On The Road Again… Fort Worth To Stiles Unit. Travels Of A TDCJ Officiant…

Over the weekend I had a request to officiate a wedding in Wylie Wednesday. Due to my schedule at Buster Cole, I was within an hour of the other event location and asked about flexibility with my existing schedule. 

For a few days now, this lead has been flipping and flopping regarding booking. I finally sent a low bid due to the couple being military to either get the couple to make a decision on a timeline or move on because quite frankly, I don’t have time to play a tennis match of “this works for me but doesn’t work for you type scenarios.” 

Normally, I can work a new booking into my existing schedule but if I’m moving my schedule to accommodate a new booking, I require a deposit and some “skin in the game.” I do not and will not commit myself or my time to anyone who can’t make a commitment themselves. Why not? Because existing clients are my priorities and I can’t be running from one event to the next hoping the person contacting me is serious or willing to make a commitment. 

Years ago, I marked my calendar without requiring a deposit but, I haven’t done this in years because holding a date without a retainer cost me money. Traveling to a location and trying to get paid was also a pain and why I require balances to be paid one week prior to the event date. 

Monday I was at Parker County and Palo Pinto County Jails with clients while fielding calls for TDCJ weddings. My schedules in November and December are always tight due to the holiday bookings. 

Cindy’s home is finally getting the necessary repairs and she’s home again which is truly a blessing for our families. Her handyman, Jessie and I continue to go around and around with his lax work ethics. It’s not uncommon for Jessie to disappear from the job for days and occasionally weeks but, for twenty years now Cindy continues to hire him. Ugh. 

Headed to Beaumont from Fort Worth this morning, my son joined me for a five hour and fifteen minute drive one way to TDCJ Stiles Unit to meet Ava. As usual, my phone rings or dings every fifteen to twenty minutes and when I’m driving, my son or sister read me the text messages or emails or switch my phone to Bluetooth. 

Today’s call regarding Ferguson Unit assigning a date for December 13 conflicted with my Green Bay Unit Wedding December 13th. Why couldn’t I do both? Because Ferguson Unit has me scheduled at 1PM while Green Bay Unit had me scheduled at 11AM. The distance between the two? Three plus hours. I called Cindy to take over the Green Bay Unit booking and called Ferguson to confirm their booking at 1PM. 

Friday is an unusual day for Ferguson which generally schedules on Wednesday’s but I would make it work by moving my team around. Scheduling is always tricky. I have a very full schedule. Distance and timing are critical factors. I’m constantly googling location A to location B. 

For a few weeks now, Brandi who had initially contacted me months ago to marry an inmate has continually stayed in touch with me. She had thought she loved an inmate she planned to marry. Raul was a player and I knew it. How? Texts of photos from this inmate proclaiming his love to Brandi while all the while planning to marry Valerie.

Months of Brandi and Valerie texting and calling while arguing with each other over this unworthy groom had created a love triangle. I was caught in the triangle. Subsequently, I became friends with Brandi and someone she could talk to. 

Valerie was finally married at Ellis Unit to this “Don Juan” Inmate. I was really uncomfortable about officiating the Ellis wedding. Why? Two women fighting over one man who had been unfaithful and dishonest to both of them concerned me. He had no loyalty and I knew it. 

Both women had come to me to marry them to someone (Raul) who was financially playing both women. I wanted to flip this booking but couldn’t because Valerie wanted me to officiate as Brandi sat back and waited alone, broken and lost in North Dakota. 

A few weeks ago, Cindy and I were at Goree Unit and Gib Lewis when Brandi kept calling to check in with us about “moving on.” We had hoped she would but Brandi would later that night make a decision that was a mistake. 

While driving to Jordan Unit with my son the following day, Brandi FaceTimed me to tell me she had gone out drinking and driven into her apartment complex. This was a problem. Good choices and the right direction seem to consistently be a problem for Brandi. 

Brandi doesn’t have insurance which only added to her problems. My son suggested sitting out her tickets. 

A few hours later after both of my Jordan Unit weddings, Brandi FaceTimed me again as she was getting a tongue piercing. I didn’t think this was a good idea but my opinion was overruled. With Brandi it usually is. I couldn’t watch this video though. I’m not in favor of piercing tongues and such. My son and copilot for the day did instead. 

Today about an hour from Stiles Unit, Brandi called me again. This time because she couldn’t pay her fines because she had to pay her phone bill. I worry about Brandi. I asked about family but didn’t get a positive answer. I pray one day Brandi finds a positive and enriching relationship. Everyone deserves to find love. Brandi is fragile. Her phone calls and text messages to me since being unceremoniously ghosted by Raul keep me updated on how she’s doing. 

Cindy is going to officiate at Green Bay Unit on December 13th at 11 whole I drive to Ferguson Unit. My son is going to handle Tarrant County. It really does take a village. 

Update… while inside TDCJ Stiles Unit with my bride, my Green Bay Unit client sent a text that she needed to move to December 20th which will work with my schedule. Right up until we fly out of DFW to LAX on the 26th, it’s going to be a tight schedule for me. Tuesday I have three brides in Tennessee Colony. Working seven days a week out of wedding season might sound odd but Prison weddings occur during the week while traditional events take place on weekends. 

Cindy will be back up and officiating Prison Weddings in January which will certainly help cover our clients. I’ve decided to add my son as a TDCJ Officiant as well due to our overwhelming popularity in this diverse business. 

While the majority of our bookings are in Texas, I’m not geographically limited to Texas and cover numerous states which sounds confusing but isn’t. Why? Because many states offer only one or two dates per year for inmate weddings. Because of this, I can easily stack weddings in other states around my schedule. Texas Units have two days a month for weddings.

Ava looked beautiful in a charming dress with mint colored heels and matching jacket. 

We had a few minutes to visit about our families while waiting for the groom in the visitation area together which I always enjoy. Each of my clients have a story to tell.Leaving Stiles Unit, I found an area near the railroad tracks for a few bridal photos with Ava before saying goodbye today. 

I rarely wear heels and haven’t in many years but Ava could literally run in hers and I found myself wishing that comfort for me hadn’t replaced fun shoes but it has. For a number of years I wore only heels but no longer can unless of course it’s a kitten heel.  

While driving back from my wedding at Briscoe Unit in Dilley, Texas today, my Ellis Unit bride, Valerie (who had been one of two women that were being charmed by Raul with Brandi being the woman scorned) sent a text regarding an annulment. This was a surprise. After all Valerie was so happy about marrying less than a month ago. 

Walking Valerie through the process of a divorce will be a new and painful experience for her. In fact, I had tried to talk Valerie out of marrying Raul for over a month. 

At Briscoe Unit today, I finally met Samantha who had contacted me about a year ago to marry at Jordan Unit. Her loved one had caught a chain and transferred to Briscoe. 

For months Samantha and I had long conversations about putting her needs first. Today, I met a confident Samantha who was excited and ready to marry. 

Sometimes all it takes is time and communication to make a relationship work. Marriage is a merger. I was as happy to see smiles today as my couple were. I love happy endings.

“Prison Weddings are rainbows in dark place. There is joy. There is laughter. There is love.”

Rev Wendy Wortham