It's totally normal to have a mix of feelings before your wedding date, but it can also be overwhelming. There are so many nerve-wracking things to do, and it's natural to wonder about the DJ list or the color of the bridesmaids dresses. Things are much more complicated for weddings in which one member of the couple is currently serving a prison sentence.
How to Marry a Prisoner
Regulations for marrying a prisoner will vary from prison to prison, but most institutions require a Marriage Packet Request to get permission to marry the prisoner. To accomplish this, simply make an inmate request for a marriage packet. Once the forms are completed by both of you, you'll need to send it back to the prison facility with the requested fees. This can run anywhere between $150 to $175 on average and usually needs to be sent through a money order.
There are also mandatory documents you'll need to have in order to prove that you are of legal age to marry and that you are a citizen in the country you wish to marry. Some institutions will also require that you provide a copy of your birth certificate or other official identification.
Planning the Wedding
To put together the wedding, you'll need to work with a Family Visiting Coordinator. This will be your contact for arranging the wedding once permission has been received to marry the prisoner. Then, you'll choose an officiant. Your prison will most likely give you a list of approved pastors to choose from. Be prepared for their fees and how to pay them at the ceremony, which is most traditionally with a money order.
You'll also need a witness for the wedding. Simply bring a guest who is on your fiance's approved visitor list. Alternatively, you can use one of the inmates who work in the visiting area. Finally, you'll need a marriage certificate which will also require a fee. Depending on the prison facility's regulations, you may be allowed time together after the ceremony for wedding pictures accompanied by a short and private visit together.
Marrying someone in prison is generally discouraged, so it's recommended to talk to others who have married prisoners in order to better understand how difficult the role may be for you both long-term. This can also help you see how, upon your spouse's release from prison, the two of you will each have to make major life-changing adjustments.
Unfortunately, there is an alarming divorce rate for marriages under these circumstances. In 1996, The Aleph Institute found that couples where one spouse was incarcerated for one year or more got divorced 85% of the time. It also means that getting married to a prisoner involves jumping through a lot of legal hoops and possibly experiencing moments of heartache.