Shady Oaks Country Club, Gaylord Resorts & Allred Unit- Work, Family & Fun…
I’m always asked what my favorite part of running an events business is and my answer is always the same- having the time to spend with my family that I never had for the 25 plus years I worked as a commercial and print model as well as in high end sales.
Friday evening while coordinating a holiday party, I had the pleasure of spending the evening with my husband. It’s rare for my husband to be on location with me but, I love it when he is.
My husband, Matthew is rarely “camera ready” so getting him to pose and smile at the same time is an escapade. We had a great time at Shady Oaks with friends and families celebrating the holiday together. I had two weddings yesterday and a baptism while my niece, Leigh Ann did a family photo shoot before running off to shoot a wedding. There isn’t really a slow time for our bookings so, it’s normal to “split up” to address client needs.
My son and his wife were working a wedding in Arkansas yesterday and a Vow Renewal today in Oklahoma so, they weren’t available for today’s booking at Gaylord Resorts.
Since we had two suites, my twin sister and all three grandnieces joined Leigh Ann and I at the Gaylord today for a few hours of fun before getting to work. This is a beautiful location for a wedding or Vow Renewal as well as family reunions and corporate events. Due to the holidays, the resort was packed. The twins and Maddy loved the Tex Mex buffet although low calorie items were difficult to find for Cindy, Leigh Ann and I who have all lost weight the past few years.
My niece, Leigh Ann has lost over 100 lbs and looks great. She’s proud of her weight loss journey as well she should be.
Lifestyle changes are often a journey but, throughout the ups and downs along with our crazy schedules, we’ve managed to stay on track as a team. Leigh Ann still has a few pounds to go but, she’s got this. Losing weight has really increased her stamina on location as photography is physical work.Maryssa and Makenna spent some time shopping together while Cindy, Leigh Ann and I scoped out areas for outdoor photos tomorrow before I head to Bell Tower Monday afternoon to meet Clients.
Traveling with family can be tricky. Our destination events always include two suites because sharing a room with three grandnieces, my twin sister and my niece is impossible. Leigh Ann is handling photography for three events today and staying busy. I’m officiating two weddings and relaxing with the twins and baby Madyson who is now three and a ball of fire.
I enjoy officiating far more than coordinating because it takes far less time. Prison Wedding Planning is remarkably different than traditional events for a number of reasons but first, there are no other vendors. I am it. From helping with attire to instructing clients about paperwork and getting their marriage licenses, the Prison Wedding Planning Process can take 1-3 months. Traditional event services involve vendors, venues, caterers, florists and fixing everything that can go wrong.
Traditional events are far more involved too which is why I only coordinate events refered by previous clients. I’m VERY PICKY regarding my Client base for a number of reasons but mainly divas. I do not take on outrageous clients because they are difficult at the start and demanding at the end. Twenty to thirty phone calls a day from a diva that assumes you don’t have other clients gives you a better idea of why I’m picky. I’ve learned to be. Quality clients that appreciate you are of far more value to me than trouble makers.
I enjoy the structure of Prison Weddings but I enjoy marrying couples after incarceration far more. These Love After Lock Up weddings are truly a happily ever after beyond the razor wire and steel doors. This month I’m marrying a client and his Linda Woodman State Jail fiancée in Fort Worth as well as another client who had initially contacted me to Officiate a Prison wedding but later chose to wait until after release. The joy of being free at last without the many restrictions involved at a Prison unit are truly a celebration of love, life and freedom. Usually, my TDCJ clients plan a Vow Renewal with my team after release but, if there are paperwork issues, it’s far easier to marry after release.
I’m back at Allred Unit this week with stacked wedding ceremonies Wednesday and back at Estes Unit on Friday. Stacking my schedule is essential due to the amount of traveling I do. The Gaylord Bookings were also stacked to keep me from coming and going twice. Leigh Ann is working all day today with the newlyweds and their families.
When I travel to other states to Officiate Prison Weddings, I stack them at Units to make one trip and address all ceremonies within a 30 minute window. Each inmate has 30 minutes per ceremony. I perform up to 10 weddings at each Prison unit. This saves me time traveling back and forth to Units week after week.
If my staff and I are traveling to traditional destination events, I often book other clients in other cities nearby. It’s essential for me to have an itinerary. I work seven days a week and focus on one day at a time. In fact, when another Allred Unit bride awaiting a date called to verify that I was at Allred Wednesday, I actually had to check my schedule. Since I was working 6 events this weekend from Friday to Monday, worrying about Wednesday was something I hadn’t even double checked yet as I check my schedule in 48 hour windows.
Keeping a flexible schedule is essential to Prison Weddings. The reason for this is that I often have less than 7 days before a Prison wedding is scheduled. The Prison Wedding paper trail takes up to 6 signatures before a date it set. It’s a lengthy process.
Prison weddings fit perfectly into my schedule because they only occur on weekdays. Since I had been handling traditional events years before officiating prison weddings, my existing schedule was compromised of weekend or evening bookings. This left weekdays open for refurbishing Texas Twins Treasures items or meeting Pawning Planners Clients or even new clients during the week. The ease in which Prison Weddings fit into my schedule was divine grace. It worked and we now do more Prison Weddings than any other bookings.
As I prepare to go downstairs and pray before the rehearsal dinner, it should be noted that for those following my niece, Stephaney, our former bilingual translator for the team, I did have 2 missed calls today from her. Both times I tried to call her back and was sent to voice mail. She has a hearing tomorrow but, I doubt she will have me drive her. My schedule prevents me from doing so. Cindy may drive her while I’m at Bell Tower but, only if she can locate Stephaney.
Cindy and I have no idea where Stephaney is staying after visiting my home on Friday.
With ten days to Christmas now, the stress of my schedule and my niece are something I must accept. I’m thankful to have had time to enjoy my grandnieces today. I’m thankful that Stephaney is the only issue we face as a family.
I’m thankful that every year we are expanding to address more clients needs and I’m thankful that we have a wonderful and wide variety of amazing clients that accept my family as part of the deal. I’m thankful that my work, my clients and my family are a mix that work well together. I also remain hopeful that my niece will allow me to get her into long term treatment.
I still have gifts to finish wrapping and several families I’m sponsoring this year with my twin who have reached out for help with gifts for their children or food for Christmas. We are blessed to be in a position to help so many others and look forward to meeting you all in person within the next week.
For TDCJ Clients contacting me about the Prison documentary with the BBC, filming will start in February. They are specifically interested in my Death Row Clients. Male, Female or LBGT.
Producers from Love After Lock Up have also contacted me about my Client base. They are interested in all Prison couples but, there are guidelines regarding release. Please use the header on emails to me to separate the two. If you are contacting me about the Death Row Documentary, use the header “Death Row.” If you are contacting me about Love After Lock Up, use the header “Love After Lock Up.” This will help me separate both sets of inquiries and forward them to the production companies.
Hoping that even with stress during the holidays, you find time for cheer and peace. Also, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please reach out to them and if you need phone numbers to crisis hotlines, please feel free to contact me for insight.