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Supreme Court Rulings to Impact the Wedding Industry…..In the Pocket Book

From Martha White at the Daily Beast:

“Even as proponents of same-sex marriage cheered the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, professionals who work in the wedding industry also rejoiced. 

“Weddings are the most important celebration most people do in their lives, so it will definitely impact business,” said event planner David Monn, owner of David Monn LLC. “The moment it changed in New York state, we were inundated with calls.”

Legalization in some states over the past few years was a watershed moment for same-sex marriages. And the Supreme Court’s decision to declare DOMA unconstitutional also is expected to spur an increase in weddings, especially from couples who were reluctant, some for financial reasons, to tie the knot before.

In a separate decision, the Supreme Court also effectively permitted legal gay marriage in California, although it may take some time before California joins 12 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting same-sex unions.

Bernadette Coveney Smith, owner of LGBT wedding-planning company 14 Stories, said her business doubled after same-sex marriage was legalized in New York in 2011.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration said that the city issued more than 8,200 marriage licenses to gay couples in the first year after New York legalized same-sex marriage—about 10 percent of all licenses issued. The mayor’s office estimated that related spending, including visits by out-of-state couples seeking to get married, totaled $259 million in that time period.”

We here at Wedding Industry Law couldn’t be more ecstatic about the movement towards complete marriage equality that legislatures and courts have made across the country in recent years. The U.S. Supreme Court rulings last week left a lot of unanswered questions, but one thing is for certain, the industry is going to see in upswing in revenue, and that is a good thing.

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.