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    Wedding Industry Law is your online resource for legal news and education on running a wedding business. We hope you find the articles, videos, and information helpful. If you have any comments, news tips, or areas that you would like to see covered, please let us know!

    Wedding Industry Law is edited by Wedding Lawyer and Trial Attorney Rob Schenk. Contributing blogger Ayisha Lawrence also kicks out some of the jams, too.

    UNFORTUNATELY, WE ARE UNABLE TO RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR LEGAL ADVICE (sad face).

Wedding Cancelled: Wedding Photographer Allowed Full Contract Value?

Case Study (Courtesy of AVVO)

Question (from anonymous in Colorado):

“I hired a photographer and then postponed the wedding with 6 months notice & now she wants the full contract paid. Am I liable?

I hired a photographer. We postponed with 7 months notice. She said she would relist the dates on hers and her friends photography websites, but would not give me names or websites. I also talked to her about changing it to baby/ pregnancy/ family photos about 3 months ago which she said she would do and now she’s saying she won’t. I did sign a contract and paid the deposit, but now she wants the full amount paid when she didn’t and hasn’t done what she said she would do on her end. I have tried to cover all my bases with giving her advance notice and I feel that she has been extremely hard to work with. What are my legal rights and am I in the wrong?”

 

“We cancelled. Can you take this back?”

Response (from Attorney Rob Schenk):

“Generally, when you sign a service contract like this, if you have to postpone or cancel, the other party is under no legal obligation to “work with you” so that you may salvage some value out of what you paid. Although it may be a good idea from a business or customer service standpoint, the photographer is only obligated to do what is in the agreement.

I’m willing to bet that the contract says that the deposit is non-refundable, so you will more than likely not be entitled to get that back. So what happens if you don’t pay her the remaining amount? She has two options: walk away with the deposit (likely) or sue you for breach of contract.

By canceling the contract and refusing to pay the balance of the contract, she will be able to argue in court that you have breached. She will be entitled to be placed in a position she would have been had you fully performed under the contract. In other words, you would owe her the value of the contract minus expenses (profit).

There are a couple points in your favor. First, she has a duty to “mitigate her damages,” meaning that she needs to make reasonable efforts to rebook that date with a comparable wedding. 7 months is starting to cut it a little close, but it is not uncommon to book weddings in that time frame. If the photographer fails to do this (make reasonable attempts), then she will not be entitled to damages. If she does manage to book the date (cover), you will only be on the hook for difference between the profit under you contract and the new one. The other thing is that non-refundable deposits are at times considered “liquidated damages”. This means that the deposit represents the full amount of damages that would be required in the event of a breach. As such, the photographer is ONLY entitled to the amount of deposit from you, nothing more. This varies from state to state, and I am not licensed in Colorado.

At the end of the day, it would probably not behoove this photographer to sue you, although she is within her rights to do so. I would continue to try and work out alternate arrangements.”

 

Moral of the StoryWedding photographers should make sure that 1) there is a written contract and 2) the contract explicitly deals with deposits.

Wedding Videographer in Hot Water

This Sunday, I happened to catch a few minutes of the Georgia television program “Trust Dale TV,” a 30-minute weekly show hosted by consumer investigative reporter Dale Cardwell.

According to the site, Dale “invites frustrated consumers on to the show, tackles their consumer problems, and with industry experts, investigates the causes and solves them. Vendors will also be given an opportunity to offer Dale’s guests a TrustDale Make It Right resolution…”

On this particular episode, Dale interviewed a New York couple that hired a Georgia based videographer to record their wedding. According to the couple, almost a year after the wedding, the videographer still failed to provide anything other than a tiny “snippet” of edited footage, and one raw file of unedited tape. The couple is now suing the videographer for at least $2,500, the cost to have the raw footage edited. The videographer was identified, but did not appear on the program.

Can the couple be awarded the $2,500?

Most certainly, yes. Generally, in a breach of contract action, the Plaintiff requests to be put in a position that they would have been had the contract been fully performed by the Defendant. Here, the couple most certainly bargained for the videographer to shoot AND edit their wedding (the contract was not shown, so I can only assume). As such, the Court may order the videographer to compensate the couple for the expense of acquiring edited video. Presumably, this will place them in a position they would have been had the Videographer done its job in the first place.

The moral of the story: The Courts will find wedding professionals responsible for the natural damages that flow from their breach. Also, when an investigative reporter calls you, and its not Geraldo, be careful what you say. Maybe even if it’s Gerlado.