This morning while headed to my next event on a three event day, Anne sent an email regarding her feelings and beliefs that all inmate marriage ends in divorce. I don’t know where you are getting your numbers from Anne but can assure you that any client I’ve married at a Prison is still married. It takes months to get approved to marry an inmate. 

Perhaps everyone else planning to marry should jump through hoops, hurdles and paperwork too? The prison wedding planning process is lengthy in each and every state I perform inmate marriages within. Often, people planning to marry an inmate get so frustrated during the process that they call me crying questioning if “they will ever get married?” 

Walking my clients through the prison wedding process requires me to be their advisor, their friend, their hand holder and their advocate. 

Perhaps if everyone else were half as determined to marry an inmate they might stay married? It’s a thought. No one that I’ve married just woke up one day and decided to marry an inmate. 

Marrying an inmate requires determination, faith and perseverance. Loving an inmate is a difficult and lonely path. 

Anne, you disagree with inmate and same sex marriage and yet you fail to explain your reasons why your feelings are so strong. Anne, are you angry that others are finding love when you aren’t? One can only guess at your rationalization or thinking before “zipping off” that email. “All Inmate or same sex marriage ends in divorce because they were marrying for the thrill or ability to get married in the first place.” What THE? No one is getting married because it’s thrilling. Marriage requires commitment. 

Marriage is a merger. Anne, I have no idea why your anger found me today but, generalizing divorce statistics needs to include people who aren’t marrying an inmate or same sex partner. Why? Because divorce rates across the board are staggering to begin with. Whether the couples are interfaith, interracial, one is incarcerated or they are LBGT, Divorce is non discriminatory. 

For you and the other opinionated folks, here’s a bit of advice from Glen Campbell that I believe to be true and words that I have lived by as long as I can recall to give you a better idea of my open mind and love of everyone… “If you see your brother standing by the road with a heavy load from the seeds he’s sewn and if you see your sister falling by the way, just stop and say you’re going the wrong way. Try a little kindness towards all of the narrow minded people in the narrow minded streets.” 

Not caring what others think is the most liberating thing that has ever happened to me. I live my life being the person I would like to meet. I “shine my light for everyone see.” I’m not hiding who I am. My clients aren’t either. “The kindness I show everyday helps someone else along their way.” My sister and I both celebrate diversity!

While waiting on my clients today and reading your email on an otherwise joyous day, Anne, I’m somewhat surprised that you chose a Sunday to “reach out to me.” You aren’t the first and you probably won’t be the last person to “voice your views or opinions” on me for whatever reason and I’m happy to educate and enlighten anyone else who might believe “that they know my clients better than I do.”

Let’s review the numbers of incarcerated people in the United States before diving into the number of incarcerated people married in the United States. The United States has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. With 655 inmates per 100 thousand of population, the U.S. is by far the leader among large industrialized nations in incarceration. Russia comes closest at 381. 

Not only is the U.S. among the leading countries worldwide in incarcerations per 100 thousand of population, but it was also home to the largest total number of prisoners in 2019. 

Roughly 2.12 million people were incarcerated in the United States in 2019. China’s estimated prison population totaled to 1.65 million people that year. Other nations with population sizes comparable to the United States have far fewer prisoners. 

A significant portion of U.S. prisoners in federal correctional facilities were of black or African-American origin. As of 2016, there were almost 420,000 black, non-Hispanic prisoners. They made up 38 percent of all incarcerated persons in the U.S, but accounted for only 12 percent of the total U.S. population. 

About 190,000 prisoners in state facilities were sentenced for drug-related offenses, accounting for roughly 14.8 percent of all state prisoners in the U.S. Drug-related offenses, such as trafficking and possession, were the most common cause of imprisonment in state prisons. Second most common were felonies, such as murder and robbery, at 14.2 and 13.2 percent respectively.

On average, almost 50 percent of all marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce or separation. That figure includes all people, incarcerated or not. And, if this is a second or third marriage, then divorce rates skyrocket. 

For example, if both you and your partner have had previous marriages, you are 90 percent more likely to get divorced than if this has been the first marriage for both of you.

The good news is when one spouse has been incarcerated BEFORE getting married, the couple is not any more likely to split up.

How Can Marriage Survive Prison?

Some prisons host seminars for married prisoners and their spouses. Most programs are one or two-day seminars that focus on relationship enhancement, communication skills, dealing with conflict, and self-awareness.

Spouses who are left at home suffer from feelings of being an outcast, guilt, shame, loneliness, financial hardship, and sexual frustration. Phoning can be expensive. 

There is even stress from the visiting room procedures that many prisons impose on families.

The sense of being demoralized begins even before a loved one is sent off to prison. Approximately 50 percent of marriages dealing with a possible prison term end in separation or divorce BEFORE a spouse starting his or her sentence.

I’m always crushed to hear when one of my clients has separated of divorced. Why? Because I remember their joy on wedding day. I recall their excitement when planning their event. 

Cindy is always aware that I care far more about my clients as people rather than numbers and while my twin has the capacity to accept that the reality of divorce is bound to affect our client bases, accepting something that started with promise as something that ended with sadness will always tug at my heart strings. I wish everyone would put more effort into their marriage.

Last week on FB, I noticed that a couple I had married had divorced. This couple was the first couple in Parker County to be granted a same sex marriage license. Because of this, they made the Parker County newspaper. How did they find me? Another couple who had booked through The Pawning Planners, Lisa and Terry had referred them to me. I have never advertised. Advertising bartering or even prison weddings would be a waste of money trying to target the right client. Luckily, I’ve never needed to find clients because they find me. 

When I was first contacted by this couple, it wasn’t for services. What? Why? I will explain. Lisa had referred us by saying we loan our inventory. I will also clarify. I don’t loan my inventory to anyone who isn’t a booked client. I’ve spent thousands of dollars to create an inventory as a courtesy to MY CLIENTS. I explained this to the couple and added that if they needed event services and loaned inventory, my staff would assist them with their wedding in Trinity Park because my schedule was open on the date they needed and because they were friends of Lisa and Terry. 

A day prior to their wedding, they also needed photographers. My son and his wife volunteered their talents. My twin sister and I handled the location event planning and I officiated the ceremony. My entire staff pitched in to make this dream event a reality in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Last year, Lisa and Terry divorced. Shocked and confused about why a couple that had seemed madly in love at their Vow Renewal five years ago had divorced, I called Cindy to discuss my feelings about this “news flash.” 

When you hear the actual details, you too will understand why Wendy cares about your story and why Cindy consistently tells me “throw that book in the trash. What’s in it for us?” 

Yes, “caring about people’s story has often cost me money over the years.” I’m a sucker for a great love story. Cindy isn’t. Cindy is all business and her blog “Mansions, Moochers and Morons” was yet another perfect example of how Wendy felt sorry for rich people claiming to be poor. 

I’m not saying everyone claiming to have no money coming to us is rich although the Mansions couple were far from poor. If you have a new Mercedes and live in a $500k house though, you CAN AFFORD to pay for services and are not qualified to use the barter option. 

The barter option is specifically for clients who cannot afford to book services through Texas Twins Events. OR for clients using the estate liquidation or consignment option of The Pawning Planners & Texas Twins Treasures. I.E. this service option isn’t free. If you want Cindy and I to flip your stuff, we can but it will be for a FEE and require a contract. 

Back to the “Mansion,” after this particular event, Cindy and I began REQUIRING appraisal appointments from people contacting us and claiming to have no money. From bouncing checks to broken promises, I’ve seen it all over the years. 

Affluent people claiming to be poor though stopped crying “poor mouth” with our new requirement to go through their house BEFORE volunteering help them at OUR EXPENSE.

Lisa and Terry had been married at the JP due to limited finances. Lisa’s grandfather wanted a chance to walk her down the aisle and was in bad health. 

Their story literally touched my heart. Cindy wanted to know “what they had to flip?” Cindy wasn’t interested in their story. Cindy was interested in the bottom line. My twin sister is entirely forthright and unfiltered. 

Lisa and Terry’s actual Barter included an antique dresser with matching mirror and a bicycle. Because their event was being filmed for a television pilot though, our production company at the time MOVED items from my Texas Twins Treasures inventory to Lisa and Terry’s home. Why? Because their Dream Event details and desires by far outweighed the “deal.” 

To level it out, my inventory was staged as a trade. Lisa and Terry’s event actually cost me over $1379 out of pocket. 

I recall one production company executive actually telling me point blank “no one in Hollywood cares about helping poor people. What you and your family is doing to help these donut hole folks is admirable but it won’t work for television.” He was probably right. Certainly no one that knew Lisa or Terry other than Kimberly who had volunteered to assist with photography was on site volunteering other than Rudy Smedley and his band who also volunteered. Rudy also and more importantly volunteered his karate studio. Why? We needed a building. Some people really DO CARE. 

Lisa’s grandfather had an opportunity to walk her down that aisle. He had the opportunity due entirely to The Pawning Planners. Cindy and I rarely disagree but, it happens. Last year, yet another Pawning Planners couple divorced. I was unaware of this UNTIL one of the wives contacted me to officiate her next wedding to a man! Cindy viewed this prospective booking as business but Wendy viewed it as insulting to the other bride and I was more than uncomfortable regarding remarrying someone that I had married not once but twice. Highly uncomfortable. 

I do not remarry any person that I have previously married someone else. Why? Conflict of interest. I consider previous clients as friends and do not play favorites. What I WILL DO is refer you to another Officiant on my staff. 

REQUIRING appraisal appointments was literally a game changer AND Cindy’s idea. The art of barter is our specialty but we no longer work on promises or bouncing checks. 

Two halves make a whole and if you want honey from the hive, don’t complain about the stings that come with it. While we would love to help everyone, at the end of the day, paying clients are our priority and prison weddings now compromise up to 90% of all our bookings. 

The moral of the story is that while I would love for everyone to stay together, it is something that I can’t control. What I can control is focusing on our business as a business rather than a volunteer effort. 

Pawning Planners Apparel was created to fund families with nothing of value to barter. Funds from Texas Twins Treasures assist families with celebrant services and floral designs. Death is a dark stranger that no one is prepared for. 

We continue to try and make the world a better place one family or barter at a time…but, no longer fall for every sad luck story that comes to us. On the flip side of that coin, I no longer become agitated with people contacting me “who don’t believe in same sex or prison marriage.” Who cares what you think. My clients don’t and my staff doesn’t either. Find more constructive ways to spend your time. Go volunteer. Find a hobby. Find your purpose and passion. Do something. Anything. But please don’t burden me with what you think or believe. Especially on a Sunday of all days. 

As for the production companies casting prison based shows that continue to contact me to do their job for them…. your job is to find and secure the talent. If you want me to do your job for you, send me a contract. My bill rate is by the hour and at my convenience. Answering your phone calls and emails takes time away from my clients and my job. 

It’s not well known but I spent years as a commercial and print model and can act but have no desire whatsoever to fake my life, my business nor my clients. If you’d like to pay me to act, hand me a contract and a script but don’t attempt to merge your vision of what “you want me or my sister to be into my business.”

By the way, if you are a production company contacting me because “we could get you girls a show if you did bigger events or flipped houses,” we have no interest in bigger events. We have spent years on location at “big events” and survived the “big drama.” We love what we do and who we do it for. There’s a reason we aren’t under contract. The reason is that unless someone is willing to accurately portray who we are and who we help, we aren’t interested. Thanks