It’s hard to believe that wedding scams are a thing, but there are indeed people looking to take advantage of vulnerable couples. There are different scams for different services, like online bridal shops selling fake designer dresses, but I will focus primarily on my area of expertise, videography. Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and there’s no do-over. The last thing you want is to risk losing your money and not receiving your video. I’m writing this post in part because I myself did some freelance work a couple of years ago for a company that ripped off hundreds of couples (and videographers/photographers) and got away with it.
This should go without saying, but at a minimum, you should avoid classified ad services. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and others are a haven for scammers. While I’m sure there are legitimate businesses who put up listings on those sites, there are enough unscrupulous people that it’s best to avoid them and minimize your risk. Here’s an example of a bridal prep rental property incident: Craigslist Scam Ruins Couple’s Wedding Plans
There are many wedding agencies that operate regionally and nationally that proliferate sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot. They book hundreds of weddings each weekend and send out independent contractors, many of whom are brand new to the industry. I myself have done jobs for a couple of them as I was coming up and getting experience.
The couple books the company and often doesn’t know who will actually film their wedding until the week of the event. Often times the company is scrambling to find a videographer to fill in last minute and will put out ads on Craigslist and other job sites, which is where they find their shooters to begin with. You’ll also never know who’s editing your film. The editor may even be located in another country to save the company on costs.
None of this necessarily means the company is a scam, but this business model makes it easy to operate as one. One such company I did some weddings for decided to suddenly pull the plug and abscond with couples’ money and stiff their contractors. I was warned by someone close to the owner that the company was about to vanish. I warned everyone I could. Unfortunately, many people were swindled. You can see the story here: Bride & Gloom: Wedding Videography Company Vanishes.
A more recent example from this year involves a company who refused to refund a grieving fiancé. His soon-to-be bride’s life was taken by a car accident. It set off an investigation exposing how much corruption the owner of the company has been involved in. He set up numerous wedding video businesses (as well as others), scammed the customers, shut down the businesses, and started new ones. Read about it here: Wedding Company Denies Refund to Widowed Fiance.
“Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.”Edgar Allen Poe
Many of the factors couples use to vet a wedding vendor might not be legit.
Awards – Sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot hand out awards for basic metrics such as simply being a paid member. That’s how I and thousands of other vendors were given the “Couples’ Choice” award. Other awards are obtained by vote stuffing. It’s not even necessary to call on friends to vote for you. You can just vote numerous times under nonexistent phony email addresses as none of them are verified.
Reviews – Reviews can be dubious, and often are. There’s a wedding video agency in Florida that opened their doors in the middle of last year and somehow already has well over 100 reviews. The reviews are very generic. It’s obvious the vendor paid a company to leave multiple phony positive reviews. Be wary of any company that acquires reviews quickly and in high numbers.
Video Samples – There are many instances where new companies with no portfolio or a subpar portfolio steal videos. They take them from video companies out of state and present them as their own. They do this to impress potential couples into booking with them. The quality of their actual work is revealed once the couple gets their video. That is if you even get your video. If it’s a true scam, they reel you into booking, but then don’t show up.
I don’t mean to discourage you by showing how easy it is to dupe potential customers. I just want you to be on alert and do your due diligence when searching for a wedding videographer. Here are some tips that should help you weed out the riff raff:
Here are some more samples of wedding vendors pulling scams for reference:
Now that you’re armed with this information, you’ll be better equipped to avoid wedding scams. Be sure to read my guide on Questions to Ask a Wedding Videographer. Stay safe out there!
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