On The Road Again-TDCJ Bridgeport To TDCJ Hutchins State Jail- Travels Of A Texas Prison Wedding Officiant…

This morning while packing up my SUV to leave WorthamWorld, my twin sister laughed at my suit and called it the money suit because it was green. I’m a redhead and like green but my twin loves black and is nearly always wearing black.

My twin sister, Cindy Daniel can make me laugh like no one else in the world. We are best friends and joke around all of the time with each other.  

I’m usually driving unless we need a caravan of suvs so Cindy can play on her phone (as usual).  Cindy doesn’t like driving which is why I’m usually behind the wheel. 

Expecting Cindy to navigate for me while she’s juggling phone calls and checking my email can be funny because she usually has two phones in her hands while I drive. 

Larger Events require a caravan and whenever possible, Cindy prefers to ride shotgun with me and save mileage on her SUV.  Traditionally, my son and my niece load their vehicles as I have the largest vehicle in my family.  Large Events often require the entire team on location.

I drive 3-4K miles a month mostly due to Texas Prison Weddings although we also service many states as Officiants, Coordinators and Photographers as well as floral designers.  Out of state weddings beyond Arkansas are plane trips to try and keep my mileage down. 

Due to the nice weather, I thought a dash of color was just what I needed since I traditionally wear a beige, black or brown suit to Texas Prison Weddings.  My sister loves taking photos of me and they aren’t always flattering. 

These pics are often called “blackmail photos” and I’m usually eating or talking. The photo below is a great example…Cindy loves taking pictures and for the first few years of Texas Twins Events, handled photography but, my hilarious sister belongs in front of the camera rather than behind it ya all. 

For the past few weeks, my Bridgeport Unit client has gone back and forth trying to secure a date for her Prison Wedding at TDCJ Bridgeport Unit. 

The Unit is privately owned and until today, had never had a wedding ceremony on site before.  Because of this, getting the paperwork completed and Approved was a bit complicated for the Client.  

Prison Weddings are a bit of a “learning curve” for Units especially privately owned Prison Units. 

Since there had never been a wedding ceremony at the Bridgeport Unit, the Client called me to call Huntsville because the process “wasn’t working.” I had instructed the Client to call Bridgeport and have them speak to Huntsville Courts regarding my permission and approval to perform a ceremony in a TDCJ Unit.  

Arriving with my client, we walked in together to meet her fiancée in the Visitation Area with a guard, the Warden and the Chaplain.  

There were a few bumps in the road at Bridgeport Unit mainly because they hadn’t gone through the process before but, everything was worked out.

Many of my Prison Wedding Clients do not want photos posted on social media or websites and, I honor their wishes (of course). There are no photos of today’s beautiful bride and 1 out of 3 Prison Brides or Grooms request no photos for privacy reasons.  

My Client and I were both greeted warmly by not only the Warden but also the Chaplain and other personnel today at TDCJ Bridgeport Unit. 

Since I’m always asked about Prison Wedding Services by other Clients & strangers, it should be noted that while Prison Weddings are different- they are based on love. 

The truth is that all of my Clients (regardless of their choices) deserve to love and be loved.  Their situation may not mirror those of others but, Clients of Texas Twins Events and The Pawning Planners are all treated with courtesy and respect by not only me but, also my staff. 

It’s well known that 40-50% of Texas Twins Events and The Pawning Planners Clients are LBGT.  We were LBGT Friendly long before it was “hip.”  In fact, I was LBGT Friendly from the start and have many close friends within the community.

For those choosing to marry a Prisoner, it’s not an easy decision for them. They face a long road of expensive phone calls and road trips for visitation. The commitment they have would astonish you.  Love passes any barrier.  Believe me, I’ve seen it.

Prison Wedding Ceremonies are significantly shorter than my traditional wedding ceremonies which normally last 15-20 minutes for non denominational and significantly longer for a religious ceremony.  The reason for this is time.  A Marriage Ceremony outside a Prison is as long or short as the Client wishes.  Prison Weddings operate on a timeline. 

A Prison Wedding Ceremony is allotted 30 minutes and many of my clients are (not surprisingly) nervous and therefore, prefer to “get the ceremony part finished” in order to visit for a few minutes immediately following the ceremony.  Several Units only allow 15 minutes so be aware that different rules often apply to different Units. 

Leading “up to” a Prison Wedding, Clients “on the outside” will use an Absentee Affidavit the Prisoner signs with assistance in the Law Library.  A “hiccup” of obtaining the Absentee Affidavit is whether the Prisoner has a valid ID or not.  A Valid ID is required for an Absentee Affidavit as it is a notarized document.  

If the Prisoner doesn’t have a current ID, the Unit will assist him or her of obtaining one. Please allow 1-3 weeks to secure a Valid ID.

I’m always asked how long the process will take but, every Unit is different.  I do not assign dates, the Chaplain and Warden do which makes scheduling tricky as I often have a few days notice of an upcoming Prison Wedding.

Once the Absentee Affidavit is sent to the person “on the outside,” the bride or groom will take the Absentee Affidavit to the county clerk and purchase a Marriage License.

After purchasing the Marriage License, the Prisoner will fill out an I60 Request For Marriage Ceremony.  The Chaplain or Warden will call to give a date and time for the ceremony.  

Please be early as entering any Texas Prison requires clearance and many also clear your vehicle.  

A Prison Wedding is not the time or the place to be running late.  I cannot stress this enough as the entire Prison is accommodating your request to marry.

Two years ago, the laws changed for Prisoners of Units and their fiancées effectively “on the outside.”  Texas Prison Weddings became legal in Texas due to new laws put in place to grant prisoners the right to marry.  

State Jails, Federal Units and State Prisons became “venues” for wedding ceremonies following the ruling.  The Visitation. Area of a Unit that is used for weekend visits is the location for Prison Weddings during the week. Each Unit has an assigned day (or two) twice a month for weddings.

Texas Prison Weddings is a pending Trademark of Wendy Marie Wortham.  There are several businesses using this “mark” and, to clear up any confusion regarding the name and brand, I’ve taken steps to secure and protect the name associated with my Texas Prison Wedding business branch of Texas Twins Events.

Today, while traveling a few backroads of Saginaw on my way to meet a client near TDCJ Bridgeport Unit,  I had a missed call due to bad cell tower reception.  

This isn’t unusual in the country and I decided to let the caller leave a message.  My phone rings so many times a day that it’s impossible for me to answer every call due to my schedule.  It’s best to leave a message as I do not return calls that don’t.

Upon leaving TDCJ Bridgeport Unit, I took a moment to listen to the message which confused me so, I replayed it. “A missed meeting and appointment?” I played the message again. My life is on a schedule. I never miss an appointment and, I’m never late and, I didn’t recognize the name of the caller.

Apparently, the caller thought he was calling a drug counselor and due to the urgent nature of his message, I returned his call to assure him that he hadn’t missed a 3PM appointment with me because I carry a calendar and didn’t recognize his name.  He was calling the wrong number.  

After listening to his story and a request to call his mother for him, I did.  Amazingly, his mother answered my call. Frankly, I didn’t expect her to answer a strange number calling out of the blue and was slightly taken aback as I had planned to leave a message.

Many people wouldn’t take the time I did to walk his mother through the process of finding free drug treatment for her son but, after explaining that her son and called a wrong number (mine)  and was in distress, the mother started crying.  

I explained that I had returned his call after listenning to his message and spoke with him for ten minutes trying to help him prior to jotting down his mothers phone number and calling her.  

Any mother going through a similar situation would cry.  Many parents have no idea where to find help or what to do.  Paula was no exception.  

Often, parents are embarrassed to ask for help because they have no idea who to ask or where to go. 

Sadly, I do because my sister and I have had far too many problems with her daughter as many of my dedicated readers already know.

It’s tragic to me that so many parents, grandparents and family members bear the pain of having a drug addict in their family.   The guilt, the shame, the surprising phone calls at all hours of the night and, the secrets can destroy a family and often do. 

Because my sister and I have far too much experience with family members and drug abuse issues, I spoke to Paula for over an hour explaining that her son wanted treatment which is rare for a drug addict.  

It’s well known (because I’m honest about it) that my mother was a heroin addict and I’ve had other family members with drug or alcohol issues so, I’m hard to surprise.  

My twin sister has struggled for years with her daughter (mother of the twins) and believe me, it’s aged my sister and I more than anyone realizes.  

My sister has custody of the her granddaughters aka “the twins” and has since they were born.  Raising twins in your 40’s is hard enough but when you have a daughter with a drug problem, the struggle never ends.  

My sister also took care of our grandmother in her home for 17 years and raised both of her daughters and is now raising her twin granddaughters. 

For my sister, the responsibility is never ending.  My husband and I have helped my sister financially as neither of their parents pay child support for years. 

My sister, Cindy has had a life that has never been easy and, although I try to keep her mind occupied, the problems she’s faced often haunt her. A memory here and a tear there- mothers of addicts know pain. They feel helpless and lost.  

My sister is with me nearly everyday and I’m constantly trying to cheer her up but a phone call from her daughter can destroy a good day and, quickly.  Occasionally, I wish I could turn that phone in silent. 

It’s ironic that our grandparents raised my twin sister and I because our mother was a drug addict and Cindy is now raising her twin grandchildren because her daughter (who suffers from bipolar disorder and self medicates) continues to struggle with sobriety.  

My sister and I are often accused of “stealing the twins” by her daughter. But, we saved them and gave them the stability that we never had while being bumped from one family member to the next most of our young lives.  

It’s a struggle to accept that my niece may never be the person she could be.  She’s beautiful and funny and easily influenced by the wrong people.  She’s an addict. 

My sister and I have cried so many tears over the twins mother that we could fill a river.  Crying won’t change my niece and after numerous in patient treatment facilities that failed, we continue to hope one day she will see the light before it’s too late but, we can’t control it. 

After realizing how a phone call to the wrong number (mine) gave me an unexpected opportunity to help this young man find treatment and give his mother someone to talk to, I know I did the right thing.  

I understood Paula’s pain because I’ve watched my sister struggle to accept her daughters choices. It kills my sister but she can’t cry in front of the twins. Instead, she cries with me and shares the pain we bear together.  

My sister and I have bailed my niece out of jail, dragged her to treatment, questioned her and begged her for 15 years now and, we’ve failed over and over at “fixing” the twins mother.  It’s devastating to helplessly watch someone spiral out of control over and over and over.

Three years ago, my niece was clean and sober. She was working and even for the first time in her life, taking the twins to school while living at home with my twin sister.  We finally had her back and on track.  It was a miracle for my sister, the twins and our family. 

A little over four months ago, we lost her again.  The signs were there. Her emotions were all over the place and as my sister demand a drug test, my niece (as expected) failed it.  

Three years of peace in my family were gone.  My grandnieces watched as my sister packed up my nieces belongings and threw her out of the house. It was horrifying for my sister and painful for the twins. They sat in the living room crying softly as my sister (horrified) told her daughter “never again. I told you no more chances. You have to go.” 

Another bad decision for my niece had left her homeless.  It was only choice my sister had. After all these years of her daughter going off the rails and violent outbursts- my sister made the only choice she could to protect the twins.  

I’ve cried for months over this as has my sister but we are helpless and becoming more hopeless everyday.  We worry about late night phone calls from jail again or worse that my niece will overdose. We are fearful of what we will tell the twins if and when it happens but have no other options left.

My niece moved in with her coworkers father.  She’s been through four jobs after losing the job she had for three years of sobriety.  She lost her friends and she lost her family.  She’s isolated now from everything she knows.  She called today demanding to see the twins but my sister and I could tell she was on the sauce again.  We beg her to straighten up but she only gets angry and denies she’s doing anything.

For three months, my grandnieces have not seen their mother because they want their “old” mom that they had for three short years back.  The mom that came home from work and braided their hair or read them stories and told them about her day. 

We all want her back but, the reason my sister and I chose to hire an attorney and get custody 13 years ago was solely to protect them and give them the chance at a normal life we never had as children ourselves. 

As I talked to Paula about her son and his phone message, I explained to her that he had left me a message about going into treatment.  The importance of a drug addict seeking treatment is huge.  We begged my niece to go to treatment. We drug her there over and over again.  We attended the family meetings where we were made to feel like it was our fault.  “Family Meetings” felt like torture Meetings. While the addict blames their family for everything, the family rarely has an opportunity to voice what they’ve been through. 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in counseling but, I also believe that families need support too. After all, they’ve been drug through all of the mistakes that the addict had made. They’ve cleaned up every mess the addict has made. They’ve gone without sleep wondering where the addict was.  They’ve struggled to look normal with their life falling apart because their addict ripped normality to shreds. 

I believe families of addicts need as much support as the addicts themselves. These families are victims. 

My sister and I sat crying in parking lots of treatment centers for years wondering why on earth we were going through all of this? We could not and may not ever understand the choices my niece made choosing addiction over her family and if we couldn’t, how would the twins? 

Paula had no idea who I was when I called her number after her son begged me to call her but, she listened. She explained to me what she had been going through and, I understood.  

I explained what we had been going through for half my nieces life and the importance of her son wanting to find treatment and realizing he had a problem.

As soon as I returned home from Bridgeport Unit today, I began emailing and calling trying to help Paula find a facility that will help her son.  Like many others, Paula feels alone and lost.  

The only person (aside from a counselor) who can understand what a parent with a child and a drug problem is like is someone whose experienced a similar situation and I have, my sister has and our entire family has. 

A phone call to the wrong number and perhaps the only person who would take the time to help a mother I’ve never met? Yes.  I will do whatever I can to help this mother and her son get the time back they’ve lost. 

One day I wish my niece will seek treatment but, my sister and I along with with the twins know that it may never happen.  Accepting this is the hardest thing in the world for my sister and I. We hold out hope but the future of my niece is uncertain. 

We would love for the twins to see their mom again but, only if she’s sober because the girls have told my sister and I that they won’t see her or talk to her if she isn’t.  The twins are 13 now and know when their mom isn’t acting “straight.” Like my sister and I, they hate drugs. 

My sister and I hate drugs because we can’t hate our mother anymore. She chose heroin over her children but after a drug fueled accident in 1988, she has no cognitive ability and permanent brain damage.  I had to forgive my mother to move on in my life. I will never understand her choices but, I can’t spend the energy it takes to hate her anymore.  

My sister may never forgive her.  It’s a difficult decision to make. Years ago, I created a fake mother when asked about my family because I was too ashamed to let anyone know the truth about my mother. I don’t do that anymore because I no longer am ashamed of what our mother was and I’ve accepted that.  I don’t understand her choices although I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand why she chose drugs over us.

My niece called me while driving home from the Prison and I told her about the wrong number and calling his mom.  As usual, she became angry and told me I was interfering and endangering myself by offering to drive the son to a treatment center with his mom.  I explained (patiently) that my place in this world is to help others and especially those who not only ask for help but more importantly, are willing to accept it.

Finding free drug treatment centers is no easy task. For three hours, I’ve emailed several counselors I know to find help for this family that found me by calling the wrong number.  I’m committed to getting this young man some help and for his mother, the support she not only deserves but, desperately needs.  

Support groups for family members who struggle with a friend or family member who has a drug or alcohol problem is essential to accepting the things you cannot change no matter how much you love an addict.  

I know all too well how difficult it is to try and change someone you care about who refuses to change.  My ex husband was an alcoholic and he had a problem with cocaine.  No matter how much you love someone- you can’t change them only they can do that. He never did. 

Many parents blame themselves for children with drug problems but they shouldn’t. It’s a burden of grief to wonder where your child is or who they are with and for more than a few parents, the relief of the child being in jail is far better than not knowing where they are. 

I will continue to stay in touch with Paula because she needs a friend and because I understand her situation.  Hopefully, we can find a treatment program for her son in the next few days or coming weeks.  

At Hutchins State Jail, I met Maria and waited for her wedding ceremony.  Not surprisingly, Maria had sent me a message about being nervous.  Yesterday, I had asked if there was anything she wanted to add to the ceremony.  

I love creative input and was thrilled that Maria decided to include personal vows into her ceremony.Maria had her ring finger tattooed since there are no ring exchanges inside Units.  Prison Guards aren’t professional photographers which is why Unit photos are almost always out of focus and blurry.  

Finding a great place for Bridal photos near Units is always challenging but, Maria followed me to Dairy Queen for lunch as I studied the town of Hutchins which is relatively small to look for a park or pretty area.  

Across the overpass from Dairy Queen was a nice La Quinta so I unloaded a few bouquets for our impromptu photo shoot.I had packed bubbles, flower petals, 4 bouquets and an assortment of props.  Maria loved the bar ditch photo and a tree across the street along with a faux rock outside the La Quinta.I saw a parked semi truck and decided to use it for a backdrop and used a few trees and even a staircase for unique photos. Nearly all of my brides love the “fun part” of their wedding day with my impromptu photo shoots.

While having fun with Maria today, I told her about the wrong number phone call and the family needing my help. By sheer coincidence, she had an excellent referral to have them contact Cenikor for help which I immediately texted to Paula.  All was well that ended well. 

My days have been so busy that planning a trip to Cowboy Stadium with a client took a few days to coordinate due to my bookings at Bell Tower Chapel and TDCJ Prison Weddings.  

A few days ago, my family and I took a Client to AT&T Dallas Cowboys Stadium to take a tour of this unique venue.  It will be a Renewal of Vows as the couple were married at the Justice Of The Peace years ago and have decided that they want to have the wedding they’ve always dreamed of.  

My niece, Leigh Ann Blais joined us at AT&T Stadium. Leigh Ann handles most of our photography bookings and owns Maddie & Me Photography.  Leigh Ann loves “action shots” and caught me laughing with my client near the elevator at Cowboys Stadium.My son and daughter in law, Robert & Stephanie Hafele of Steph & RC Photography work as a photography team when clients want two photographers as opposed to one.

I’m really looking forward to coordinating and officiating this wedding as well as creating brooch Bling bouquets for the Bride, Maid Of Honor & Bridesmaids.  Please allow 6-9 Weeks for custom floral designs in season.My grandnieces love football and the Stadium and are really excited about partnering with AT&T and Globe Life Stadium to merge our Event Services and Clients with these two amazing venue options.Maryssa is also a huge Texas Rangers fan and helps Leigh Ann on location at photography shoots.  With a bit of juggling this season, Leigh Ann’s daughter, my youngest grandniece Madyson doesn’t have to worry about a built in babysitter with the twins Maryssa and Makenna pitching in to help keep little Maddy entertained.  

Leigh Ann only allows my sister and I to babysit Maddy and often brings her to events with her. It’s part of the “deal” with Leigh Ann as young Maddy is a miracle baby.  

Clients are accustomed to Cindy or I having the twins with us at meetings and events because they are always with us.  

Leigh Ann is doing well with her gastric bypass surgery and has lost 70 lbs in a few short months.  It was a difficult choice to make but, she’s glad she did and is more than a “little” excited to finally see her husband Alex Blais to show off her new figure. Alex is away in the Navy.

Returning a call from a wrong number may sound surprising but my dedicated readers know that helping anyone is very important to me whether they were calling the wrong number or not.

My heart aches for any parent dealing with a child or family member on drugs. Perhaps I’m different because I’ve seen the devastation that drugs do to families but, if I can save one life- I will…