Texas Prison Weddings- TDCJ Estes Unit To TDCJ Stiles Unit…With A Bit Of Family Drama? 

Two weeks ago, I picked up my Estes Bride and drove to Estes Unit in Venus, Texas. As unusual as picking up a Bride and driving her to Estes Unit might sound, I was unaware when contacted for a Wedding Ceremony that the Client didn’t have her own transportation. 

It’s very unusual for any Client to need me to drive them to their Wedding but, it’s happened with a few Pawning Planners Clients too. Local distances aren’t a problem for me but, if you live outside DFW, finding another form transportation is always a good idea due to my schedule.

My Estes Bride a few weeks ago was from Houston and asked for a quote to Estes which is approximately 49 minutes from my home and the closest TDCJ Prison. 

Because of the short distance from my location to the Prison and the fact that I only charge mileage for Texas Prison Weddings, you can imagine my surprise when she added “I need you to pick me up in Houston and drive me to Estes and then take me home.” 

I suggested she use Greyhound and I would pick her up at the Fort Worth Terminal because a round trip to Houston and Estes Unit would involve a significantly higher fee (based on distance) than initially quoted for me to meet her at the Unit and perform her wedding. 

I’m based in Fort Worth and Estes Unit is less than an hour away. Quotes for Texas Prison Weddings are based on distance from my location which would be significantly higher if I were to drive to Houston, drive to TDCJ Estes Unit, drive back to Houston and finally, drive home.

Traditionally, most Texas Prison Units offer photos for $3 each inside the Unit but, due to a job fair being held in the Visitation Area, we had the wedding in another area of the Unit with a borrowed camera. 

Not all Units offer Wedding Photos so, please be aware of this. If the Unit does offer photography, bear in mind that the TDCJ Employee taking the photos is not a professional photographer. They are a TDCJ Employee. Please do not complain about photos in front of TDCJ Staff. Photos are a courtesy that NOT all TDCJ Units even OFFER.

Prison Units are very busy and, scheduling your wedding along with other aspects often take time and go through many channels so, I’m going to suggest that patience during any process involved at a Prison Unit is always a good idea.  

Although, I took several photos of the Bride so she had a few photos to take home with her, the photos she really wanted were of her and her new husband which I couldn’t provide. 

Because the camera was borrowed from another Department, the secretary graciously offered to email me them so that I could forward them to the Bride. 

Photos are far more important to Clients than anyone realizes but, Prison Units are incredibly busy so if a situation is unique, please be patient in getting your photos because I cannot control timelines of photos being emailed to me. I want you to have your photos just as much as you do. 

I realize how important photos are because I have so few of my wedding in the park as a friend took them and never gave me the negatives.

Today, I sent the photos to the bride who had been anxiously awaiting the photos being emailed to me from the Wardens Secretary. 

Normally, most photos in Texas Prisons aren’t always clear but these photos turned out beautifully. 

Our wedding ceremony location was actually in a study area inside the Estes Unit which is why the background isn’t painted. 

TDCJ Estes Unit does have a beautifully painted Visitation Area as do several Units I’ve Officiated a wedding in at Texas Prisons.I was happy to hear today that Maria finally got a date for her wedding next Wednesday at Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Stiles Unit. 

Maria had hired someone else proclaiming to be an Approved Officiant several months ago who wasn’t. Please be aware that there are people taking advantage of Prison Brides by proclaiming to be Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Approved Officiant when in fact, they aren’t. 

Ask questions and verify the information with the Courts in Huntsville. You will NOT get a Wedding Ceremony Date at ANY Texas Department Of Criminal JustTDCJ Unit WITHOUT an Approved Officiant. 

Over the past 4 months, I’ve had to help 9 people get a refund from scammers pretending they can provide a service that they can’t. If you have paid someone for a service that you haven’t received, demand a refund prior to contacting me to fix the problem. 

I regularly warn prospects to contact the Courts in Huntsville PRIOR to paying anyone claiming to be a TDCJ Approved Officiant. There are ONLY a handful of Authorized Officiants and I am one of them. This information is easily verified by contacting the Courts.

By the time Maria  contacted me, I already knew (all too well) who the person taking non refundable deposits from people for a service that she couldn’t provide was. 

The reason I was aware of it was my Darrington Unit Bride, my Luther Unit Bride, my Ferguson Unit Bride as well as numerous others who had paid this person before finding me. Helping all of these people get a refund wasn’t easy. 

A few months ago, I advised Maria to contact the Courts In Huntsville to verify this information herself. She was shocked to realize that my information was true and correct. I advised her to contact Paypal and escalate a claim for services not rendered. 

If you are planning a Texas Prison Wedding- call the Courts yourself and verify that your Officiant is Approved. There are VERY FEW Approved Officiants in Texas. I am the only one who suggests calling Huntsville before hiring someone because I’m honest. But, there are others out there who aren’t. Beware of this.

Fraudulent behavior from people  who claim to be an Approved Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Officiants and require non refundable deposits  for a service they cannot provide continues to be a problem for unsuspecting Prison Brides if Grooms seeking an Officiant so, I now advise anyone contacting me to call the Courts in Huntsville before paying a deposit to verify and validate that whoever you choose is actually Approved and Authorized to Officiate your Wedding in a Texas Prison. 

There are unethical people proclaiming to be able to perform your Texas Prison Wedding who are not. It is YOUR responsibility to find and hire an Authorized Officiant.

It’s a very simple process to call Huntsville and simply ask if so and so is an Approved Officiant or not. I strongly suggest you do. It will save you a lot of grief and, money. 

Maria is very excited to finally have a date for her marriage next week and I’m looking forward to another road trip after a few weeks of family drama here in Fort Worth while trying to juggle my other booked events.

Recently, I’ve had several prospects contact me regarding a Proxy Marriage. Due to Texas Law changes, Proxy Prison Marriage is NO LONGER AN OPTION. For more information regarding this issue, please read the following:

Prisoners in Texas will once again be allowed to marry someone on the outside under new rules formulated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) in the wake of an outcry of public opinion following a September 1, 2013 ban on marriage by proxy adopted by the Texas legislature.

“Given the restrictions and understanding offenders have a legal right to marry, the agency is drafting a policy that allows an inmate to marry a non-incarcerated person within our facilities,” TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark told the Associated Press in November 2014, reversing a long-held policy that prohibited prison weddings as a security risk.
The announcement drew praise from the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
“We know that prisoners with strong family connections are more likely to succeed when they’re released,” said ACLU legal and policy director Rebecca L. Robertson, “and allowing prisoners to marry is one important way TDCJ can encourage and support those family bonds.”
Under the policy change, prison marriages must comply with prison visitation rules, be consistent with the prisoner’s visitation status and require no special amenities. The outside spouse is responsible for arranging all of the details, including securing the marriage license and finding and paying someone to perform the ceremony.

Texas prison officials had long permitted marriage by proxy, in which an incarcerated spouse is represented in the ceremony by a stand-in who takes the vows, but controversy erupted with the passage of a bill authored by Republican state Rep. Trent Ashby that required both persons be present for a marriage to be legal in Texas.

“We didn’t realize we were going to open up a can of worms,” said Ashby’s chief of staff Scott Riling, who noted the law was not intended to block prisoners from getting married but instead was designed to protect people from fraudulent marriages performed without their knowledge or consent.

Ashby sponsored the bill after receiving complaints from the children of an elderly man who said a Houston woman, who had been their father’s caregiver for several years, married him by proxy in order to obtain financial benefits upon his death in prison. The woman was subsequently arrested, convicted and sentenced to a 10-year prison term.

“The purpose of the bill was not to make it harder for people to get married,” said Riling. “It was to protect those that might become prey to unscrupulous people.”
The law also conflicted with at least two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that specifically recognized the right of prisoners to marry – a Wisconsin case from 1978 and again in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987). Following the enactment of Ashby’s bill, Texas was the only state to prohibit prisoners from marrying.

“We have no immediate plans to change that policy,” TDCJ spokesman Clark said at the time. “It is a security concern if you’re going to be bringing new individuals into a [prison] facility. And not only that, it’s beyond what chaplains do.”

The resultant end of prison marriages sparked immediate condemnation from prisoner advocacy groups.
“A ban on proxy marriages that completely deprives prisoners of the right to marry is … unlikely to survive constitutional scrutiny,” Robertson noted upon the law’s passage. “Marriage is profoundly important, at the heart of our most personal and intimate relationships. That’s why the right to marry has long been recognized as a fundamental right for everyone, even for prisoners.”

Proxy marriage “gives an inmate something [positive] to take advantage of,” added Michael W. Jewell, executive director of Texas CURE. Jewell, himself a former prisoner who served 40 years for murder, was wed by proxy in 2005 and eventually released on parole in 2010. He said marriage “gives [the prisoner] an anchor out here in the free world,” and saw “a great deal of harm” resulting from the new law.
Ann Staggs agreed. Staggs used to coordinate proxy marriages via The Prison Show, a Houston-based radio program for prisoners. “The men that have someone that they know is to be a permanent part of their life seem to do better in prison than the ones that don’t,” she stated.
“I wasn’t following it that closely and was surprised when it went through,” Jennifer Ershabek, executive director of the Texas Inmate Families Association, said of Rep. Ashby’s legislation ending proxy marriages. “You don’t realize it can’t happen until you’re down the road … and then find out all of a sudden that you are no longer able to be married.”
On July 28, 2015, the TDCJ revised Administrative Directive AD-03.42, concerning prisoner marriages. Under the revised policy, prison officials “shall permit offenders to be married on TDCJ property or contracted facilities.” Each prison “shall provide two non-visitation workdays per month for offenders to be married in the visitation area of the offender’s assigned unit.” 

Marriages between two prisoners are not permitted, ceremonies can not be held in prison chapels, nor can a non-incarcerated spouse bring in a wedding ring to give to the prisoner they are marrying. Offenders who are eligible for contact visits shall be allowed to hold hands during the ceremony and can share “a brief embrace and kiss at the end of the ceremony.”

A Prison Chaplain CANNOT and WILL NOT Officiate a Wedding Ceremony. The responsibility to find an Approved and Authorized Officiant is completely up to the person choosing to marry a Prisoner.

I’ve had several out of state Brides contact me regarding an Absentee Affidavit from Texas. Please note that if you are planning to marry a Prisoner in Texas and live in another state– the Marriage License MUST BE FROM THE STATE the incarcerated person is being held in. What does this mean? If you live outside of Texas and are planning to marry a Texas Prisoner, you will need to travel to Texas, obtain an Absentee Affidavit and marry at the Unit in person. A legal Marriage requires both parties present unless they are Military. 

Whether the incarcerated person is behind glass at a Maximim Security Unit or standing beside you- both parties can hear and understand the commitments of a Marriage Ceremony. If the incarcerated person is separated by a glass partition, for obvious reasons, there will not be a kiss at the end of the ceremony. 

Any Marriage Ceremony is LEGAL AND BINDING whether it’s at a Prison or not. If your Marriage License is NOT filed after signature, your Marriage is NOT VALID. Whether you or I file the License after being signed, IT MUST BE RETURNED to the County Clerk. Prison Weddings follow Protocol and Strict Guidelines. Please do not wear revealing clothing to your Texas Prison Wedding. You are not allowed to bring a wedding ring or any other item aside from the Marriage License and your ID into a Unit.If you choose for me to file your license, please be sure to give it to me after leaving the Unit. Still have questions regarding your Texas Prison Wedding? Contact me.Many Texas Prison Wedding Clients are unaware that I have other obligations and businesses not related to TDCJ Weddings. Please be advised that my schedule books quickly Monday-Friday at Texas Units. Weekends and evenings I’m either working at a venue in on staff at or with Texas Twins Events or Pawning Planners Clients or delivering items for Texas Twins Treasures. If I don’t immediately answer your call, please leave a message and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.

Meanwhile… back in Fort Worth, I continue to wish that my entire family could get along with each other all of the time. Conflict continues to happen and Easter was (as usual) split up between Cindy’s family and mine. 

Blended marriages & family events can be a real eye opener around here with so and so mad at so and so. I work hard to minimize family arguments but, I’m not a magician.

While my niece, Stephaney has never married, both of my nieces struggle to get along with my sons wife. I want everyone to value our family but, maybe Cindy and I are alone in my desire for “rainbows and unicorns” around here? 

My son, Robert told me yesterday that I spend too much time with my twin sister, nieces and grandnieces. This was a pretty shocking statement since my son knows that my sister and I have always shared an incredibly close relationship. 

In fact, while I was a single mother and working, my twin sister often picked my son up from school and he spent a large portion of his childhood at her home.

This “jealousy” bothers me for a few reasons as I shake my head wondering if anything is ever enough for my own family? I love my son and have always valued our very close relationship but, his marriage changed the dynamics of spending time with my family or, his wife’s. 

Cindy and I have come to realize that no matter what we do, it seems to never be enough for our own families. 

It’s not well known that while I’ve spent most of my life trying to force my family to get along with each other, my tactics traditionally blow up in my face. 

I’ve helped my son and my nieces (all adults) so many times over my lifetime as has Cindy that now with both of our husbands facing retirement, we wonder what will happen to her daughters and my son when we eventually cut “those purse strings.”

When dropping everything to save whoever might be going through a hard time, my efforts are normally a waste of time whether the person who is needing financial or emotional help realizes it or not. 

Cindy faces the same scenarios. It’s not uncommon for us to ask each other what we did to deserve this? Did we spoil our adult children? Did we enable them? Did we make a mistake being the mothers we never had? 

Apparently, valuing the gift of a close knit family has flown out the window for my son who thinks that I put everyone before him although he puts his wife on a pedestal and is blind to her inability to get out of the wagon and help carry the load.

Yesterday at a lunch I had to “pencil in” due to my business obligations with my son, his wife and her cousin, my son got upset about the attention my sister and I were giving my niece who is struggling with sobriety. I found this more than a little “unsettling.” After all, whenever my son has needed me these past 28 years, I’ve been “Johnny on the spot.” 

Since his marriage several years ago, I am often the last person he thinks about spending time with or calling because his wife often comes first. In my futile attempts to get along with my daughter in law and welcome her to this family, any advice I give is met with resistance. 

My daughter in law finds any advice from me to be intrusive or meddling. Wanting what is best for my son is what every other mother wants. 

The once great relationship that my son had with his cousins Leigh Ann and Stephaney flew out the window when he married. Why? His wife comes first and although Leigh Ann’s husband, Alex tries to get along with everyone and “blend into” our family, my sons wife doesn’t. 

Stephanie Hafele and I have had so many arguments over the years that I’ve basically given up trying to force everyone to get along on location much less at family events. 

Yesterday, my “time for my family” was brought up as yet another reason that I’m never available. I find this ironic since anyone in my family is more than welcome to join me on location so long as they get along together in public. 

In my opinion, if my family members cannot manage to get along for a few hours on location, I prefer for them to stay home.

I work seven days a week and although I’m quite busy, my son could certainly come visit me more often. This “you can’t ever find time for me” nonsense is ridiculous. 

“Helping” my family almost always involves money and I’m not talking about a few dollars here or there. I can no longer afford to “saddle up and save the day” with my checkbook or credit card in hand and a husband planning retirement.

When my son has needed me over and over throughout the years, I can assure you that my husband, my sister, my nieces and grandnieces weren’t upset that my focus wasn’t on them. I would love to visit my son alone but such visits have become rare. 

Sure, we’ve had disagreements before but, this latest “incident” has left both of us at ends with one another. I’m giving him time to cool off and reevaluate losing his temper at a few suggestions that I certainly didn’t expect to upset him. Four dogs and a wife with her cousin and son moving in have truly burdened my son with responsibility. I’ve spent years “strongly suggesting” that my son not move in his wife’s relatives but, my suggestions are unwelcome.

I work all of the time and when not working, devote myself to my family. I have little or no time for friends because my schedule is that busy and although I have very few close friends, they recognize and realize that if they would like to see me, I have a telephone for them to call and arrange a visit.

My husband once told me “I don’t have any close friends for a reason. They all take up a large portion of time and I work too much to be entertaining. For years, I spent every night entertaining Clients and so called friends. When real estate tanked, I noticed all of the friends that I had spent so much time with had no time for me. Because of this and three years of being unemployed, I realized who my real friends are and therefore, have no time for fake friends or acquaintances. When I come home from a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is entertain a friend or listen to their problems. I want to rest and relax and prepare for another day.” This observation from my husband held a lot of truth because I also spent years entertaining and attending fundraisers while trying to promote sales at Cadillac. 

It took me a few years to realize that a phone call asking me to volunteer never resulted in a sale for me. I no longer volunteer for organizations simply because they need a helping hand. Why? Because I have Clients and organizations that I promote who in turn, promote me. 

I have 3 close friends and these friends are also friends of my twin sister. We share our friends and while we try to find time for a visit here or a lunch there, our friends realize that Cindy is busy caring for all three of her three grandchildren living in her home or helping me on location. 

My time is spent meeting clients or performing services or ceremonies, driving to Texas Prisons, refurbishing trades and creating floral designs or attending fundraisers when not cleaning my home and taking care of my husband. 

All three of our adult children need to realize that working pays your bills. I.E. there are no free rides in life. Perhaps spoiling children creates spoiled adults? 

I strongly disapprove of public arguing and will not under any circumstances discuss family issues in public.

For years my son has told me “he is an adult” and when I question his actions, I get my head bit off. My life is far too busy for me to sit by a phone and wait for a visit from anyone including my son. 

If someone would like a visit, they can assuredly call me to schedule something. For those expecting me to be a mind reader that they would like a visit with me, pick up the phone and call because I’m not a psychic.

The only person aside from my husband that I have ever been able to count on is my twin sister. I’m the mother I’ve never had. I’m the friend I’ve never had. I’m the aunt I’ve never had and, I’m the Coordinator, Officiant and reliable person that my Clients can count on.This “issue” of jealousy regarding my relationship with my twin sister was a complete surprise to me and bothers me. 

For our own adult children to feel they need to “compete” for time with Cindy or I is ridiculous! Leigh Ann and Robbie are both married and busy with their own lives. 

Raising Cindy’s three granddaughters for the past 13 years as a TwinTeam does take both Cindy or my own attention from our older children on occasion but “having an issue with the amount of time I spend with my sister” is a problem for whoever has the problem. My husband doesn’t and Cindy’s husband doesn’t either.

Could it be that our three adult children are jealous of our twinship or the attention paid to Cindy’s twin granddaughters and Madyson? I find this quite troubling although I’m well aware that my son and Cindy’s daughters have always competed with each other and often have sibling rivalry that upsets the dynamics of our blended families. 

Because of this “conflict,” my niece Leigh Ann works alone as a photographer or Robert and Stephanie work as a team at Events but they never all work together at an Event due to their inability to get along for extended periods of time. 

I will not condone conflict at an Event. Petty jealousy and family arguments do not belong at work or, on location. I operate businesses that require professionalism whether we are all related or not. Drinking on location at an Event is also not tolerated. 

Many of my readers also subscribe to my twin sister, Cindy Daniels blog but may have missed her wildly popular and hilarious blog, “Five Females Fighting” so I’m including it to give you a better idea of how Boomerang Kids can (and do) bring the drama— Cindy Daniel May Never Know What An Empty Nest Is.Home Life With Cindy- Five Females Fighting & Boomerang Kids.

Cindy uses humor to cope with her home life and often, the lack of help she gets around the house. With all three grandchildren and her adult daughter home, my sisters favorite #Cindyism Quote may just be “Just like a blister showing up when all the work is done!” 

From taking out the trash to washing the clothes and even walking Makenna’s new puppy, Cindy’s work at home never ends. Most of the time though, Cindy’s family members have no idea her Redneck Granny wisdom is about them. 

On rare occasions, a Cindyism Quote can be about an Inlaw or Outlaw too. For my sister, her saucy observations are in fact Funny mainly because they all are actually True.Being Compensating Personality Twins, I’m generally thinking while Cindy is talking. Trying to resolve issues of sibling rivalry or even trying to get people to pitch in around her house, my sisters saucy whit gets the point across ya all.

For years, Cindy and I have stressed the importance of a close knit family because we didn’t have one ourselves. Adult children often want to be the center of attention in my family but the focus is on the children here. 

The adult children will need to work on their own issues and somehow realize that there isn’t a competition going on- this is a blended family. I’m intolerant of arguing and therefore, put my foot down when necessary to end bickering and arguments among my family. 

I’ve got a pretty busy schedule this month with 7 Texas Prison Weddings and 3 Pawning Planners Clients and 4 Texas Twins Events Clients so trying to finish that antique loveseat in my workroom before I can list it at Texas Twins Treasures while finishing brooch bouquets is going to be a challenge but, Cindy and I are up for it and enjoy our road trips together more than anyone realizes listening to classic rock and hitting a few junk stores along the way away from the all of the arguing from our adult children regarding who gets the most attention or how much time I spend with my twin sister…