A Texas Prison Wedding At TDCJ Ferguson Unit- On The Road Again In Texas…

Years ago, Events slowed to a crawl from November to February.  Texas Prison Weddings changed all of that because Prison Weddings aren’t seasonal.  

Weather isn’t a factor at a Prison Wedding because these weddings take place inside the Visitation Area.

Only once have I Officiated a Prison Wedding where the couple were separated. Nikia took it in stride at TDCJ Ferguson Unit as many Prison Brides or Grooms do because they are planning for their future and not the present when marrying a prisoner.  

Ferguson Unit is the only Prison I’ve been to where you can hear the inmates screaming from the parking lot. It was unsettling to hear all of that noise coming from the Unit to say the least for me. 

Any other Texas Jail or Prison I’ve conducted a ceremony at was quiet, structured and organized. Why prisoners are yelling at Ferguson I have no idea? 

I was frightened approaching the Unit with all of that yelling and more than a little nervous wondering if they are screaming like that from the yard, what am I walking into? 

This photo was taken at Ferguson Unit by a TDCJ Officer and Nikia loved how the glass partition blended their faces.

One of my clients, Cheryl had hired Jo Ann to Officiate her ceremony at TDCJ Darrington Unit only to discover after paying Jo Ann that Jo Ann had been fired by TDCJ and obviously couldn’t perform her ceremony.  

Jo Ann suggested her sister to Officiate and it was after resubmitting the request that my Client discovered that the Affiliation of Jo Ann’s sister to her prevented the Warden from Approving the request which is how she finally located me after being referred.  This is factual and, it’s happened more than once.  

Nervous after paying and trusting someone, Cheryl called Huntsville to confirm my status and list me on her I60.  I spoke with Cheryl several times with suggestions of getting a refund from Jo Ann or her sister and by the time I met Cheryl at Darrington Unit, learned that Jo Ann had finally issued a small refund after Cheryl Escalated a Claim on Paypal for services not rendered.  

No one should have to go through all of that while being duped about the status of whether the Officiant is Approved or Not. To date, Jo Ann still markets herself as being Approved on her websites and requires a “Non Refundable” Deposit which is how she manages to continue doing what she’s doing online.  

I called Jo Ann to discuss her business practices and was told that “I’m under investigation by TDCJ and the investigation is ongoing which is why I’m not changing my websites.”  After explaining to her that taking deposits on services she obviously cannot provide was fraudulent, I was hung up on.  

I have no idea why exactly Jo Ann was fired and months ago, referred several Clients to her because she’s far closer to Houston than I am.  Had I known there were problems going on, I would never have referred anyone to her.

Cheryl was not only relieved to find an honest TDCJ Approved Officiant but also thrilled that I had brought bouquets and props for an impromptu Bridal Photo Shoot after leaving TDCJ Darrington Unit with her.  

Cheryl should have never went through all of that nonsense with Jo Ann but, she did and won’t soon forget being lied to. 

I Officiated Cheryl’s wedding at Darrington Unit a few weeks after speaking to her regarding her situation with Jo Ann, The Warden and TDCJ Huntsville.  Cheryl never received a full refund from Jo Ann or her sister.  

This wasn’t an isolated incident with Jo Ann or her sister and continues to be a problem for too many that trust Jo Ann to do the right thing or be honest regarding her standing. 

Three of my previous Clients also made the mistake of hiring the wrong Officiant before finding me.  I don’t lie or mislead anyone and never have or would but there are a few unethical people out there who continue to take advantage of others.

Pulling into a Prison and looking at razor wire glistening in the sun isn’t for the faint hearted.  Occasionally, there are Prisoners working either in the yard or about the Prison and it should be noted that I have always been treated with respect and courtesy by the Prison Staff as well as the Inmates.  

I’m always asked about this because people are curious about the process of officiating a Prison Wedding.  

Ironically, I’m rarely asked about traditional weddings and/or other Event Services I offer because most people are so shocked that I’m a Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Approved Officiant who walks into Prisons on a daily or weekly basis.

Believe it or not, Prison Brides or Grooms coming to me for help with their Texas Prison Wedding are regular people.  

They have jobs and families just like you or I.  I’ve never officiated a wedding where the couple didn’t know each other prior to one partner being incarcerated.

I’m aware that there are pen pal marriages but I’ve yet to meet anyone wishing to marry an inmate that they met through the mail.

From Priscilla and Misty at TDCJ Estes Unit to Nikia at TDCJ Ferguson or Trishelle at TDCJ Michael Unit, all of my Prison Wives knew their husbands prior to marrying them.

Expanding ny list of services, Religious Ceremonies and Event Services that include Texas Prison Weddings often surprises people but, I’ve never turned down a Creative Request and I’m too old to start now.  

My reasons for going through the process to become a TDCJ Approved Officiant were based entirely on a request for Marriage from Misty.  

At the time, I had no idea that Prison Weddings existed and although somewhat apprehensive because I’m claustrophobic and had never been to a Prison in person, agreed to help her. 

Obviously, her situation wasn’t “ideal” but finding someone to help her had been a difficult path prior to requesting a bid to officiate her wedding from me on Gig Salad.

Yesterday, I reviewed another Gig Salad lead that read “The Wedding is at a Prison is that going to be a problem?”  The truth is that Ella is unaware that not just any Officiant can walk into a Prison and officiate a wedding which actually is a problem.  

If Ella hires just any Officiant, she will have a real problem getting a traditional Officiant not authorized by TDCJ into the Unit much less being granted Approval for the Marriage Ceremony.  

Many of my Gig Salad leads are for Prison Weddings because the people seeking an Officiant are unaware of the stringent guidelines involved to marry in Prison.  The confusion regarding the process for them is often why they hire the wrong person.  

There are a very small group of Approved Officiants who are Authorized to perform a wedding in Texas Prisons.  Once you’ve located one, you must list them on the request for your Marriage Ceremony.  

It’s up to the person seeking permission to marry to locate an Authorized Officiant.  TDCJ doesn’t “assist” in this search but know who is Approved and more importantly, who isn’t. 

Only A TDCJ Approved Officiant can Officiate a Wedding in a Prison Unit.  There are obvious reasons for this and finding an Authorized Officiant is the responsibility of the Bride or Groom on the outside.  

Misty had given the address of her Event on her request for an Officiant but Ella had failed to include the location.  The location is important to me because I need to know how long I will be on the road traveling to and from a Prison Unit in order to keep my schedule in order.

The primary change conducting Prison Weddings has brought for me is driving and, wear and tear on my vehicle.  The closest Unit to my home is TDCJ Estes Unit and, Texas is a very large state and I spend far more time driving to or from a Texas Prison than anyone realizes.  

Prison Weddings are “worked in” to my schedule and work well because they are scheduled during the week between the hours of 9 & 5.  

Other than Baptisms or Wedding Rehearsals, Deliveries, Appraisak Appointments and Client Meetings, most of our events take place on weekends which made Prison Weddings a “perfect fit” for my schedule.  

If I have a delivery for Texas Twins Treasures or an Appraisal Appointment for The Pawning Planners we work these Appointments around my Prison Wedding Schedules.  

Generally, due to the distance, a Prison Wedding is a day long event service.  Although I’m only inside a Unit 30-45 minutes, driving to and from the Unit is what takes up most of my day at a Prison Wedding.

Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to find signs along the freeway warming you not to pick up hitchhikers but these signs have since been taken down.  

As a passenger or driver seeing these signs years ago, it was a little unnerving to imagine that an escaped Prisoner might actually be “thumbing for a ride off the freeway” but, apparently it’s happened or there wouldn’t have been the warning signs we all remember too well. 

Prison Weddings take place in the Visitation Area.  There aren’t any of the usual decorations found at “Weddings on the outside.”  

There are chairs and tables and occasionally, a painted backdrop on one or more of the walls.  

Sometimes, the ceremony takes place near vending machines as the Fontenot Wedding at TDCJ Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas did. 

Photos are available for purchase at many TDCJ Units.  Normally, these photos are $2-$3 and couples can purchase 2-3 photos which is what many of my Prison Couples do.  

We have 15-30 minutes inside the Unit for the Marriage Ceremony.  You will need to bring your Marriage License with you to your Prison Wedding along with your state issued ID.

Since I’m asked about Event Stacking at Prison Weddings, I will explain how Stacking Weddings Work.  You are given a date and time for your wedding ceremony.  

Most Units offer a certain day twice a month for ceremonies of Marriage.  I’m often in touch with Brides or Grooms at the same Unit and work with the Chaplain to Stack Weddings that happen to be on the same day and different time at a Texas Prison.

The Chaplain normally calls to give you the details. Please do not be late to your Prison Wedding.  

Units have assigned employees to accommodate your Ceremony and being early or on time will ensure that there are no scheduling conflicts.  

The Unit Staff are working to accommodate you but, you need to work with them by being conscious of their time and your own.  Prison Weddings are structured.  If you are late, your Wedding may be cancelled.

If something happens to prevent you from being present at your Prison Wedding such as a car accident, illness or other emergency, please contact the Unit Chaplain ASAP to cancel your scheduled Prison Wedding.  You can reschedule your wedding at a later date and time with the Chaplain.

Bridal or Groom Photo Shoots are offered to all Prison Wedding Clients as a courtesy.  Loaned bouquets and/or props from my inventory add beauty and fun to your photo session.

Due to the remote locations of Texas Prisons, I try to find natural backdrops for your photo session.  Many of our Prison Photo Shoots are a few miles from the Unit. The reason for this is that photography aside from purchased photos at the Unit isn’t allowed on Prison Property.

If you wish to bring friends or family to your Prison Wedding, clear it with the Unit PRIOR to your Wedding Day.  You may be allowed to bring 1 friend or family member with you to the wedding but, permission to do so is required.  Your guest MUST be on the Visitors List and have a Valid ID.

If you bring friends or family with you to your Destination Prison Wedding and they cannot come into the Unit with you, your guests are welcome to participate in your photo session and can wait at a convenience store, park or gas station while we are inside the Unit.  

If the incarcerated person is listed as CLM (Common Law Married) with the Unit, you will need to change the status PRIOR to getting Approval for your Texas Prison Wedding. Believe it or not, this has happened many times to couples so please take the time to verify the facts before requesting a marriage ceremony.

A valid or current ID is needed for the Absentee Affidavit you will take to the Clerk’s Office to purchase your Marriage License.  If the incarcerated partner doesn’t have a current and valid ID, it will take 2-3 weeks to process the request.

Being married to a Prisoner can be stressful and an emotional journey.  I strongly suggest weighing the pros and cons of your decision prior to marrying.  My reasons for this are that divorce is painful for anyone regardless of the circumstances surrounding your union.   

Premarital Counseling is offered on Texas through Two Together In Texas.  I’m a Two Together Counselor but, my calendar is generally full regarding Counseling so if you are interested in taking the classes, please let me know ASAP to ensure I’m available.

I have clients from Texas Twins Treasures & The Pawning Planners as well as bookings at area venues in on staff at and traditional clients from Texas Twins Events so it’s essential to confirm your booking with me prior to listing me as your Officiant on the I60.  

I’m on top of Google Search Engines and because of this, a few people have listed me on their I60 by pulling my name off the internet.  Because of this, many Units now require my drivers license and birthdate.  Obviously, unless you have spoken with me, you will not have this personal information.

All TDCJ Units are well aware of who is Approved and who isn’t.  The Courts in Huntsville have a list of Approved Officiants AND their personal information so please be aware of this before hiring someone who says they can Officiate your Prison Wedding.

The Warden has the final say on who he will Allow in the Unit.  I have Officiated three weddings in TDCJ Units the past few months for clients who had hired someone else (Memorable Moments) before finding out too late that the person they trusted wasn’t trustworthy.  It’s very sad that anyone would lie to people but I hear some real horror stories.

Beware of just anyone claiming to be an Approved Officiant with Texas Department Of Criminal Justice.  There are people out there taking advantage of those who cannot afford to be taken advantage of and because of this, I’m pointing it out.  You can call Huntsville yourself to verify and validate the credentials of your Officiant and, I strongly suggest that you do.

Whether your Union is Interfaith, Interacial, LBGT, or anything else that might make you “different,” I welcome any and all clients.  Recently, I spoke with a Client who was having trouble finding an Approved LBGT Friendly Texas Prison Officiant.  Luckily, he found me.  

I always encourage Handwritten Vows because they make your ceremony unique and I can easily incorporate your vows into my ceremony.  If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact me for tips on writing your own vows.  There are no wedding rings allowed inside Units.  You can only bring the Marriage License and your ID.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding…if you have other questions, comments or concerns about your upcoming Prison Wedding, please feel free to use the contact us option on this site.