“THERE aren’t any REST areas, ON the ROAD to SUCCESS”
Last weekend while on site at “an over the top event” that I should have turned down, an Open Bar and ensuing arguments among the groomsmen and a few guests resulted in yet another “on site catastrophe at a wedding.”
For six years now, I’ve strongly suggested on site security at Open Bar Events to clients but, on rare occasions, my advice falls on deaf ears.
Last weekend was the last time that I would find myself on site and concerned not only about the safety of myself and my staff but also for my clients and a few of their guests.
Over the top events aren’t fun for me when I’m forced to deal with intoxicated guests or the wedding party. Regardless of what a prospective client is offering to pay, I simply cannot and will not take on future bookings with Open Bars and inadequate security. The risk by far outweighs the reward.
A few years ago, my staff and I were on site with another Open Bar and a few unruly guests. Thankfully, the client took my strong suggestions regarding security but, rather than allowing me to provide three security guards, chose to pay for only two. Due to the number of guests, this event certainly would have benefitted from having four security guards on site.
As a twin event planner team, Cindy and I have had more than our fair share of surprises on location. When you take a large group of people, throw in free flowing alcohol and a dash of animosity with folks that don’t always get along aka Inlaws and Outlaws, things can escalate and quickly. For some reason I may never understand emotions running high at weddings and alcohol are a horrible “mix.”
The actual role of a planner is to fix every problem. It’s a heavy burden and also why event planners are so expensive. Regardless of the reward pertaining to monetary compensation when it comes to event planning, each and every event is different.
Planners literally “walk in blind” when it comes to what to expect from the guests and occasionally even the wedding party if they haven’t asked enough questions. We ask a lot of questions because I hate surprises.
At the event two years ago, I was pushed by an intoxicated guest angry that “he had been cut off” at the bar. My rib and hip were dislocated due to the push. Even today, visits to my chiropractor continue due to the injuries I suffered on location two years ago. Injuries that were the result of taking on a booking with inadequate security. No amount of money is worth endangering my staff or myself on site.
Immediately following that event, I began turning down bookings for similar large scale events WITH OPEN BARS intentionally. Why? Because I didn’t want to get hurt again in another drunken brawl and also, “I don’t have to work.”
During the same window of turning away elaborate bookings, production companies contacted me and ironically wanted me to book larger events. Hilarious isn’t it?
At about the same time I was laughing about production companies telling me “we can get you a show if you would book more over the top events,” I was in the process of rebranding and expanding Texas Twins Events to include Prison and Inmate Wedding Planning and Officiant Services. I didn’t want a show, I wanted to make Dream Events a reality. I wanted to spend time with my family. I wanted a job I loved and… I found it.
Unlike large scale events, the intimacy and predictability of Prison Weddings is a pleasant experience. I enjoyed the structure and the ability to spend 3-6 weeks and occasionally longer with clients during their prison wedding planning process.
Prison Weddings “surprised” prospective clients visiting my sites. However, shocked or not, I didn’t let the opinions of others dictate my diverse client bases. In fact, over a two year window, our bookings would literally “shift” as our client base increased 300% due to inmate wedding Officiant services.
The “shift” was because 1. We treat every client like our only client and, 2. Because inmate weddings take place Monday through Friday at Prisons and the scheduling literally “fit perfectly” with our existing traditional client bookings on evenings and weekends.
Most important to note is the fact that our continued growth over all of these years was based ENTIRELY on client referrals. Never once have I paid for advertising. Our services and client satisfaction built this business.
Last night, after spending the day with my twin sister and partner, Cindy driving to Huntsville to meet a Pawning Planners client and appraise a surprising trade, I posted on my personal and business FB pages my intention to limit future event planning and team bookings for large events with 200 plus guests.
Unbeknownst to previous and current clients, I’ve been literally “stepping away and declining” large events for years. In fact, I regularly turn down numerous bookings that will require my entire team on location for 10-14 hours at one event. Why? Because our staff effectively “splits up” in season to address numerous client bookings in several states.
Having my entire staff on site at one event dramatically limits our booking availability and quite frankly, no one on my team enjoys working large and/or elaborate bookings with Open Bars.
Incidents we’ve had over the years on location have always been entirely due to inadequate security and intoxicated guests.
Immediately following my post, previous prison clients as well as other clients the last ten years began emailing, calling and commenting on my post alarmed my Texas Twins Team wouldn’t be available for their Vow Renewal or other rebooking in the future.
In order to clarify that we were never stepping away from our existing and previous clients and instead moving away from affluent affairs intentionally to address events we enjoy, I’m writing this blog as all of our previous and current clients are subscribers.
When Cindy and I went into the Events business, my goal, my role and my vision was specifically to help people no one else in this industry was willing to. We marketed to low or middle income families by discounting our fees 50-60% below competitors. We have never raised our fees. We also never charged for photos at our events. Yes, we are THAT DIFFERENT!
Cindy and I are often called “Momma Cindy or Momma Wendy” by clients because we are everyone’s mother.
Cindy and I created an inventory to loan clients from the inception of Texas Twins Events that included everything clients would need from bouquets to even wedding dresses on occasion, furs, crystal, centerpieces, bouteniers and more.
Creating an inventory was a hefty investment but, we wanted to overcome the financial limitations the majority of our clients faced.
“TEXAS TWINS EVENTS WAS DIFFERENT. THE CONCEPT OF PEOPLE OVER PROFIT WAS UNHEARD OF. WE WERE WILLING TO DO THINGS NO OTHER VENDOR WOULD. WE KNEW THE NEED EXISTED AND WE OVERCAME ANY OBSTACLE INTENTIONALLY BECAUSE CINDY AND I COULD NOT AFFORD “TRADITIONAL PRICE STRUCTURES” OURSELVES WHEN MARRYING YEARS AGO.
THIS “KNOWLEDGE” OF AN INDUSTRY THAT HAS EFFECTIVELY “PRICED OUT” LOW TO MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES IS WHY WE CREATED AFFORDABLE OPTIONS. WE WERE NEVER TRYING TO BE LIKE “OTHER VENDORS.” THAT MARKET WAS SATURATED.
WHAT WE WERE DOING WAS BEING THE PEOPLE WE HAD NEVER MET WHILE HELPING ANYONE ENJOY A DREAM EVENT.”
Over the years, production companies have consistently contacted me regarding show concepts. “Hi Wendy and Cindy. I’m with so and so and have a great idea for a show based on your business.” Hmm. Years later, we both recognize that “someone’s idea of how production companies want to portray us or our lives and our reality are remarkably different.” No thanks.
Cindy and I are very cautious regarding protecting our clients and our own reputations. “What do you mean?” A show depicting us OR our clients in a negative light is a liability. How so? Because frankenbiting and sound cuts used solely to make either us or our clients “appear more interesting doesn’t interest us.”
I.E. Our reputations and client base were hard won. Nobody “gave us success.” Instead, we earned it. Having a production company or network portraying my family and team as anything other than the entrepreneurs we are isn’t something we would ever consider doing again.
Save your creative writing and character creating for someone unaware of how reality AND reality contracts shows work.
Neither Cindy, myself or our family will allow anyone to “spin” our story and our journey. Subsequently, protecting our clients is just as important to us as protecting our own integrity, resilience and reputations within the events industry.
Read on to find out how I know so much about the entertainment industry, production companies, creative writing AND frankenbiting as well as “fabricating people AKA characters and stories.”
Our direction and our focus have always “been on our congregation” you know, the client standing in front of us. Clients ARE OUR priority NOT production companies. Certainly not fabricated plot lines either.
“Hey Wendy, I am with so and so and we are producing a prison based show and want to speak with your clients about being part of it?” With my Bluetooth on headed to a Unit with my twin sister as usual, Cindy leans over looking at me and says “they are a production company and can’t find or secure the talent? Now these folks are calling us while we are working with clients to DO THEIR JOB?”
As usual, Cindy’s observation is spot on and would continue to be spot on months later each and every time someone contacted us to secure talent FOR THEM.
Note to production companies- Your job is to secure the talent. It’s not my job and I’m not doing your job for you. What I will do is warn my clients about reality contracts along with smoke and mirrors.
It’s not well known that 30-40% of our inmate clients photos ARE NEVER PUBLISHED. Why? Because they contact me regarding the photo release in my contracts and tell me why they don’t want their photos published. I honor my clients wishes.
Cindy and I are both “all too familiar with reality contracts as well as production companies” and the reality is that if one or even more of our clients were “referred to a production company by us” and said production company subsequently “portrayed the client in a false or negative light with frankenbiting and creative editing along with a dab of story twisting,” this type of “referral” to a production would not only hurt our client but also our own reputations and trust with our clients because we had referred them to a “prison based show.”
AFTER ALL OUR CLIENTS TRUST US. We aren’t going to feed them to the wolves.
Cindy and I educate our prison clients about production companies “contacting them regarding a prison based show.” What our clients don’t know or understand, the Texas Twins do regarding reality contracts.
Most folks in general and even our clients have no real idea that they will be giving up most if not all their their rights with a “standard reality contract.”
A contract that can easily be viewed as unconscionable in not only my own but many others opinion too.
What’s in a standard reality contract Wendy?” Buckle up kids!
The following excerpt is from an actual contract that Cindy and I both signed years ago. You know, for THAT pilot. It’s good stuff.
There’s a lot of “what the production company can do to or with the talent without anything regarding compensation” regarding “the talent” in the wrong contract. You know that “standard reality contract.” Would Cindy and I EVER sign a similar contract again? Absolutely not.
What you don’t know about reality tv and production company’s is enlightening. Occasionally, it can also be a jolting surprise to “the talent.”
Let’s review the good ole “standard reality” contract it’s hilariously one sided and cut throat….
“Talent agrees that producer and any entity which exhibits, advertises, promotes or distributes the program or any part thereof (collectively, the network) may contain information, statements, or representations (information) pertaining to the talent of a personal, private, disparaging, embarrassing and/or unfavorable nature, and that such information may expose talent, talents family, and/or others to public ridicule or embarrassment. Talent SPECIFICALLY agrees that such information may be summarized, edited or modified in a manner that may be misleading or untrue.” Shocking isn’t it.
Television isn’t and never has been our primary focus. The people who need our help are and always will be our priority.
Five years ago, Cindy and I along with my multigenerational family AKA Texas Twins Events Team had rebranded and expanded by merging Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create a barter option for services specifically targeting low income prospective clients. “No Money? No problem. We take trades!”
Bartering would “rock the events industry.” First offering low cost services and then rebranding to barter? “Those Texas Twins are crazy” our competition wrongly assumed.
No, we weren’t crazy but, we were open minded. We listened to our clients needs and addressed them.
People who “sat back and waited for us to fall” instead watched us rise. Shocking isn’t it?
Cindy and I don’t fit in a box or category. We think in a circle. We know no boundaries. We find solutions. We are creative and determined. We are wedding AND event warriors.
Long before same sex marriage was legal in Texas, my team and I were performing Unification Ceremonies in Texas as well as traveling to Oklahoma and Arkansas to perform legal same sex marriages in other states. We saddled up and saved the day. We earned loyalty and referrals. My family and I firmly believe that Love IS Love and our connections within the LBGT Community continued to expand our bookings by client referrals.
AGAIN, our competitors “who either assumed or felt that our diversity and transparency would destroy our business” had made a mistake.
Instead, our business flourished. We were never limited to one set of clients or one type of service. We listened to our clients needs and financial limitations and we found solutions. From the first week of Texas Twins Events going LIVE, production companies began contacting me. Cindy and I weren’t interested in television because we were building our business.
However, over the years, we have signed with numerous production companies and even filmed a television pilot several years ago.
The pilot however “put us in a box.” How so? The percentage of Pawning Planners Clients is minor.
Basing the pilot, Pawning Planners on “only helping economically challenged clients” was in fact an actual misrepresentation of what we do and more importantly who we do it for.
Effectively, Cindy and I were also edited in such a way as to capture our worst moments on film. We know about editing because we’ve seen it while sitting in shocked silence watching the pilot. Days of filming is hard work when you are actually working. Forgetting you are being filmed happens and, it happened to us. Private conversations? There aren’t any. Do we sing in our suvs? Absolutely. Do we discuss our families and husbands? You bet. Are we so goofy I can’t close a box truck door on my own or that my sister loses flower baskets on location? No. But, production companies love curve balls.
The real reason that Cindy and I along with our team took on the clients featured in the pilot was based entirely on their story. We cared when no one else did. Not their friends, not other vendors. Their story of course, was real. The couple coming to us for help literally had nowhere else to find it. Cindy and I were helping this family because Lisa’s grandfather was in bad health. In fact, he died shortly after filming. His final wish? To walk Lisa down the aisle. Did he plan on the aisle being at a karate studio? No but, we needed a building.
My twin grandnieces were taking karate classes and I borrowed the building. Rudy Smedley is a friend of ours who also volunteered his band. It’s rare that I need to borrow a building but, it’s happened over the years and it may happen again.
Due to their limited resources, like many others in similar situations, Lisa and Terry had married at the JP.
Prior to Texas Twins Events, many of our clients would have been forced to make the same decision. After all, very few people have the funding for a venue, caterers, the whole nine yards. We have to be creative to find ways to make Dream Events affordable without renting a venue. Because of this, I occasionally borrow a building.
My twin sister, Cindy ALSO had married at the JP. Others wonder “how did you know the market for low cost services existed?” Personal knowledge that’s how. Because Cindy and I understood Lisa’s desire and cared about her story, we took on their Dream Event. This was documented in the pilot, Pawning Planners.
What WASN’T documented were the actual facts of Lisa and Terry’s Wedding costing ME over $2k. Why? Because the production company wanted it to look “as if we solely and ONLY took on this Dream Event in exchange for profit.” This couldn’t have been further from the truth. We DO NOT ONLY help poor people. We help people.
Scripted reality doesn’t interest me. It doesn’t interest my sister or my staff. Providing everything necessary for Lisa and Terry’s wedding included a band, cakes, bouquets, centerpieces, bouteniers, photography, tables and chairs and EVEN clothing for the wedding party at my expense. My entire family AKA staff volunteered. They were not paid. Cindy and I weren’t either. Even after selling the dresser, I was out $2k.
Filming is hard work. If you don’t believe this then you have never been on the other side of the camera and sound bite. Make sure you get paid for your exhausted hours and days of taking direction before your worst monents are documented and your best moments left on the editing floor.
The only item ACTUALLY taken in trade from Lisa and Terry and subsequently “flipped” was an antique dresser. Each and every other item had been moved from my workroom to Lisa and Terry’s by the production company.
Hence, my apprehension regarding signing on with further production companies. The ACTUAL REASON we committed to helping Lisa was to give her grandfather the opportunity to walk her down the aisle.
During the month of Lisa’s wedding, we also had several bookings through Texas Twins Events our primary client base.
Because of our experience filming The Pawning Planners and similar “show concepts” within the entertainment industry which either effectively “put my staff and I in a box” or have intentionally failed to understand and much less authentically describe who we help or why, Cindy and I have consistently focused on our businesses and subsequent expansions as opposed to production inquiries. We don’t care about your ideas. We do care about helping people.
There’s a reason I’m not interested in booking elaborate events and there’s a reason I’m not interested in another film project solely left to a production companies imagination.
The reason? Experience. Finding anyone in the entertainment industry willing to honestly depict my staff and my clients has been impossible.
Scripted reality is either slanted so far as to make my twin sister and I appear to be hillbillies or our clients to be eccentric or non conforming to society. Neither of which is true.
What we are is entrepreneurs. Cindy and I took our own life experiences, product knowledge and sales industry experience and effectively, made a winning combination for our clients and ourselves.
We created the window of finally spending time together that our careers in separate industries had taken from us. We spent our lives working to survive in sales.
We now spend our lives together having fun with our families on location with our clients. I.E. we are not only successful but we are also happy. We are happy because we are doing what we love with people who appreciate our help. WE LOVE WHAT WE DO. We have fun everyday and meet interesting people.
For two years now, I’ve been performing inmate weddings. I rarely watch TV and prefer to read however, new production companies “who heard about Texas Twins Events” have been contacting us regarding a prison based show.
Let’s first go over how and why the Texas Twins once again rebranded and expanded to offer inmate wedding services…. a request (like hundreds of others we’ve had over the years) for a new service (not listed on my sites) came in.
Cindy was in my office going over a large and elaborate Open Bar event with me at the time. Neither of us knew that inmate weddings even existed. We had several events that month as it was April and wedding season. We were filming for This Time Next Year, juggling clients and about to fly to California for a Destination Wedding while dealing with a fairly demanding affluent client who had continually “added services” to her initial contract and assumed more staff on site, more security and more floral designs were free because “I have a team.” I.E. we were busy and I was at a fork in the road regarding affluent and or entitled clients.
My goal, role and direction were to help people that needed help. My concept never involved people who wanted a bargain because Texas Twins Events was low cost from the inception.
I was actually in the process of changing my sites and updating services while dramatically limiting future bookings from difficult AKA rich clients who want it all and never want to pay for it. Hence, my term “fork in the road.”
An email would take my attention away from my overwhelmed schedule that day. Misty’s email intrigued me.
At the time, I had assumed this would be my first and only prison wedding. But, the need for inmate Officiant services was SO GREAT that over a two year window, 80% of our bookings are now Prison Weddings. In fact, we have expanded inmate Officiant services to several states AND county jails.
In August, my niece Leigh Ann (also a TDCJ Approved Officiant and Photographer) is moving to California to expand our prison wedding services in California. My sister, Tammy will work with her to cover California.
My son and his wife work as a team for traditional bookings as well as county jail weddings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Cindy and I are enjoying the ability to jump into our suvs and meet new clients at Prisons and Jails as well as venues doing what we love and loving what we do.
We have “found our niche” by being open minded and willing to rebrand and expand over and over again. We were determined to make Dream Events a reality and, we have. We didn’t have help. We had each other. We circled our wagons and rode on without Hollywood or New York or Atlanta “telling us how to act or what they wanted us to pretend to be.” F that.
What we aren’t interested is a production company who cannot accurately depict ourselves or our clients. Go create a character at someone else’s expense.
The clients for inmate weddings are on the outside. These clients are warriors not weirdos. They are REAL PEOPLE NOT SCRIPTED CHARACTERS OF CREATIVE WRITERS.
Current prison based shows are all drama without being all accurate regarding the hurdles of loving an inmate. From prison wives to prison husbands to mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers or even nieces and nephews, it should be noted that these families and loved ones sacrifice everyday for expensive phone calls, every weekend driving hours to the Unit, going to sleep alone every night.
These people make every sacrifice to make their relationship work. These people are not only our clients. They are more importantly, our friends.
These unique individuals are WHY prison weddings have taken over our bookings by their referrals. Loyalty is a priceless commodity.
The LAST thing I have an interest in is by having my staff AKA my family OR my clients depicted in ANYTHING other than a positive light.
My clients go to work everyday while juggling the loneliness that loving an inmate entails.
While the general public is intrigued regarding their relationship, it should be noted that their relationship overcomes any and all boundaries, limitations and hardships.
If production companies cannot or will not comprehend and understand the dynamics of these diverse clients, I have no interest in speaking with you regarding show concepts.
I’m thrilled to be conducting Vow Renewals for our numerous recently released Prison Wives and Husband’s and their families.
My staff and I are honored to be rebooked for your celebration of love, joy, determination and freedom. God Bless each and every one of you. We made it to the light. A new beginning awaits you.
One of my TDCJ Clients was at a large “over the top” event and remembered me. I’m honored that two years later, I will be conducting her ceremony in Huntsville, Texas next month.
For the many couples who couldn’t legally marry years ago, I remarried them after the ruling. Happily, I’m also planning their Vow Renewal Anniversary celebrations. One of those clients emailed me in 2014 to marry her in Arkansas where LBGT marriage was legal. She was deployed and delayed but, I’m marrying in September. Five years after planning to drive to Arkansas? Yes. Anyone who has ever talked to the twins never forgets us. We establish relationships. We earn loyalty.
Cindy and I have learned that clients are far more than clients. They are friends of the Texas Twins and they will always be a part of our lives. They are family now and always will be. We celebrate their successes and we stay in contact with them.
When a baby is born, former clients contact us to baptize their child. When a death in the family occurs, they contact us to officiate the memorial.
Our clients aren’t numbers and never were. They are amazing individuals with a story of survival, with a history of resilience and with a determination to make their love last long beyond the razor wire, the bars and the glass. They are mothers and fathers. They are the strongest people I’ve ever met.
With everything going against them, they carry on. With others judging their choice to love an inmate, they sometimes face the difficulty of others accepting their choices. The LAST thing my clients need is a show twisting their lives into what they truly aren’t. These passionate individuals are the nicest, most honest, sincerely thankful clients that I have encountered. That my staff and I may EVER encounter. I’m protective of them for good reasons.
Being different isn’t always widely accepted. Cindy and I have always been different. We didn’t have a mother. We were homeless at 15. We were warriors. Survivors that would swim against every obstacle and survive. We know hardship. We understand sailing a ship alone without the support of a family. We are everyone’s mother because we never had a mother ourselves. We didn’t need a mother. We became the mothers we had never known.
Cindy and I didn’t let our hardships harden our hearts. In fact, the opposite was true. Compassion and empathy are our greatest strengths. We were determined to help others and always will be.
Being different was a gift that empowered us. Being poor didn’t define us either. Poverty is a helluva motivator. We worked harder than anyone else our entire lives and our efforts and dedication paid off.
Whether these clients were Bartering, Traditional, LBGT or Prison based ceremony requests, they came to the Texas Twins because we had started a business to help them and more importantly, because we cared about helping strangers. We were the people we had never met that wanted to help people just like us. We have.
Perhaps our story is unique but, truth will always be far more incredible, inspiring and more interesting than fiction….