Eight years ago, my husband was concerned that my open mindedness would open me up to criticism. Last Friday, I learned my husband was right.
For the first time in 8 years, a TDCJ Prison Wedding Client pulled the “LBGT Marriage is against my faith card.” Sure, I was shocked and hurt that my Client base was specifically why this Bride chose to effectively fire me.
For eight years, it’s not unusual to read an email or even get a letter from someone who doesn’t even know me regarding their views on LBGT Marriage. My husband has made our home a literal fortress because I’ve had death threats. Last year, a man who sent a 10 page letter with his return address was arrested. I pressed charges.
A long drawn out text regarding her explanation further hurt my heart for anyone who has been judged simply because were viewed as “different.”
I have many friends who are LBGT and was deeply hurt by all of this. Being judged for being LBGT Friendly has never come up with another Client.
The initial text stated that the Client, Jane Doe was considering cancelling her wedding. Alarmed, I asked if there was something she was concerned or nervous about?
Prison Weddings are often the cause of a certain degree of anxiety for TDCJ Clients because no one actually really planned on marrying in a Texas Prison.
I’m adding the initial text at 5:37PM last Friday for your review:
“Good afternoon, Wendy. I haven’t received the contract yet, but something has come up and I’m looking at possibly needing to cancel and get a refund. I’m not 100% sure we will need to cancel at the moment, but what is your process for instances like this?”
I read this text again. “I’m not 100% sure we will need to cancel at the moment, but what is your process for instances like this?” Well, you either are getting married or you aren’t. There isn’t any “I’m not sure” about it. Slightly confused, I thought perhaps the couple were at odds. What I didn’t think was that any of this had anything to do with me personally. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Because I have to keep an open schedule for TDCJ Weddings and therefore, limit bookings, I do not offer refunds but, I’m happy to reschedule. I do not schedule TDCJ dates and because of this, limit new bookings in order to be available for existing bookings.
Here’s my response to Jane Doe: “Contracts went go out Monday, Weds, and Friday. I mailed your contract on Weds. I have to hold my schedule open for TDCJ Weddings (because often I have no idea of the date as the Warden or Chaplain schedule) I’m happy to reschedule a wedding but, as outlined don’t offer refunds. What’s wrong? Call me please. If you just need to reschedule that’s not a problem. Please call me at your convenience to discuss the issue.”
About fifteen minutes later, rather than calling me, my Bride answered with this text:
“Forgive me for the long message; It started with my fiancé being concerned about the weather that day and was looking to see if it was possible to reschedule. Furthermore, per my fiancé, “I understand that the church is dividing over the LGBT community and it’s that divide that separates our faith. We were unaware of your support of same-sex/transgender marriages.” My fiancé does not support that view and is not okay with condoning it. Though we want to see all people come into the revelation of Christ Jesus and the grace and mercy of God, he believes that grace and mercy is a transforming power and he is not comfortable with continuing our marriage ceremony with someone who does not share that same faith. We thank you and we love you. You have been wonderful and super responsive and very helpful through this process leading up to today. We understand your policy on no refunds and accept it. I pray that there are no hurt or ill feelings, but we must stand by our faith. Thank you again for all of your help and we are sorry to end it this way and put you through any unnecessary work. Please call me if you would like to discuss further. I’m at work and did not want to delay communicating this to you any further.”
Completely stunned, I reread the text three times before telling my husband what was going on and, asking his opinion. I was rattled and yes, the rejection got me like a load of bricks.
My husband wasn’t shocked or surprised and told me while he was making dinner “I told you that half the people will support you and the other half would condemn you years ago. I’m fifteen years older than you and grew up in a time when everyone was divided. There are things I still remember about segregation. My family loved everyone and were ostracized because of it. I didn’t understand as a child why one person could use a water faucet and another couldn’t. I never will. The person who was more of a parent to me than my own parents was our housekeeper and her family. I loved Helen but, people treated us different in public. I went shopping with her and held her hand and people treated her differently. It pained me because I loved and admired the only mother figure I would ever know as a child but, she was black and I was white. I never understood why seeing me with Helen offended people? She was my family and my mentor. She was also my best friend until I left home. Fort Worth wasn’t “friendly” back then. This Texas boy lived in an enormous house across the street from a country club with an alcoholic mother and a father who preferred to be at work or “at the club” but anywhere away from his wife. My dad waited until I was eighteen years old to divorce my mom. He was a gentleman that wouldn’t leave her with a child still at home. Helen and I shared a friendship until her death. I also helped Helen pay the bills when she became too old to work. Every Christmas, I was at Helens home celebrating with the only real family that I had ever known. You cannot let bias hurt you. Bias is everywhere in this world. When I married you, I was asked if you were Hispanic by someone because you have dark skin and ethnic features. I told him “my wife is of mixed heritage. This has never bothered me because my wife didn’t choose her heritage and I wouldn’t care if she was purple. My wife has a kind heart because she’s endured a difficult life. If you ever ask her about her heritage in a condemning way, I promise our friendship will be ended forever.”
Matthew meant it and one Christmas at the country club, this “friend” asked me in front of a group of people, “where are you from? Your skin is dark, your hair is red and your eyes are hazel. Are you an American?”
I am more accustomed to this heritage or I look ethnic question than my husband and therefore, handle invasive questioning far better than he does. So, I answered.
“My grandfather was full blood Cherokee. His mother was Polynesian and Gaumanian. My grandmother was Irish/Scottish and very fair skinned. My mother was Swedish. My heritage is a melting pot of different backgrounds and nationalities. I find it interesting that you are so curious about this although not surprising. Many people ask about the color of my skin and red hair. It’s an unusual combination. Pack your patience because it’s a long story if lineage. You see, years and years ago, my grandmother had milky white skin and red hair and her husband was nearly black in comparison to her fair skin with extraordinary blue eyes. People yelled things at them that should have never been said to anyone aloud. My grandparents ignored these catcalls or someone refusing to serve them. They never reacted to racism because they accepted it. People threw rocks at their house and pretended not to hear them when they spoke. People like you. People who think they are better but, they aren’t. People who assume that if you have darker skin, you are either a native or other invader of the United States. I’m neither. I’m from a Military family of four generations. Military members in my family have often married into different cultures or even ethnicities. In our family, it’s a literal melting pot.”
I walked away with a smile at handling the awkward situation with grace. Life has been a good teacher to me. Judgment didn’t define me because it made me a better person. People who believe themselves to be “high on the pedestal” are often arrogant but rarely, educated. You’ve met them. We all have at some point in our lives. Country club people are almost always convinced of how superior they are. Money doesn’t make you intelligent but, it can certainly make people arrogant. I don’t miss the country club and fake friends. I had thirty years of their fakeness. Phony friends competing with each other. Most of them are far from rich though and up to their eyeballs in debt trying to look like they are wealthy when in fact they aren’t.
People like the country club guy who think they are superior love to condemn or judge others. People who think they are “more religious or have a stronger faith than everyone else” often have no tolerance for things that obviously have no impact on them. My aunt, my dad, my cousins and even others corner me whenever possible to tell me THEIR BELIEFS. My own family? Yep. My brother too. I’m so tired of my own family trying to tell me what they think that I now hang up! My own family also “don’t think prisoners should marry.”
My aunt and I regularly “go at it” when my Clients or my business are brought up. I’m telling you that if my clients had any idea how much flack that I’ve had to put up with certain members of my family they would be shocked. My sister, my niece, my grandnieces, my son and daughter in law flat out “catch it” at family events because our family is actually divided. Thankfully, my aunt, my brother and my cousins don’t work with me. My dad won’t Officiate LBGT Weddings and I don’t care. For a multi ethnic family, you would think they’d be more open minded but, they aren’t.
For starters, these “faith based Christians” aren’t marrying an LBGT or Transgender Partner so, why is it so important to them that I Officiate LBGT Unions?
I’m not surprised that racism exists because hate exists. I WAS SURPRISED that someone I had spoke to a number of times and effectively, who had hired me HAD NOT interviewed me regarding my affiliations with LBGT Couples or even went to my website.
If this issue “you Officiate LBGT Weddings” issue was “so important” why didn’t she ask sooner? I would have been happy to “out myself.” I now have to in order to keep something like this from happening again. All Wendy Wortham Websites are now being overhauled and my first interview with new clients will begin with “I’m LBGT Friendly AND I also Officiate Prison Weddings. Is that going to be a problem?”
If it is, I have other members of my staff who can insist you. My homophobic dad for one. Yes, it bothers me but, life teaches you to learn from your past and, I am. History doesn’t repeat itself with me.
Jane Doe had hired me to Officiate her Prison Wedding because she trusted me to perform the honor of officiating from a referral. I don’t advertise. I haven’t advertised in years and have no desire for More Bookings.
I’m too busy focusing on Clients who need my attention to spread myself thin. I’m the only Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Officiant on my Texas Twins Events Team. There isn’t anyone else.
Standing in my disaster zone home with Sheetrock, insulation everywhere and plastic sheets separating doorways with stacked up furniture from the roof collapsing, I waited to respond to Jane Doe. The pouring rain on my damaged roof mirrored my feelings. This has been the worst year of my entire life. I’ve lost 7 people this year to Death, The Dark Stranger, I’ve had 3 emergency surgeries for the “c” word, my father and niece have been committed over and over again and I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself but, it isn’t easy. Thanks to Dr Phil, my family is like an egg that’s been stepped on.
I’m at that Unit tomorrow with four other Brides who are honored I will be officiating their Prison Wedding.
I walked through the maze of two rooms of knickknacks, three rooms of furniture packed into two rooms, photos, and essentially my entire life of collecting pieces I loved that were now broken, photos damaged by water that are lost forever and broken furniture through the mess of wet insulation and everything else to speak to my husband over the roar of 10 air purifier/scrubbers in every room of our home to tell my husband I was uncertain about how to respond to Jane Doe. My husband is wise and I often consult him when I’ve been sucker punched. Actually, when I’m really sad or devastated. He’s been sad since Ann died. We are both broken.
Matthew continued stirring fried rice and thought for a moment while sipping a martini before speaking. “First, she’s marrying a Prisoner. That on its own might put her in a position of being judged by many people who don’t support Prison Marriage. I’m certain that she hadn’t considered this. Second, our home is a disaster area. You are emotional right now. Have dinner then respond. Let the surprise and the sorrow wear off before you answer her. If it were me, I wouldn’t refund her. She’s wasted your time on numerous phone calls and now, affected your schedule as well as hitting you on a Friday night so you can be upset all weekend. But, that’s me. You do what you want and I’m sure you will go against your own rules and refund her but, you do what you want because you always do. In business though, you don’t owe her a refund. You spend hours walking people through the process and your time is valuable. You will also have to call the Unit and cancel because there are many people involved in the process of a Prison Wedding.” He’s right.
Whether my client is in a car accident or had cold feet, if the wedding is canceled, it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to notify the Unit ASAP as a courtesy to the Chaplain and Warden and, I’ve rescheduled other Clients before and cancelled two weddings due to cold feet. We all remember the Coffield Unit Bride.
My husband listens while I’m talking on calls with TDCJ prospects or clients from 6AM to 10:30PM. My phone NEVER STOPS RINGING.
TDCJ Clients compromise a very large portion of my time. It’s not unusual to have a TDCJ Client call or email 10-15 times before their actual wedding.
That’s 10-15 times from ONE CLIENT asking different questions prior to actual event. Time consuming? You bet but, earning someone’s trust over the phone and never meeting them in person until the day of their event isn’t a “short conversation.”
I spend far more time talking to TDCJ Clients than any other Client of Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners OR Texas Twins Treasures. It’s a fact. TDCJ Clients have FAR MORE QUESTIONS. Prison Weddings are a process. My TDCJ Torres Unit Bride has been waiting 5 months to get a date. My Stiles Unit Bride waited 7 months.
I waited until after dinner Friday and walked through my dining room and den sideways to find a chair that wasn’t covered in insulation or plastic before answering Jane Doe. “I’m terribly sorry to hear this. Have you contacted the Unit to cancel or do you want me to do so? I’m sorry for the delay but my roof fell in and I’ve been working to organize as best I can through the rubble. I’m happy to call Monday if you haven’t already called the Unit and handle cancelling your Wedding for you. I’m very sorry about all of this and wish you much joy and happiness in your marriage.”
I waited for a response while considering offering a partial refund of fifty percent. Knowing that she would need the money for another Officiant, I broke my own rules.
I’m well aware the handful of other TDCJ Approved Officiants charge far more than I do. Because of this and although my feelings were hurt, I sent a 50% refund to Jane Doe theough Paypal then, I called her.
Meanwhile, Jane Doe responded via text. Her response? “Thank you so sooo much for the advice, it’s appreciated, heard, and received. I will keep that at the front of my mind!! I’m not even sure of our luck to find someone who does not officiate LGBT marriages, even then if they would be TDCJ approved on top of that, within our budget, and available before our marriage license expires, and approved by the Warden/Chaplain in addition to all of the above, ha. All that considered, we must lean on the Lord and pray he pave the way for our ceremony (even if it means postponing our marriage until after his release). Thank you for your kindness in refunding some of the fee. I will keep it to myself (not advertising to anyone you went outside of your policies). I have spoken very highly of you to my friends/family and of course would continue to do so, regardless of this unforeseen change in plans!!! God bless you, Wendy!! Praying for the rain to let up in your area and a quick remedy to prevent further damage with all the water!!”
My house is a mess but, that’s not what’s weighing heavily on my heart. Work takes me away from the stress of my family and the loss that this year has brought to me. Work occupies my mind. Celebrating a wedding is the happiest time in my life other than my three grandnieces.
After speaking to her and reiterating that I would need to advise the Unit of her cancellation as a courtesy to both Warden and Chaplain, she advised me that she would call herself on Tuesday. Tuesday was 48 hours from the scheduled Event.
Now, to better understand all of this, the Client cancelled because I perform LBGT Marriages. I decided to refund her half of her payment in order to find another Officiant as a courtesy.
She obviously didn’t “feel comfortable with ME performing the ceremony.” So, I obviously wasn’t planning to leave my home at 6AM for an 8:30AM ceremony that wasn’t going to happen with her so, why on earth was she upset that I was notifying the Unit?
I had to clear my schedule from our 9AM slot to work in my other clients at that Unit on that date. What part of all of this would upset Jane Doe? Stay tuned ya all…
I called the Unit Monday and left a message for the Chaplain. On the phone call with the Client earlier, I had already let her know that cancellations need to be communicated to the Unit asap.
I heard nothing back from Jane Doe until yesterday (Tuesday) morning via text. Forty eight hours prior to the scheduled wedding ceremony at 9AM.
Again, I was shocked and stunned by yet another “gut punching text.” Here it is: “Wendy, over the weekend my fiancé was getting asked why I called off the wedding and canceled but the thing is that I never called up there. I really hope you didn’t call up there over the weekend and cancel, that would really hurt my heart. He’s been getting questioned why I canceled and asked if everything is okay like there might be problems and I got cold feet. I’m not sure how the warden would’ve found out. My plan was to call today when the Chaplain gets in, as he doesn’t work Mondays.”
Wait…the Groom was upset that his wedding was called off? Wasn’t he the one who had issues with me performing LBGT Weddings? Now you are catching on. This was the most mysterious situation I’ve ever encountered.
After nearly 2k events, I’ve encountered plenty of strange situations but, none like this! The Client initiated this cancellation not me.
Let’s look at the details one more time. 1. Jane Doe wanted to cancel her wedding because I’m LBGT Friendly. 2. Jane Doe wanted a refund on a non refundable service. 3. Jane Doe was upset that I advised her that I would need to notify the Unit and did? 4. Jane Doe went from being loving and kind to unpredictable.
What part of me contacting the Unit to advise the Chaplain the Bride cancelling was an heated debate or issue? AFTER I had refunded 1/2 of her payment Friday and it was clearly stated by Jane Doe herself that this Client did NOT want me to perform her marriage?
Keep reading. It’s a hot mess. This type of situation is SO RARE that I’m documenting it. No one just “changes the Officiant on an I60. This document REQUIRES up to 6 signatures. Prison Weddings are a PROCESS that involve far more people than the couple, the Officiant, the Chaplain and the Warden.
Getting permission to marry at a Texas Prison is a lengthy process for couples. Having an Approved TDCJ Officiant is also a REQUIREMENT.
The original date was Approved using my name and credentials. No one simply “changes the name of an Officiant.” Quite the contrary, the entire process starts over. For obvious reasons, the date was going to change. Since my name was on the paperwork and I was well aware the Client chose to cancel, notifying the Unit shouldn’t have been a big surprise.
My texted response: “I called the Chaplain. It is my responsibility to notify the Unit of cancellations. We had discussed this Friday evening. I need you to call me as I’m confused why notifying the Unit is upsetting to you. I have no idea what’s going on here. The Unit MUST BE NOTIFIED. You told me you wished to cancel. I am following protocol for this type of situation. I have no idea why you are upset.”
Jane Doe: “That’s not okay, Wendy. I’m at work and will have to call on my break or after 5.” Let me explain that the Chaplain leaves Units “after 5,” and if Jane Doe was going to wait until after 5 on Tuesday less than 48 hours before her expected slot at 9AM on Thursday, that’s NOT ACCEPTABLE to a Unit. The Warden and Chaplain don’t like or appreciate “last minute” notifications of a schedule change. Who does?
Prisons accommodate weddings. The entire Unit is involved in the scheduling of a TDCJ Wedding. I’m also accommodating the Client with scheduling.
A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE INVOLVED. I have nine other Brides waiting on dates at Beto. We’ve lost Chaplain Moffett who was my favorite Chaplain of ANY TDCJ Unit.
Holding off cancelling a wedding until the last minute at a Prison is such a bad idea that the Warden or Chaplain may very well assume that the person rescheduling will be another waste of the Units time. I’ve had three other Clients that are still waiting because they angeles the day before or on the actual day of their wedding.
It’s a dangerous game to play at a TDCJ Unit THAT HAS PREVIOUSLY GIVEN A DATE AND TIME. If an entire Unit has gone to the trouble to accommodate you, the last thing you do is continue calling or texting a Unit to make changes.
I am not “making this up.” A Client at Linda Woodman State Jail is STILL waiting for a reschedule. Another is waiting on a reschedule 3 months after cancelling her original date. Wardens don’t have time for wishy washy behavior or flakiness. They are busy people with a burdened schedule.
If Jane Doe had waited until the last minute to notify the Unit, and expected me not to notify the Unit, she made a mistake. I advised her of my intention to notify the Unit Friday evening. CYA. The last thing I need is a Warden asking why I didn’t bother to notify the Unit?
My credibility is hard won. I’m early, I’m professional and I’m respectful at TDCJ Units. All Wardens AND Chaplains are aware of this. I’m not a game player. I’m organized and always professional.
My schedule is mapped out months and even up to a year in advance on traditional events excluding funerals of course which obviously can’t be planned.
These Jane Doe texts wouldn’t stop Tuesday so, I pulled over and called Chaplain White myself. Someone needed to clarify his schedule.
Chaplain White told me that Officer Williamson “took a call from the Bride cancelling on Friday but, giving no reason. I also have a message from you, Reverend Wortham to the Law Library regarding your 9AM placed Monday.”
I advised Chaplain White that I was confused as to why the Bride was angry about notifying the Unit if she had already done so herself.
The Bride clearly didn’t want me to perform her ceremony and I had other Clients wanting to use her scheduled time if she wasn’t and I always notify Units of a cancellation as a professional courtesy.
Chaplain White asked me to have the Bride contact him directly because he like me, had no idea what was going on.
I sent Jane Doe another text: “I’m on the phone Chaplain White he needs to speak to you. Please contact the Chaplain. If you have found another Officiant, you will need to file an I60 and change the name of the Officiant. If you haven’t found an Officiant, and want me to perform the wedding, I NEED to know this. There are several people involved when a wedding is scheduled. The chain of command is that if someone cancels, the Officiant must notify the Unit. To my understanding, you contacted the Unit prior to the weekend? Officer Williams took your call. I am trying to schedule someone else and if you are taking the 9AM, need to notify the Unit to move the other bride to 1:30 in order to accommodate my other bride at 11. There needs to be clarification as to whether you intend to have your wedding at 9AM with me at the Unit. I would need to leave Fort Worth at 6AM to be on site at the Unit by 8:30AM for a 9AM Wedding Ceremony. Please call Chaplain White and clarify what your intentions are.”
In the meantime, while sitting in a Prison parking lot with a now pounding headache, I refunded the rest of her payment via PayPal because I had spent my entire weekend upset about all this AND NOW was being contacted again for following the chain of command? I was attempting to wash my hands of this entire debacle.
This texting situation had upset me beyond words. After all, I was about to walk into a Prison and go to work. Time to slap on my happy face and ignore my dad’s call again.
I had just spent my entire weekend shocked and hurt over this rejection fiasco AND NOW five days later, was still dealing with Jane Doe!
Jane Doe after getting notification of another payment from me through Paypal, responded: “I spoke with Chaplain White a few minutes ago, unfortunately we will not be moving forward with you as our officiant as I explained to you Friday for faith based reasons. We are not going to marry on 9/27/18. Please let me know if I can provide more clarification. Thank you.”
Phone calls, emails, text messages and more are time consuming. Getting upset on a Friday with my entire home in a state of chaos because I Officiate same sex Weddings? I spend so much time with TDCJ Clients that the only time I’m not working is when I’m asleep.
I will no longer refund ANYONE. I’ve spent hours talking to these Clients. Time that I will never get back is a priceless commodity to me and, if Clients aren’t aware that I’m LBGT Friendly, they should be.
Anyone on any Wendy Wortham site realizes this. They also realize that I perform Prison Weddings. It’s blatantly clear! I’m not hiding in a closet somewhere and neither are my Clients.
When I started Texas Twins Events, my goal was to reach people who didn’t have parents to “foot the bill” of a wedding.
I wanted to take my own experience and turn it into something positive. I was sick of working in courthouses or “the man” for ten years while juggling three other jobs before starting Texas Twins Events.
I wanted something fun to do with my family. As a cancer survivor, I know that life is too short to be miserable. Every day is a gift but, many folks fail to realize it. Ann and all of my other close friends who passed this year didn’t realize it either. From one shocking funeral or memorial to the next, the fear of an unexpected death including my own has been a shadow following me from day to day.
I didn’t have a mother or a father to pay for my wedding. Realizing that I was (most likely) not alone, I decided to take a portion of the proceeds from the sale of our house and start a People Over Profit based Events business, Texas Twins Events.
Many of the people who came to us for help weren’t even looking for an Officiant, Photography or Coordination. There are several previous clients who needed rent parties, a Funeral celebrant or even help with a family reunion or estate liquidation. We all remember the lady who couldn’t afford to fix her fence. I don’t limit request solely because if I can’t help you, I can give you insight on how to help yourself.
What my initial concept was had nothing to do with money. I no longer have to work to pay my bills. My “idea” was to create an opportunity of price structures far lower than anyone else because no one else was going to. By being cheaper than everyone else, my initial plan was to reach people who didn’t have a lot of money.
I went in to my own business with an Open Mind and an Open Heart. I didn’t judge anyone or their situation. I have had a lifetime of judgment and hardships myself and because of it, a kind heart.
Who else but Texas Twins Events and The Pawning Planners would take their twin, grandnieces, son or niece to Events? It’s literally a family affair if you exclude the family members who are “uncomfortable at LBGT Events.” We leave them at home.
Dealing with the “General Public,” is a hard heartening experience. Some people will like you while others won’t. They can get over themselves and in my opinion, find someone else. Some people are too much work. The risk isn’t work the reward that will never come.
Texas Twins Treasures was started in 2009. When I started Texas Twins Treasures, I was already an experienced salesperson.
Thirty years in sales taught me something important, if you have a problem Client, YOU WILL NEVER PROFIT from them.
They will beat you down and call or email or find some reason to contact you about this or that. Cut them loose. Do it early. Save yourself.
Life is a great teacher and tomorrow, I’m meeting four wonderful ladies who don’t care that I Officiate LBGT Unions. What they do care about is that I chose to help them plan their Life Event. I listened and I cared when others didn’t. These Brides are honored for my help and I’m honored to help them by planning their Prison Wedding.
Advising anyone and everyone contacting me that they may be uncomfortable about my affiliation with LBGT Clients or Prison Weddings won’t be an easy “opening” but, I NOW realize it will be a necessary conversation.
There are good days and bad days in any business but, thankfully, my bad days have been few because I’m selective with Clients.
After Jane Doe though, I’ve learned that line a few of my family members, not everyone supports LBGT Marriage. That’s okay, everyone is different…