While staying home in the frigid Texas weather this morning, I reviewed several emails seeking an Approved Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Officiant.
The truth is that there are very few Approved Officiants in Texas and other states and I’m one of them. I don’t pay for placement on top of Google search engines but, I’m pretty easy to find. Blog posts and social media connections share and re share my posts or blogs that keep me on top of search engines for creative content and let’s face it, when you operate three really unique businesses, there isn’t a lot of competition if any.
There are a lot of Prisons in Texas which surprised me when I agreed to officiate for Misty last April. When I’m contacted to officiate, I often Google the distance prior to giving a quote if I’m not familiar with the Unit because Texas is a very large state.
Many of these Brides (or Grooms) face challenges when trying to secure an Authorized Officiant because they are confused about the process and finding an Authorized Prison Officiant is their responsibility. The Units require the Bride or Groom “on the outside” to secure an Officiant who is “on the books” or Authorized and Cleared.
I recently wrote a blog regarding what happens at Prison Weddings on my sister site, Texas Twins Events— TDCJ Jester III To TDCJ Darrington Unit- Travels Of A Prison Wedding Officiant. I do a lot of driving and not only to Prisons. Many of my traditional bookings require travel as do Appraisal Appointments with Pawning Planners Clients.
Since I’m contacted quite frequently by production companies who cannot believe that we barter event services as well as officiating Texas Prison Weddings and want to find out more, it should be noted that my goal was to help people who couldn’t find anyone else to help them. Bartering Event services is so rare that I’ve never even heard of anyone else doing it although many vendors ask me how it works. There is a timeline of flipping items unless you’re dealing with a “quick flip.” If you don’t need to refurbish or fix up a trade, you can list it immediately but, finding buyers requires you to have a selling outlet. Social Media propels many of our sales mainly because we have thousands of people who not only follow our adventures but share our stories which often helps us effectively market an item.
Creating a People Over Profits based business sounds crazy but the truth is that there are far more consumers who live paycheck to paycheck than there are middle class or rich. This “untapped market” needs and wants event services but until we created businesses to directly target and market them, had been lost in a donut hole. I was one of those people years and years ago so yes, I get it and yes, I know they are out there. There is a reason so many people get married at the JP or elope and that reason is money. No one really wants to get married “on the cheap” but, there are very few options when you have less a few hundred dollars to spend. My family and I changed all of that and made Life Events not only affordable but also fun!
There have been a few twists and turns along the way, my initial idea hasn’t changed. I believe that everyone should have a beautiful event and whether it’s at a Prison or not, everyone is treated with kindness by me or my staff.
We have a melting pot of clients who range from rich to poor because we handle events for folks who book through Texas Twins Events who are far from poor and people who book through The Pawning Planners that have no money but barter their event. Sponsored families are funded through Texas Twins Treasures. These families have no money or anything of value to barter but we help them anyway.
From a birthday party for someone who had never had one to a funeral for a family who couldn’t afford one to baby showers for young ladies who lack friends or family to bring gifts much less sponsor a party- we help many people who were turned away by other vendors including LBGT couples.
I have never said no to a request because someone had nothing to offer in exchange for event services. My philosophy of helping (or sponsoring) people is that by inspiring hope and kindness that they will one day show kindness to a stranger themselves. I believe that kindness inspires hope. All 3 businesses work together which is how I can afford to sponsor families every year. If sales are down at Texas Twins Treasures, I use funds from Texas Twins Events for expenses for sponsored families or Pawning Planners families. I sponsor 25-30 families a year.
My weekdays are spent driving to Texas Prisons or Appraising Trades because Prison Weddings take place during the week in Texas. My twin sister is always with me at Appraisal Appointments and Traditional Events but Prison Weddings are the one Event that I rarely bring my sister or my team to with me on unless I’m driving in the dark to a distant Unit. When this happens, the Prison Bride (or Groom) meet me at a restaurant or gas station near the Unit and I leave my SUV behind with whoever came with me waiting.
I’m rarely gone for more than an hour getting checked in and officiating at the Unit which works well when I have someone traveling with me. My husband is uncomfortable with me driving in the wee hours of the morning alone. I also enjoy having the company for my weekly road trips to Prisons especially if they are several hours from Fort Worth.
I walk alone into a Prison Unit or with the Bride or Groom. Prisons are the one place that I arrive without my family who are almost always by my side at our other events.
Everyone on my team work together at Traditional events. We have 5 wedding Officiants, 3 Photographers, 2 Coordinators (Cindy & I), 1 Bilingual Translator and our little twins stand in as Flower Girls, Ring Bearers or Ushers at Events. It’s often said that Events require a Village and I normally bring my Village with me but not to Prison Weddings. Meet My Team— Texas Twins Events/The Pawning Planners Team Members.
Since many people wonder what goes on at a Prison Wedding, these weddings are far more structured and I enjoy officiating at Prisons because there is none of the drama that traditional events have. I.E. No one has ever thrown up on me, no one has ever yelled at or disrespected me and no one has ever had too much to drink.
That’s right, I’ve seen all of the drama you could imagine at traditional weddings the past 7 years and like everyone else, had a few surprises when 3 of the groomsmen were arrested at one Fort Worth Wedding or the bride threw up on me at another.
I write about it all on my blogs–the good, the bad, the ugly and the unexpected. From the Banjo Playing Boyfriend to The Barfing Bride or even The Broken Tooth-Bouncing Check Bride, there isn’t too much that my family and I haven’t seen happen at a Life Event! When we are asked why we need a Team on location, it’s to address any issue by over preparing with plenty of staff on site.
People are unpredictable and when you have Inlaws or Outlaws at your wedding, they are often unforgettable too.
Answering emails while watching my dog, Foxy Wortham who was determined to skip his walk on the icy sidewalks, I dove in to my next few months of TDCJ Unit Weddings and scheduling.
Morgan has emailed me 5 times trying to find a way to afford her Prison Wedding at Powledge Unit. She sent me a photo of her and her fiancée which isn’t as unusual as you might think. Many of my Brides (or Grooms) often send me a photo.
Several weeks ago, I had sent her a quote based on the distance and we’ve been emailing back and forth since then. After hearing her story, I decided to discount her fee 50% as a late Christmas present. I actually care about the back stories far more than anyone realizes.
A few of these Prison Brides have decided to barter their Wedding Services and although this may sound “unique,” I make exceptions based on the circumstances of clients who initially contacted me through Texas Twins Events.
Normally due to the distance of many Prison Units from my location in Fort Worth, I prefer not to barter due to the time involved to appraise and refurbish items taken in trade but, I make exceptions based on the situation.
My “flip” timeline before listing items at Texas Twins Treasures is usually 2-4 weeks and I often have far less time when it’s a Prison Wedding. The reason for this is scheduling. The bride (or groom) don’t schedule their wedding event, the Warden and Chaplain do which usually gives me less than 1 weeks notice which is why I rarely barter Texas Department Of Prison Weddings because I don’t have time to flip and recover my expenses prior to the wedding.
Since I’m often asked why I merged Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create The Pawning Planners and an opportunity for anyone to barter their event, I will explain that my initial plan was to offer low cost wedding and event services by starting Texas Twins Events.
Within a few years, I realized that many people contacting me still couldn’t afford to hire myself or my team for their Dream Event and spent several years working for free. The problem? Expenses of film development, gasoline and other items was leaving me upside down.
In order to make my endeavor work, I needed a way to make enough money and since I had been operating an EBay store since 2009, decided to take trades. My twin sister and I have a history of selling and flipping items so it was “a perfect fit.” Expanding and rebranding Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures and The Pawning Planners not only kept us afloat but also allowed us to reach far more people needing event services while generating revenue.
Last year, I again expanded our list of services to include TDCJ Wedding Officiant services. My reasons for undergoing the process of becoming an Approved Officiant can be found in this blog—Becoming a TDCJ Approved Officiant-Why I Decided To Officiate Prison Weddings.
For readers wanting more information about a Prison Wedding, visit this link— Rev Wendy Wortham Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Officiant.
For the past several months, I’ve been to cities and Units that I didn’t know existed in order to help Brides make their dreams come true. For those of you who don’t believe Love After Lockup is possible, I’m here to tell you that it not only exists but these families are planning for their future and not the present.
From destination weddings in another state to venues, parks, karate studios, Prisons, parking lots and even a C130 at Carswell AFB, every family I’ve met over the years had a story and a Dream.
Life Events are meant to happen only once but for my Prison Brides and Grooms, a Vow Renewal upon the release is scheduled to ensure they have traditional wedding photos as a courtesy.
I also offer complimentary Prison Bride (or Groom) photo shoots so brides have photos of their wedding day even though their situation may not be ideal, they look forward to fun photos with me and the props I bring include bouquets, bubbles, and other fun items. Creating an inventory helps hundreds of families every year because they don’t have to buy anything- they borrow it from my inventory.
A few of my readers don’t “believe in Prison Weddings or LBGT Unions” and have taken the time to express your views to me.
Our Unique Clients make our job pleasant because there are no bridezillas or guestzillas and everyone is glad to see us. When you work with the general public, not everyone is easy or even fun to work with and after a thousand events, you quickly recognize that the problem clients aren’t worth the hassle.
No one can make problem clients happy and we have never had a problem with LBGT Couples, Interracial Couples, Military Families or Prison Wedding Clients—the difference is that they are honored and thankful for our help. These unique families make our jobs far more pleasant and even fun because they aren’t complaining or feeling entitled about the process. They work with us.
From pregnant Brides to families that may or may not mirror your own, these clients came to us after being treated “differently” by other vendors. Their loss was our gain as we continued to hear horror stories of other vendors who “screened” our clients.
Often, these other vendors ask some pretty intrusive questions that have included “are you pregnant? Are you gay? Are you an interracial couple?” As shocking as it may sound, many families are effectively screened to such an extent that they “out themselves” when contacting me to let me know they are “different.”
A few years ago, we helped a parapalegic vet who had struggled to find anyone to officiate her wedding. The problem? Not only was she missing both of her arms and one of her legs but it was also an LBGT wedding. Other vendors quickly declined her wedding including photographers but not my team. We brought the cake, the champagne and all of the extras to make their day special.
We not only performed their ceremony, we did it twice due to a problem with our video camera at the first wedding to ensure that they not only had photos but also video. These two ladies were thrilled that we brought flowers and everything needed with us and my entire family had so much fun with them that we are still friends today.
We love Military Weddings too and discount both LBGT Couples and Military Families for all Event Services. I will never understand why so many people are turned away because they “look different” but, it’s very sad to me and my team.
My businesses are a rainbow of families, all of my businesses are LBGT Friendly. Their families may or may not look like yours but that doesn’t alter the fact that they are a family…we welcome all types of families regardless of their unique attributes.
Wishing all of our clients and readers a wonderful and safe New Year from my family to yours as I look forward to meeting new clients and friends of The Texas Twins…We want you to have your day your way and offer a wide range of services and ceremonies to fit any budget or if you choose, barter your event services.
Comments by Wendy Wortham