Why Vow Renewals Are Not Offered At TDCJ Prison Units…
This evening after returning home from a long drive to Huntsville, Texas, I had a message through my FB Page, Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham regarding Vow Renewals.
The Administrative Directive is specific pertaining to inmate marriages and a requirement on “wedding day” is a marriage license from the County Clerk as well as your state issued ID or passport.
Because you cannot legally marry the same person twice, Vow Renewals are a popular way of celebrating your life together.
However, since such ceremonies aren’t authorized by TDCJ, I came up with a new way to celebrate Clients anniversaries by having them print a Vow Renewal for their years together or if I’ve married the couple, providing one myself as a courtesy.
There are a number of sites with free downloads to say “I Do” all over again and, inmates are thrilled to receive these certificates in the mail.
If you’d like to check out one of my favorite sites for free downloadable certificates, here’s the link– I Do Still Free Download Vow Renewal Certificate.
All you need is a computer and if you like, you can buy luxe paper to print on at Office Depot or other retailers.
Congrats to all of my TDCJ Brides and Grooms on their upcoming anniversaries and looking forward to Vow Renewals for my previous clients who have finally made it through the storm and freedom. My team and I look forward to meeting ya all again at your celebrations this year.
I’m all over in March from Allred to Hobby to Stiles to Bridgeport to Coffield and numerous Units in Huntsville and Tennessee Colony. Mid month bookings have been moved to accommodate existing bookings that already have been assigned dates.
Due to my schedule, bookings are on a first come first book basis. If you are booking mid month, your wedding will be scheduled the following month. The timeline for Prison Wedding Planning is generally 4-6 weeks.
The ID often takes up to 3 weeks on its own. The TDCJ ID will also need to be notarized. The Law Library at all Units is where the inmate will get the notary seal. You will also need an Absentee Affidavit which will also be notarized in the Law Library. Using both of these documents, you will purchase a marriage license.
After the inmate has obtained notary seals of both the ID and the Absentee Affidavit, you will have him or her go back to the Law Library to file an I60 Request For Marriage Form. The I60 Form requires up to 6 signatures and your TDCJ Approved Officiant MUST be listed on it or it will NOT be APPROVED.
Since the I60 Form requires so many signatures, it is passed from signee to signee. If a signer is on vacation or our sick, the form waits for them to return and sign it before passing it to the next signer. Because of this, there is no set timeline for a marriage ceremony to be Approved. The Warden is the last person to sign off on this document before passing it to the Chaplain who then contacts me to go over my availability before “setting” the date and time.
I require all clients to sign a contract. My reasons for this are that I almost never have met my TDCJ Clients in person until wedding day. Your behavior reflects on me as you are my client. Because of this, my TDCJ contract outlines all of the possible “no no” situations ahead of time. From what to wear to what you can or cannot bring to respectful behavior inside a Texas Prison as well as when to arrive, my contract covers all of the bases. This is key to us enjoying a worry free wedding day with no surprises.
As my client, you will at no time be alone or without me by your side once we enter a Prison or Jail. Unless of course, you need to use the restroom. In such cases, I will wait for you outside the restroom.
Most clients are nervous on wedding day because no one expected to be marrying at a Texas Prison. You will be okay. I will make sure of it. There will also be guards to escort us and the possibility of the Warden, Chaplain or both witnessing your ceremony. Focus on your fiancée and don’t be nervous.
There is no open mouth kissing, groping or inappropriate contact allowed. You can hold hands, hug and kiss (closed mouth) at the end of your ceremony.
Certain Units allow a brief visit following the wedding ceremony of 10-20 minutes but, this varies from Unit to Unit.
Certain Units offer photos of your Prison Wedding. Again, this varies from Unit to Unit. However, if photos are offered, I bring $6 in quarters and purchase 2 photos that I copy and mail clients as a courtesy. Clients can purchase up to 6 photos (if they are offered).
If you are marrying at a Death Row Unit, the circumstances are completely different than those mentioned above. Traditionally, the location is in the Visitation Area. However, Death Row Units often do not allow the inmate to leave the cell area. No photos are allowed in cell areas. Please be aware of this.
The ring issue continues to “come up.” However, the Administrative Directive specifically forbids the exchange of property to an inmate (Section K).
Because I’m committed to giving you a worry free wedding day, I’m once again revisiting the wedding ring issue. But, only a special exception from the Warden can override this rule and in three years, I’ve never seen an exception made regarding a ring exchange.
However, you can wear your ring in and hand it to me mid ceremony thus allowing the inmate to put it upon YOUR finger. If desired, I can also bless your ring as part of the ceremony. I’m happy to do so and love creative input from clients making their ceremony unique and memorable.
I strongly encourage all of my TDCJ Clients to write poetry, scripture, song lyrics or something you haven’t said before in order to make your ceremony as special as you are. By writing something yourself, you extend our time with your fiancée as certain Units only allow us to have the ceremony and then leave without the benefit of a brief visit. By writing things down and handing them to me prior to entry, I can hand them back to you and extend our visit by 5-10 minutes based on the length of your notes.
Complimentary Bridal or Groom Photography is offered to all of my TDCJ Clients as a courtesy. I have a rolling photo booth of props, bouquets and more to bring fun to your photo shoot. I make double prints of photos as a courtesy so clients can send their new spouse copies.
Wedding dresses are RARELY allowed at Prison or Jail Weddings unless it’s a minimum security Unit. It’s so rare that a bride is allowed to wear a wedding dress that I’m pointing this out.
However, if you wish to change clothes for your photo shoot with me, I encourage you to bring your dress with you.
Visitation Attire is expected at your Prison Wedding. Please do not wear tight or revealing clothing. The last thing you want is to be handed a cafeteria smock. It’s happened and it always breaks my heart. I don’t want my brides crying on wedding day so, I strongly discourage anything that might be deemed “risqué.” The Unit has the final call on Attire.
While guests are rarely allowed at maximum security Units and especially, Death Row Units, occasionally at minimum security Units such as Estes, the guest exception has been granted but, it’s only ever happened at Estes.
If you’d like to bring friends or relatives, I encourage you to because it makes your drive far more pleasant and because they are welcome to join you in photos after we leave the Unit.
Laying Out. What is it and what does it mean? I ask all TDCJ Clients to have the inmate lay out the day prior to the wedding. My reasons for this are that if the inmate is in class or working on wedding day, it’s difficult for staff to locate them on the premises. It’s not uncommon to wait up to 3 hours for a Unit to find the inmate. If the inmate has laid out, they stay in their cell and are easy to locate and move to the Visitation Area.
You cannot bring a change of clothes for the inmate. This rule is also specifically addressed in the Administrative Directive under “offender property.” I know you’d like your loved one to wear something other than state issued attire but, we cannot change the rules.
Please do not drink PRIOR to your Prison Wedding or bring anything onto the property that shouldn’t be there. Leave mace, wasp spray and other similar items at home. Your car may very well be searched and the last thing you need on your wedding day is a problem with something in your vehicle. Even if you own a firearm and are licensed to carry it, you CANNOT under ANY circumstances bring a firearm or cell phone into a Prison Unit.
By knowing what to expect at your Prison Wedding, I’m hoping it makes your day seamless and as close to perfect as we can get it. Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled wedding time to allow a search entering the Unit.
If you wear a wire bra, corset or other lingerie with metal, you may be asked to go to the bathroom for a private screening. Please be courteous to staff during this process. The guards are following protocol and it will always be a female or if you are a male, a male guard conducting a private search.
Your hands and feet will also be screened. Because of this, I can help you remove your shoes but once cleared, I cannot assist you putting your shoes back on. There are generally benches or seating available to give you a place to sit and put your shoes back on.
Please be aware that expired ID will not be accepted to enter a TDCJ Facility. If your ID is soon to expire, I strongly encourage you to replace it. Passports are accepted as ID as well as state issued drivers licenses.
I always ask clients if they wish for me to file their marriage license? There are valid reasons for this. First, marriage licenses have a shelf life. Once signed by me, they must be filed within 30 days. If you wish to file your license in person on your own, PLEASE do so quickly. If you’ve lost your license, contact me immediately and visit the clerks office as I will need to sign a duplicate.
It’s best to allow me to file your license as I file them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. If your license is from a clerk more than one hour from my location in Fort Worth, Texas, I mail it Certified/Return Receipt in order to track it and ensure it arrived timely and safely to the clerks office.
If you have any other questions, comments or concerns not addressed in today’s blog, you can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org I answer emails every 1-2 hours.
Many clients and prospects are messaging me on Instagram (wendywortham) or FB. My FB page alerts me to new messages while Instagram does not if you aren’t following me or I’m not following you, Instagram “hides” your message. Because of this issue, a delay in my responding to you might occur. Please email me or call me (682-229-6838) if you have messaged me on Instagram and more than a few hours have elapsed. My clients are important to me and a priority. The last thing I want is for someone to assume that I’ve overlooked them or weren’t addressing their needs immediately.
I’m inside Units Monday through Friday or traveling to Prisons or Jails. If I don’t answer your call immediately, I assure you as soon as I get back in my vehicle, I will.
Weekends are workdays for me too as I own Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures and The Pawning Planners as well as work at numerous DFW based venues I’m on staff at. If you are contacting me on a weekend or evening, I may be working and occasionally, my twin sister, Cindy will field calls and take messages for me.
Responding to all inquiries is important to myself and my staff. Exceeding our clients expectations will always be a priority to us.