TDCJ Coffield Unit To TDCJ Michael Unit- I Answer Many Questions About Texas Prison Weddings…
I spend a lot of time driving because Texas is a big state. Prison Weddings work well with my schedule because they occur Monday-Friday 9AM-3PM and all of my other events occur evenings or weekends.
Yes. I work seven days a week as do many of my family members to make Dream Events a reality.
I always say every bride is beautiful because they are and Traveanna was no exception. With her flawless skin and beautiful dress- she was a showstopper! The bouquet I had brought was a perfect match to her floral tiara.
Walking into a Prison is as different from a venue, event center or church is as different from my other events as you might imagine with glistening razor wire, guard shacks and officers but these weddings have the structure that many of my traditional weddings don’t because there are no surprises. Everything at a Prison Wedding is structured and punctual. The only “hitch” is someone being late and, it’s happened with three Brides and two Grooms. I can’t stress the importance of being early for your scheduled Wedding Ceremony enough because you have to factor the process of getting inside the unit at a Prison. No one drives right in and walks through. Running late causes problems to the staff that carefully orchestrated and planned for your wedding ceremony.
I’m often driving to one Prison or another during the week. When my schedule allows, I create the floral designs used and borrowed by my clients in my spare time.
My schedule also includes meetings with new clients along with booked clients.
These days, finding time to refurbish trades taken in exchange through The Pawning Planners for event services is tricky. Weather affects the stain or paint and I take my time when stripping, staining and reupholstering items.
I also have appointments at the many locations I am on staff at as well as handling deliveries for clients who purchased from my storefront, Texas Twins Treasures. I stay pretty busy and like it that way. My calendar is the most important “work tool” that I own.
The constant questions regarding Prison Weddings are never ending. Everyone from my friends to my family and even complete strangers ask me about Prison Weddings probably because they are remarkably more structured and “different” than our other event services. Timing is everything at a Prison Wedding. We have a very short window to complete the process with a window of thirty minutes.
Walking in prepared is essential. I bring only a Bible and my state issued ID. I borrow a pen from Officers to sign Marriage Licenses once inside and the ceremony has ended.
Perhaps it’s also because few folks understand why someone chooses to marry a Prisoner?
Traveanna contacted me several weeks ago regarding marrying at the Coffield Unit. She had lived next door to her fiancée throughout her years in middle school and knew him well.
I’ve yet to Officiate a wedding where the couple didn’t know each other prior to marrying so since everyone asks, the couple not only knew one another but their families did as well.
I talked to my dad on my way back from Tennessee Colony this afternoon and (as usual) answered questions about what goes on “inside.”
Tennessee Colony is a city of Prisons and a regular on my calendar so explaining the city to my dad was easier by texting a photo announcing my arrival into town. The sign surprised my dad because there are several Prisons in Tennessee Colony not one or two.
Today I was more than a little surprised to read a comment on one of my FB Posts asking where I advertise. The truth is that I don’t advertise.
Spending money to gain more clients through advertising is the last thing I want to do as I’m the only TDCJ Officiant on staff and already booked out months ahead of schedule.
I don’t need new Texas Prison Wedding Clients because I review daily requests through my website and often have to shuffle new clients into my calendar.
Each Prison has 2 days a month set aside for Wedding Ceremonies.
It’s essential to arrive early to a Prison Wedding because the Chaplain and Warden have a schedule to keep. I’m always early because having your car “cleared” is the first step to entering a Unit.
After parking, you walk to the guard shack and provide your drivers license for review and wait to be cleared for entry at the next “stop.” I sign a sheet that details why I’m there (to Officiate a wedding) and wait for an escort.
Prisoners have 20-30 minutes for a ceremony and the marriage person “on the outside” secures the Marriage License by obtaining an Absentee Affidavit from the incarcerated person that’s used at the County Clerk to obtain the License.
Normally, Brides or Grooms wear slacks or dresses but, on occasion, Brides wear a wedding dress. Traveanna wore a blouse under her dress because “covering up” is often required at Texas Prisons.
Usually, I wear slacks and a jacket but today chose jeans because I’ve lost a lot of weight and baggy pants during screening aren’t a good idea. I’ve sent my favorite slacks out to be tailored and taken in.
Traveanna looked stunning walking into the Unit as I waited for her to check in. She was wearing heels in the misty rainfall casting a shadow over the Unit. She was also, 15 minutes late which I warn everyone not to be.
I’m from a military family and early to everything because for me, being late is stealing time and no one can repay someone else’s time. Because my client was late, we were bumped and had to wait.
Traveanna asked me why we were waiting and I carefully explained that the entire Prison accommodates a Marriage Ceremony. I.E. “when you’re late- you wait.”
Couples are given a date and time and it’s more than a little important to be early because clearing your vehicle as well as yourself, takes 15-20 minutes.
I’m always 30 minutes early to a Prison or any event because by being early- I’m never late.
While waiting, Traveanna asked if she could speak her vows. I always encourage clients to do this because it makes the ceremony far more meaningful.
After the ceremony, the couple are given a few minutes to visit. I spend this time at a table away from them visiting with the Officer or reading my Bible to give them some degree of privacy.
Weddings take place in the Visitation Area which is why they don’t occur on weekends. At many units, a beautiful wall is painted that I often use as a backdrop for the ceremony.
Since Traveanna had came with her sister who waited with her baby in the parking lot, I had her follow me back into the Tennessee Colony area of “town” for photos at the church I used for Trishelle Fontenot a few months ago.
I love the stained glass and country feel of the church. Before leaving home this morning to start my day of driving, I packed several bouquets, signs, bubbles and bouteniers just in case she wanted a few Bridal photos.Like many of my clients, Traveanna was thrilled I thought of this and posed for this photo with me. Thanks to the humidity, my hair was a mess. Traveanna’s son was a bit upset at my trying to hold him but, I love kids.
The feisty one year old did allow me to clip his boutenier on which was, a plus.
Making every client feel special is important to me and when clients have no money to book with us, we also barter through The Pawning Planners or sponsor many families event request each year out of pocket. Surprising isn’t it?
No one in this industry works for free except me when necessary. We also support numerous charitable organizations.
Events cost money and every other vendor I’ve ever met wants to get paid. They don’t make exceptions and never will but I do all of the time based on the needs or situation.
I don’t base my choices on income. Perhaps that’s what shocks people the most. Event services go up every year and often, the prices are so high that only the rich can afford a nice event. I created Texas Twins Events to change all of that.
Setting out to find people who couldn’t afford to book with my competition, my family and I became Friends Of The Friendless. We are different and we wouldn’t change a thing!
Our journey is one of passion and perseverance to change the wedding and events industry “one family (or barter) at a time from Fort Worth, Texas!”
While others are busy trying to be like everyone else, we decided to treat the families coming to us for help like family instead. It’s a unique concept that gives hope to families like Traveanna and hundreds of others.
While other vendors laughed about my goal of helping their castaways for the first few years, they don’t laugh anymore because they are calling or emailing me to find out how we’ve grown and thrived year after year these days. I help them for a fee because my advice isn’t free.
Consultations are booked by the hour. Whether a client just needs a consultant to help them cut costs or a venue owner needs to generate clients, I no longer spend hours on the phone giving free advice anymore.
After all, while everyone laughed at my “People Over Profit” based endeavor, the truth is that there are far more struggling families and those families found a friend in not only me but also my entire family.
Doing something different in this industry was the best decision that I’ve ever made and it gave me time to meet new friends, spend time with my family and do all of the things that working in brand merchandising, high end sales and modeling never could by allowing me to be myself and work in a field I enjoy.
Coming soon to Kindle— Paying It Forward-The Pawning Planners Philosophy….