from a prison or even a hospital death bed. 

Years ago, someone contacted me who wasn’t expected to live. They wanted to marry their partner from the confines of a hospital bed in order to leave their worldly possessions to them via marriage. 

I’ve also given Last Rites at area hospitals for many years. Most people requesting Last Rites were often not religious throughout their life. However, I’ve learned that when near death, religious preferences change dramatically. I don’t judge anyone. In fact, I believe that it’s better to find faith late than it is to never find it.

For over an hour, my joyous client continued to text me. She couldn’t believe that I would make an exception. But, I don’t “have” to work. I haven’t in many years. I trust my clients. We’ve built a relationship together. I know that my client will make good on her promise and I could hear how devastated she was about the change of her financial situation in her voice. I’m “everyone’s mother” on a regular basis. 

Walking into a Prison with a nervous client, they know that I will be with them every step of the way. They are all nervous. They never expected to be marrying at a Texas Prison either. Who would? 

For the first year of Texas Prison Weddings, I felt more comfortable knowing “that I wouldn’t be alone.” I felt more comfortable knowing my client “knew the ropes.” The situation has changed now and I’m no longer intimidated by slamming steel doors behind me or razor wire glistening in the Texas sun. 

My clients know the Unit and are familiar with the screening process. I was never alone and this helped ease my wild imagination regarding what to expect more than anyone realized.

When I agreed to undergo the screening process for Misty two years ago, I was perhaps far more nervous about walking into a prison than Misty realized. The only Prisons I had ever seen were from Texas highways or on television. 

I had actually met Misty before undergoing the process and again before the wedding for her bridal photo shoot. Back then, Estes didn’t allow photos at weddings. They now do. By divine intervention perhaps, Estes Unit was a minimum security prison. Driving in, I wondered where the guards were? The dogs? The razor wire? Who was keeping everyone in or out? But, my relief at what wasn’t what I had expected would “turn” less than a week later at TDCJ Michael Unit.

At Estes, we were cleared and escorted to the visitation area. Most Units have beautifully painted walls that provide a backdrop. Estes did. The steel door slamming behind did cause me to jump a bit but, I didn’t have a heart attack or panic that we wouldn’t be able to leave. 

Misty calmed me significantly without even realizing it. I was inside my very first prison. I wasn’t hyperventilating and I wasn’t worried about a riot. These thoughts had kept me awake for days prior to my first Prison wedding. My thoughts and fears were unfounded. 

I also realized that Prison Weddings were scheduled during the week because the ceremony generally takes place in the visitation area. The visitation area is used on weekends and therefore unavailable. 

At the time I agreed to help Misty and become a TDCJ Approved Officiant, all of my events or bookings were on weekends or evenings making Prison Weddings “a perfect fit” for my schedule. Shocking right? I couldn’t believe it myself. 

Prison weddings were so easy to squeeze into my schedule that I decided to expand Texas Twins Events to include Texas Prison Weddings. Two years later, I do far more Prison Weddings than any other event booking. Prior to Prison Weddings, half of my Client base was LBGT. 

I’m somewhat infamous for being LBGT friendly from the start of Texas Twins Events. Since I’m always asked, yes I also perform LBGT Prison Weddings. 

Did I know two years ago that Prison Weddings would occupy up to 85 percent of new bookings? No. Who would? I had no idea how many people wanted to marry an inmate. But, between my bookings at venues and existing client bases for Texas Twins Events and The Pawning Planners, Texas Prison Wedding bookings would add a completely different dimension to my Client base. 

A few days after officiating Misty’s wedding ceremony at Estes Unit, I was driving to Tennessee Colony, Texas. Tennessee Colony is a city of Prisons.I was shocked by this and the sign rolling into town that listed all of the Units in a small country town with only one convenience store. The store was unlike any I’ve ever been to. There was a barber shop. There was a cleaners. There was a grill. There was also plumbing supplies being sold next to milk and eggs. 

The General store was a surprising pit stop for not only me but also my twin sister who was going to wait for me while shopping at this out of the way country store. 

I had expected Michael Unit to be just like Estes Unit with a nice parking lot and couldn’t have been more shocked driving into the Unit by the remarkable differences between Estes and Michael. 

TDCJ Michael Unit had a guard shack. Michael Unit also had razor wire and everything that I had expected Estes to have. Yes, I was at a maximum security unit. The variations between minimum and maximum are significant. My fear of a riot or being locked in returned tenfold. 

Trying to control my breathing, I was SO THANKFUL that Trishelle had offered to let me ride to the unit with her there are no words to express my relief. The glistening razor wire in the Texas sun was blinding. I actually held Trishelle’a hand to steady my frazzled nerves. Wobbly legs aside, Trishelle was comfortable about walking me into my first maximum security unit. 

Michael Unit was similar to the Prisons I had seen on TV. It was intimidating to say the least. Since then, I’ve been in many maximum security units including Death Row Prisons. I’ve overcome my claustrophobia and I’ve learned that I’m safer in a Prison than anywhere else. 

Trishelle had dropped her mother and friends with Cindy to wait for us while inside the Unit. I was so thankful that I wasn’t alone removing my shoes and blazer that I didn’t lose my balance and trip or start hyperventilating you have no idea.

Trishelle was comfortable and not at all intimidated. Walking into the visitation area with vending machine trash surrounding us, I couldn’t “get over” where the ceremony would be taking place. I asked to move the trash around our feet away from the couple before proceeding with the ceremony. The trash bothered me. 

Riding back to the General store, I was relieved to be leaving the first maximum security unit I had ever been inside. I was thankful that I didn’t walk in alone. I managed to keep my composure and put my fear at bay. I had done it! Thank God for Trishelle. 

My relief at getting through my first maximum security unit wedding ceremony was behind me as Trishelle and her group jumped in for fun wedding photos. My mini photo sessions are a celebration for clients. 

I’ve created an extensive inventory of wedding dresses, bouquets, boutenniers and other items that my clients love to borrow. 

What made me different made me successful. Having an identical twin and partner, we look forward to more road trips and rest areas. 

Cindy and I have met some pretty amazing people and along the way, we have also learned that working together was the best decision we could have ever made…

Hitchin A Ride- Fort Worth To Goree Unit-Following The Groom…

Sending my twin a text this morning, my sinus infection had my head pounding while the threat of inclement weather Wednesday decided which SUV we would be taking to Huntsville. 

Cindy has AWD while my SUV is front wheel drive. As I pray that sleet and snow skip over North Texas, planning road trips during ice storms continues to worry me. 

My sister though isn’t worried at all. Her Mitsubishi Outlander has never let her down. I wonder if maybe I should trade my Hyundai Santa Fe for an AWD Mitsubishi? Ice is rare in Texas but, Prison Weddings aren’t seasonal. They are year round. 

Last February, Cindy and I left Fort Worth on a Greyhound bus headed to Allred Unit. The “plan” was for Cindy to wait at the terminal for me. What we couldn’t have “planned” was that the terminal would close. 

Thankfully, my amazing bride along with her mother and future mother in law saved the day by picking us up at the terminal and dropping my bride and I at Allred. 

It’s so rare for me to decide to take the bus that this would be the 2nd time in my life to choose Greyhound but, my fear of driving on icy roads led me to the decision last February just as it had in the 90’s when I was due in Houston and icy road conditions were being speculated. Buses don’t bother me. The people were friendly and there were convenient outlets to plug your phone in. The chairs weren’t uncomfortable and although I didn’t need to use the restroom, there was one aboard the bus. Greyhound had thought of everything. Cindy was as impressed as I was with the ease of buying a ticket and boarding the bus. 

My husband had been so concerned about Cindy and I freezing to death between Fort Worth and Wichita Falls that the bus seemed like a safer option. 

I never call in sick because there aren’t any sick days in the events industry. Last Thursday while on location at Parker County Jail my ear began throbbing. I wearily recognized the signs of a sinus infection coming on but as usual had no time to get into my PCP. 

My grandniece, Makenna was struggling with abdominal pain so rather than addressing my ear, I took Makenna to Harris Hospital and found that she had a golf ball sized cyst on her ovary. Makenna has been struggling with cysts the past year. At fourteen, this surprises me. But, we are trying to find solutions to a painful problem for Makenna.

Friday morning, I was due on location for a photo shoot. The frigid temperatures and wind certainly didn’t help my ears or sinuses but, braving the weather for three hours would get me far more sick by the time we wrapped up the photo shoot.

I had planned to go to Parker County Urgent Care for my usual steroid shot and did at 4PM but, by then I was really getting sick. My neck was stiff and both ears clogged. 

Picking up my prescription at Walmart for antibiotics, I wearily told my sister “I hope the shots and antibiotics get me over this soon. We are at Goree on the 2nd and all over the place for prison Weddings this month.” 

The weather (as usual) didn’t occur to me. My husband would bring up the weather as I miserably sat next to my vaporizer at home struggling to clear my head. My husband always watches the weather because he knows that driving to Texas Prisons can get tricky with a winter mix. 

Last February, the cold snap and combination of sleet didn’t slow down my brides mother who was driving her car through the icy streets like Speed Racer.

The roads didn’t bother her at all. We had a great time with our new friends and even stopped for Mexican food on our way back to the terminal. 

Although hitching a ride had never occurred to me before, our new friends made sure that I made it back to the bus terminal in Fort Worth safely. 

Those three ladies were truly amazing and a Godsend to Cindy and I since the Greyhound terminal had closed in Wichita Falls leaving Cindy and I without transportation.I’ve decided that if the buses are going to shut down, it’s probably better to rely on my sisters trusty SUV. It’s never left my sister stranded.

Usually, the worst months for weather in Texas are January and February. Although icy roads terrify me, Cindy takes driving in treacherous conditions in stride. In fact, today, Cindy is busy getting her SUV ready for our next road trip. 

Hopefully, my head clears up before Wednesday. I continue to sip hot tea and try to snap myself out of being down with a head cold. I should have worn a hat to the photo shoot and protected my ears. 

Hindsight is 20/20 and knowing how easily I get sick these days, protecting my ears should have been a priority but, dealing with Tardy clients had my focus elsewhere.

As others come up with New Years Resolutions, my resolution is to get over this blasted head cold. 

I’m looking forward to finally meeting my Bride. We had been scheduled for her wedding at Allred Unit when the groom was transferred to Goree. 

Transfers slow down the process even after a couple have been assigned a date. Once transferred, an inmate will need to file a new I60 Request For Marriage Form. 

Please be aware that based on distance from the original unit, an additional travel fee may apply if the inmate is transferred further from my location than the original unit was when booking your Texas Prison wedding. 

If the Absentee Affidavit and notarized ID expire, you will need to repeat the process if you haven’t already purchased your marriage license. Marriage licenses also have a shelf life. If the license expires while waiting to marry, you will need to purchase a new license.

Wishing all of my clients a wonderful me prosperous New Year and hoping ice days are few and far between in Texas…

Fort Worth To TDCJ Allred Unit To Winstar Casino To Bell Tower Chapel- Two Weddings & A Rehearsal…

Planning my schedule takes a certain amount of flexibility. Why? Because traffic, Client calls and other things factor heavily into my ability to bounce from one location to the next. 

Due to my existing schedule, a wedding ceremony on Christmas Eve wasn’t possible since I’m already booked for a Vow Renewal and Baptism in two different cities Christmas Eve. 

To solve the scheduling problem on Christmas Eve, I checked the distance Allred Unit from Fort Worth then from the Unit to Winstar Casino and, as long as I left Wichita Falls by 2:30-3PM, knew I could arrive at Winstar by 4:30-5PM. 

I was due at a wedding rehearsal at 8PM in Fort Worth so, I double checked the distance from Winstar to Bell Tower. The drive time and traffic play a huge part in my planning process. 

When you spend as much time traveling as I do with Cindy, it’s best to overestimate the commute when a Client is waiting on you. I’m always early because I don’t want to be late. 

My days and hours are far from 9-5 although TDCJ Weddings occur Monday through Friday from 9-5. Why? Travel time is a large consideration. Texas is a large state. 

Secondly, the amount of time spent inside a Unit can be “up in the air.” There isn’t a definite timeline of the Unit locating an inmate or the ceremony starting on time. 

A number of things can cause a delay once arriving at the Unit. Please be patient. 

I normally estimate up to 2 hours once inside a TDCJ Unit although I was once waiting with my Client at Stiles Unit nearly 3 hours for her ceremony. 

Since Stiles Unit was 5+ hours from Fort Worth, the additional time inside the Unit along with my travel home a FULL DAY. 

If your Unit is 3.5 hours one way, I do not schedule other Events on the same day unless of course, they are at the same Unit. 

It’s not unusual for me to Officiate 3 and even up to 8 weddings at a Texas Prison on the same day. The reason for this is travel time and the Unit working with me to “stack my Clients” at the same location.

My schedule is normally stacked whenever possible to accommodate my Clients. Since I’m also on staff at other venues including Bell Tower Chapel, flexibility is a requirement in order to address new Clients as well as existing bookings. 

It’s well known that I have a full staff and only I am TDCJ Approved to Officiate Texas Prison Weddings. My other Officiants and photographers on staff address traditional bookings as well as County Jail Wedding requests. 

The continued issues regarding clothing or attire have become so distressing to my Clients that I’m going to once again go over why it’s best to overdress rather than underdress to your Unit Wedding. 

During the Prison Wedding Planning Process, I often ask what you plan to wear in order to alleviate any issues. 

Let’s go over what you CAN or CANNOT wear to your Texas Prison Wedding as the SAME dress code applies to Prison Weddings as Visitation Guidelines: 

Offender Visitation Dress Code

Visitors are encouraged to dress conservatively.
Sandals, flip-flops, and open-toe shoes may be worn.

Clothing that is tight fitting, revealing, or made with see-through fabrics shall not be allowed.

Sleeveless shirts and dresses are allowed, but must cover the shoulders.

Shorts and skirts no shorter than three inches above the middle of the knee while standing, capri pants, or long pants are allowed.

Length is not restricted for pre-adolescent boys and girls, generally ages 10 and younger.

Clothing with pictures or language that may be considered profane or offensive by current public standards shall not be allowed.

Note: The duty warden shall make the final decision on whether clothing is appropriate.

It’s essential to understand the guidelines of marrying at a Texas Prison because unlike a “wedding on the outside,” the Client isn’t in control. The Prison Unit is. 

Today, I’d like to go over why my Client and I were left waiting for hours at Stiles Unit and why if you are asked to wear a cafeteria smock, it’s upsetting and occasionally embarrassing due to your clothing or attire being deemed “inappropriate.” 

I’ve had several questions regarding the similarities between the Stiles and Estes dresses. “Why did Stiles have to wear a smock and why were her photos taken without it?” Or, “I saw one of your other brides wearing a dress that wasn’t in the code. How did she wear that when I couldn’t to the Unit?” Or, “Your Prison Wedding at Michael had friends in her photos. Why can’t I bring friends to my wedding?” 

First off- bridal or groom photography can and does include guests. Prison Weddings DO NOT allow guests. Guests can wait while we are inside the Unit and join you in bridal photos. You can also wear whatever you want or change clothes for your photo shoot with me. 

Unless a photo is of my Client and I INSIDE A UNIT, clothing, guests, flowers and other items are taken outside the Unit. I offer complimentary photograohy as a courtesy to Clients and their friends or family. I also bring a wide array of photo booth items as well as bouquets, boutenierres and other items to pull photo shoots together. 

If Clients wish to bring friends or family or additional items or even a change of clothes to photo shoots, I also encourage them to do so. 

The Stiles dress was covered walking to the visitation area with a cafeteria smock. Only once inside was my Bride allowed to remove the smock. 

In her wedding photos, you can see she had been crying. Nothing is more upsetting to my Clients than being handed a cafeteria smock to wear walking into the Unit. 

It’s deeply disturbing and upsetting for my clients who wanted to look beautiful and certainly didn’t anticipate being to be required to wear a cafeteria smock to overdress rather than underdress.

Because of this occurring more than once, we will once again revisit Prison Wedding attire. I will always be wearing a suit. I wear flats or sandals based on the season or weather. I wear easy to remove shoes intentionally as our feet and hands will be screened. 

I can assist you in taking off your shoes prior to screening in. I cannot assist you in putting your shoes back on once we are screened. There may or may not be an area for you to sit and put your shoes back on. Please be aware of this. Putting shoes back on while standing on one foot is tricky. You may be forced to lean against a wall if there isn’t a bench or chair. 

The Estes bride borrowed one of my jackets and was able to marry in her dress covered by my jacket. First, we will look at her Unit photo in my suit jacket.Now, let’s look at her bridal photos taken by me at Botanic Garden. My Bride had arrived in Fort Worth at the Greyhound bus station. I had picked her up and drove her to my home to change clothes. 

Upon seeing her dress, I suggested bringing one of my jackets as I wearily realized the Unit (most likely) wouldn’t allow her dress. Below is a photo of the dress that is low cut and also above the knee. 

This dress on its own would never have been deemed appropriate. Rather than upset my Client, I loaned her clothes to “cover up.” My Stiles Unit bride arrived in a white form fitting dress. Although it was full length, the bodice was low cut and the dress was deemed “too sheer.” 

I had asked if she could remove the smock for her wedding photos and the Warden allowed this only once inside a private area. Look at her eyes. 

Walking all the way into the Unit wearing a cafeteria smock, my heart broke at what was supposed to be a joyous day for her turning into a “walk of shame” in that smock. Leaving the Unit, I had found a park for her bridal photos. The smock left behind at Stiles and the stress behind her, my Bride was relieved and once again, happy. 

Bridal photos give my Clients an opportunity to have fun and leave the stress and occasionally, the embarrassment of wearing a smock behind them. You can wear whatever you want to your bridal or groom photo shoot. 

You CANNOT wear whatever you want to your Prison Wedding. I don’t make the rules. TDCJ does and, it’s at THEIR discretion if your attire is appropriate. Please be aware of this. It’s essential to your wedding being pleasant and worry free. My Stiles bride was also busty and the clingy fabric of her form fitting dress which was also sheer was the main issue with the Warden. Although she was wearing a slip from the waist down, had she been wearing a cami or tank under the dress to cover cleavage, it still might have been too revealing based on the tight fit. 

In this type of situation, wearing a jacket, shawl, or even a sweater over the top part of the dress might have alleviated the need to wear a smock walking into the Unit. Michael Unit does not allow dresses. My Michael Unit Brides wear jeans. Trishelle wore jeans to her wedding and then changed afterwards before joining her friends in her photo shoot. I’m adding the Unit photo below. Leaving the Unit, Trishelle and I drove to Tennessee Colony store for her to change clothes and meet up with her mother, sister and best friends.If the offender is behind glass, you cannot touch or hold hands. At Ferguson Unit, my Bride wore a dress but, the dress covered her shoulders. We had NO issues regarding cleavage because while standing, no cleavage was visible. 

Your skirt or dress length should be at your knees or within one inch. It’s “tricky.” Once the wedding ceremony was finished, my beautiful bride and I found an area near the Unit for her bridal photos. Photos cannot be taken on TDCJ Property. 

At Luther Unit, my bride wore a dress that covered her shoulders and hit at the knee. There weren’t any issues because she strictly adhered to the TDCJ visitation dress code. I’m usually wearing ankle length or floor length slacks. I’m always wearing a jacket and occasionally, a scarf. I’m busty and if any cleavage is showing, I cover it up with a scarf as I did at Hodge Unit. Last February, my beautiful bride had an amazing wedding dress but, had to wear a coat over it. After leaving Allred Unit, we found an area for fun photos in her wedding dress.Although she had a jacket that matched the wedding dress, the dress was sleeveless. Texas Department Of Criminal Justice dress code REQUIRES the shoulders be covered during visitation. Prison Wedding ceremonies follow stringent guidelines. No spaghetti straps or strapless dresses are allowed. Please be aware of this.

Yesterday, at TDCJ Allred Unit, my Bride had previously sent me a photo of the dress she planned to wear. I’m attaching it for your review. The model has cleavage showing but, the dress could be pinned. 

The length of the dress appeared within the guidelines but, the slit in the front came up a little higher on my Client.

Brandy looked beautiful coming downstairs and I quickly eyed her dress. There wasn’t any cleavage showing and the back of the dress hit below her knees. Because of this, I believed we were fine. But, the Unit has the final call on attire. Not I or my Client. 

Brandy and her best friend had as much fun at their hotel photo shoot as I did. We were planning a great day filled with fun and promise but, once at the Unit, things would change.I had dropped Brandy’s friend to shop while we headed on to Allred Unit. Because the wedding was scheduled for 1PM, we arrived at 12:30PM and checked in with Chaplain Lawler. 

Brandy and her beau had both written their vows. My couple had put a lot of thought into their ceremony but, within minutes, a day that Brandy had looked forward to would be altered.

The assistant Warden strongly advised us both that Brandy’s dress was “unacceptable.” Because of this, I ran to my SUV to grab a scarf and pins to cover the bottom portion of her dress. 

Moments later, the assistant Warden told Brandy that she couldn’t marry in the dress at all. The only option was to wear the smock. Nothing causes me more stress than to see a Client crying because they must wear a smock to their ceremony. 

Because of this, I’m ONCE AGAIN warning my Clients that the possibility of having to wear a smock exists and if the dress length is deemed too short, warning you of the stress of wearing a smock to your ceremony will bring.

It’s better to err on the side of caution regarding clothing or, to bring a change of clothes to your Unit Wedding. Brandy had a change of clothes but, they were in her car back at the hotel. I wish we had brought them with us in my SUV but, hindsight is 20/20. 

I want your wedding to be seamless and worry free. I want your experience to be pleasant and I care about you and your feelings. 

Having a Client walking in with me upset about what they are wearing is so sad to me that I’m writing this blog in the hopes of preventing a similar circumstance happening to someone else…

Texas Prison Weddings And Love After Lock Up- TDCJ Allred To TDCJ Hughes Unit…

Following The Groom or Bride- 

No one was more surprised than I was to hear an inmate was being transferred on his wedding day at TDCJ Allred Unit yesterday. 

Unit transfers happen. Don’t get discouraged. It’s a process but, timelines are changed. 

If you have been assigned a date, the date will also be changed. Stay calm, you are going to get married. Transfers like Lock Downs are simply a bump in the road. 

My bride had sent me an email and a text to alert me to the wedding being cancelled due to the transfer at 10PM. Please let me know ASAP if there are any changes to your assigned date and time. 

Due to the transfer, we will now wait for more information and a reschedule at the new Unit. I have 9 brides waiting on dates at Allred currently. Your wedding may be stacked at Allred and other Units as Chaplains and Wardens stack my weddings as a courtesy. I perform up to 10 weddings at the same Unit on the same day.

Transfer After Scheduled Unit Wedding Information- 

First, once the inmate is moved, advise me of the Unit. Secondly, the inmate must go to the Law Library and check to see if the I60 paperwork was transferred. If it wasn’t, have the inmate file a new I60 at the new Unit. This is a 7-21 day process. Be calm. Don’t continue calling the Unit. 

Travel Fees- 

Changes to the location of a Unit after the initial agreement are involved. Based on distance, the new Unit may be closer to Fort Worth or further away. If the Unit is further away, a calculation of mileage will be added to the initial agreement and Unit. 

Emergency Officiant Fees- 

If you have hired another TDCJ Officiant and they don’t honor your end of the agreement, this is a problem between you and the original Officiant. I.E. you will need to get your money back and THEN contact me. Short notice or emergency Officiant Fees are significantly higher because the Client wasn’t factored into my scheduling. 

Contacting me with less than one weeks notice regarding a Prison or Jail Wedding doesn’t always “work” with schedule. If however, I’m available, it’s because I’ve scheduled the date in question off since I work seven days a week. Dropping everything to run to a Unit literally is a “juggling act” for me. 

You have paid someone else and they still have your money- 

Although this is deeply concerning and sad to me, I cannot work without compensation. I need you to get your money back. Paying someone else doesn’t cover my gas or expenses. 

The continuing saga of con artists taking money for a service they fail to provide is actually a criminal act. It’s fraud.

As a consumer, you have rights and, I must insist you use them to obtain a refund. It’s not up to me to get your money back- it’s up to you. 

Because this an ongoing issue with frantic people contacting me about the “other Officiant” flaking out, I’m going to tell you how to get your money back although this isn’t legal advice. 

If you’ve paid someone for a service they fail to provide, you can either escalate a claim on Paypal, send a demand letter for a refund via certified mail or file a small claims suit. 

Personally, I would do all three but, I don’t allow others to take advantage of me and suggest you fight back as well. 

It’s come to my attention that many of the clients who had to hire me AFTER hiring someone else were being taken advantage of by a person who is IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH ME and also failed to honor their obligations and Officiate the Prison Wedding. 

Someone calling me crying because they had paid someone else and had no idea how to get their money back in order to hire me has happened 22 times in the past year. Buyers Beware. There’s a con game going on out there and I’m going to tell you how these despicable liars play it.

It starts by “hooking” that’s right I said hooking the prospect or “mark” with a very low bid. The quote is so unbelievable that the prospect quickly goes for it and it’s always via Paypal. 

The con artist knows if they send something with tracking to the prospect, Paypal won’t issue a refund. BE AWARE OF HOW THIS WORKS. 

Let’s go over this Snake Oil Scheme: The other person tells you to take a Two Together In Texas class. They send you the booklets but don’t give you the certificate. The certificate is essential. You also paid an inflated cost for a course that costs $29 per Couple online. 

They NOW have a tracking number. Do not fall for this bait and switch game because the person low balling you with a price never planned on following through. It’s a game. A sick game by sick people taking advantage of others and fleecing them. 

File a lawsuit. Escalate a claim but, don’t fall into the “I sent her or he this or that and have tracking information” to Paypal game. I know two Officiants who have been doing this for over a year. Go on Prison forums and you will too. Other people talk about how “so and so” took my money but wouldn’t do my wedding so, I found Wendy.  I have never rescheduled anything. I will never let you down. My Clients love me because I exceed their expectations. 

What you paid the scammer aka “other Officiant” for was to marry you in a Texas Prison which obviously they didn’t do or you wouldn’t be contacting me. Fight back and get your money. 

NEVER take a Two Together Class with someone selling it. Go straight to Two Together and buy the course for $29. It is the best advice I can give you. 

Take the Two Together In Texas certificate with you to buy the Marriage License. You will also need your ID, the notarized ID and Absentee Affidavit of the inmate. 

The TTIT certificate will waive the 3 day waiting period and discount the cost of the Marriage License by $60. 

It’s very sad to me that the people who have been doing this are still doing it. I strongly encourage you to file a complaint with the Courts in Huntsville. Also, keep all texts and emails from anyone who has taken money from you and failed to provide a service. It’s proof of what you paid for and more importantly, what you didn’t get.

Inmate is CLM & It Isn’t To You- 

This CLM (Common Law Marriage) will prevent you from marrying an inmate if the person listed as being Informally Married to the inmate isn’t you. You cannot marry a Texas inmate who is already listed as married. What to do? Have the inmate get a divorce or file a Corrected Affidavit. ANY DOCUMENT REQUIRING a notary seal is a legal document. For everyone telling me “I just signed that so we can have contact visits” be AWARE that TDCJ views those documents as Common Law Marriages. 

Outside the Prison, these documents aren’t filed with the clerk and are therefore, not legally binding. Inside the Prison, they will prevent permission to marry from ever being granted to anyone other than the party named on the Affidavit I.E. the “other woman” or “other man.” 

If you didn’t realize that the document you were signing wasn’t legal, you can file a Correctional Affidavit voiding or amending the initial document. Often, this is far easier than a divorce for an inmate. 

Let’s go over what an Informal Marriage Affidavit actually is— Parties wishing to be recognized as married but, not wishing to have a formal marriage ceremony, file it at the Clerks Office. 

To dissolve an Informal OR Formal Marriage FILED at the clerks office, a DIVORCE is MANDATORY. 

In a Prison, a CLM status lists the inmate as “married.” Be aware of this. It’s a REAL problem if you are attempting to marry an inmate. 

Ask questions and get answers early in your Prison Wedding Planning Process. 

This issue has come up so many times that I must address it. You will not get permission to marry under these circumstances. Only the inmate can file a Correctional Affidavit. The law library is the best place to research this matter.

Refunds, Cancellations, Tardiness– 

I do not offer refunds. My reason for this is that when you booked with me, I kept slots open in my schedule to accommodate your needs.  It can take 2-3 weeks and more for your wedding to be scheduled. Because of this and the fact that Prison Weddings take place on weekdays, I limit new Clients to 12 per month. 

If you are booking mid month, you are moved to the following month. I don’t overbook. This is intentional on my part which is why short notice or emergency bookings are not always possible. Booked Clients are my highest priority. 

If I’ve talked to you or emailed you- you ARE NOT A CLIENT. Until a deposit is paid and a contract is signed and countersigned, I do not allow anyone to “use my name and credentials” to obtain a date for a TDCJ Wedding. I hate surprises and Wardens now verify you are a Client prior to issuing and approving a wedding date. 

Pulling my name off the internet of even speaking to me and using my name without my consent is a bad idea. I’m not going to drive 2-10 hours to a wedding that wasn’t on my books and therefore, not my responsibility.

If you are late or inappropriately dressed for your Texas Prison Wedding, the Warden can cancel it. If I’ve traveled to the Unit and your wedding is cancelled, you will forfeit your payment due to non compliance and my contact. 

If you are drunk or under the influence of anything, you have voided the terms of our agreement and your wedding will be cancelled. We are going into a Prison. Your conduct reflects on me. As my Client, I expect you to be courteous and appropriate. I cannot stress this enough. No matter what happens, I need you to realize that if we are waiting 1-3 hours, we will wait patiently. We will not complain or cause a scene. We will sit quietly and at some point, begin your ceremony. I need you to be professional and courteous. It will make the process far more pleasant. 

What you can bring to your Prison Wedding- 

You MUST have your Marriage License. You MUST have your ID. You can bring your car keys and hand written vows as well as quarters for Unit Photos ($3 each). You cannot bring anything other than these items with you to a Unit. No paper money, no cell phones, no cameras, no rings, nothing other than the above items is authorized for a Prison Wedding. 

Visit times after the ceremony- 

Every Unit is different, some Units allow visits for up to 15-20 minutes following the ceremony while others do not. Please do not argue this point with guards. They have been given an assignment and they have been given a timeline. At all costs, we remain pleasant and courteous. 

You are wearing revealing clothing- 

If your clothing is deemed “risqué” you will either be given something to wear and over up or your wedding will be cancelled by the Warden. This issue continues to come up. If you are wearing white, wear something under it. Do not wear jeans with holes, tank tops, mini skirts or other clothing that is in violation of the dress code. I know it’s your wedding day but, we aren’t making the rules. 

Complimentary photos after the wedding- 

I offer complimentary photos for Clients as a courtesy. I bring bouquets, bubbles, props, traveling photo booth items and more to bring fun to your bridal or groom photography as a courtesy. I want you to have fun and celebrate your marriage. 

Many of my clients find their twenty minute photo shoot to be the best part of their day. If you have photos or other items you’d like to bring, I encourage you to. Guests aren’t allowed at Unit Weddings but, they can wait and join you in your photo shoot. 

Other questions, comments or concerns- 

I know you are nervous. I know you didn’t plan to marry in a Prison. You will at no point be alone. I will be with you. I am comfortable in a Prison and not nervous. If you have questions about anything not discussed in this blog, contact me. 

If you have paid someone and and feel there is an issue please, please, get a refund. No one can change an I60 Officiant on an existing form. A new I60 and Officiant must be filed. I cannot stress this enough, hire someone you trust. Hire someone who makes you an your Dream Event a priority.

I look forward to meeting you soon at your Texas Prison Wedding…

Tire Trouble, Tiaras, Torres Unit & Trying To Stay Fit

This morning, my twin sister called me about gaining weight over the holidays. Sadly, she wasn’t alone. We have both put on a few pounds after working so hard to lose weight in our fifties a little over a year ago.

From Halloween to Christmas, watching our weight is an ongoing challenge.

Twinning through the Holidays includes work, working out, and laughing at my sisters saucy observations. “You can’t cherry pick a withered branch from a barren tree.” You can’t expect results without effort.

While Cindy’s daughter, Leigh Ann continues to lose weight after her Gastric Bypass, Cindy and I have fought and fought midlife weight gain since turning 50 four years ago. Leigh Ann’s weight is falling off.

I had planned to go to the gym yesterday but, instead got caught up with a previous client who wanted a Winter Wonderland Photo Shoot in December.

Somewhat confused, I reiterated that Leigh Ann is running a Christmas Mini Shoot special but, was unaware of an option regarding Winter Wonderland.

Sending Leigh Ann a text, I decided to research Winter Wonderland shoots that mostly featured snow.

Since snow is rare in Texas and certainly not “scheduled,” I replied to the text trying to get more information instead.

The client specifically “didn’t want” Christmas themed photos. Okay. It was in my court to find out what exactly she did want and decipher whether or not it was something we offered.

Several texts later, it became apparent that snow wasn’t necessary but fun winter photos were.

Communication is key with every client. If I don’t understand what they want, it’s far harder for me to decide whether a booking will work or not.

I went through winter photos the past eight years to find suitable similar pictures to text the client. From a mother/daughter photo shoot for Mothers Day with coordinating tiaras that we re shot at the wedding with the daughter a few years older to the little boy holding one of my lanterns from our Texas Twins Treasures Inventory, I came up with a few cute photo ideas and locations thinking the situation had been solved with my creative input. But, I jumped the gun.

The client wanted to know if we could photoshop a winter background onto the photos? Well, it’s something we don’t offer. We edit photos and since this client had actually won a contest with my niece that was specifically for family photos emailed to the client and free, these add on options were somewhat surprising to Leigh Ann.

No good deed goes unpunished. My saucy sister “came up with” one of her Cindyism Quotes based on a similar situation years ago. “Don’t ask me for an apple and expect me to bake you a pie.”

Limiting or reigning in what is wanted or expected regarding a free service is not only necessary but, also essential. Try calling someone else for a service or item you didn’t pay for and see how far you get.

What was the situation? I had a bride who needed a wedding dress. Since I often buy them to have on hand to loan Pawning Planners Clients, I took the wedding dress to her.

A few days later, she called me to pick it up and have it altered. I advised her that I don’t sew or alter clothing that I’m loaning to someone. Sure, I was stunned. 

But, I’m not spending money to alter an item that I PAID FOR and LOANED YOU or GIFTED YOU as a courtesy.

Last year, yet another incident had me rattled with a client who wanted to borrow my flowers BUT, wanted them in her colors.  

After explaining to “the Diva” that loaned floral inventory “is what it is,” she began texting me photos of what she wanted. 

I began texting her what it would cost and that I would require a deposit. This ended the “looking a gift horse in the mouth situation.”

I created an inventory to loan to clients at MY OWN EXPENSE. If you don’t want to borrow my inventory, GO BUY YOUR OWN. 

“if COMMON sense was COUNTED in COINS, some PEOPLE got SHORTCHANGED, without a PENNY in their POCKETS” God bless us all.

A few years ago, another bride had found that I sell christening gowns at Texas Twins Treasures and wanted to add a Baptism for her child at her wedding.

Looking back, I should’ve SOLD her the christening gown but, my generosity AGAIN bit me in the butt when I paid priority shipping and mailed her the gown at no cost.

A few days later, rather than thanking me, the bride wanted me to PAY to have a “free to her” christening gown altered. I cannot make this shit up! Seriously. I have met far too many Demanding Divas that didn’t wanted everything BUT didn’t want to pay for it. 

Enlightening and educating these Princesses became such a hassle that I now simply “cut em loose early” and let someone else deal with their drama. You can’t pay me enough to deal with an unreasonable person or client.

There have been so many times that I’ve had to let someone know that I’m not a Fairy Godmother or seamstress that it would stun you. The bride was advised to find someone who sews or pay for alterations.

If I’m GIVING you something- the last thing you should be doing is asking for more, more, more. After all, no one GAVE it to me. I bartered it or bought it. 

Throughout my life on more than one occasion, being the person I’ve never met often has others believing that I’m either stupid or a pushover. I’m neither.

I decided to “meet in the middle” regarding the December photo shoot and visit my storage room for winter props. Sending a few more photos and ideas, I also went on eBay to buy tiaras and Winter Wonderland themed items assuming that we could incorporate them into our holiday photo shoot bookings through January.

I knew my TDCJ Prison Brides would love tiaras at their photo shoots and saw the investment paying off in the long run. 

After all, every year, I add new bouquets, props and other items to my existing inventory to replace and refresh items we use in our traveling photo booth so, I felt that “bending rather than breaking” to accommodate the complimentary photo shoot would work.

I’m not a photographer but, I’ve been a commercial actress and print model as well as actress for over thirty years and know quite a bit about poses and backgrounds.

What I didn’t know about photoshop, my niece, Leigh Ann did. Apparently, it’s not only time consuming but also, rather expensive.

Let’s look at what traditional price points are for photography first and then go into why editing and/or prints incur addition fees:

How Much Do Photographers Charge?

Hobbyist: Free or (under $100).

Amateur: $25 – $75 per hour.

Student: $50-100 per hour / $25-100 per image.

Semi-Pro: $50–$150 per hour / $25-125 per image.

Professional: $75-$250 per hour / $75-$250 per image.

Top Professional: $200-$500+ per hour / $250-$1,500 per image.

Leigh Ann is a professional photographer and seasoned. The package she offered in her giveaway was for 5-7 photos emailed to the client and didn’t involve prints. It also didn’t involve photoshop or various other background options. Leigh Ann needs to be more specific on her target ads and giveaways.

Since I was already “caught in the middle,” by responding to the client, I had also suggested using the Stockyard area for photos approximately 45 minutes from Leigh Ann who had planned to use Holland Lake Park three minutes from her home.

My niece often creates Mini Session Specials. I had a talk with her about specifics after a recent booking a few months ago.

What? Why? Well, the client booked Leigh Ann at $75 for one hour. The client showed up twenty minutes late. This particular client was also pretty demanding.

The client didn’t pay $25 for a photo disc but, as a courtesy, Leigh Ann provided one anyway. The client then wanted Leigh Ann to email ALL photos to her after editing. The client was either too lazy or too cheap to go print photos from the disc.

The client was a DIVA. Showing up late to her photo shoot? Check. Asking for more than she paid for? Check. Not bothering to promote Leigh Ann for going above and beyond? Check.

I’m not going to name any names here but…if you are late, there’s a late fee in all of my contracts. The reason for this is that after years of waiting on clients and running to my next event, I decided that a contract and deposit were essential to getting paid.

For years, getting paid because I gave clients the option to “settle their balance” on the day of the event made my job far more difficult. I have changed things up. 

I now REQUIRE payment in FULL one week prior to the event date. Trying to get paid on the day of an event is a thing of the past for me.

If you are bartering through The Pawning Planners, the trade and contract take place 30 days prior to the event.

I suggested Leigh Ann prepare a contract that specifically details what clients can expect and what she expects of them. Contracts eliminate misconceptions.

I’m now preparing a contract for her to use for photography bookings from this point forward as well as giving her tips on travel fees and deposits.

March- June and September- January are our busiest months. Why? Texas weather. 

December is a very busy month for my entire staff and the client who had won the giveaway waited months after Mothers Day to book her “free session.”

I also advised Leigh Ann to put a time limit on giveaways from now on to prevent unexpected bookings during a busy window. 

I.E. If you have won a giveaway with Leigh Ann, you have two weeks to book or forfeit the session. Period. A second place winner will be drawn to replace the first place winner. 

Let’s get back to that “apple” and the tardy party client. She posted photos on FB but, failed to promote Leigh Ann after being late to her photo shoot and forcing Leigh Ann to email edited photos which took over an hour. No good deed goes unpunished. Leigh Ann was lit about this.

I advised Leigh Ann to start adding a logo to her photos if the client was demanding emailed photos in order to promote herself.

In order to limit the work and time involved that a few clients or divas don’t realize photography entails, Leigh Ann now puts a price on it.

My new additions to Texas Twins Treasures for impromptu photo shoots with clients from Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham are sure to provide some fun and memorable photos. I love the tiara idea for props!I created Texas Twins Events years ago to help people who couldn’t afford traditional vendors. My twin was my first team member. 

Did I expect four generations of my family to join us? No. But, we’ve expanded and rebranded over and over again. Why? We go above and beyond. Our clients are like family to us.

Cindy’s Quote for going above and beyond? “People are like yeast in bread- they rise to every opportunity!”

We became the people we had never met. By doing things for our clients that no other vendor would do, clients loved our hilarious personalities and props. Cindy has never met a stranger.

I’m also adding new bling bouquets, furs, and holiday decor. We are currently sold out of the emerald and ruby bling bouquets and won’t be restocking bling bouquets for sale at Texas Twins Treasures until February.

If you are interested in custom bling bouquets, please allow 6-8 weeks off season and 8-10 weeks in season for delivery. A deposit is required on any custom order.

Our traditional in stock items are either solid or multi color silk roses with brooch details.

From the grey multi to the pink multi or the sold red, purple, or other colors, it should be noted that full brooch bouquets are heavy. Be aware of this.

A full brooch bouquet can weigh 2-4 lbs while a rosette brooch bouquet weighs 1-2 lbs. 

My rear tire was flat for some reason and I never made it to the gym yesterday but, I did text my son who I haven’t heard from since the Thanksgiving ruckus over my niece, Stephaney joining us. I juggle work and family on an everyday basis.

I also scheduled the winter wonderland photo shoot for December and realized that giving Leigh Ann advice regarding clients needs, wants and the reality or cost of what they are wanting is a necessary conversation.

To resolve the photoshopping issue, I suggested the client using our photos and having them photoshopped elsewhere. This way everyone is happy and there isn’t any confusion in a few weeks regarding add-ons.

If one of my clients changes the contract- I now write a new one. My reasons for this are that add-on items aren’t free.

I offer a wide variety of complimentary items that no one else does and because of this, limit add on items for purchase but not for free.

A few years ago, I was hired to Officiate a wedding. This takes 1-2 hours on location and if there’s a rehearsal, 3. Months into the planning process, the bride added 2 photographers. I gave her the cost and added that printed photos incurred an additional fee. I never asked for a deposit because it was agreed we would be paid on the day of the event.

One week prior to the event, the mother of the bride wanted my Team on location for set up making the total amount of time at this event 8 hours. This was one of the biggest business mistakes I’ve ever made. First, I didn’t require a contract and deposit. Second, adding on additional staff and additional time on site dramatically increased the cost. My staff and I were never paid. I sued the client and won. Theft Of Services whether the original contract was in writing or oral, if you can prove you privided services and didn’t get paid, sue them. I do. 

But, I can also write up a lawsuit on a paper napkin. I’m more than a little “familiar” with court. In fact, I have handled myself Pro Se in Federal Court (suing an employer who fired me while on medical leave and then moved my original lawsuit to Federal Court). Assuming that I would never be able to amend my original petition was a mistake on their part and yes, I won for unlawful termination while under a medical absence. I don’t suffer fools lightly. This Kitty has Claws. I’m nice but I’m far from a pushover. If you steal from me, you will wish you hadn’t. 

There is a good reason I require a contract. Over and over again, I’ve trusted people to do the right thing and from bounced checks to no payment at all or broken promises, I’ve learned that as a business, you cannot pay your bills on broken promises.

Teaching my son, daughter in law, nieces and grandnieces this ahead of time will spare them the experiences that I’ve encountered.

I cannot stress the importance of a contract enough to anyone booking a vendor or the vendor themselves. If you can’t write your own contract, hire an attorney but, get a contract.

Getting my tires checked this morning while waiting at Discount Tires, it should be noted that all of my blogs are written from my iPhone in venue or prison parking lots or even when waiting on clients. Blogging is squeezed into my schedule and a diary of sorts for me.

While I’m dreading trying to get my entire family together for Christmas and hoping that this year they will attempt to get along with each other, my shopping list is being worked into my schedule as most things are.

Getting back to the gym will also be carefully scheduled in today as I leave my SUV and hop into Cindy’s SUV for a lift to Tarrant County Jail to meet my three clients this afternoon.

Jail Weddings are traditionally handled by my son or my niece as my father is currently in Waco and unavailable. 

However, my son is working for his father today and Leigh Ann is editing photos. Jail Weddings are remarkably different from Prison Weddings for a number of reasons. 

First, you are not required to be Approved by Texas Department Of Criminal Justice. 

Secondly, there are no photos available for purchase. Third, many inmates are waiting to be transported to a Texas Prison and want their status to be married going in.

State Jails ARE PRISONS. Because of this, only a TDCJ Approved Officiant (me) can Officiate the ceremony inside a Texas Prison.

My schedule at Texas Prisons is booked through January. Normally, I book only a month out at a time. However, numerous Lock Downs have moved my October and November TDCJ Clients to December and January.

Texas Prison Weddings take place Monday through Friday from 8AM-5PM. The reason for this is that most Unit Weddings take place in the visitation area which is in use on weekends.

If you are a “traditional booking,” your event is either on the weekend or evening which is how I successfully expanded my bookings to include TDCJ Weddings. The “fit” with my schedule was perfect.

Death Row Weddings do not take place in the visitation area. Please be aware of this. There is no contact at a Death Row Wedding.

Traditionally, Prison Weddings allow holding hands, appropriate kissing and hugs. Death Row Wedding Ceremonies do not allow contact.

Cindy and I look forward to meeting our prospective Pawning Planners Clients this week and appraising your items. We are also traveling to several units and mailing out Texas Twins Treasures sales items.

Pawning Planners Apparel featuring Cindy Daniel’s Cindyism Quotes are on a 7-10 day ship time. If you need another language, 14-21 days. We are thrilled with sales from Pawning Planners Apparel and appreciate your patronage. 

To choose your favorite Redneck Reality Quote, google #Cindyism or Pawning Planners Apparel. We are now out of stock on TDCJ Watch Caps and will restock in January. The caps are still available as are hoodies, light jackets and long sleeve tees.

I order these from a third party and don’t produce TDCJ items for sale in our inventory. Because of this, sizes and inventory vary.  If you have a particular size needed, please contact us and we will try to work with our suppliers to restock in plus sizes. We do not sell patches. Texas Prison Museum has a variety of patches available for purchase.
I never actually thought that TDCJ items would be best sellers. In fact, I was wearing a hat that had been given to me in Tennessee Colony when someone asked if they could buy it. Our TDCJ Inventory varies so please check back frequently for new items.

Cindy and I are looking forward to getting back on track and fit in our fifties although the gym isn’t exactly our favorite location.

Nipping this holiday weight gain in the bud early will keep us from going back to Boot Camp. Cindy and I aren’t afraid of hard work and elbow grease. We just don’t love the gym. It’s in and out for us and we clock it.

Cindy and I are also going to the photo shoot with Leigh Ann and packing our suvs with winter props to hopefully give the client what she wants while keeping the photo shoot fun.

I started the prop trend years ago because 1. I’m an experienced floral designer and 2. Pawning Planners Clients cannot afford to provide their own floral designs.

Did I expect that my inventory would grow over the years to include furniture, signs, seasonal items and more? No. But, our clients love photo booth items and we love to add new items.

Cindy and I never planned on selling brooch bouquets either but, one of our bouquets was such a hit that the orders started rolling in.

My twin and I look forward to seeing all of our new and previous clients on location in the coming months and hopefully my tire issue is minor but, it’s better to find out while in Fort Worth than in the boondocks headed to a Texas Prison…