Last week was chock full of reschedules. It’s essential to arrive early for your prison wedding. Why? Because if you are 20 minutes late, your wedding will be cancelled. Weather can also be a factor to reschedules. Why? Because if we can’t get to the Unit, you can’t get married.
On September 20th, I was planning to marry my beautiful bride at TDCJ Cleveland Unit. Flooding changed our schedules. No one expects flash floods in Texas but they occur frequently. When flash floods closes highways, its often impossible to get to the Unit as it was on the 20th this month. Tomorrow, I’m headed back to Cleveland Unit to finally marry my clients and looking forward to meeting them.
Starting my day last Tuesday at 4AM, I headed to my first wedding at Ellis Unit Huntsville, Texas. Melissa was excitedly looking forward to this wedding and had spent the night in Huntsville. I was 3.5 miles from the Unit and getting an early start.
I’m always early by at least 1/2 hour to Units. I overestimate my timelines by at least an hour to factor in stopping for gas or the bathroom.
I have to be on a timeline at all times across the highways and backroads to not only Texas Prisons but also Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana as I’m not geographically limited and if I can drive to the prison rather than flying I do. It’s far less expensive for me to drive.
I arrived at 8:20AM at Ellis Unit and sent a text to my bride. I had estimated about 15 minutes to slap on my makeup and planned to walk up to the guard tower at 8:40AM to check in for our 9:00AM scheduled ceremony. At 8:45AM, I sent another text growing concerned now that my client was running late. I decided to check in with the guard tower and let the Unit know that I was on site waiting for my client. I was now nervously waiting to be honest with you and concerned.
At 8:55AM, I called my client again. She was running 10-15 minutes late. The WAS A PROBLEM. TDCJ Units regularly cancel scheduled ceremonies if either the client or the Officiant are 20 minutes or more late.
At 9:17AM, I again called my client who was now on site and in the parking lot. I’m now really nervous about a cancellation. We walk to the guard tower together at 9:18AM to check in and we are asked to wait. I continue to grow more and more concerned. At 9:25AM, the Chaplain comes out to escort us into the screening area. At 9:37AM, the Chaplain tells us both “have a nice day” and walks away from the intake area. At 9:45AM, I walk to the Wardens Office to ask “do we have an escort? The Chaplain has left and I’m uncertain as to who will be escorting us to the inmate.” I begin counting quarters for the Unit photos and stop when the wardens secretary tells me “we won’t have an escort for at least an hour and a half because we are doing a head count.” I stop counting quarters and nearly start crying. Why? Because I don’t have an “hour and a half minimum” to wait on a head count.
I was due at TDCJ Crain Unit at 1:30PM nearly three hours from TDCJ Ellis Unit and my 9AM wedding has been cancelled. I now (warily) must advise my client of the situation.
The wardens secretary walks with me to advise Melissa “if you had been here at 9, we could have whisked him in here but, since you were late, you will need to reschedule.” My client was crushed. Devastated.
I am going to go over the need for you to be early ONE MORE TIME. If you are late, your wedding ceremony WILL be canceled. Leave a minimum of 30 minutes earlier than necessary to avoid a cancellation. If I arrive and you don’t or you are late and the wedding is cancelled, you will need to rebook and repay for services.
Trying to comfort my bride while walking he through intake past the guard tower into the parking lot. I now have to run from Ellis to Crain literally hauling a$$. It’s 10:12AM. I’m due in Gatesville at 1:30PM.
Six months ago, Gary had retained me to officiate his wedding at Crain Unit. Setback after setback later, Gary was finally going to marry Amee!