So remember all those posts I wrote before? The ones about how I met a photographer who was absolutely awesome—both personally and professionally? How this was someone I really admired and who I could see actually being friends with? How I was psyched for the pictures she would take at the wedding?
I take it all back. For reals.
Let me start at the beginning.
As you know, I instantly loved our photographer. I clicked with her personally and ideologically, and I loved her work. In short, she rocked. She was exactly the type of photographer I’d envisioned. She spent hours with us on an awesome engagement session and spent even more time chatting with me on the phone about all things wedding. I thought of her like a bonus bridesmaid—and I didn’t even have to find her a dress!
Did you notice the past tense? Yeah. About that.
The e-session proofs, posted on her business website, took a little longer to post than expected, but I know that she is a one-woman show and was willing to give her an extension for that. Once our pictures did make it up, I was thrilled. Everything had exactly the qualities I wanted: crisp, colorful images, bright colors, various angles, etc.
A few weeks after the proofs posted, I sent her an e-mail about the Save-the-Date design, which was included in our contract. She asked me to respond to her with information about what general type of design I wanted, as well as to pick out a few of the e-session pictures to include. I responded within a couple of days.
Time passed, and there was no design forthcoming. I had sent an e-mail or two to touch base, but had heard nothing back. My e-mails slowly got more persistent as I wondered what was going on. Finally, in mid-November, her husband (who assists her with the business) responded, saying that she had been taken to the hospital by ambulance a few days before. She was recovering well, he said, and she would be out of the hospital that week.
The news was shocking and sad, especially for someone so young. Unfortunately, wedding timelines wait for no one, so I responded with my condolences and assured him that she should rest and recover, and that I would take care of the Save the Dates.
Months passed. The holidays came and went, and we were distracted by other things. Around early January, it occurred to us that, after a couple of “how are you doing?” e-mails, we hadn’t heard from our photographer in a while and that it was probably time to start talking about our day-of timeline and special instructions.
Skip ahead a bit to late January. I’m on my computer, and the fiancé—in the middle of what I think was a question but which I didn’t actually hear—abruptly stops talking and looks over to me. I must have some kind of horrified expression on my face because he promptly forgets what he was saying and asks “What?”
“I’m trying not to panic,” I say.
He’s concerned now. “Why?”
“Because our photographer’s website is gone,” I say, the clearly prevalent panic in my voice cracking on the end of the sentence. “Her Facebook page is gone. Even the website for the new company she was going to start is gone.”
Even as I’m finishing my sentence, I am dialing her cell phone number.
The business number is still intact, but it goes to voicemail. It’s Sunday, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect her to answer, but I happen to know that the number is routed to her home and that she’s answered on weekends in the past.
I feel sick.
I check review sites online and see that there are two brand-new negative reviews that are dated within the last week. They both have similar claims about the website disappearing and not being able to get ahold of her. Even worse for them, these are couples whose weddings have come and gone, and their pictures are now being held hostage.
I never thought that I’d be one of those wedding horror stories. I don’t know what I could have done differently. Before hiring our photographer, I looked at all the reviews I could find online, and she was at or near 5 stars on all of them. I asked a million questions in our initial meeting, checked out the company’s Better Business Bureau rating (A+), and called references.
Oh, and did I mention we’ve paid in full?
I wish I could tell you the neat conclusion to this story. I wish that we had everything resolved and that it all had turned out to be some sort of miscommunication. I wish that I wasn’t emotionally attached to the whole situation and that I didn’t feel personally duped in addition to being financially strapped. I wish I had insightful tips for other brides to give you the key to avoiding a situation like this, but I don’t have any of those things.
I also don’t have our engagement pictures or any of the money I’ve already paid out to a photographer who apparently doesn’t want to be a photographer anymore—to put things mildly.
I’ve cycled repeatedly through the stages of grief, including hearty doses of complete denial, sobbing, and anger so strong that it’s a physical reaction. It’s exhausting to even think about starting the photographer search over—especially after how intentional and careful [I thought] I was about it the first time. We booked everything so early so that we would have plenty of options; I can’t imagine we’ll have that kind of freedom now—not to mention that what we were going to spend on a photographer has already been spent.
I know I should be thankful that I haven’t lost my wedding pictures, as other couples apparently have, but I am too busy wallowing to be grateful for anything, thankyouverymuch.
The fiancee reminds me constantly that every wedding has some kind of snafu, and that this must be ours.
Seems like a pretty big scam to me.