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Vendor Schizophrenia

I’m not sure if this actually counts as a “vendor” as the person in question was actually a teacher and friend of mine and wasn’t charging for his time, but he was performing in a professional fashion, and so I put it in that grouping.

My husband and I were trying to plan a very, very tightly budgeted wedding. I was 19 years old, and he was 21, and neither of us had professional careers, plus the fact that we are an international couple (he is Australian, I am American) and we met over the internet. We had both been in Australia and we were planning to have the wedding in America (my parents couldn’t swallow the price of traveling abroad for our wedding, and his could, plus the fact that we had a large engagement party in Australia for his relatives and friends, and we had a small, legal ceremony in Australia afterwards) and so, given the price of airfare, and our single income, we had to do our wedding on about $5,000 of our own money, plus a couple thousand my parents threw in.

That seems like a very small amount, but my mother, husband and I worked very hard and found really great deals. The wedding went off almost entirely without a hitch, and many commented on how quaint, simple and elegant it was. It was exactly as I would have wanted, despite the tight budget.

Because our budget was so tight, we had to call in a few favors from friends. Our wedding cake was made by a professional baker who was my mother’s friend, and so he cut us an amazing deal on it, and it arrived in perfect condition. The flowers were from a florist that my family had given custom to for years, and they did a brilliant job. The officiant was a very close family friend who stepped in at the last moment when our original officiant got very sick. My veil was borrowed from a good friend of my sister’s and mine (we called her a ‘surrogate sister’), the man who played violin for the ceremony music, graciously at no charge, was my orchestra teacher and went to my parent’s church. We didn’t hire a DJ, but instead plugged in an iPod to the sound system at the location and used that. Our Best Man acted as the MC and did wonderfully for us. My sisters and mother helped to make finger food, mints, pasta- and fruit-salad for the reception to help supplement the catering so that I could keep the cost down. My in-laws bought a few cases of a variety of sodas and sparkling cider so that we didn’t have to pay the extra catering costs for that. A friend of my husband’s family, who traveled from Australia to make it, offered to do all of the videography for free.

And lastly, the photographer was my photography teacher in high school, whom I had spent a lot of time hanging out with and talking to, and whom I considered to be a friend.

Well, hiring him as the photographer was the worst mistake I ever made! I met with him three times regarding the photography, and he agreed to do it without charging me anything for time, just for the development fee of the color photos, photo-paper and the photo disk (he would do all black and whites in the lab at school), and told me he was very honored that I would ask him.

I was very happy, as photography can be such a huge cost and I was worrying about how I was ever going to afford something that was so necessary, but could so often be overpriced. Over the course of our meetings, I saw him write on his calendar and put into his pda and cell phone the time and date of the wedding, and write himself many notes concerning what I wanted, and what types of photos I wanted. He said he would go and scout the area to see what spots there were to take beautiful photos. I explained that my husband and I didn’t want to see each other before the ceremony, and so we wanted him to be there about 45 minutes to an hour before the ceremony to take pictures of each of us separately, and to photograph the ceremony, and then do all of the “together” poses between ceremony and reception, and then hang around and take a few candids at the reception, after and during which he was more than welcome to take part in the festivities and enjoy himself if he wanted, as he was a friend as well as the photographer.

I thought I was getting such a great deal and I was very happy to have such great friends who would so willingly put themselves out for two very money-strapped people in love. I gave him a call three days before the wedding to make sure that everything was still go, and to inquire about the various costs involved with getting the photos done. He gave me no indication of the atrocities to come.

Fast forward to the wedding day. My wedding took place at 2pm, so it was a very relaxed morning. We all got up in the mid-morning, dressed and were very relaxed and happy. Everything was going off without a hitch, and I was starting to think that those “wedding horror stories” were just that: stories.

We got to the location, everything was perfect. Everything arrived in a timely fashion and was exactly as I had planned it.

Except one thing.

My photographer was nowhere to be found.

I figured he might be a little late, and told my maid of honor (who was an absolute saint through the entire ordeal) to give him a call and see what was going on. She couldn’t get ahold of him, but kept trying.

I busied myself with other things because I thought I was going to die of worry if he didn’t get there on time.

10 minutes passes, no call, no photographer.
20 minutes, no call, no photographer.
30 minutes, no call, no photographer.

I am freaking out. My MOH diligently keeps calling over and over, leaving messages and trying to get ahold of him, while my dad, grandmother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law jump in and begin taking posed shots of me and my maids, and split up and start taking a few poses of my husband and his men.

45 minutes passes when my MOH finally gets a call from the photographer.

His first words: “Is that today?”

I am totally speechless. She gave him what-for, telling him of COURSE it was today, what did he think?! He needed to get here IMMEDIATELY and fulfil his obligation! Unfortunately, he informs her, HE IS 2 HOURS AWAY visiting his family. My MOH tells him that he better get on the road, and hangs up.

She tells me and I am livid. My wedding starts in 15 minutes! I push it from my mind, and told her to tell him to just get here as soon as he can. She does.

Throughout the wedding, everyone not involved in the actual ceremony and who is aware of the situation is snapping away, as many pictures as they can do, and the four people I mentioned before did as many poses as they could in the short time we had. Unfortunately, this meant that there were almost no formal shots of me, my husband and the wedding party, and only about 4 formal shots of my husband and his men.

After the wedding, one of the guests, a friend of mine and a photography student who knew that I had asked our teacher to be my photographer, asked where he was. I told her, and she was aghast. She asked if I wanted her to run home quickly and grab her camera and tripod. I was so grateful and she did right away, and spent the rest of the reception taking pictures. She did so many absolutely gorgeous pictures of my husband and I, and literally saved the day when it came to pictures.

Finally, the kicker is this: he did finally show up. Oh, yes. Halfway into the reception, this jerk shows up with a little gift bag in hand. I, pretty coldly, ask if he wouldn’t take a few shots now, if he had the time. And he responds with, GET THIS: HE DIDN’T EVEN BRING A CAMERA. He shows up 3 HOURS LATE, and doesn’t even bring a camera. Later on, I looked in his bag, and it was full of stuff made from honey, including honey-mead, which is traditionally drunk by a newlywed couple on their honeymoon. It seems like a nice gesture, unless you know what I know, which is that his parents (the ones he was visiting when he should have been doing his damn job) own a honey farm and organic store which sells products made from honey. He had just grabbed stuff on his way out the door, thrown it into a bag, and given it to me.

It would have been better to have just not come at all, in my opinion. The moral? When it comes to your wedding, try and get a real professional to do something as important as photography!! While most of my friends came through, I took a real gamble, and almost wound up with absolutely no memories of my wedding day!    0927-09

“….told me he was very honored that I would ask him.” Well, there’s the glitch in all this. You initiated the process by asking him to give you something for free. It isn’t really a sincere gift if the recipient has to go fishing for it. The proof is in the pudding…he just didn’t have his heart invested in executing his “job”.

“…at the reception, after and during which he was more than welcome to take part in the festivities and enjoy himself if he wanted, as he was a friend as well as the photographer.” And this is the second glitch which forecast this vendor debacle. One cannot expect quality, professional photography, or any professional service for that matter, from someone who is also being encouraged to be a guest. Either they are at your wedding to work or they are there to celebrate with you. One role serves the wedding couple, the other is entertained and served by the newlyweds. When I am offered volunteer labor at weddings, I make it very clear that these people are there to work, not socialize or entertain themselves. I’ve been in too many situations where a “volunteer” cannot distinguish between their roles as vendor/employee and guest and what suffers is their work.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Obi-Wandreas November 17, 2009, 9:11 am

    One slight correction. The correct phrase is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” The common mistake, “The proof is in the pudding,” in actuality makes no sense.

  • Dani November 17, 2009, 1:30 pm

    If there’s one thing I hate as a photographer, it’s when people undervalue my skills. Not saying that this at all excuses the behavior of the person in question, but I didn’t get a degree or spend thousands on equipment so I could do you favors. Just paying for processing is not enough, especially with old-fashioned black-and-white prints in a lab–those things take an hour per PRINT to perfect. And people’s attitudes about digital are even worse. Just because the prints can be put onto a CD right after you’re wedding doesn’t mean they’re *good* or *finished*. It takes hours to sort and process those images, even if they’re just computer files. You get what you pay for!

    Team Miss Jeanne!

  • hyacinth November 17, 2009, 9:43 pm

    I’m not sure what you mean by having “no memories of your wedding day” – surely you remember it! You have photos of the day, taken by lots of other people, don’t stew over this.

    This isn’t entirely directed at the story poster, but why do people continually try to do things when they don’t have the money to do them? Is our sense of entitlement so large that we no longer know how to wait and save?

  • Alexis November 18, 2009, 3:31 am

    I was married by a JP in Europe and had a formal reception in the US. The best photos we have were the candids taken by our friends passing my husband’s camera around. The worst ones were taken by a less-than-professional professional photographer whom we paid well. None of it matters anyway, just the fact that we are still happy together, 17 years later.

  • Kogarashi November 18, 2009, 5:08 pm

    I want to know what was wrong with him bringing honey products from his family’s farm as a gift. So he didn’t spend a cartload of money on the present. It doesn’t change the fact that he gave a gift, when he didn’t necessarily have to. The OP’s reaction to it just comes across as petty.

    I was married on a very tight budget as well. A family friend offered to take our photos as a gift, and did a wonderful job at the wedding venue. She didn’t have the right setup for the reception, unfortunately, resulting in several blurry, orange photos due to the reception room’s dim lighting, but we didn’t complain because the photography was still a gift. We got some great photos of the reception anyway, both from our “official” photographer as well as candids from a bunch of digital cameras.

    Yes, the photographer in the OP should’ve been more on the ball. That doesn’t necessarily ruin the day.

  • kristine November 19, 2009, 1:02 pm

    Photography is not a “necessity”, it is a strong want. At the end of the day, you still end up married. People got married long before there were cameras. One couple shot does the trick if you are poor.

    Since the photographer was doing this as a gift, the bride was a bit off to make demands- be here then, do this then… That he come and take a few great shots, including the one of bride and groom, should have been all that was asked. How many 2000 dollar gifts did you register for? Yet this is what you expected from him. I doubt he had the full monty in mind, but once saying yes, he likely resented the expectations and stipulations, and it showed. Paying for processing is not paying him. It is merely keeping him from also digging into his own pocket to pay for the supplies, as well as donate his time and expertise. Please do not think you were really “paying him” at all. You weren’t.

    It was OK to be angry and dissapointed, but for your mom to treat him as though he were an employee, when he was asked as a guest and friend, is tacky. It would have been better to just accept that you would have amateur photos from friends, rather than professional shots. I wonder- did your mom yell at any other guests who forgot their gift?

    And who cares how he got the honey? I am not surprised he did not bring his camera after being bullied; I am surprised he came at all. Is this man still a close friend? That bridge may be burned.

  • peasncues December 8, 2009, 4:02 pm

    What it comes down to is this: He agreed to do her a favor. He failed to do it, causing a lot of stress to the bride and her family.

    To me, no matter what the “value” of the favor – if he agreed to do it (several times over several meetings), then he was at fault for not following through.

  • Claire January 7, 2010, 1:27 pm

    I agree with peasncues–it would have of course been more than fine to turn down her request if it offended or didn’t interest him, but the time to do that would have been before the wedding. Once he agreed, he should have honored his commitment, even if the original request was not a reasonable one.

  • Francesca January 30, 2010, 4:54 pm

    I agree with Clair and Peasncues….the guy had the option to say ” no” or offer to do it at a discount. If you say you’re going to do something (especially for someone’s wedding) then DO it. Personal responsibility is not canceled out because you’re not getting paid.

  • Laura M. February 10, 2010, 6:14 am

    This happened to me too! My dad asked a friend of his to be the photographer, and Dad told me all the arrangements were made, and his friend would be there.

    He showed up at the church a week late. I was shocked that Dad hadn’t contacted him during the week between, but he was busy. The photographer claimed he’s just written down the wrong date. Ooookay… but then he tried to charge Dad for his showing up with all of his equipment etc, as though we’d canceled at the last minute. I don’t know what Dad did, but I have noticed that his friendship with the photographer has cooled considerably.

  • Virg February 12, 2010, 4:05 pm

    This situation is full of warnings, but I’m not going to give anyone a pass on what happened, and I find the bride to be much farther down the road than he ever got.

    The teacher was rude not to arrive in time to fulfill his obligation as photographer. This is a big ball to drop, but in the end it’s really the only thing he did wrong.

    The bride was rude to treat him the way she did as a result of that. The way she acted is not the sort of things one says about a friend. Then, she goes through a litany of faux pas. She never apologized for the treatment he got from her MOH. She labels him a jerk for showing up after telling him he should consider himself a “friend as well as the photographer”. She gets upset that he didn’t bring his camera to the reception to do free photos after the fact. She examines her gift which he was under no obligation to bring and declares that he “just grabbed stuff on his way out the door” when he may very well have thought that a gift of family products would be a very nice wedding present (in fact, it sounded like a great gift, even including something wedding-specific). And to top it all off, she comments that he would have done better not to show up rather than show up late, because he served no usefulness to her at that point, which is an appalling attitude to have about someone she told should consider attending as a friend.


  • jenna February 14, 2010, 7:40 am

    I’m with Virg.

    And by the way, it’s a huge problem with the Wedding Industrial Complex that anyone who wants to get married feels pushed to wait until they can afford a photographer – there is nothing wrong with not havin g a lot of money but wanting to get married, and the fact is for a lot of people who are not so fortunate, “saving up” for $2,000 photography is simply never going to be an option. It can be really hard when you are struggling to come up with rent, let alone enough money to pay a photographer. Does that mean they shouldn’t be allowed to get married?

    Not to devalue anyone’s skills – a truly great and professional photographer is worth the money – *if* you have it. For those who don’t, please don’t hate. Not everyone has that $2,000 and they do the best they can. A condescending attitude about how you *need* X or Y and shouldn’t get married until you can afford it does not help.

  • Patti March 16, 2010, 8:49 pm

    I went to a wedding which I have horror stories to add to the site for soon but the photographer was … too much. Took too many pictures of the brides side of the family not even bothering to learn the names of the groom’s side of the family. I could’ve taken better pictures and certainly more if I had thought to borrow my brothers camera. Since there was to be a photographer I didn’tthink to ask as why would it be needed. I’m close to the grooms side of the family so I sat with his immediate family (parents, sisters, brother) at the reception and there were plenty of cute moments from that table that should’ve been captured but after the formal pictures were taken the photog disappeared until it was time to cut the cake. I’m by no means a professional photographer and my brothers camera was just a digital but a photographer should be profession in his/her pictures and if you commit and ”decide’ not to attend then be gracious enough to tell the bride so other arrangements can be made.

  • livvy April 27, 2010, 4:03 pm

    One thing I would like to mention – the way I read the OP’s entry, it sounded to me as though she had first approached him as a vendor – asking if he would be willing to do for a low price, and then he offered to do it for free. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that was the impression I got, especially when she claimed to have “hired” him.

    No matter what, once he agreed for whatever price or lack thereof, he had the obligation to show up, and to show up ready, equipped to take pictures, etc. The OP indicated she last spoke to him 3 days before the event to confirm. If he had any doubts, even at that late date, he could have said as much, so that the OP could have made other arrangements. It’s not about the value of the gift, or whether or not she was entitled to such a gift. Once the promise was made, he was obliged to fulfil it.

    I agree that the OP gets pretty snarky after that, including her deriding the gift that he did bring with him. I imagine she wouldn’t have been so dismissive about where the gift was obtained if his family had been jewelers!!

  • Kim May 5, 2010, 5:13 pm

    We also had a painfully tight budget when we got married, and accepted the offer of my uncle to take a few snapshots and video. We appreciated this, but they all came out terrible. Fortunately, hubby and I have a good sense of humor and enjoy showing off the best picture of our wedding party… with the giant pointing finger in the middle of it. Some other guests kindly sent us copies of pictures they had taken, so we do have some nicer candid shots.

    We are happy with what we have, but had we perhaps been younger or it was a first marriage it would have been worth it to delay the wedding by 3-6 months, or whatever it took, to save and hire a professional. We did have to call in other favors as well (ie: we also had a friend bake a cake and a friend of a friend DJ-ed [which was also a mistake, but it’s a whole other story]) and in retrospect I could’ve trimmed the budget elsewhere on things nobody truly cares about and had some decent pictures taken. Oh well… at least we get a good laugh when we dig out the old photo album on anniversaries!

  • Michelle Prieur June 1, 2010, 12:51 am

    I can see both sides to this story. He did agree to take pictures, therefore he should have shown up. However, the letter writer was expecting too much and was condenscending to someone whom she considered a friend, who was doing her a huge favor.

  • zhoen June 13, 2010, 6:24 pm

    Photo teacher may have been flaky, ok, IS flaky. But young entitled Bride needs to know she gets what she pays for. He was not a pro, signed no contract, and although he didn’t come through, she really can’t complain. At 19, that’s understandable, but a few years later, she should know better.

    None of our friends photos of our reception were even visible (WAY too dark and blurry) but we remember and laugh and love our friends for all their foibles all the more. A pro on that informal day would have been overkill, not “something that was so necessary.”

  • KimiErin July 22, 2010, 12:37 pm

    He shouldn’t have said yes if he wasn’t going to go through with it. She also shouldn’t have been so demanding either.

  • Alli December 9, 2010, 9:36 pm

    Dear Bride, I feel so badly for you. In my books, you did everything right. You asked for friends for help and they rallied. Amazing. You are truly lucky in this way. The thing with the photographer sucked and I give you full credit for not doing something violent. Somehow, the other commenters have gotten the wrong idea about this. I know, for a fact, that other times on this site, carrying through with a promise. fulfilling obligations that you’ve accepted, is practically the gold standard of etiquette. So, whoever runs this site. holier than thou as she is, should be the first to say that when a responsibility is agreed on with full knowledge on both sides, it should be carried out. He was completely and totally in the wrong and I like to think it has nothing to do with money and more to do with human decency. Yeah, yeah, it’s the marriage that matters…but, we all want a lovely happy wedding day. Hopefully, now that time has passed, you can look past this. Or, you know. at least don’t feel filled with rage anymore.

  • Lexie April 4, 2011, 9:14 pm

    Maybe I missed it, Admin, but it says that OP paid him as a vendor – less than a professional but it wasn’t an out and out gift.

    Beyond the fact that he failed to live up to his side of the agreement, he also turned out to be a pretty terrible friend as well, since he forgot about a so-called friend’s wedding.

  • Salsera August 30, 2012, 12:32 pm

    Never hire a friend or relative as a photographer. My brother asked my other brother, who did photography as part of a Fine Arts degree, to do photography for his wedding. Fair enough. Alas, on the day, the generator for the marquee broke down.

    We had a 40 minute wait for food, in almost total darkness. (Lots of tealights were used on the tables, and it actually looked really romantic). However, because my brother is not a professional, he did not have the correct film/flash to counteract this. This added greatly to the second brother’s stress, and he didn’t get to enjoy the wedding.

    There is, however, one fabulous shot of them leaving the venue. The pose is exactly like the Carolyn Bessette, John Kennedy Jr wedding exit shot. And really, that’s all you need.

  • Kris December 25, 2012, 8:20 am

    Late to the party but here are my two cents.
    1. No where does it say(at least not that I saw) that the guy was doing this for free. Even if his gift was to discount his services the fact is he agreed to be there at the given date AND time and failed to be on time

    2. Not only is he late, but also shows up 100% unprepared or able to do his job.

    3. Yes he brought a gift. Some assume he might have been planning to bring a gift anyways. That’s a possibility. Its also possible he thought that if he brought a gift he would be off the hook both as a friend and a professional meant to do a job.

    None of which would have set well with me either. I don’t blame the OP or her MOH for their response to them. At the end of the day this guy didn’t live up to his obligation for that day, nor does it appear that he apologized.

  • Enna December 2, 2013, 1:46 pm

    He agreed to do a job – doesn’t matter if he was being overpaid, paid, underpaid or doing it as a favour he agreed to do it. It is clear the OP is quite narked at this and most people would be!