I review questions submitted on Instagram (wendywortham), Twitter (@texastwins2) , FB, Linkedin and my websites daily and a few are somewhat surprising but when you work with a virtual melting pot from one business to the other-folks have questions.
One reader wanted to verify that we offer complimentary photography and loaned floral designs. She “had heard” about my team doing things no one else would do and wanted to know more. Clients booking through Texas Twins Events can afford photography so it’s rare for us to volunteer photographers and complimentary cd’s of photos but based on the clients finances-I occasionally make exceptions. An example of an exception is that the client cannot afford a venue. Texas Twins Events bookings at backyards or in area parks are the exception. Why? Because if the client cannot afford a venue they (most likely) cannot afford a photographer. The Pawning Planners don’t have money for the extras or luxuries. I “filled the gap” by creating a team of family members and inventory to overcome the issue intentionally and cover the costs myself because a Dream Event should be complete not halfway.
Normally, Texas Twins Events Clients have a venue or church along with cake, catering or photographers so these clients don’t benefit from free photography because they don’t qualify. It’s not that “I’m picking and choosing clients either, free or complimentary services are based on actual needs and not wants.”
Everyone wants free photographers and prints but I make the rules on free or complimentary add on options. My staff (like anyone else) like to be PAID when clients can afford to pay them our prices are far below other vendors.
The minimum price to rent a venue is $750 and my photography options are $175-350 for two photographers and a disc of photos so you get a better idea of my logic and reasons for saying no to free photography at a venue that runs $1750 & up with a band $650 and up caterer $1500 and up.
I know what things cost and am firm about free photos at a venue event.
Complimentary photography comes out of my pocket for prints & cds. My photography team take the photos but I’m the one who spends hours editing and transferring to a disc & paying for the cd’s or photos then going to the post office & paying to mail them so I’m “firm” about who gets free photos and who doesn’t!
I’m going to suggest that if you have the budget to rent a venue and pay caterers and florists–you budget photography & film development into your plans.
For years my soft heart has cost me film development and postage that have benefitted a few folks who could have paid but played the “poor me” card so well that I fell for it. Years later, I may sound cynical but experience and my bank account have taught me to be.
Why do I provide photo props? I buy or create my own props because they make photos fun and creative. I also provided loaned bouquets and other items needed who clients can’t afford to buy them on their own. Creating an inventory took years and a lot of money so I’m picky about who benefits by borrowing and who doesn’t.
Last night a prospective client emailed me regarding his wedding in May. Apparently the popularity of Unity Candles & Sand Ceremonies have confused couples who think Unity Ceremonies are a necessary component to a Wedding Ceremony- they aren’t. However, if you want to incorporate other ceremonies, I’m happy to help but I do not purchase the necessary items- the client does. I simply conduct the ceremony because my role is to show up, conduct the ceremony and sign the license. I can purchase items for a ceremony but not without payment up front.
My husband often says that I should charge prospects for my time because I spend a minimum of 2 hours a day answering questions from Texas Twins Events & Pawning Planners Clients but “explaining things” isn’t as easy as my home builder husband might think. Matthew has never understood the amount of time I spend addressing a clients needs, wants or wishes. I interact far more than my husband who handles the building process of 80-100 custom homes a year. He deals with the contractors but I deal with actual clients. My husband is an introvert and in an extrovert which is probably why we get along so well. He prefers to be behind the scenes while that would be impossible for my sister and I, my son and his wife or my nieces and grandnieces because we are out on the front lines interacting with clients.
When you offer Interfaith, LBGTQ, Prison Weddings & every other variation of event services under the sun, people have questions & a few critics but I’ve become accustomed to answering these questions even when they may be somewhat offensive. Years ago such comments would have caused me much stress and anxiety but 7 years after starting Texas Twins Events and being LBGTQ friendly from the beginning, I’ve “toughened up” because I had to-I don’t have time to be hurt or offended because I’m far too busy and turn down gigs all of the time. In fact, I’ve expanded our list of officiants due client demands because I can’t be everywhere all the time. Everyone against what I do ruins my day with their letters & biased opinions but I’ve learned to ignore biased and critical comments because I help families and could care less about their lifestyle choices. But believe me when I tell you that nothing on my life has ever been “easy” or without barriers. My sister says that I’m like a weed because I’m going to grow and flourish under any circumstance.
There are many who don’t believe that LBGTQ families are discriminated against so I’m going to use one of the many times I’ve witnessed it myself to give you a better idea. People will take advantage of you as long as long as you let them. My husband often reminds me that going into this business (or any business) is a learning curve. I would learn everything by experiencing it and I would remember being burned now and again -he was right. I had so many problems getting paid the first two years that it wasn’t funny! Bouncing checks were a real problem too. Every “rule” posted at Texas Twins Events is there for a reason-I had to stop being empathetic and start acting like a businesswoman. At one wedding, my staff and I provided the hair & makeup, the wedding dress, shoes, flowers & I even drove her to the park myself. We spent an entire day helping Joanna Magee have the wedding she always wanted at my expense. Her brother bullied my staff, interrupted the ceremony and acted like a complete idiot. I no longer “suffer through” outrageous behavior. Hence the Bridezilla & Guestzilla Clauses located at Texas Twins Events. Whether you bartered or paid or are benefitting from a sponsored event, I will not put myself or my team through abusive conduct. Joanna’s brother knew that I helped LBGTQ couples and did everything he could to make that wedding a miserable experience for Joanna and us. He was the “classic” Redneck Bully “who didn’t believe gay people should marry” and spent 3 hours telling me about it!
Once at a liquidation event, I trusted a man who looked honest enough to “run back home and get his wallet” for a piece of furniture that we had loaded into his Mercedes.” He never did. I had to cover the cost of the item to the client myself. A handful of times, I trusted clients to pay their balance after I had signed and filed their license. They didn’t. If I sound cynical, experience taught me to be.
My sister wrote a blog called “Mansions, Moochers & Morons” after I had committed my team and the cake, champagne and flowers along with ceremony and photography to a woman who told me they needed a ceremony but couldn’t afford one for her fiancé who’s mother was dying of liver cancer and wanted to see her son married. Arriving at a $400-450k custom home in an upscale neighborhood, a brand new BMW with paper plates was in the driveway. The sick mother was nowhere to be found and I had spent my own money because the bride who contacted me claimed they had no money due to medical expenses of the mother. I have been taken advantage of so many times by people that I felt sorry for that it truly amazing. Ironically, my sister “comes up” with her #cindyism quotes used on Pawning Planners Apparel from some of our worst “incidents” on location.
Once while I was working in my garden and enjoying my home, I had a phone call from a church ten miles away and the caller was practically yelling “our officiant didn’t show up and we have guests waiting for the wedding- we need you here now!” My learning curve would be learning that people calling me were wanting me to fix a problem that I had nothing to to do with and (you’re gonna love this) whenever I showed up to cover a MIA officiant, was told “we can’t pay you because we already paid the other officiant. You paid a person who didn’t show up and broke your trust and then expected me to solve your problem at the 11th hour and now you don’t have any money to pay me won’t work with me.” Seven years of excuses and bounced checks or no payment at all–when I show up because someone else didn’t it’s “show me the money” before I fix your problem.
Emergency Officiant Jobs are stressful. I’m arriving to an upset crowd and wedding party. I haven’t met the couple or gone over their wishes. I am literally walking in cold!!! I do not “negotiate fees” when forced to race to the rescue either. Convenience is expensive and if your funeral officiant didn’t bother to show up, it’s the same situation for the client calling me panicked and pushy–get mad at the person who didn’t show up and don’t take out your frustration on me or explain that you didn’t come with money to the funeral. Pass a hat around and tell everyone there that I am not the original officiant running late–I’m the only person who was willing to show up and cover a strangers absence at your event!
I no longer trust people to do the right thing-I stopped doing that years ago but my husband was right-everything I learned was learned the hard way. I’m no longer “nice” about not getting paid either. I stopped being nice about getting paid three years after starting Texas Twins Events with the “Broken Tooth Bounced Checks Bride.” That’s right I said checks meaning more than one bounced check! She wrote a hot check for the deposit and a hot check for the balance.
Three years ago, my FB friend John Spivey called me regarding “a problem” he had heard about to see if I could fix it for a couple I had never met. The LBGTQ couple were female and had bought a “package deal” from Feragne Villa. 2 days before the rehearsal, the officiant pretended to be in Alaska and unavailable.
I got the number from John and called the Villa to announce that I would be there in a few hours to get more information for the rehearsal and wedding that were within a day of each other at Feragne Villa. I normally visit a venue ahead of time to get a better feel of the layout and where I will be during the ceremony.
I’ve had to fix these kinds of problems so many times that I have Emergency Officiant Prices posted at Texas Twins Events. After all, running to cover someone who didn’t bother to show up isn’t my emergency, it’s the person who is calling me to drop everything I’m doing and run to a wedding with guests waiting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived to cover someone else who pulled an FTA (Failure To Appear). If it’s an emergency to you–be prepared to pay me when I arrive or I’m leaving.
The Feragne Villa “incident” changed the way I handle an emergency request forever. After I had handled their emergency, I had to fight to be paid.
Although Feragne Villa claimed to be LBGTQ friendly-they were not! I officiated the Rehearsal and the Wedding ceremony PRIOR to inquiring who would pay me. The mother of the bride said I had been paid in the “package.” Not knowing what package she was talking about I asked the wedding coordinator who told me they offer a package that includes the officiant. Oh–the Officiant pretending to be on vacation?! The homophobic who couldn’t do what she was paid to do? Did they NOT know a rehearsal & wedding was scheduled on their books! Of course the officiant knew the couple were LBGTQ because she had met with them twice to discuss the wedding so it wasn’t a “surprise” by any stretch of the word. She knew the wedding was for two women and pulled out at the last minute because she didn’t want anyone to know or worse, she was uncomfortable performing an LBGTQ wedding.
Obviously the couple and their families had assumed that I worked for the venue since no one at Feragne Villa bothered to mention that I didn’t and that I had been paid in the package that included an officiant. Someone got paid alright but it wasn’t me. The family thought that I had been paid because they were lied to. They also assumed that I was under contract with the venue and knew the wedding coordinator and owner. I am on call at numerous venues but Feragne Villa will never be one of them.
Not being affiliated with the Feragne Villa AND saving their ass from a breach of contract lawsuit for failing to provide the officiant who was “in the wind and already paid on their contract,” I was lit. Having to fight Feragne Villa to get paid for officiating a rehearsal and wedding that someone else was paid to do? Altering my own schedule to accommodate Feragne Villa? Things got worse and quickly.
It’s never a good idea to assume I’m a sucker-I may be soft hearted but I don’t allow anyone to abuse my kindness. The reason I showed up to save the day was for the couple not Feragne Villa! Frankly, I knew the couple would be devastated with friends and family flying in for this event if I hadn’t shown up. John had already told me that no one would take this gig on short notice and without me it would be a sad and expensive party but not a wedding.
After the wedding, I told the coordinator that someone was going to pay me come hell or high water. She said she would talk to Wanda the owner after I refused to take $100 she tried to force on me &
explained “it’s what we pay our officiant.”
I also explained that this “emergency situation” was their problem not mine and I knew the real reason the officiant would not be performing either ceremony so I wasn’t discounting or waiving any fees to Feragne Villa who had been paid 6 months prior to the actual event in full.
Regardless of what they said they paid their officiant- my fees did not amount to $100.00 and frankly I was offended at the way she attempted to crumple up and throw money at me in front of the wedding party and guests who had finally figured out that I didn’t work there and had not been paid.
I had spent 6 hours covering the idiot officiant who should’ve been there, my fees along with travel (45 minutes to their location 3 times), Emergency Officiant Fees and the fact that the rehearsal was 45 minutes late were nowhere near being covered by $100.00.
I will never forget the Feragne Villa “incident” as long as I live. The owner was a bully and thought it was okay for her officiant to show prejudiced to clients who had paid her on good faith. She was also untruthful with the couple and she broke her own contract with them PRIOR to having her assistant retain my service. I sat down and typed out a demand letter for payment.
Three days passed after the owner had recieved my certified and return reciept demand letter for services rendered. I called her from the courthouse while picking up copy of a divorce decree for my father to advise her that she had 24 hours to pay me it or see me in court because I never make promises that I can’t keep. I was paid the following day by cashiers check via FedEx. I also wrote a blog detailing these events to advise all of my LBGTQ friends to stay the hell away from Feragne Villa!
When someone saves you or your business reputation, it’s always a good idea to pay them. The owner of Feragne Villa learned this the hard way! There are unethical wedding and event owners but I pride myself on never “pretending to be something that I’m not” & I’m never late or overbook myself because my reputation is my business. If I have you on my books, you can rest assured that I will be there and prepared to work. There are no “grey” areas with me and I’m ethical to a fault and expect the same from other vendors. I now require a contract prior to committing because I’ve been burned and I’ve learned that not everyone is honest or even “up front” regarding Emergency Officiant Requests.
After 4 years of fighting to get paid at Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners gave all the “I don’t have any money” folks a window to trade because I literally had to force these sad luck story people to put some skin in the game. I care about your story but not enough to spend the rest of my life working for free. Forcing prospects to sacrifice something in order to get what they wanted in return would help me finally start earning money from the “I don’t have any money” but I want this emails and phone calls.
But to get back to your questions…
“Why are some of your photos black and white and others full color?” We like a variety of photos for clients whether they hired us for photos at Texas Twins Events or they are benefitting from complimentary photography through The Pawning Planners.
“Why do some of your clients look polished while others appear to be hillbillies with missing teeth?” I’ve answered this question so many times but will explain it again. Pawning Planners Clients have no money that’s why they book with us.
They are country type folks because I live in Texas. Texas Twins Events Clients are doctors, lawyers, and business type upper middle class so they obviously can afford a dentist.
I have perfect teeth because I’m far from poor and don’t have to work because my husband makes a very good living. Therefore, I don’t take on clients that treat my staff or I like servants. If I never did another event, it wouldn’t change my lifestyle one bit. Taking on problem clients also takes the fun out of what I do. Life is too short to be miserable and years ago, I had to deal with all sorts of clients because I had to earn a living. Bridezillas and/or Guestzillas have no place in my client base from either of my businesses. I cut problems loose early and try to limit problems because I’m smart enough to see them coming after 7 years. Sure one sneaks in now and then it loses it on their wedding day but I no longer deal with everyday drama or demanding diva’s because I don’t have to.
I was a Cadillac model & spokesperson as well as a print model for 20 plus years and know the country club life quite well but I like real people far more than fake people! Clients missing teeth may not “be as attractive” but they are people just like you and I who (sadly) cannot afford dental work.
I don’t “try to keep up with the Neighbors.” So many people try to be something they aren’t but I’ve had the most fun with my “country clients” over the years who are honest and funny. You can’t buy manners or hospitality-you either have them or you don’t and although some clients may lack fancy clothes or fancy cars from The Pawning Planners, they are down to earth, gracious and thankful for our help. After all, no one else was going to help them which is why I don’t have any competition with clients bartering. No one wants to help someone with no money except my team and I. That’s the “luxury” of not having to take on every client that comes to me-I work because I actually enjoy my work and the people we help.
“Your twin sister calls herself a hillbilly or redneck but you don’t speak the same way or dress alike. Why is that?” My sister spent many years building a dairy and married to a truck driver. As adults my sister went one direction while I went another. I worked in modeling and upscale furniture or luxury cars while Cindy raised her children. My sister has always hated “fancy stuff” and prefers to be comfortable which is why we dress differently. My career path warranted dressing for success and I often worked in exchange for evening clothes when modeling at Neiman Marcus, Stripling & Cox or Monnings because I believe beautiful clothes are timeless and a good investment. Try getting my sister to dress up and it will be a long battle of listening to her complain. I gave up trying to make her wear my clothes a long time ago!
“If your loaning me flowers for my wedding, why can’t I have you change the colors to suit my choices or keep the bouquets?” I offer three choices of loaned flower options if you don’t like the choices, you can provide your own. At the end of every season, I replace designs that were loaned throughout the year 40-60 times as a courtesy. Years ago, I worked as a floral designer. I stay so busy juggling Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures, Appraisal Appointments & refurbishing or selling trades while meeting clients and at events that the luxury of working with floral designs simply doesn’t fit into my schedule.
The truth is that the expense of using fine materials (I never sacrifice quality on floral designs or furniture restoration). Convincing a client that more expensive materials will “up the price” is always an issue. By the time you factor in the time & expense necessary, it makes selling floral designs a losing battle financially for me and creating designs for an entire wedding party easily takes 7-14 days which would greatly interfere with my schedule. There are many other silk floral designer to buy from but I no longer custom create for an entire wedding party because I just don’t have the time.
“You will consider any event request. Why?” Every client is different and every dream event is different. I’m open to all requests. In fact, I love a unique and creative event far more than traditional events because it’s different and not the same old stuff.
“What are Inlaws & Outlaws?” These are people who love to stir the chili or try to lead the parade. Friends and family members who jump in and try to change the dynamics of an event. Often, they are loud and have been drinking. I’ve been quoted stating open bars are bad ideas because they can be if you know someone (guest, family member or friend) is going to be a problem with a few drinks, an open bar is similar to an all you can eat buffet-please choose carefully when deciding whether to offer guests an unlimited supply of booze.
“You write about your family and events frequently. Why?” My family work with me at events and we spend far more time than other families together. Occasionally, we also argue because we spend so much time together like any other family business. Our children and grandchildren are often with us on location.
“Are you ever concerned at an Appraisal Appointment meeting strangers?” Occasionally but I’m never alone. Cindy and I go together to appraise trades as a TwinTeam.
“Your open and honest when things go wrong. Why?” I never know if the father giving away the bride is going to argue with his ex wife, the arbor is going to fall on the parents or grandparents, the bride is going to trip or her old boyfriend is going to show up. No one can. Conflict resolution is different for every situation. I don’t hide any accurate facts about my journey because I don’t believe in fooling people or faking perfection. It would be humanly impossible to have every event go off without a hitch. The only time you can count on nothing going wrong is on a tv show. Reality is far from perfect when you throw in the people, the vendors, the outlaws, the inlaws, the weather and more.
“I was on your other site Texas Twins Events and saw you do Prison Weddings. Do you visit any prison?” No. Texas is a very large state. Based on the location and my schedule, I can’t be everywhere all of the time. We will be adding another licensed and approved officiant in the near future because my schedule is already fairly full. I can’t spend an entire day traveling to a distant location on short notice. Approval for an inmate takes time often several weeks or even a month or more and you have (maybe) one weeks notice from the prison of your approval to officiate so shifting your schedule is necessary to accommodate the request.
I’m off to a busy weekend ahead of 3 weddings and a funeral. One of the weddings will be at Estes Unit in Venus, Texas. A “first” for me but I’ve had many “firsts” so I’m trying to look at my cup as half full rather than half empty. Prison isn’t a “happy place” even when you are there to officiate a wedding. I find myself wondering if the guards will be nice (or not) but have no idea until I get there. The Estes Unit has 1100 prisoners and I’m told the wedding will take place in the wardens office. There are only 2 days a month to schedule a wedding in a Texas Prison so “stacking up” clients is perhaps the best way to address an issue with very few officiants who are willing to going through the screening process. It would be impossible for me to be in El Paso one minute and 10 hours across Texas the next. Also there are several “rough prisons” that I will not choose to officiate at due to violence and my own safety.
I never know what I will write about because my life mimicks my blogs-both are unpredictable due to my diverse businesses and client base everyday is an adventure but I always look forward to answering your questions…
Wendy M Wortham
Comments by Wendy Wortham