This question is not easily answered through social media or internet. We recommend that you call us for free phone consultation so that we may answer any questions that you have.
Here is some general information:
1. Officiant - TDCJ requires that you find your own officiant (person legally authorized to perform marriages) and that they are approved to go onto TDCJ prison property by TDCJ - Access to the Courts in Huntsville, TX.
- All of our officiants are TDCJ approved. - TDCJ does not require you to use any particular officiant or company to perform your ceremony. - If you have a minister, officiant, Imam, etc. that is legally authorized to perform marriages, they can perform your marriage however they must become TDCJ approved first. In addition this person cannot be on your loved one's visitation list and this person cannot be a current TDCJ volunteer.
2. Premarital Counseling and Education - Optional
- Texas law does not require you to take premarital counseling or education in order to be married. - Some officiants will require you to take premarital counseling or education in order for them to marry you. - Wife and Inmate Connection offers a premarital education course. - Wife and Inmate Connection does not require you to take any premarital course. - Wife and Inmate Connection is a registered provider with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. - Our course will waive $60.00 off of your marriage license and also waive the 72 hour waiting period. - We recommend that out of state or out of country brides take a premarital education course. This will waive the 72 hour waiting period requirement when you buy your marriage license and can help when making travel arrangements. - You can use our course even if you do not hire us for marriage officiant services. - For more information on this course, follow this link or contact us.
3. Inmate Identification - You will need identification on the incarcerated spouse when you go to purchase the marriage license.
Identification – The outside spouse MUST have a copy of the inmate’s TDCJ identification card, birth certificate, or both (depending on which county clerk’s office is being used to obtain the marriage license). If your loved one has not been incarcerated for an excessive period of time and you have access to their driver's license or id card that is still current and valid, you may also use that as an acceptable id.
Each county has different requirements on acceptable identification. It is best for the outside spouse to work with their officiant or check with their local county clerk’s office to determine their required identification on behalf of the incarcerated spouse.
If the outside spouse needs a copy of the inmate id card please follow these below steps or consult with the unit law library.
Place an i-60 to the law library. Indicate that, “I would like to request a copy of my inmate id card for marriage purposes.” It is very important to state this copy is for marriage purposes since most units do not make copies of inmate id without proper reason.
The law library charges $0.10cents for this copy. It is likely that the incarcerated spouse will have to sign a commissary withdrawal form. This requires warden approval and is not completed until Huntsville has approved the debiting transaction from the inmate trust account.
Most law libraries and wardens do not allow inmates to maintain possession of a copy of the inmate id. Therefore, the incarcerated spouse may be required to submit an addressed and stamped envelope, with the outside spouse’s information to the law library. In some instances the law library will directly deliver the envelope to the mail room once the copy has been made.
If the outside spouse needs a copy of the birth certificate, it is best to obtain one from the incarcerated spouse’s immediate family member. Immediate family members can request copies of birth records directly from a local county clerk’s office or through the Texas Dept of Health and Human Services Vital Records division in Austin.
If the outside spouse is unable to obtain a copy of the birth record from an immediate family member, keep in mind fiancés and friends cannot obtain a birth record without a Power of Attorney document. If you have a Power of Attorney document, we can provide you with the proper documents to mail in to obtain the birth record for Texas births. If you do not have a Power of Attorney Document, Wife and Inmate Connection offers a comprehensive packet on Power of Attorney documents. Please notify us immediately if you need this help. Obtaining a birth record is a process that you need to prepare for as well and we recommend it be obtained sooner rather than later. (Power of Attorney documents can be used for different circumstances as well, please let us know if you would like more information on POA even if it is not used for marriage purposes.)
On average obtaining identification is the longest part of the wedding process, which can generally take 4 – 8 weeks to obtain. If you are taking the premarital course, we recommend you start the process of obtaining the identification at the same time. If you are not taking the premarital course, obtaining identification has to be your first step, unless outside spouse has inmate’s identification that is accepted by the county clerk’s office.
4. County Clerk Absent Affidavit Form - This document comes from the county clerk’s office in which you or loved one live in or near. If the outside spouse lives out of state or out of the country, this form must be obtained in Texas at any county clerk’s office.
Texas requires that both parties intending to be married be present to obtain the marriage license. Because the incarcerated spouse cannot be present to obtain the actual marriage license, this form must be obtained by the outside spouse, mailed to the incarcerated spouse, filled out, notarized, mailed back to the outside spouse and then is used to substitute the presence of the incarcerated spouse when purchasing the marriage license.
The outside spouse cannot fill in the information. It MUST be mailed to the incarcerated spouse and be completed by the person incarcerated.
Once the incarcerated spouse has filled out the form they must request a notary before they sign it. It must be signed in the presence of the notary. (Note: Incarcerated spouse should NOT sign this document until in the presence of the notary. If you sign the document without the notary present, they are obligated to deny notarizing your documentation and you will have to start the process over again.) If the outside spouse needs help obtaining this form, we are happy to assist them.
This form generally expires 30 days from the date of the notary, therefore do not request the absent affidavit form be notarized until the outside spouse has obtained the copy of the incarcerated spouse’s identification or birth record, since that is a longer process.
To request a notary please have the inmate submit an i-60 to the law library stating the notary request.
5. Requesting a Wedding Ceremony - When you have hired an officiant, completed the premarital course (optional), have the inmate id and absent affidavit form ready to buy the marriage license, you are now ready to request a wedding ceremony in TDCJ!
How do I hire Wife and Inmate Connection for Wedding Services?
Join our closed FaceBook group to connect with other brides, grooms, our officiants, and administrators. Learn more about the TDCJ wedding process, and ask open forum questions! Click Here to Join!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the process usually take? – This varies by unit and is dependent upon different factors. Obtaining the id is usually the longest part of this process, which on average is 4 – 8 weeks. Once the marriage ceremony request is made, most units are diligent and have your request answered within 1 – 3 weeks. At that point the couple is usually given date priority for the next available ceremony dates at the unit which can be within days or up to 2 more weeks. The best estimate for the entire process is generally 30-90 days.
What day will I be married on? – This varies by unit. TDCJ policy indicates that each unit is responsible for providing 2 days per month in which couples may get married. Each unit is able to designate which days they hold ceremonies. Some units have set dates each month, while other units determine the dates as each month approaches. No unit is allowed to perform ceremonies on the weekend due to visitation. Your ceremony will most likely occur on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Where will I be married? – The couple must be married in person (by law) and it will take place in the unit visitation area.
Will our marriage take place in person or behind the glass? – This depends on the inmate’s custody level. If the inmate is g4 (medium custody), g5 (closed custody), or administrative segregation, the ceremony will be behind the glass. All other ceremonies are held together with the couple side by side.
Can witnesses or our children attend? – No, TDCJ only allows the couple, the officiant, and TDCJ staff to be present at the ceremony. Babysitting and child care arrangements should be made.
Can we exchange rings? – No, TDCJ does not allow inmates to have a wedding band unless they went into TDCJ with the wedding band and it was listed in the inmate’s property record at the time of TDCJ entry. Wife and Inmate Connection does not even simulate a ring exchange or vow so that we maintain a respected reputation within the TDCJ units and avoid unnecessary conflict for the couple and our officiants.
What can the couple wear to the ceremony? – Inmates are of course required to wear TDCJ clothing. Outside spouses can wear regular visit apparel or may dress up, as long as they remain visitation compliant.
Do we get photos? – The TDCJ units take photos of the couple for $3.00 each and are usually generous with the quantity of photos they allow to be purchased.
How long is the ceremony? – All couples are given 30 minutes to conduct a ceremony.
Do we get to visit after the ceremony? – No, unless the unit warden has designated an exception which is not likely.
Can death row inmates get married? – The Supreme Court ruled that inmates have a right to get married; however the approval of the marriage is at warden discretion based on security and risk factors.