Next week I’m seeing my Ellis client again after a reschedule due to her being over twenty minutes late to the Unit. I’m going to once again revisit the importance of arriving at least twenty minutes early. Please give yourself a wide window on wedding day.
Wedding day apparel falls within the visitor dress code guideline. Err on the side of caution. If you are uncertain regarding your attire, text me a photo to review. No one wants to be handed a cafeteria smock!
I arrived at TDCJ Ellis Unit at 8:20AM for a 9:00AM scheduled ceremony. Upon arrival, I sent a text to Melissa to let her know I was in the Prison parking lot. For those who follow me on FB, I also check in as many times I have no cell signal once on Prison property. I will always be driving one of our black SUVs with a banner on the back window to identify my vehicle.
Cindy will also be driving a black suv with a banner so if either I or Cindy are officiating your wedding, we will be in a black suv. If my son or his wife are conducting your ceremony, they will be driving a black 4×4 truck.
Surprisingly, I had a good signal and returned emails while waiting on Melissa. At 8:45AM, I sent another text and walked to the guard tower to announce my arrival.
I then returned to my suv at 8:55AM to call Melissa. She advised me that she was 10-15 minutes from Ellis. This alarmed me. Why? Because Units give a 20 minute Tardy window before cancelling and effectively rescheduling your ceremony.
Ellis Unit has an inmate count daily that would cause a scheduling issue. At 9:18AM, Melissa arrived. I met her in the lot and returned to the guard tower. At 9:24AM, Chaplain Jasper arrived to escort us into screening. By 9:36AM, Chaplain Jasper left the screening area.
At 9:40AM, I went to the wardens secretary to inquire about an escort. At 9:43AM, I was advised that the head count would take 1-2 hours. This WAS A PROBLEM. Why? Because I was due at Crain Unit at 1:30PM. Crain is three hours (on a good day with traffic and road construction) from Ellis Unit.
I had advised the wardens secretary of my afternoon commitment and my inability to wait on site 1-2 hours for a same day reschedule. The wardens secretary walked out to advise my client of why a forced reschedule was warranted.
Had Melissa arrived at 9AM sharp, the inmate could have had the ceremony before being moved for the 10AM head count.
It is imperative to arrive early on wedding day. I cannot stress this enough. We have waited weeks or months for this day. Please plan accordingly.
Leaving Ellis and my devastated client, I made the three hour drive to Gatesville, Texas to meet Gary at Crain Unit. Gary had booked services last March. Gary and Amee had been trying to marry for months.
Naturally, Gary was excited and nervous due to the number of setbacks trying to obtain a marriage license. The problem? Coryell County Clerks Office continually changes their requirements.
Gary made four trips to Gatesville to buy a marriage license. FOUR. Gary finally purchased a marriage license in Harris County.
Meeting Gary, I told him that “everyone is nervous. Stay calm. I will be by your side every step of the way.” I meant it.Getting Gary and Amee married took months which is unusual but also proves the dedication, perseverance, determination and resilience my clients exhibit in their quest to marry an inmate.
Love knows no bounds. Gary had emailed me while I was in New York filming with Cindy and Leigh Ann about “getting a date.” I was already booked at Ellis and checked the distance on my iPhone from Huntsville to Gatesville. I knew it would be tight.
I left home at 5AM to arrive at Ellis early. Huntsville is 3 hours from my location. Why did I leave FOUR hours early? Road construction. I overprepare. Leaving Gatesville, I pull over to reschedule Melissa at Ellis then call her to ensure she will be available. I “go over” meeting me early at the Texas Prison Museum on 10-08-2019. Why? Because Melissa became lost on her previous wedding date and because I am at 3 Huntsville Units on 10-08. I cannot afford for Melissa to be late again due to my schedule AND because a 3rd reschedule will require a new I60. Her marriage license will expire before the paperwork would be approved. To solve this problem and prevent any issues, I’m driving my client from the Prison museum to the Prison.
Kanani had previously been scheduled to marry at Cleveland Unit. Due to flooding, her Wedding was rescheduled. As usual, I left an hour earlier than necessary. I always do. Thirty minutes early is thirty minutes late for me. I’m from a military family and I was taught at a young age that “being late is stealing and you cannot replace time.” This sage advice has stuck with me my entire life.
Driving to Cleveland Unit, I answered calls regarding upcoming bookings at Polunsky, Connally, Garza, Michael, Coffield, Ramsey, Jester, Lewis, Allred and Gurney Units. Texas is my busiest booking state.
I do not text or email when I’m on the road. I answer texts when parked waiting on clients. I answer emails in the evening or early mornings prior to heading to locations. Please call during the week. Please text on weekends as I’m on location weekends and driving during the week.
I’ve had 14 clients rebook for Vow Renewals due to inmate releases this month. I’m as excited as you are to be planning your wedding your way with family and friends, flowers and all of the fun stuff this time around.
Kanani and her soon to be mother in law were on site early thank God. PLEASE ARRIVE EARLY ON WEDDING DAY. We walked in together. Her mother in law waited in the lobby.
Walking into the visitation area to greet his soon to be bride, my groom nearly cried with relief that wedding day had finally arrived. Why? Because he had started the process at Beto. He had hoped to marry two weeks prior but flooding caused yet another setback.Kanani and her mother in law followed me just outside the Unit for her bridal photos.
The trees by Cleveland Unit were a beautiful backdrop. I had packed my suv with a wide variety of options for my new bride. Leaving Cleveland, Texas, I took calls from several clients. I look forward to seeing all of you soon at your prison weddings in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Cindy and I will be in California and can’t wait to see our Cali Clients in December.
I’ve been contacted by a reporter who wants to hear your Prison Love Stories as well as Love After Lock Up producers. If you’d like to apply for Love After Lock Up, The blog link for requirements can be found by visiting this link- Casting Now- Love After Lock Up.
If you are interested in sharing your story with this amazing and passionate journalist, contact me.
Regarding Vow Renewal Certificates, my California Client was already married. To celebrate her anniversary, she contacted me regarding a Vow Renewal. Prisons do not offer Vow Renewals.
If you’d like to purchase a Renewal Certificate as an anniversary gift, email me firstname.lastname@example.org