A Lack of Vendor Ethics

by admin on September 12, 2012

My friend had a destination wedding, and the day after the ceremony the photographer was supposed to go out and take photos of them in the ocean in their wedding attire. I guess the photographer changed her mind, because she left town before dawn (which is when the photos were supposed to take place), and I ended up taking the photos with my little digital camera. So she got her photos, but of course she was still upset, especially after paying the photographer’s fees, travel expenses and per diem up front, the room for the night after the wedding, and 3 meals a day. And this was someone that she knew! I’m still in disbelief. 0910-12

I’ve been involved with wedding planning for about 20 years and active in online wedding community for at least 14 years and without fail, wedding photographers are the one industry whose members can run the entire spectrum from extreme professionalism to being utterly unethical cretins.   I have great affection and respect for the photographers who conduct their business with integrity and honesty.  However, the worst wedding con artists I have encountered have been photographers.  I’m referring to vendors who receive thousands of dollars to do a job and then skip town or fail to deliver anything to their clients thus forcing them to seek remedies with consumer protection agencies or lawsuits.

On this blog, under the navigation heading of “Planning”, there is a section called “Consumer Protection” containing posts on how one can protect oneself when hiring wedding vendors.   Just because a photographer has a slick web site, a great portfolio, and charges $5,000.00 just to step foot into your wedding venue does not mean he/she is an ethical vendor.   Google the vendor’s name!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura September 12, 2012 at 10:56 am

I definitely feel the OP’s frustration.
Our original photographer was deployed to Afghanistan approximately 1 month prior to the wedding. Another photographer friend had offered to take pictures for us as a wedding gift, so we took him up on the offer. He canceled the day before our wedding because he’d gotten another job. So I grabbed my trusty little Kodak with every intention of taking photographs myself.
Fortunately, my brother-in-law knew a photographer who had the day free, and we received some lovely pictures.


girl_with_all_the_yarn September 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm

At least your original photographer had a legitimate reason!


Just Laura September 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

Oh, absolutely! The second one, not so much.


Ashley September 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

Man, and I thought the florist who vanished off the face of the earth with my $200 deposit was bad. I can’t imagine how much that photography package costs.

My fiance have had a lot of bad luck while trying to plan our wedding…we’ve had the florist vanish, a venue not telling it’s potential customers that the venue was going to be torn down to make way for a grocery store (several people ended up in court over that after the place refused to refund deposits it took for dates well after it was going to be torn down), and I’ve heard more horror stories about photographers than I can count. All of which makes me very nervous for the fact that our date is officially set for July of next year. I’m going to Google the heck out of everyone and read every review I can get my hands on.


Library Diva September 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Your venue was TORN DOWN?!!! That’s awful. It reminds me of the episode of Friends where Ross married a woman from Britain. They’d booked her fantasy venue, one that had some deep meaning to her, and wound up getting married in the ruins of it (this was the wedding where he said “I take you Rachel” and they split up almost immediately, if you were a fan of the show). I hope everyone got their money back and then some from that incident.

And I thought the case of the $99 wedding cakes in my area was bad. A bakery ran a special promising these $99 cakes and booked quite a few of them. The deal, though, was that you had to pay up front. The bakery was operated by a married couple who got divorced a few months later. The woman shut down the business, left town and wouldn’t return the man’s phone calls. The man was not unsympathetic to all of the couples left in the lurch, but basically said that there was nothing he could do, as the business belonged to his now ex-wife. There was a local media frenzy about the incident, everyone was on TV and in the paper several times, a local bakery stepped in and offered to honor the contracts gratis even though the entire tale had nothing whatsoever to do with them.

Very sad, especially given that these couples were probably on a pretty strict budget and could not afford to just kiss $99 goodbye. This bakery had a decent reputation in the area, too. It wasn’t one of the most prominent ones, but was known for delivering quality work at a decent price. Anyone who’d done their homework on this outfit would have probably had it come back clean. I guess that’s why photographers scare me so much!


Library Diva September 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

This part makes me so nervous about planning my wedding. Photographers look like a major headache to me, because in my area, you can pick up a rock off the street, throw it, and hit a wedding photographer…but how do you tell if they’re any good? Your venue will of course be happy to recommend someone…because they likely have an arrangement. You can find lots of them at the bridal shows, but anyone with the booth rental fee can go to those. You can take your hunt to the internet, but do all those negative reviews stem from legitimate problems, or are they all dressed-up ways of saying “This guy refused to cater to my ridiculous demands!” I have one solid lead to pursue — a friend’s recommendation, but beyond that, not sure what to do.


Kate September 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

I had the same issue finding a DJ – how do you know who is decent and who isn’t? Eventually, I asked for the business card of a DJ/MC that had done a very good job at my friend’s recent wedding. My friend is not a Bridezilla and she gave me a good review of this guy, so I figured he would be safe to hire. I would recommend asking friends who have recently been married, but have a look at the pictures first. Your friends might have loved their photographer but he might take exclusively arty, hipster style pictures whereas you are after a traditional approach or vice versa.


Lucky September 13, 2012 at 10:45 am

All of this makes me so thankful for my amazing venue. The owner personally told me to pick someone off of his list of vendors. Reason being not that they have an arrangment but that they have passed his tests with flying colors. He says that if for some reason I’m unhappy with anyone from their list he will personally pay the vendor himself!


chechina September 13, 2012 at 11:06 am

Library Diva- Beyond asking friends, relatives and co-workers, you could ask the staff of your church/temple/etc. who they’ve noticed doing good work. Sometimes wedding announcements will credit the photographer, and people wouldn’t give credit to someone they can’t stand.

As far as the OP’s story, something doesn’t add up here. It sounds like the photographer did take the wedding photos, but not the wedding dress destroying photos? There’s something missing from this story, I think…


AS September 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm

In the internet era, IMHO, one way of finding a good vendor is by looking at reviews. Unless the vendor is starting out new, they’ll have at least a few reviews, and most people seem to write reviews only if they really liked their services or totally didn’t like them. Even if the vendor does not have a website, check out wedding websites like knot.com or weddingwire.com.
My hubby and I did that to choose vendors for our wedding a couple of months ago. We knew a few vendors through friend’s weddings, or by having been their customer before (like our florist); but we checked out the reviews before getting any vendor. I am not sure if we just got lucky, but we would give 5-star ratings to all our wedding vendors!


Martin September 17, 2012 at 7:56 am

chechina: “There’s something missing from this story, I think”
I felt that, too. Something doesn’t add up. I’m also wondering if the couple at least received the photos from the ceremony.

There’s also this:
“I guess the photographer changed her mind”, which suggests that the OP does not know why the photographer went AWOL. Maybe she had a really good reason, like a family emergency.


OP September 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

She didn’t have a good reason, at all. She was booked to be there Friday night-Monday night, Friday to rest after travel, Saturday evening for the rehearsal dinner, Sunday for pre-wedding things (wedding party getting ready, things like that), wedding, and reception, Monday at dawn for the ocean photos. Their room was paid for Friday-Monday nights so that after the ocean photos the photographer and her assistant could enjoy the town and get a good nights rest before traveling back home. After the reception we were all present to look up what time the sun should rise, talked about what time to get started in the morning, and where we would be meeting. Everything was set until my friend woke up an hour early to get ready, and found a voicemail from her photographer saying that they had already left town because her assistant was ready to go home and see her husband. Missing your husband is an invalid excuse to break a contract. Plus, the photos (which were already paid for) took all of 2 hours, and then they could have been on their merry way. That’s, like, driving thru instead of stopping at a restaurant for lunch on the way home. It was ridiculous.
In the end, she did get a disc (no prints, as agreed upon) of the rehearsal dinner, wedding party getting ready, ceremony and reception photos. The photographer was supposed to take 200 shots of the ceremony and reception, and there were only 85. My friend felt like she basically paid for this woman’s vacation, including their expensive lodging for 4 nights (one of which wasn’t even used), travel expenses, every meal while they were there, plus per diem (what was that even for, if all their meals were paid for separately? Souvenirs?). The photographer completely missed one of the pre-wedding events, and since it started raining after the ceremony they decided not to do the posed photos of the wedding party and family at that time, so they were going to fit them in the morning before the ocean photos. Which, as you recall, she skipped out on.
The whole thing really was just appalling and unprofessional.


Angel September 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

To me no photographer (or vendor for that matter) is sooo good that I will pay for their travel expenses to have them there. NONE whatsoever! If it had been me I would have located a local photographer and not even bother with the hassle and expense of putting them up. But what’s done is done, so if I were the bride I would sue for damages and breach of contract. Absolutely ridiculous.


Enna September 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

DO you have the person’s contact details? OP if you have proof that you paid for her lodgins etc then mybe you should go through the small claims courts to get your money back – at the very least most of it. This strikes me as fruad – she duped you out of money to pay for a holiday.


kingsrings September 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm

It’s not just weddings that photographers mess up on. I’m a professional actor, and we actors run into the same thing with photographers whom we hire to take professional headshots and other photos of us for our portfolios.

I recently wanted to hire a photog to take new headshots of me, and it took forever to find someone decent. Half of the photogs I sent inquiries to never bothered to return my messages. Then I was going to hire a professional photographer friend of mine who takes amazing photographs, but we could never nail down an appointment time. And that turned out to be a blessing, because I talked to several actor friends of mine who had their headshots taken by him, and he never delivered their photos back to them. Some of them had been waiting for months. And this is someone who is very popular and well-respected in our comunity! I finally found someone who did the job. However, I insisted on only paying him a deposit until I got the final product. He was kind of offended that I “didn’t trust him”, but after the horror stories I heard, I just wanted to play it safe. In the end, he did a great job, delivered the photos timely, and everything was fine.

At least only give your photographer a deposit until you get the product back because then if they flake out on you, you only lost half the job. And once they have your full payment, it just makes it easier for them to walk away completely.


M October 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

I recall reading about a local photography business that went bankrupt and did not even tell its customers about it. One day they are open for business and getting more business and the next day they closed permanently. I feel bad for those couples who to this day have yet to receive their precious wedding photos since this business could not even afford the paper to put it on. Eek!


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