Texas Prison Weddings & Death Row Inmates- Until Death Do They Part?
Everyone has an opinion. Often, their opinion won’t mirror your own. The world is a melting pot of backgrounds, personalities, religions and other facets that when put together, create a Rainbow of People.Gay, Straight, Black, White, Short Hair, Long Hair, Purple Hair, Tattoos, No Tattoos, No Hair, Fancy Clothes, Work Clothes, Manicured Hands, Work Hands, Nice Car, Not Nice Car, One Kid, Five Kids, Dog Lover, Cat Lover, Church Goer, Not Church Goer, Friendly and Outgoing or Reserved and Quiet?
My twin sister and I are also known as The Pawning Planners. We help families no one else would because they don’t have any money.
Instead, they barter their event services. We care when no one else will and also often sponsor families out of our own pockets. We don’t care why they don’t have any money and, we don’t ask any questions.
People ask me questions though and whether they are a previous client, current client or have never been a client, want to give me their view.
Frankly, views of others have no effect whatsoever to me. I answer to one person in my life and that person is my husband who doesn’t always agree with my open mindedness and constantly worries about my safety.
Since I regularly go into strangers homes at Appraisal Appointments for The Pawning Planners Clients, it should be noted that being alone with a stranger has never put me in harms way because my sister accompanies me to try and find items to barter. We work as a team.
Matthew Wortham is quiet and I’m far from it. I’m vocal, honest, blunt and no nonsense. I don’t beat around the bush- I cut through the bush and get to the heart of the matter.
When I decided to start a low cost event business my husband quickly decided that “whatever you choose to do, you will succeed. You are passionate, perseverant and the best damn salesperson I’ve ever met in my entire life!”
Matthew bought two Cadillacs from me over a three year window before asking me out for a steak dinner. Although I prefer fish, I accepted his invitation and we’ve been together since then.
Our backgrounds share a similarity in that both of our mothers were addicts. Matthew’s mother was an alcoholic and mine, a Heroin addict. Matthew basically raised himself in the comforts of an upscale life while my childhood was based in poverty.
With a mother often so drunk that the maid needed my husbands help to drag his mother to bed, my husband understands my depression on Mothers Day trying to find a suitable card for my mother since his died years ago. I hate it.
Frankly, I can’t wait for Mother’s Day to be over with while others celebrate their mothers on social media posts and happy family get togethers.
My own family never celebrated Mother’s Day. Although our grandmother made a big deal of it and enjoyed being the center of attention, I’ve always resented a day that celebrated mothers when so many have no mother to celebrate.
My grandnieces are twins and view my twin sister and I as their parents. Why? We have raised them since birth. Their mother struggles with Bipolar One and self medication.
I think it’s ironic that the only mother figure my sister and I was our grandmother and although she was as far from nurturing and loving as a “self involved ego maniac” could be, and the fact that my twin and I were raised (and I use the term raised loosely) by our grandparents and are now raising another generation of twins isn’t lost on me.
Life is a surprising journey twists and turns. No one expects their fifteen year old daughter to get pregnant. Much less with twins!
I was standing next to my sister at the hospital when the news of Stephaney being pregnant with twins hit us both like a ton of bricks. We were both 40 years old with husbands that were 13 and 15 years older than us.
At the time, my husband was unemployed and Cindy’s husband was at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq working as a fuel tank driver. It was a very dangerous job and the only one he could find after being laid off. Cindy waited to tell Steve about the twins until he called home after the Good Friday Roadside Bombing.
The reason she chose to tell Steve was to give him a reason to come home and find work. Steve nearly died in the Roadside Bombing and needed something to look forward to. With mortar attacks all around the AFB and Steve crying after watching his friends die in the roadside attacks, knowing that he had something to come home to gave Steve Daniel hope. He needed it badly and adores his three granddaughters. They light his life.
All three of Steve and Cindy’s granddaughters live with them. They have a full house of three generations with Cindy’s daughter Leigh Ann and baby Maddy.
Sure, some of you may be thinking that an announcement of your 15 year old daughter being pregnant with twins isn’t exactly good news, Steve loves kids and animals and was more than a little excited to have babies at home waiting for him.
Steve’s mother was a twin and unlike our first husbands, was never jealous of the relationship my sister and I share. Steve was as close to his mothers twin as his mother. Only children of multiples readily accept the dynamics of living in a multiple world. They share their parent or relative with the other half.
The only way to shoulder the expense of raising another generation of children was to “circle our wagons” and, we did. My husband and I joined Cindy and Steve to share raising the twins together.
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, my niece would love for the twins to put her on a pedestal and celebrate her as much as my own mother would.
But, Stephaney’s choices have put a strain on two thirteen year olds who are tired of waiting for their mom to straighten up and do something they can be proud of. We all are.
My niece has been in Psych Treatment for over a month now and wants to be released in time for Mother’s Day “to see my kids!” Between wondering if she will be released or not and trying to find a generic gift to send my mother in California, this entire Mother’s Day thing is one fiasco after the next.
Truthfully, I have been trying so hard to forget about Mother’s Day that I scheduled a client meeting this Sunday and only after being contacted “that our meeting may interfere with my Mother’s Day” celebration remembered it.
I’m meeting my son for lunch and then going to my client meeting this Sunday. It’s literally “just another day for me.” I work most weekends and have been on location on most of the Mother’s Days since my son was born. Sales jobs don’t give you this day off and the events businesses doesn’t either.
Believe it or not, for being as quiet and reflective as he is, my husband is a laugh riot and, his greatest fear on the world is that something will happen to me which is why my sister spends hours each week accompanying me as my Co Pilot to Prison or Jail Weddings in my SUV.
Why he worries about my new SUV breaking down on the road I have no clue?
My husband is a worrier at all times. I’m certain all this constant worrying about what could go wrong is why my husband struggles with anxiety.
My husband has no children of his own and other than our dog, Foxy Wortham, I am the most important thing in his life with my son, sister, grandnieces and family being the second most important things.
Matthew is very close to my grandnieces as they have been an integral part of our family since they were born. I’m certain that had he ever had children of his own, he would’ve been a helicopter parent.
He worries so much about what could happen on a daily basis that he wouldn’t be able to keep from rallying around trying to keep a child on a plastic bubble. He even worries while I’m walking Foxy that I could get run over. Seriously. He does. His wild imagination about being at work or relaxing at home while I’m off on another adventure and, quite possibly in danger never ceases to amaze me.
Last week, he called while I was driving to a Texas Prison and had a new concern. “What if there’s a riot? What if someone takes you hostage?” Oh brother. How my husband comes up with wild scenarios that will most likely, never happen astounds me.
As usual, calming my husbands wild imagination, takes a degree of patience. I’ve been in over 36 Prisons and Jails and a riot has never happened. My guess and hope is that something like that never does happen as my husband would surely have a heart attack!
I feel safe at Texas Prisons and have a good time driving through Texas and meeting new friends.
The mother of this beautiful Bride at Allred Unit took this photo of us leaving the Unit. When I showed it to my husband, he was trying to read the signs behind us. This wonderful family gave me a ride home to Fort Worth after leaning that I had taken the bus due to icy roads and due to icy roads, the bus terminal had closed. I had so much fun with the bride and her mother and mother in law that I’m planning to stay with them in Padre Island this summer.
I meet amazing people that all have a story to tell. Often, they ask how I got into the prison wedding business? It’s not an unusual question because everyone asks it.
Although I can imagine the pain of having your child in prison, the mother of the groom was so much fun and shared the heartache of losing her son to Prison.
Many families are in similar situations and rarely discuss how they work through the legal fees, the bail bonds and the enormous phone bills from a loved one in Prison. The same can be said of families that have someone struggling with mental illness or addiction issues.
Treatment is very expensive and, not always effective. I’ve paid for my niece to go to treatment 4 times and her mother? Seven times. The medication is also quite expensive and although we hope the twins mom will go back to work, we are unsure about the possibility.
For years, my husband and I have also helped my sister and her husband out on numerous occasions when the financial stress of raising their grandchildren without benefit of child support had put them at a disadvantage. Things were really a struggle while Steve tried to find work after being laid off from a job he planned to retire from.
When Cindy’s husband needed a car after returning from Iraq, I bought him one. When Cindy’s daughter, Stephaney blew the engine on it, my husband gave Steve a Toyota Tundra truck that he still drives today. Steve loves his “new to him truck.”
On his day off, Steve heads to the lake to fish or loads up his three granddaughters to go grab an ice cream cone. Steve works six days a week as an OTR driver for Ryder. He is rarely home for more than 1-2 days and took a road trip with us last year on our first visit to Twinsburg, Ohio with the twins.
Twinsburg hosts the biggest Twin Festival of twins and multiples in the world and although we had always wanted to go, Cindy and I never found the time. I officiated a few weddings while we were there and made it a working vacation. For Maryssa and Makenna, it was an opportunity for them to meet twins from other countries that they had connected with online. Cindy and I met hundreds of our twin friends from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Being a long haul driver, our normally frequent pit stops were dramatically reduced since Steve was driving my SUV. Time with my family is always scheduled around my itinerary unless of course, we are all on site working an event together. Large Events require my entire team of four generations of family and, four suvs.
I’m hoping we can carve out a few days this summer to meet Tammi and Angela at Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor because we love amusement parks so much. With our schedules though…it can get a little tricky.
Steve and Cindy have as little time together as Matthew and I because we are often all working most of the time.
Anyone marrying a twin quickly realizes that they are going to spend the rest of their lives with the other half of their twin spouse being part of it.
Children of twins often view their aunt or uncle as the closest thing to their parent. Twins share raising their families as a team effort. We did.
Everyone asks where Cindy goes while I’m at a Prison or Jail. Cindy finds Flips at thrift shops and loves spending an hour or two in a new town digging for trash to find a treasure while waiting for me to finish a ceremony “on the inside.”
I frequently check in with my husband to let him know that I’ve arrived at a Unit. Matthew often calls several times to see where I’m at and check in. Like many other family members, my husband, Matthew was fearful when opening hate mail for a few years regarding my affiliation with the LBGT Community.
I’m not going to lie, a few of those letters left me so unsettled that I reported them to the police. The backlash was upsetting but, no one was going to dictate my client base regardless of how opposed they were.
Matthew also worries about car trouble or an accident hours from home and him which is why he feels safer knowing Cindy is with me and I’m not alone on road trips.
Many of you read the blog regarding bringing friends and other family members along for a road trip to TDCJ Stiles Unit.
Needless to say, while a Prison Wedding might sound fun and exciting to a few people, it’s my job and entertaining riders in my SUV isn’t “fun for me.” I prefer to spend hours listening to my favorite music while Cindy takes calls for me and answers my email.
Having an SUV full of people who are bored, hungry, need to go to the bathroom or don’t like my music selection dictating my day is as far from fun for me as you can well imagine.
When I leave WorthamWorld for a trip to the airport or Destination Event, I’m well prepared and on timeline. The same can be said of a Prison Wedding. I have packed everything for a Bridal or groom shoot if they have requested one and pack my bible, road trip snacks and other items for a day that could easily run 6-14 hours for me once I start my SUV.
Timelines are critical to me because I’m never late and well prepared. I even plan for road construction or an accident by leaving two hours earlier than necessary.
Having “guests” in my SUV that think driving to a Texas Prison is fun isn’t fun for me. After my last trip to TDCJ Stiles Unit, my tried and true team of Cindy and I are all we need. Sure, road trips sound fun but, I’m not on vacation and put stops are always factored in on my timeline.
I was recently asked why I offer LBGT discounts along with military, police, fire and first responders? My reasons for LBGT discounts are that we love working with our friends in the community and have never met a Bridezilla or Groomzilla or even a Guestzilla at an LBGT event. That’s right.
No one getting drunk or someone calling the police, no objections or rowdy guests and no ex boyfriend or girlfriend crashing the party. Worry free, seamless and fun? You bet which is why I offer year round discounts to organizations that we enjoy working with.We never need to bring security to an LBGT, Military, Firefighter or or First Responder Event and have occasionally worked for free when needed for military families.
What percentage of my client base are LBGT? 50-60% and I’m proud to say that I’ve never had a drunken brawl at an LBGT event or anyone trying to object.
People are intrigued by Prison Weddings and often, wonder why the incarcerated person is in prison? I never list an Inmates full name in blog posts or on social media posts for a very good reason, privacy for my client and to protect them from the opinions of others regarding their choice to marry an inmate.
For families wishing to barter their event services, use the contact us link on my sister site– The Pawning Planners- We Barter Event Services!
Today’s blog will address why I haven’t decided to be interviewed on camera or phone to discuss what happens at a TDCJ Prison Wedding or Inmate Weddings at County or City Jail or the names of previous clients that I’ve married over the past year.
Inquiring minds want to know why anyone would want to marry a Prisoner and what drove them to make such an incredible decision that often involves the expense of phone calls for some prisoners or commissary for others or both.
I don’t only perform Prison Wedding Ceremonies but, for some reason, although I’ve become somewhat infamous because I do.
My family and I offer a wide array of event services, religious ceremonies, floral design, photography and more as well as sales of Texas Twins Treasures items worldwide.
There are very few Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Approved Wedding Officiants and, I’m one of them.
Being LBGT Friendly, a few of these folks calling assume that I only perform LBGT Prison Weddings. I don’t. I Officiate both same sex wedding ceremonies and traditional wedding ceremonies at Prisons and Jails.
When I decided to undergo the process to become an Approved Officiant, my goal was to help someone get married at TDCJ Estes Unit who was having a problem finding anyone willing to go through the process and not be screened about whether it was an LBGT Union or Biracial Wedding.
As usual, my normally supportive husband was a bit taken back by my decision to Officiate Prison and Jail Weddings. It’s pretty shocking for people to realize that I walk into a Prison on a regular basis but, convincing others that Prisoners should have a right to marry is far more challenging.
Matthew feared that being in a building full of dangerous criminals might somehow put me in harms way and after a lengthy discussion, told me that my friends and family might oppose Prison Weddings.
What my husband really meant was that his friends wouldn’t warm up to the idea or perhaps, be receptive. I know. I know. It’s a controversial topic. But, love bears all things and believes all things.
My husband works at a very conservative home building company with more than a few coworkers who were already shocked and a few, uncomfortable that performed LBGT Weddings.
We both realized that if his coworkers had reservations regarding same sex Marriage that they would also (most likely) balk at Prison Weddings and especially, LBGT Prison Weddings. They did.
But, I don’t work at my husbands company and since I work for myself, took it on the chin. A few of my husbands coworkers find my job controversial while others could care less and always like my social media posts. Everyone is different.
If opinions of others dictated my life, I would probably have never divorced my first husband. My family was strongly against my divorce although they were well aware that I was in an abusive marriage.
My grandmother was horrified at the idea of raising my son alone as a divorcee. “What would people think?”
My grandmother always worried about what others thought and when I began modeling in my 20’s in order to get nice clothing to go into the sales field, also disagreed with “walking down runways with people staring at you? Who would buy those clothes when they could go to a store?”
I was a top selling model for not only furs and jewelry but also high end clothing that would give me the appearance of being successful at my guest sales job. Modeling was how I created an amazing wardrobe for not only me but also my son. Dress the part? I did.
When I walked into any sales floor, I could have just as easily been walking into a movie set. Everyone wanted to buy from me. I projected myself as successful and by earning a Clients trust, outsold any other sales competition within any industry that I’ve ever worked in. Did other salespeople become my friends for outselling them? No.
But, I wasn’t working to make friends. I was working to make money! Sure, I was cordial but, I was also alert to a prospect and effectively, on the ball. No personal phone calls for me. When I was at work on a commission job, I never left the building as other salespeople left for lunch.
A hungry salesperson will outsell anyone else and, I did. Making myself the best employee in the building was essential to my success. I was never late or sick either.
My clothing was a mask of what people wanted to see. No one ever knew if I was broke or struggling to make ends meet. I fit in with the elite because my appearance mirrored their own. They saw what they wanted to see and by appearing successful, I was!
As a divorced mother, it would have been financially impossible for me to buy nice clothing. Finding a job that would pay me enough to make ends meet is actually how I went into sales. I needed two incomes and by the hour jobs would never get my bills paid.
For years, I worked as a model while also working 1-2 sales jobs. If you have never been poor, you will never understand why I took $50k from the sale of my custom home to start a low cost even business. Know the market.
A lifetime of sales taught me something important about sales. If people want something, they will buy it. They are not going to buy it from the salesperson in a wrinkled shirt wandering the sales floor bored or reading a newspaper though. Buyers don’t want a sloppy or bored salesperson. They want someone SHARP to sell them.
Any successful business requires clients. If there isn’t a need for a service, your business will fail. Understanding the market is essential in finding clients. Walmart doesn’t care where you work or who you’re married to and I don’t either. Like Walmart, we welcome any client from any background.
Hearing my Prison Bride sadly discuss the screening process she was put through by other Officiants who weren’t even TDCJ Approved, I felt her pain. Being judged by others is never a pleasant experience and one that I understand thanks to all of the hate mail I read regarding LBGT Weddings.
Immediately after Officiating the wedding at TDCJ Estes Unit, Texas Twins Events boomed with new requests for Prison and/or Jail Weddings.
I was more than a little surprised that so many people wanted to marry an inmate but, since prison weddings are scheduled during the week, realized they worked perfectly with my schedule as my other event bookings are on weekends and evenings.
To address these new requests, I expanded Texas Twins Events to include Texas Prison Weddings. Did I care if Clients were Biracial or LBGT? Absolutely not. Did I understand why anyone would want to marry a Prisoner? No. But, my belief is too each its own. Love Is Love.
People can be so judgmental of others life choices and have no idea of why they make the decisions they do.
I don’t judge anyone and I often don’t ask any questions. Prison Brides or Grooms may voluntarily offer information as to why their fiancée is incarcerated but, traditionally, it’s not a question on my “to do list” when choosing to perform a Prison or Inmate Wedding or taking on a new booking.
Truthfully, when contacting me, many Texas Prison Wedding Clients give me too much information. I really only need the Unit name and location.
I’m often asked advice from others trying to expand their business or gain new clientele. My advice is don’t put yourself in a box or refuse to change with the needs of your client base. I’ve rebranded and expanded over and over again. I didn’t plan on it but, I effectively “rolled with the tide.”
Also, never act out of others fear or limited thinking when pondering a risky career move. Not everyone will agree with you so, have faith in yourself.
Take a chance and try being open minded. While others may laugh at your idea for a unique product or concept, if there’s a market for your service, you will succeed by taking a chance on doing something that no one else is willing to. If there’s a market for your talent or product, you will succeed.
I never set out to barter Event Services. My business plan in the beginning was to offer event services far below my competitors in order to address the many people who couldn’t afford traditional Event pricing. I wanted to reach the clients no one else wanted to help.
It’s pretty well known that long before The Pawning Planners, my twin sister and I flipped and sold our entire homes full of furniture in order to get by when both of our husbands were unemployed.
In order to get by and replace what we had sold to pay the bills while our husbands both found work again, we hit garage sales and thrift stores to find home furnishings and reupholster them.
Poverty can define you or empower you. For us, being creative and thinking outside the box is part of the reason for our success.
Our husbands are both quite older than us and while my husband lost his business during the real estate crunch, Cindy’s husband was laid off from Albertsons after 23 years. They are completely different.
My husband is a land developer while Cindy’s husband is a truck driver and country boy. Do they get along well? Absolutely. The differences in their upbringings are remarkable.
While my husband spent afternoons lounging at Rivercrest Country Club as a child, Cindy’s husband rode his bike to Dairy Queen and spent the days fishing in San Antonio.
Many of my clients are blue collar workers but a large portion are white collar as well. When I started Texas Twins Events, my goal was to help clients no one else wanted to help either because they couldn’t afford to hire a traditional vendor or they were “different.” This being different because you were a biracial family or LBGT couple is effectively “screening.”
I don’t believe in discriminating against anyone for any reason and all three of my businesses prove that again and again. My goal was to help anyone who wanted a Dream Event and every Clients Dream is different.
Merging Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create The Pawning Planners after Texas Twins Events became famous for being LBGT Friendly due to news releases and CW33 Interviews, I had a rash of hate mail from self professed “Christians” who strongly opposed my affiliation with the LBGT Community.
Why anyone took the time to write letters and send me their beliefs regarding same sex Marriage confused me. Perhaps they thought by sharing their opinions that I would become afraid to be involved at an LBGT union? The truth is that I have no idea why anyone would spend hours on long letters to send to a complete stranger.
It should be noted that during the CW33 Interview, I was asked why my family and I were at an LBGT event when we weren’t LBGT which was probably a stupid question for anyone that was at the NOH8 Campaign in Dallas that day.
We were there to support our friends and clients in the community but, my interview was cut to “we believe love is love” with my twin sister and twin grandnieces standing beside me. We think everyone should find love and have love in their life.
If you are doing something right and successful at it- prepare yourself for a bit of jealousy from your competition. I did.
After years of performing Unification Ceremonies long before same sex Marriage was legal, I had a well established LBGT Friendly business base by the time LBGT Marriage was legal.
I didn’t understand why other vendors were afraid to advertise to LBGT clients or refused to take their business. The fact is that no LBGT Client I’ve ever met wants to work with a vendor that doesn’t want their business. Instead, these clients prefer to work with someone who wants to work with them.
I’m asked all of the time about Texas Prison Weddings and was recently taken back when one reporter asked for my Client List of names and contact information for interviews.
I don’t share Client information with anyone. Whether it’s a Texas Prison Wedding Client, Pawning Planners Client, Texas Twins Events Client or Texas Twins Treasures Client.
First, my clients trust me to keep their information private and secondly, I would never sell or loan anyone’s information for any amount of money.
If you aren’t aware of my strong ethics, you should be. No one on my Texas Twins Events Team will share Client Contact Information under any circumstances to others.
I respect my clients privacy and never post photos or names of clients if I’m asked not to. My clients trust me because they can. Prison Weddings & LBGT Weddings Clients deserve privacy when they request it and can count on my discretion.
Since Texas Prison Weddings has had far more interest than The Pawning Planners Client base which is compromised of Clients who cannot afford to pay for services through Texas Twins Events, it should be noted that Clients wanting any service we offer who are unable to afford to pay for them can barter their services through The Pawning Planners. Yes. This includes Texas Prison Weddings and Texas Inmate Weddings.
Although some may assume that a Texas Prison Wedding is “controversial,” others wonder what goes on once I’m inside?
A few weeks ago, someone asked me to film a Prison Wedding obviously unaware that no electronic devices are allowed in a TDCJ Prison Unit.
I laughed at this ridiculous suggestion and immediately knew the person asking had no idea regarding what’s allowed in a Prison and more importantly, what isn’t.
I do not bring my phone or any electronic device into a Texas Prison. I do bring my Bible, Car Keys and $3 in quarters if the Unit offers photos at a wedding ceremony.
Privately owned prisons do not allow photography and a few units have changed their policy in recent months but, it should be noted that every unit is different.
I have never married anyone under 18 at a Texas Prison or anywhere else. All of my clients are adults and therefore, capable of making their own choices.
Since someone recently asked me if I have ever married a minor last week, the answer is no because I’m uncomfortable marrying a minor.
Other ministers don’t have reservations about this though and treat marriages of minors as everyday clients. I’m uncomfortable marrying anyone underage and choose not to.
Texas Prison Weddings bring joy to an otherwise very dark place. Years ago, D Magazine featured an article regarding one of The Texas Seven Inmates housed at Polunsky Unit who had married Crystal.
I’m guessing that Crystal chose to marry a Death Row Inmate for attention because her decision garnered not only publicity but also numerous interviews.
Crystal didn’t know her husband prior to incarceration which is unusual. My Texas Prison Wedding Clients almost always have known their fiancées prior to incarceration.
Although the inmate was in solitary confinement and couldn’t make phone calls from the Prison, a transfer to Dallas gave him the phone privledges he didn’t have at Polunsky.
Shockingly, his wife (who had married via Proxy which is no longer an option in Texas due to the Administrative Directive granting Texas Prisoners the right to marry) had “racked up” over $4k in phone calls.
I’m posting the article for your review here as most consumers have no idea how expensive Prison or Jail Phone calls are to the “person on the outside.” Here’s the article– The Death Row Inmate.
Why the article names Crystal as “The Cunning Bride” I have no idea because this article actually shows that the inmate is far more cunning running up expensive phone bills and downplaying his crimes. I would’ve titled the article “The Cunning Convict.” But, that’s just me.
It’s disturbing and unsettling to me that the focus shifted on the bride rather than the groom. The Prisoner rather than the “Bride on the outside.” Guilty by association?
We may never know the real reason that Crystal chose to marry this inmate but that shouldn’t make her the cunning bride.
Perhaps Crystal actually did love him? Why else would she sacrifice so much to marry s Prisoner on Death Row? Who would give up so much for so little in return?
The burden of expense lays entirely on the person outside of a Prison. Driving hours to visitation and putting money on the books along with phone calls if they are permitted is a very expensive endeavor. Their life literally revolves around the “person on the inside.”
Choosing to marry a Prisoner is I’m fairly certain, not an easy choice. Most Prison Clients are “planning for their future not the present.”
Marring a Prisoner on Death Row without any chance of Parole is shocking even to me. I have no idea how a relationship so one sided could survive?
Since the first question I’m asked by anyone surprised, intrigued or sometimes even horrified that my weekdays are spent driving to and from Texas Jails or Prisons to Officiate Inmate Weddings is “have you married anyone on Death Row?” I will address this question first. Not yet.
I currently have a client wishing to marry at Polunsky Unit which houses many Death Row Inmates.
Located in Texas, Wikipedia gives far more information- TDCJ Polunsky Unit. I’m not going to discuss whether the inmate is on Death Row or not for obvious reasons and, my clients privacy.
While Death Row itself is located 45 minutes to the east at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, Huntsville is where prisoners are executed. It happens at Texas’ oldest prison, the Huntsville Unit, known better as “The Walls.”
Although I had a somewhat lengthy conversation with this client regarding the expense of marrying an inmate, her mind is made up. I can’t talk anyone out of a decision. My role is to complete the task that I was hired to perform.
There are a few Texas cities that house far more than one Prison, Huntsville is perhaps more well known because it is not only a city of prisons but, also where Death Row Prisoners are executed.
In Huntsville, 1 in 4 residents are housed behind bars. While this may surprise you, thousands of other residents work for TDCJ Units in the area as well.
I’ve met many TDCJ Employees while on site at a Prison Wedding and many of them have worked their entire lives within the Texas Department Of Criminal Justice.
Often, these TDCJ Employees never change jobs and retire from their careers with TDCJ.
For TDCJ Employees, it’s a career that many others people living in a small towns would love to have. Prisons create jobs. It’s a fact.
Most small Texas towns offer little in the form of a career. Rarely, benefits are involved.
Let’s take Gordon, Texas for example. With only one school and not even an area grocery store, most graduating students move away from their families to the city. There is no hospital in Gordon. Volunteers handle both fires and ambulance drives to hospitals in surrounding towns.
There are no real opportunities for a career in many small Texas Towns. Sure, you could work st the truck stop or the only car dealership in town or even the school that houses grades K-12 in one building but, great jobs in small towns are hard to come by.
My aunt lives in Gordon and for years, drove to nearby towns to work as a merchandiser. Her husband, worked at the power plant and as a volunteer firefighter. Their children found work outside Gordon.
While Prisoners on Death Row are housed at Polunsky, they travel to Huntsville for their “last ride.”
Many of the Prison Brides who choose to marry a Death Row Inmate never touch their spouse. Why the appeal to marry a Death Row Inmate exists will forever escape me. I don’t understand it and never will as I’m fairly certain that the parents of Brides or Grooms choosing to marry a Death Row Inmate must struggle to accept their son or daughters choice. No one wants their child to marry someone on Death Row.
According to the website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Huntsville is home to seven prisons, more than 13,000 inmates, and the busiest execution chamber in the United States–the Huntsville Unit, nicknamed the Walls Unit, where more than 500 lethal injections have taken place since Texas reinstated the Death Penalty.
I don’t “interview” traditional clients marrying at exclusive venues either because who others choose to marry is beyond my control.
I’ve seen some pretty outrageous Bridezilla Behavior at $10-30k weddings and often wondered if these Grooms really knew what they were getting into? After all, if your bride throws a fit because she’s unhappy with her hair or makeup, what will happen if the Groom loses his job or becomes ill?
I wonder how someone bouncing around to keep someone else happy can do it for the rest of their life putting their own needs aside? The D Word. We’ve all heard it and wondered why our friends choose it? Because they just couldn’t take it anymore I’m guessing.
My stepmom was a Diva. Everyone walked on eggshells and my dad did everything to make his trophy wife happy but, couldn’t. No one could. Joanne was an alcoholic so unhappy with her life that other than getting her hair and nails done or shopping, she couldn’t be satisfied. Joanne needed instant gratification all of the time.
After 13 years of putting her on a pedestal, my dad finally gave up. No one blamed him and, no one liked Joanne anyway. She lived in a fantasy world of the romantic novels she constantly read waiting for a White Knight. Joanne also died young from alcoholism.
She wasn’t the only spoiled princess that I had ever met and although I don’t understand a “kid glove” marriage where one partner is celebrated and the other forgotten, I’ve seen it happen over and over.
One day, the other partner finally gets tired of pulling that wagon alone. My dad did. Joanne never remarried. Why? No one could put up with her and, she died alone.
When I am reviewing a request for a Prison or Inmate Wedding, my first question is “which unit?” It’s important because I need to check the distance to and from the Unit to coordinate my schedule. My fees are based on distance.
There are also women housed on Death Row at the Mountain View Unit as Death Row is not only limited to male inmates. For more information on the Mountain View Unit, I’m adding the Wikipedia link–TDCJ Mountain View Unit.
I don’t ask “what is the inmate incarcerated for?” Why? Because it isn’t any of my business. If you were shopping at a store or for a car or buying a service from anyone else, I can guarantee you aren’t asked if you are LBGT or anything else that might make you “different.” I don’t ask because in many instances, I don’t want to know.
Seriously, I don’t because it would put me at a disadvantage of being far more uncomfortable with a bride or groom found guilty of a violent crime.
Many of my clients may or may not have committed a crime at one time or another over their lifetimes when booking a traditional wedding or event service through Texas Twins Events or The Pawning Planners. I don’t know if they’ve ever written a hot check or been convicted of drunk driving and, I don’t want to know.
My reasons for not asking for more information on Texas Prison Clients is similar to my other businesses in that their background has nothing to do with the service or product that we are providing or selling.
Unless the Religious Service or Ceremony requires Interfaith or other Religious input, I don’t ask about a Clients Religious Preference either unless I’ve been specifically asked to include Religious References. Most of my Clients aren’t members of a church and often ask for No Religious Reference.
Bringing up Religion is a standard question in order for me to create a Religious or Non Religious Ceremony at the Clients Request.
Other than any information that I may or may not need to address a Religious Ceremony or Service, I don’t ask invasive questions and have never “screened a Client” or run a background check or even Googled their names. Why? It’s really none of my business.
If every industry in the world did a background check before selling or offering a service or product to consumers, what a world we would live in of turning down Clients for being different, getting into trouble or making a mistake in their lives. Discussing something as troubling as committing a crime that landed them in Prison is not on my to do list.
Prisons are far more safe and secure than many of the other places I visit on a regular basis to view a trade in the country at an Appraisal Appointment or meet a stranger to deliver a Texas Twins Treasures item.
I meet strangers everyday with my twin sister. I’ve never been hurt, robbed or feared for my life in any industry I’ve worked within. My Texas Prison Wedding Clients are mainly women but, I also have a small percentage of men.
While it’s true that I walk into a Prisoner or Jail alone or with my client, I’m not alone inside a Unit with a Prisoner, ever. Why? I have an armed escort, the guard to the location for the ceremony along with my client.
There is no reason for me to be alone in a room with a Prisoner and if there were, I would be strongly opposed to it. Why? Because being locked in a room with a stranger would make me very uneasy. I’m claustrophobic.
When I sold upscale cars and delivered them to Clients, I was often alone in the car with them on test drives or their home going over the paperwork.
When I worked by Appointment designing and decorating backyard Patios and furnishings, I was always in a strangers home and yet, never afraid for my safety.
Walking into a Prison may be an uncomfortable experience when you consider that many of the inmates might have committed a violent crime but, I don’t think like that.
Instead, I treat every inmate I’m marrying like any other client I’m marrying outside of a jail or prison. Their past has nothing to do with the time I spend Officiating their union.
I have met so many interesting people in my life that if I had lived in fear would never have had the opportunity to meet.
Perhaps my goal of helping anyone regardless of their situation is controversial? Maybe but, my family and I have learned that helping people no one else would help was the greatest gift that we could give them. Why? We had no one to help us plan a wedding or baptism or funeral at an affordable cost. We are the people we have never met.
Because of our own experience, my family and I were determined to change the dynamics of the Event Industry and create a window for anyone wanting a Life Event to jump through.
Their request for a Life Event may not mirror your own but, Life Events are expected to only happen once which is why they are so special.
We’ve all read or heard that the “average” cost of a wedding is 10-30k but who are these “average” couples? My own wedding cost less than $500. Why? Because spending thousands of dollars on a wedding was never in my budget or, my twin sisters either.
While Cindy married at the JP, I chose a park. Neither of us wore a wedding dress and neither of us invited friends and family to wine and dine them at our expense.
Our children accompanied us to our weddings and at my wedding, my aunt but we were both on strict budgets and stuck to them which is why there aren’t any professional photos of our weddings. Why? We couldn’t afford professional photographers!
There’s a good reason that I created an inventory to loan clients. My own experience. Complimentary Bridal photography with loaned bouquets and props? You bet. Everyone deserves to have beautiful photos of their event.
Taking everything I knew about the events industry and effectively, shaking things up, I set out to make events affordable to anyone.
I specifically created a business to be the person I had never met. I cared about every Clients story and struggle to have a Dream Event.
I listened when no one else would and, I found solutions to the hurdles they faced. My entire family joined me as my Texas Twins Events Team. One of my scariest moments years and years ago was a sale of 3 Cadillacs at the same time. The Cadillac XLR V-Series was over $100k and the Client wanted a DTS sedan for daily use, an Escalade for family use and the XLR for weekend use.
What was I afraid of? I was worried about special ordering the XLR and perhaps making a mistake but, I didn’t and exceeded my Clients expectations so much that all 3 Required GM Customer Satisfaction Surveys came back with perfect scores.
I was new to luxury car sales and shocked that anyone trusted me enough to spend that much money on something.
Trust is essential to sellling anything whether it’s a product or a service. My Clients trust me to show up, act in a professional manner and arrive early because they can.
My web developer, Michael Brylinski was once shocked to hear that all of my blogs are written from my iPhone and usually, in a parking lot because I arrived early and had the time to write down my thoughts.
I never use a computer to write blogs or for anything else other than uploading photos from events.
It’s not unusual for these blogs to be written in a Prison Parking lot. My phone is left behind in my locked vehicle.
My greatest “work tool” is my iPhone as it’s used to answer emails, phone calls and everything else pertaining to Texas Prison Weddings, Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures and The Pawning Planners.
The second most important item is my drivers license. Why? Without it I could never enter a Texas Jail or Prison and consider my license to be a priceless part of Officiating a Texas Inmate Wedding.
I’ve traveled extensively throughout my life and at one luxurious resort in Acapulco, nearly found myself in a really bad situation. Why? I was driving a pink Jeep from the Las Brisas Resort and pulled over for running a stop sign that didn’t exist.
It’s far more dangerous to travel outside of the US than anyone realizes. Luckily, $50 got me out of a bad situation but what if it hadn’t?
I no longer travel to Mexico for Destination Weddings. It’s simply too dangerous. We do book Destination Weddings on a regular basis within the United States.
Other people wonder if I’m afraid when entering a Texas Prison? Well, friends, the razor wire glimmering in the Texas sun along with guard shacks and warning signs posted everywhere at a Prison are certainly not for the faint hearted.
It’s unlike any other place I’ve ever been when driving into a Prison. It’s quiet. It’s structured. There are no surprises at a Prison Wedding unless my client rolls into the parking lot sauced which is never a good sign. But, it’s happened.
The first time I arrived at a Maximum Security Unit was surprising for me. Having only officiated at a Minimum Security Unit, I had no idea what the difference between Maximum and Minimum were but, the first sign of the variation was the razor wire.
Everyone is nervous at a Prison Wedding including the Inmate. It’s something they haven’t done before and often, something their fiancée has never done before either.
Far from the joyous environment of a venue or church or even backyard or field, a Prison Wedding is performed strictly by the book. There are no surprises. No drunken guests or someone attempting to interrupt and object. No police arresting drunken guests and no drama.
Any drama my family and I have encountered at an event have been far from a Prison or Jail. Inlaws and Outlaws, drunken friends, disorderly brothers and more have all happened at a traditional venue or location.
I’ve said it before but, it’s worth repeating, if you have an Open Bar, chances are there will be problems. There is no drinking at a Prison and no drunk guests unless my client has been drinking on their way to a Unit. I strongly suggest not drinking prior to your Prison Wedding.
Walking into a Prison is always an experience for someone who struggles with anxiety. I take deep breaths when the Visitation Area is already in use, and my client and I are escorted “into” the Prison to find another room for the ceremony while walking through a series of self locking doors behind us.
It’s a sound you never forget with steel doors slamming behind you I can assure you. The sound of a slamming Prison or Jail door always makes me jump a little.
Going into an area with other inmates to find a private location for the ceremony is rare but, it’s happened. “Going in” with my client doesn’t only make me nervous as my client is often quite jumpy too.
What if the Prisoner is behind a glass barrier? Yes. The Prisoner can both hear and understand the commitments and promises made at a Wedding Ceremony. They realize that a Prison Marriage although not public, is a legal and binding state of Matrimony.
In a few countries, public Marriages are a requirement in order for the Marriage to be recognized. Prison Weddings are far from public.
Prison Weddings are in a word, intimate. There may be armed guards, the Warden, The Chaplain along with my client and I and the Prisoner or there may only be armed guards and the Chaplain or only the armed guards.
Every situation is different. If the inmate is behind glass, there is no kiss sealing the ceremony. This Bride loved the way their faces blended in this photo below taken by a TDCJ Ferguson Unit Employee. You may or may not understand the choices of someone choosing to marry an inmate on death row or incarcerated but, you aren’t marrying them and I can assure you that your opinion regarding the union has no effect whatsoever on my client or their fiancée.
I meet amazing people who have a story, a journey and huge hearts. They have known heartache and loss. Why? Because they have coworkers and family members or friends who don’t accept their choices. The difference is that my clients don’t allow the decisions of others to define their lives.
Once, a Prison Chaplain explained to me that he will only Officiate a marriage when he has met with both clients. I was a little surprised that he felt the need to tell me but, perhaps his opposition to Prison Marriage brought it up?
I don’t have an opportunity to speak with an inmate and don’t need to. I speak dyrectly with the jets in on the outside numerous times prior to meeting them at a Unit.
At no time during the process of planning a Prison Wedding with a client have I ever spoken with the Prisoner. My first meeting with a Prisoner is actually at their wedding ceremony.
Although Prison Weddings may seem different, the elements of a marriage ceremony are often the same unless my client has provided hand written vows to effectively, customize their ceremony which I always love.
Creative input makes your ceremony far more special.
Being a premarital counselor with Two Together In Texas, I quickly answered the Chaplain with an explanation regarding screening or interviewing clients. “Sir, while its true that I do not have any interaction with the spouse prior to the wedding ceremony, it should be noted that I’ve spoke with the person on the outside numerous times prior to wedding day and therefore, had an opportunity to discuss the pitfalls, the struggle and the issues my Prison Brides or Grooms may face. I don’t talk anyone into a Prison Marriage or any other Marriage for that fact. My clients have carefully thought about their decision to marry an inmate and are therefore, well advised and educated regarding their decision.”
It was a truthful statement of facts. Anyone choosing to marry is entering a partnership. The Prison Marriage couple are often at a disadvantage of having an equal partnership. While one may benefit far more than the other, the appeal of marrying a Prisoner is lost on me but in the end, not my decision but, my clients.
Clients choosing to marry an inmate didn’t simply wake up one morning and decide “I think I should marry an inmate!” Quite the contrary, they thought long and hard before making such a decision.
My clients are often not only successful in their careers but also, well educated and therefore, well aware of the journey their Inmate marriage will follow and more importantly, the effort they will be required to put into the marriage.
A few of my Texas Prison Wedding clients want to share their story and put a face on the image of a Texas Prison Wedding Marriage. These clients will be featured in my book, The Pawning Planners- Paying It Forward. These clients stories often involve couples who knew each other long before incarceration.
My twin sister and I are still working on our book that will document not only why I decided to start a low cost event business but also the people, the places, the back stories and the families who came to us for help in making their dreams come true.
Their story may be different than yours or even mine but, it’s their story and only for the clients themselves to decide whether or not they wish to share it. I respect their privacy and, their choices…