Since I’m still home recovering from my hysterectomy Wednesday, my phone is a work tool to keep up with Leigh Ann, Robert, Stephanie and Cindy.
Answering my emails, a family that had traveled from Arizona a few years ago to meet me for their wedding are coming back to Texas for their sons wedding that I’m Officiating next month. I’m honored for the opportunity.My son and his wife prefer to work as a team on location with Robbie Officiating and his wife, Stephanie handling photography.
Although we have five Officiants on staff, I’m always the first choice which bothers my son, my dad and my stepdaughter but not my twin sister, Cindy or niece, Leigh Ann because they understand how difficult standing in front of a room and conducting a ceremony actually is.
For my step daughter, Anne, she believed that watching me perform religious services and ceremonies gave her enough experience to Officiate a wedding herself.
Last year, Anne finally had the chance and not surprisingly, forgot to tell everyone to be seated. Watching others perform a task often leads the person watching to believe that the job is easy but, it isn’t.
My family members call me “Chief” or “Boss Lady” and occasionally, “The Captain.” These phrases don’t bother me because I realize I’m OCD and every event is a learning curve because people are unpredictable. Problem solving is necessary when I’m accused of “being bossy.”
Leigh Ann has been working with me as my go to photographer the past two years but prior to Leigh Ann, my son and daughter in law accompanied me to hundreds of events. Leigh Ann created her own business branching off Texas Twins Events as did Robbie and Stephanie. They handle their own bookings as well as booking clients through Texas Twins Events and The Pawning Planners.
Occasionally, Leigh Ann also handles photography for Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham and accompanies me on road trips to Prisons across Texas when Cindy is busy with Maryssa & Makenna or Madyson her three granddaughters or handling an Apprausal Appointment on her own while I’m on the road.
Juggling my entire family from my phone is possible because I answer texts and review photos from my Team while I’m on location miles away. I can fix nearly any problem because I’ve encountered so many the past eight years. If I’m in a Prison, Cindy is my “back up” boss.
Leigh Ann has a different style of directing couples and guests at weddings without being bossy and loves my input. Here’s a video of Leigh Ann directing the guests and wedding party with my input at a wedding in Arlington last year– Leigh Ann Blais Photographer For Maddie & Me.
Robert and Stephanie work as a team and “roll with it” when children in the wedding party don’t always want to do what they are asked when posing for photos. Here’s a video of both of them trying to encourage children for poses on location at a backyard wedding– Robbie And Stephanie On Location Directing Children At A Backyard Wedding.
Trying to get the best photos at an event often requires my photographers to “pack their patience.” On the flip side of that coin, directing the wedding party for a rehearsal or wedding or even fixing an unexpected problem is far more challenging for Cindy and I because while we are addressing one issue, another one pops up.
Last year, a problem with a meddling mother on location who wanted to know “where the tables and chairs” that the couple hadn’t rented were going to be placed.
After explaining to the Meddling Mother that if the couple wanted tables and chairs, they could rent them, the mother of the bride decided that she didn’t like the park location because there was dirt.
It was one thing after the next at that Rehearsal. Two hours at a Rehearsal is rare but, when Inlaws and Outlaws butt in, the circus is hard to control. The Rehearsal was a disaster but, thankfully, the wedding turned out well.
Conflict Resolution with Pawning Planners Clients is necessary when they have Inlaws and Outlaws attempting to run the show.
At one wedding, the Groom had put his vows on his phone. The problem? The phone died.
The clients themselves know exactly what to expect because they’ve signed a contract but, their friends and family members always find a way to try and run the show.
These days, everyone thinks they an event planner. “I planned my own wedding” or “I helped organize a fundraiser so I know how to do this myself.” The last thing we need on location is a Mr or Mrs Know It All who actually knows very little about organizing and orchestrating a Dream Event.
“I think the ceremony should take place over there.” Hmmm, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a run in with someone who considers themselves to be more experienced.
Over 1,300 events later, these busybody guests or relatives continue to try and throw a kink in the chain of command. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.
A few years ago, everyone was shocked when the bride dropped her Bouquet off the balcony. The bouquet was nearly destroyed after a valet ran over it.
While everyone was upset and freaking out, I went downstairs and retrieved what was left of the bouquet and collected lace panties from the bridesmaids to rebuild the bouquet with my glue gun and cuts of lace to “build out” the bouquet.
I don’t have time to “lose it” when something goes wrong because I’m required to think on my feet.
Sure, it’s shocking that I used lace panties but, in the end, the bride was happy with the bouquet and the bridesmaids had effectively “pitched in” to save the day.Problem solving skills are a requirement at events. We can’t “call a friend” unless that friend is my husband because someone forgot the champagne flutes or Cindy’s husband because we need duct tape to fix the hem.
With my dad at one location and my niece at another with Robbie and Steph and another, the entire Team is “split up.”
Today, Leigh Ann was handling photography at Holland Lake Park while Robbie and Steph were at a wedding rehearsal across town.
Leigh Ann was texting me Photos and video of the location to ask about poses and background ideas while Robbie and Steph were asking questions about the procession.
The truth is that there are no “set rules” for photography when children are involved or the procession when children are involved.
Children are going to do their own thing and bring unexpected fun to events whether they are following directions or not. Explaining this to my niece, son, daughter in law and stepdaughter isn’t any easy discussion.
Even my dad can’t understand why I’m so easygoing when it comes to incorporating children into weddings.
Children bring their own rules to events and trying to control someone’s child on location obviously steps on a few toes. I prefer for children to be happy in wedding parties.
Rehearsals with children actually help cue them for the ceremony.
At the actual wedding ceremony, I’m often using my hands to direct the children where to go and believe it or not, it works well.
Sure, I’ve had the ring bearer run off chasing butterflies or the flower girl refuse to throw the flowers but, winging it and helping the flower girls throw flowers helps them feel at ease.
The last thing I want is to have crying children in the wedding party on location. Children are sensitive and often tired, hungry or cranky. A lot of people ask what happens on location when I arrive but the first thing I do is check on the Bride then the Groom to make sure they haven’t made any changes to the ceremony and if they have, change my outline.
Secondly, I go review the altar to make certain if there’s a sand ceremony, unity candle or other incorporated element that it’s positioned in the correct place. Finally, we wait.
Waiting is part of the Officiants job whether I’m Officiating a wedding, funeral, baptism, house blessing or even orchestrating a Pawning Party or Rent Party. We are always waiting on someone.
I cannot understand why a few parents are always late to their child’s wedding or other Life Event but, the Tardy Party Folks are almost always the parents.
It’s actually very rare for any event to start on time. While waiting, I check with the DJ, caterer, florist or other vendors on location. Weddings operate on timelines.
The garter toss, the first dance, announcements and other priorities must be squeezed in to a small window.
Let’s say the Bride refuses to come out because she’s unhappy with her hair or she broke her tooth? It’s my job to try and soothe frazzled nerves or fix a problem to carry on with the ceremony.
When Cindy or I encounter an unexpected issue at an event, we do what anyone else would do and fix it. Our children and grandchildren are learning that whatever goes wrong must be resolved to have a successful event.
Much of the time, whatever is going wrong couldn’t have been foreseen. The mariachi bands van breaking down, the caterer serving the food too early. The cake vendor cutting the cake without the couple and serving it to guests leaving none for the couple.
I’ve seen just about anything go wrong on location as has anyone on my Team.
My twin sister, Cindy is often my ears on location and alerts me to possible problems. Cindy and I both work as a Team on location to address the unexpected.Cindy prefers to be a guest but when needed, Cindy can also address smoothing frazzled nerves and coaxing the Bride out of the dressing room. A torn hem, broken tooth, broken bone on a corset and more couldn’t have been expected by anyone.
At one wedding, the DJ forgot the bridal entrance music. Cindy and I quickly realized there was a problem while I stood waiting on the Bride, Cindy went to ask what was wrong? Solving the situation required me to ask the guests to join me and we sang together “Here Comes The Sun” to welcome the Bride.
There are no “this isn’t my job” moments when I’m location. Regardless of who was supposed to be handling something or hired to do something, if they are having an issue, as a vendor, my Team will jump in and help whenever possible. If it’s singing, I hopefully know the tune.From flowers to bee stings, bug bites, bloody noses and barfing brides, Cindy and I have encountered just about any problem you can imagine. Because of this, we bring an emergency kit with us wherever we go.
On more than one occasion, the florist that couples have hired has forgotten the bouteniers. Since I always ask if the couple would like to borrow flowers from my inventory, many couples who “find themselves in a pickle” often ask me to provide the bouteniers.
Because of the many times I’ve left the venue to run home and grab or create bouteniers to run back to the venue, I now bring my own floral designs to spare myself the trip to and from my workroom.
I have no idea how bouteniers are almost always lost at a wedding but, solving problems is necessary regardless of whose problem it is.
Floral vendors often drop everything off and then leave which removes responsibility when there’s a mistake on a floral order.
At yet another wedding, the Grooms Cake had chocolate covered strawberries surrounding it. The children of guests continued to eat the strawberries while Cindy and I were busy setting up the fruit table.
Realizing that the Grooms cake was missing all of the chocolate covered strawberries, Cindy and I took fruit from the multilevel fruit table to replace the missing strawberries.
Since the Cake Vendor just dropped off the cakes and left, fixing the Groom’s Cake fell on Cindy and I.
Throughout the years, I’ve covered other vendors mistakes over and over again but, the show went on.
Fixing a problem requires quick thinking and not laying the blame on someone else.My niece, Leigh Ann and daughter in law, Stephanie have had dead batteries on location more times than I can count. They are learning that planning ahead is essential to a successful event.
I go over notes for every event and never forget anything. In fact, I bring far more items than necessary because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
I bring extra batteries and pack carefully trying to think of everything someone else might not including SD Cards. Being on location for several hours requires additional batteries, SD Cards and even a back up camera.
My son and his wife once got into an argument on location because her SD Card was full. Hearing them arguing, I sent them both back to the suvs and told them to check my bag because I had brought another SD Card with me.
Sadly, my son had been deleting photos from Stephanie’s SD Card from the last wedding we had left to make room for photos at the wedding we were at which is what caused the argument. Stephanie needed the photos to download to her computer and my son had accidentally deleted what he thought were photos from a wedding weeks ago that had already been downloaded.
Leigh Ann posts her photos within a week while Stephanie continues to drag her feet and answer calls from me demanding to know where the photos are? Because of this ongoing ordeal, Leigh Ann became my go to photographer. I don’t need to remind my niece everyday to post and edit photos.
Years of telling my daughter in law that I want photos posted within a week and being consistently dissapointed forced me to change who I bring with me to events for photography.
If Leigh Ann is booked elsewhere, I bring my sister, Cindy for photos and if Cindy and I are busy coordinating an event, Robert and Stephanie handle the photography.
My daughter in law, Stephanie thinks that editing and developing photos should take 6-8 weeks. The problem with this concept is that while Stephanie is waiting to edit photos, other events are stacking up on her.
When you are juggling 3-5 events a week in season, editing photos from events asap prevents a backlog. I’ve tried to explain this numerous times to my daughter in law but no longer need to with my niece.
Leigh Ann posts photos within 48 hours and mails photo discs within 7 days. Clients love this because they have instant gratification with posted photos and within a week, their own disc to make duplicates for friends and families or download and post to their social media accounts.
I’m not a great photographer but, I can do it myself if I have to. My photos are far from perfectly executed but learning how to use a camera isn’t on the top of my to do list since my expertise lies elsewhere. I’m far more comfortable on location handling other issues and preparing. Tardiness is unacceptable in the events industry. Anyone representing Texas Twins Events, Texas Prison Weddings or The Pawning Planners on my Team realize that I require them to be on location a minimum of thirty minutes prior to when they are expected. Why? Because there is often something happening that can be addressed early on by arriving early.
Everyone is running around at a Wedding while a Funeral or Baptism are often far calmer and predictable.
House Blessings are also far more predictable but on the flip side of a house Blessing is a surprise party at a house. No one ever arrives on time and many of the birthday guests of honor dislike surprise parties.
My husband hates surprise parties and I’m not so sure I would like one myself but, the popularity of surprise parties continues to roll on with our creative requests.
Princess Parties are one of our latest additions to birthday parties. My twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna love entertaining children and getting paid.
For years and years, Maryssa and Makenna worked for tips and flips as flower girls, ring bearers and ushers. It wasn’t anything Cindy or I had planned but when Clients saw that we had twin girls in our family, the popularity of twins in their wedding gave the twins an opportunity to earn money and be involved at events.
Prison Weddings are far more structured than traditional weddings. There are strict timelines involved and everything is by the book. No bossy friends or relatives. No Surprises.
The only “Wild Card” I’ve run across at a Prison Wedding is the Bride not showing up or cancelling the wedding or the Bride showing up drunk or inappropriately dressed or late.
Because of these past issues, I have a contract specifically for Prison Wedding Services that strictly outlines what I expect from clients and what they can expect from me.
Outrageous Behavior at a Prison is strictly forbidden by not only me but also, the Warden and Chaplain. Texas Prison Wedding Clients are expected to be courteous to TDCJ Personnel because they wouldn’t be having a wedding if not for the entire Unit accommodating their request.
Scheduling Prison Weddings is tricky. There are no “set dates.” The process begins with a Client hiring me to Officiate. Then the inmate gets a notarized Absentee Affidavit. The Bride or Groom “on the outside” uses the Affidavit to obtain a Marriage License.
Next, the inmate files an I60 Request For Marriage Form. Finally, the Chaplain calls with a date and time that are mostly within a one week window or the Warden denies the request based on a number of reasons.
Mainly, the problem is that the Prisoner is listed as Common Law Married (CLM) to someone other than the person they are trying to marry. Undoing this status takes time.
Once I arrive at a Prison on the scheduled date, I meet the Bride or Groom in the parking lot and we enter the Unit together.
Normally, we are escorted to the Visitation Area unless the Visitation Area is already in use. If so, the Unit will find another room for the ceremony to take place. Photos are offered at $3 each by most TDCJ Units. I often buy a few for my dossier.
The License is signed on site and copies are left with the Unit in order to change a Prisoners status to Married.
After leaving the Unit, I ask whether the Client wants to file the License or have me file it. When I file it, the License is mailed to the client. When the client files it, the license is recorded and handed back to the client.
Most clients want their license quickly which is why I ask how they prefer to handle the filing.
As a courtesy, I bring numerous props with me to Prison Weddings for impromptu photo shoots with friends or family who were unable to attend the wedding. This is a free service. Photo shoots give the Bride or Groom an opportunity to have fun after the seriousness of being married in a Prison.
I rarely perform county jail weddings due to my schedule. My son, Robbie, niece, Leigh Ann, and father handle most requests for County Jail Weddings.
County Jail Weddings are popular because the inmate is married prior to incarceration.
If my son, niece, or father gave a question on site at a County Jail Wedding, they text or call me for more information.
County Jail Weddings do not allow the same contact that Prison Weddings do. The Prisoner is often behind the glass and therefore, unable to seal the deal with a kiss.
The first time I walked into a Prison to find the inmate behind the glass, I was shocked.
I was at Ferguson Unit and had never encountered a Prisoner not standing and waiting for my client and I to arrive. Prisoners behind glass can hear and understand me.
My Bride loved this photo taken by a TDCJ Guard because their faces blended together in the glass. Leaving TDCJ Ferguson Unit, I asked my Bride if she knew her Groom would be behind glass and, she did.
I’m guessing that even if I had known about the glass, seeing the Groom on the other side of it would’ve made me uncomfortable anyway.
While getting back into my SUV, my niece knew that something had happened to me inside the Unit and asked about it.
Nearly crying, I told her that the inmate couldn’t touch her of kiss her due to the glass partition. I was so sad about the circumstances of that wedding but, my Bride wasn’t.
My beautiful Bride was thrilled to stand on the highway and take photos knowing that one day, her husband would be released and they would have traditional photos with a Vow Renewal.
All of my previous Texas Prison Wedding Clients schedule Vow Revewals with me. These Vow Renewals are a true celebration and as emotional as you would expect.
Walking through a Prison isn’t easy for me. I’m claustrophobic and uncomfortable but, face my fears on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis.
There have been so many times in my life that something completely unexpected happened to me or my sister that we often remind each other to “be a duck.” Let the initial shock of a problem “roll off our backs.”
A few years ago, Cindy and I traveled to the Fort Worth Water Gardens to meet an LBGT Couple who wanted to be married. They didn’t have a Marriage License and they didn’t bring their fee.
Since we were already on location, I officiated a Commitment Ceremony but advised them that they were not legally married without a Marriage License.
Neither Bride understood the importance of the License. It took me an hour to explain why without a License, a marriage didn’t legally take place.
I meet a wild array of people and for many of my Pawning Planners Clients, poverty is an obvious part of their lives.
While many of Pawning Planners Clients want a wedding, an equal amount want a baby shower and gifts or a birthday party for their child that they cannot afford to do themselves.
Many Pawning Planners Clients have struggled through a divorce, illness or even a death that dramatically affected their income level.
Occasionally, there are tears and drama when a Pawning Planners Client wants something that they have no way of paying for or, they have nothing of value to trade or barter with.
Tears and drama aside, it’s essential for me to educate them that no one else is willing to help them. This “Chief” knows how to elaborate on a situation and resolve the expectations of what people want but have no way of affording.
Pawning Planners Clients Events are always at free locations. Parks, Backyards, Karate Studios, Parking Lots, & Trailers aren’t what these Clients wanted for their event but, explaining their situation when a few people were expecting David Tuttera or their Fairy Godmother to save the day is how we bring them back to reality. No one is going to rent them a venue and we aren’t either.
Prison Units aren’t exactly a venue but, they are also free. Free locations are as unpredictable as you might expect.
I once officiated a military LBGT Marriage on a bridge in Waco. That’s right, a bridge. Why? The couple had met through an auto accident on the bridge and their relationship was based on the accident that brought them together.
Three years ago, I was forced to find a free location for a Military Couple who wanted to marry at the Botanic Gardens but couldn’t afford the permit fee.
Driving them to a housing district that features a small lake, I married them on a bridge while the neighbors watched.
The Harvey Family loved my unique idea to find a beautiful and free location. Since my husband is a developer, I know about locations that many other Officiants don’t.
Where to find a lake, a fountain or other beautiful area gives my clients a variety of options for their ceremony.When Misty contacted me to marry her at TDCJ Sanders-Estes Unit, I suggested jumping into my SUV and jumping out at mansions in my neighborhood.
Misty was nervous about this but, I wasn’t and knew she would love the photos. Standing on sidewalks near my neighbors homes, Misty and I had a great time getting some pretty cool photos. No one came outsude to run us off either. Leigh Ann loved my idea so much that she now drives her Brides around for photos too and uses backdrops around my neighborhood.
I don’t often say no to a creative Request but, I have. I won’t do a wedding in a nudist colony naked. I won’t sing like Elvis because I can’t. I can dress up like Elvis but, I don’t know how to dance or sing like him.
If you want an Elvis Impersonator at your event though, I have a number of connections happy to sing and dance for you but, it won’t be free. I also am not anparanormal investigator or excorcist.
Bill Bean will handle matters of Evil but that’s not something I choose to involve myself with. Seriously. I’m completely uncomfortable in a haunted house.
A few weeks ago, someone from Twitter sent me audios of “spooky noises.” Rather than listening to these voice recordings, I sent them to Eric Perry of Haunted In New England.
I’m happy to bless your home or conduct and orchestrate a Divorce Party, birthday party, wedding or other event but cannot and will not subject myself to poltergeists or anything that “spooks me.”
I’m sorry but, I can quickly refer you to a number of my connections who can help you with haunting issues.
My goal was to give anyone a Dream Event regardless of income. By offering a Bartering Option through The Pawning Planners, my family and I created an opportunity for anyone to enjoy a Dream Event. One persons Dream may not mirror someone else’s but, that’s what makes the world go around…