Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Administrative Pertaining To Texas Prison Weddings…
I’ve had several questions regarding what you can bring, wear or do at your Prison Wedding. Today, we will revisit what you can expect and what you are allowed at your wedding ceremony.
Let’s get started with the approval process. Planning your Prison Wedding is more complicated than a “traditional ceremony” outside prison walls. Why? Because outside a prison, clients only need to pay their vendors and show up.
Inside a prison, it can take up to 6 signatures to approve and schedule your Prison wedding. It’s a lengthy process. If there are questions regarding an Informal Marriage Affidavit and the inmate to anyone other than you, it’s a REAL PROBLEM. Why? Because TDCJ considers Informal Marriage Affidavits to be binding.
Let’s go over what an Informal Marriage Affidavit actually is for those who “just signed it for contact visits.” I’m going to once again go over that ANY document that REQUIRES a notarized signature bears weight. The “weight” being that TDCJ altered the prisoners status from Single or (S) to Married or (M) or Common Law Married (CLM). Meaning- you weren’t “just signing a piece of paper for contact visits.” What you WERE doing was proclaiming to be Common Law Married.
Outside TDCJ, in order for an Informal Marriage to be legally recognized, both parties MUST APPEAR together and file this instrument at the clerks office. Once this is completed, both parties are legally married and only a divorce or Rule 11 Agreement will dissolve the marriage.
Why are Common Law Marriage Affidavits different inside a prison versus outside a Unit? The answer is that a Prison while being a government organization is structured and has separate guidelines pertaining to marriage. The number of people contacting me because “they didn’t believe they should be viewed as married” would shock you.
Anyone signing anything without understanding the ramifications of what they are signing is making a mistake. Understand that the document you signed now gave you contact visits. Meaning, your visitation was altered based on your signature.
The first step in planning your Prison wedding is to ask if your fiancée has signed an Informal Marriage Affidavit with ANYONE OTHER THAN YOU.
These CLM “surprises” are upsetting to say the least and no TDCJ unit will allow a wedding ceremony with an inmate who is ALREADY considered married on TDCJ paperwork.
I’m going to require you to ask the inmate in order to prevent issues throughout the process. My reasons for this are that I have a tight schedule.
If I’m assuming your paperwork will take 2-6 weeks to be approved, I’m not going to be adding new clients during that window. Finding out two weeks later that the inmate cannot marry upsets my schedule.
I ask a lot of questions. I ask questions for solid reasons, surprises at the 11th hour or having a bride or groom contact me about the inmate being Common Law Married are a setback to scheduling. It can take weeks or even months to “undo” a Common Law Marriage status.
If you are one of these Clients, remain calm and DO NOT continue calling the Unit. This is a process and it’s a process that takes a significantly longer period of time to undo.
I lost my ID. Can I still be married at the Unit? No. Your state issued ID is REQUIRED to enter a Unit. If you’ve lost your ID, you can go to the DMV and get a replacement. Based on the time required to receive it, you may not have a replacement prior to your wedding day. If you do not have a state issued ID with you, your wedding will be rescheduled.
I forgot my Marriage License- If you do not have your Marriage License and valid ID on the date of your wedding, you will not be married. Your wedding will be rescheduled.
The Marriage License AND a photo ID ARE REQUIRED on wedding day at Texas Prisons. After all, we are on site for a wedding and without the marriage license, there won’t be a wedding. Marriage Licenses must be signed on site and immediately following the ceremony. The marriage license instrument is an Affidavit that I sign which after recorded, creates a legally binding marriage. I.E. it’s a very important document. Please do bend, fold or tear your marriage license.
My mom and my sister want to come to the wedding. Why can’t they? Prison weddings are private and, it’s so rare to have a guest allowed that it had only happened ONCE with my Client, Misty. Prison weddings are structured. There is no rule bending. Guests can wait outside the Unit if they wish to ride with you in your vehicle. Clients can ride in with me.
Can you bring this or that into the Unit for me? No. The only items that I’m authorized to bring into a Unit are my Bible, car keys, ID, quarters for Unit photos and notes from Clients for handwritten vows they wish to add to their ceremony.
I wanted to bring a change of clothes for the inmate. Can I? No. You cannot bring clothing, a wedding ring or any other items into a Unit other than your state issued ID, Marriage License and car keys other than quarters for Unit photos.
I don’t have quarters but, I wanted to bring in $50 in paper money for Unit photos. Can I? No. The amount you are authorized to bring into a Unit MUST BE IN QUARTERS and cannot exceed $25.
I want to take my own pictures at the Unit. Can I bring my cell phone or camera inside? Absolutely not. No cell phones or cameras are allowed inside a Texas Prison.
The Administrative Directive is clear and consise. There are no changes allowed or authorized Pertaining to Inmate Marriage Ceremonies.
I’m adding a link to the Administrative Directive for your review pertaining to marriages at Texas Prisons– TDCJ Administrative Directive Inmate Weddings.
I have a friend who went online and can Officiate weddings. Can my friend Officiate? No. TDCJ has strict guidelines for Officiants. An Officiant MUST BE TDCJ APPROVED in order to walk into a Texas Prison and Officiate an inmate wedding.
I contacted you mid month and wanted my ceremony within 14 days. WHY was I “bumped” to next month? I limit new TDCJ Clients to 15 per month. This is essential because I must keep a flexible schedule to accommodate booked clients.
Booked clients ARE my priority. New bookings are moved in order to accommodate existing clients.
I wanted to marry on the weekend. Why can’t I? Prison weddings are scheduled Monday through Friday. Weddings take place in the visitation area unless that area is already in use for training. Since these weddings take place in the visitation area and visitation is on weekends, there are no prison weddings on weekends in visitation areas.
There’s a chapel located at the Unit. Why can’t we marry there instead of the visitation area? The Chapel is strictly for inmates and staff at Units. For the same reasons the Unit Chaplain cannot marry you, the Chapel cannot be used for an inmate marriage ceremony.
I saw you offer photo shoots. I would like my fiancée to have photos outside the Unit with me. Why can’t I? No inmate is allowed to leave a Texas Prison for any reason including marriage or photography. I offer photography as a courtesy to clients after the wedding and encourage them to bring family or friends who can wait until we leave the Unit and join us for photos. However, the inmate will not be in bridal or groom photos shoots unless of course the inmate has been released.
I wanted to get a selfie outside the Prison but, was prevented from doing so. Why? No photograohy is allowed either directly outside the Unit or on Unit property. Photos and videos at Units are strictly prohibited.
Why is my car searched at Prisons? Your vehicle is subject to search at any Prison facility. I strongly encourage you to search your own vehicle prior to entering a Texas Prison. Do NOT under any circumstances have a firearm inside your vehicle whether you are licensed to carry a firearm or not.
I wanted to look sexy at my wedding. Why can’t I? The visitation dress code applies to Texas Prison Weddings. I cannot stress this enough, dress appropriately.
I was only twenty minutes late for my Prison Wedding and it was cancelled. Why? It is imperative that you arrive on time to a Unit wedding. On time is fifteen minutes early not fifteen minutes late.
Why do you have late fees? I had to stop for gas and didn’t plan to be late. Nobody plans to be late. However, the structure of a Unit wedding requires that you are not only on time but also early. I gave up to 10 wedding ceremonies at a Unit. Being late affects my other clients and their schedules. Tardy party attendees cause scheduling chaos. Fees are in place to encourage you to plan accordingly.
Why did I have to wear a cafeteria smock? If your clothing is deemed inappropriate, the Warden can insist you cover up. I strongly suggest wearing clothing that isn’t too short, too sheer or too revealing. I cannot control what the Warden will bring out to cover you if a Warden insists on covering you. Be aware of this. It’s happened before and most likely, can happen again.
Why do you require a contract and deposit before I can use your name on the I60? They won’t give me a date unless I have an Approved Officiant. My name is all over the internet. Because of this and issues last year with people who were using my name without my permission or consent, Wardens and Chaplains now contact me to verify you are actually a client of mine. If you haven’t signed a contract or paid a deposit, you are NOT my client. Consideration is a requirement of any TDCJ client of mine.
The inmate was transferred. Why do you charge an additional fee? At the time you booked with me, the distance was a factor or the bid. If the inmate was transferred to a new Unit, my time and travel fees are adjusted accordingly. Your original quote was based entirely on travel.
I have other questions that weren’t addressed in this blog. Can I contact you? Yes. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on FB through Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham.