Help- wedding next week and client won't return calls!

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by f._suarez, Aug 1, 2008.

  1. Hello everyone,

    So it seems that I have huge problem looming over my head. I met this client at the first wedding I shot back in
    June and had agreed to shoot her small, family-only ceremony for $50. Yes, it's highway robbery, but I was a
    starry-eyed newbie building my portfolio (still am) and she was a huge help in getting the family formals
    organized and didn't come from a high-income family. I thought this would be a nice gesture and help me out as well.

    I sent her the contract over a month ago. Specifically told her to send it back to me as soon as she could to
    reserve the date. Provided all my information and the best ways and times to contact me if she had any questions.

    A week goes by, no reply. I send a follow up email asking her if she received the contract, resent the contract
    in case she didn't receive it, and stated for her to make sure I receive it by July 31. She calls me back and
    says she received the contract, has no problems, is very excited, etc. etc. There are just some details that need
    to be worked out, but she'll send the contract once they work them out.

    July 30- She calls. I'm at my job, so I can't answer the phone. She sounds peeved in the message she left,
    stating that she had some issues with some of the things on my contract and wanted me to call her back to answer
    a few things. I call back an hour later, no answer, leave a voicemail. This was in the evening.

    Yesterday- Still no call back. I call her again mid-afternoon, no answer, leave another voicemail.

    Today- Called her this morning as soon as I woke up. Her cell phone's shut off. I sent an email explaining that
    the contract is past due and that I have no information from her regarding the address of the ceremony or an
    itinerary. In fact, the only info I have is the time the ceremony starts. Told her to contact me ASAP otherwise I
    could not shoot her wedding. Also stated again that I would not shoot the wedding unless the signed contract was
    in my hands.

    This client has been less than communicative, only to call me to assure that she did want me to photograph her
    wedding and that she was excited and that the "details were being worked out" and she'd get back to me later.

    I realize my mistake: only asking for $50 (she obviously doesn't see me as an important enough vendor to get back
    to on time) and being so lenient with the contract deadline (when I had asked to receive it earlier, she said she
    didn't have the details worked out yet so I gave her the July 31 date).

    My question is... how far do I have to bend over backwards for her before it's okay to just not show up for the
    wedding? Obviously, I can't show up as she has not given me the details, but from my experience with her, I
    wouldn't be surprised if she called 2 days from now and asked if she could just give me the contract on her
    wedding day.

    I am losing money and time on this wedding, and as much as I want to build my portfolio and make everyone happy,
    this is getting to be too much. The wedding is 3 hours away from where I live.

    What should I do?
  2. You may have done too much already. Quite before you get any further behind. Think about the situation: you have no contract, no deposit, and a potential client who is expressing no interest in formalizing the "deal" you thought you had. Unfortunately you have nothing. You might be better off concentrating on finding a real client for that day. Call the "client" and tell her you are no longer available!
  3. Ooops. "Quite before you get any further behind." should be:Quit before you get any further behind.
  4. You are done. Send a registered letter terminating anything to do with this wedding, since the deadline has passed and they have no apparent interest in using your services... even if they are almost free.

    Sounds like way more problems are lurking and for 50 bucks you have already gained a lot of experience on the issues of running a business.
  5. Technically, you can walk away from this with no fear of legal problems such as being sued, because you have no contract, although verbal agreement can be a contract. Realistically, I would still handle with care and try to bring this situation to a positive end--which is for you to photograph the wedding and make what you can out of the experience and resulting shots. I would continue to try to get a hold of her, but I would also send the contract by certified mail and put a deadline on it. If it isn't in your hands by x date, you will not be showing up. Document everything.

    Depending upon how this person could impact your budding reputation, I would even go so far as showing up on the day to receive the contract and begin shooting. You need to use your judgement and evaluate how the consequnces of negative feedback can affect you.
  6. What Brian and L.J. said. The client will have no one to blame but herself (although it wouldn't surprise me if she blamed you). Cut your ties and consider yourself lucky. If she has been this difficult already, imagine what she might be like after the wedding when she expects you to do hours of image editing, make prints, album, etc. Even if you are building your portfolio, you shouldn't be losing money, and with the wedding being 3 hours away, you would be. Good luck to you in future weddings!
  7. you've got a lot of good answers here and if anything this was just another lesson learned in the grand scheme of things so i won't reiterate what others have already said. one suggestion i would make if you're trying to build a portfolio and more importantly, learn the craft, is to to it the old fashioned way and apprentice under a good photographer. you could potentially avoid having to "learn" other things the hard way in the future. welcome to the wonderful world of wedding photography and good luck! :)
  8. Thanks everyone for the words of advice. I'm going to wait until tomorrow to see if she replies to any of my messages, then I'll send a letter stating that if she does not send me the completed contract by US mail for me to RECEIVE by Wednesday, August 6, then I will be unable to photograph her wedding. I would love to take Nadine's advice and go above and beyond my call of duty (all my past jobs have required heavy customer service/"the customer is always right" beliefs so I'm inclined to be a people-pleaser) but the bride has yet to provide me with a venue name or address or even her home address.

    Dan-- that was actually my initial plan, to apprentice under an established photographer. I spent the earlier part of this year emailing and calling different studios/photographers in the area to see if they were looking for an apprentice or even just an assistant. I had 3 photographers tell me they would love to have me on board for the summer. I replied asking if I could meet with them in person to work out the details/expectations. Two never replied after that and one replied after I did a second follow up, saying that she didn't need the help anymore.

    Maybe people just don't like talking to me. Could there be such a thing as too much communication?
  9. i'd say this brides probably a lost cause. don't feel bad about getting out of it. this is not the first time something like this will happen and certainly not the last. 95% of the rest of them do go much more smoothly than this though.

    i'm not sure what area you're in, but you're in the chicago area, the studio i shoot for is always looking for good eyes. :)
  10. sounds like she is more trouble than it is worth. if the contract is not already signed, i would void it.
  11. "you can walk away from this with no fear of legal problems such as being sued, because you have no contract,
    although verbal agreement can be a contract."

    This is sort of contradictory as there is no discussion as to whether a verbal contract was formed. Contrary to the
    previaling view here, a verbal contract can often be formed even when there are stated intentions that it be codified in
    writing. If the agreement is that it won't be valid unless it is is written and signed, that is different but then its a
    matter of proof. Also, many contracts can be enforcable, even if generally important terms are missing.

    I'm not predicting that there is an enforcable agreement in this particular case, indeed critical (more than important)
    terms are missing (Fareine should have obtained the information) or even the opposite. The point is that many seem
    to believe in general that, just because an agreement is not reduced to writing and/or there are missing terms, that
    there is automatically no binding contract. That's not true.

    Its critical in future cases to be able to show proof that potential clients are advised that no agreement is enforacable
    unless there is a executed written contract. When that is not done but there is an agreement, the safest route is to
    try to discharge the duties under the agreement as Nadine suggests here even though it seems to be suggested for
    other reasons.
  12. John--yes, I realize my statement was contradictory. I also failed to note that Fareine does not know where the wedding is, so she can't go there anyway. Short of quizzing other people that might know, if she can't find out where it is, or what time, etc., she can't just show up no matter what, which is why I suggested the certified mail letter/contract.
  13. "if she can't find out where it is, or what time, etc., she can't just show up"

    She seems to be trying her best. Its hard to see how a better good faith effort could be made at this point.
  14. All those detail requests are built into the contract I gave to her. When I initially agreed to do her wedding, she said they didn't even have an exact date specified nor did she know where they were going to have it. I didn't get an exact date from her until the beginning of July, and she was still looking for a venue then. That's around the time I gave her the contract, which was why we agreed on a July 31 deadline, so that she had the time to work out the details and an itinerary.

    I can understand her being overwhelmed and busy, especially the week before the wedding. I can even understand missing the deadline. I'm a bit annoyed that she didn't decide to look at the contract and ask questions about it until a week before her wedding, but I understand that some people just naturally procrastinate on everything. What I can't understand is her lack of ability to call me or email me back and at least tell me that she'll get back to me with the details or even that she doesn't agree with the terms of my contract and refuses to sign it. In my experience with her, the only time she tries to communicate with me (with the exception of a couple days ago) is when I call her or email her saying that I haven't heard anything from her in awhile, how's the planning process going, is she still interested in my services for the wedding. And then her usual reply is, "Yes, we're so excited to be working with you, BUT we still need to work out some details, so I'll get back to you later."

    Honestly? I think she's still working out the details.

    My big lesson from this whole experience is to tell people up front that I will not reserve a date for them until they fill out and sign my contract.
  15. tdj


    You have received alot of great advice, and I'll simply add this: if she's this much fun to deal with before the wedding, imagine what she will be like afterward!
  16. Frankly you've done enough. Maybe, or most likely, she's hired someone else. Don't worry about it anymore and follow the suggestions of contract no shoot. It's that simple.

    If she calls you at the last minute bring a contract with you, but don't take a photo until someone signs it. I have had a few couples show up and sign the contract 5 minutes before the start of the wedding.

    You can also tell her someone else wants you for that date, so if she doesn't call you within 12 hours or whatever time limit you wish to give her, you pretty much know she's not booking with you.
  17. As it stands, the remaining "details" will be worked out last minute at the wedding, I suppose.

    Which means that you'll likely learn on location that you will be shooting for $0 that day.

    Good luck and happy 6 hours driving!
  18. For $50, forget about it. She obviously doesn't want to talk to you. Put you efforts into finding other another gig.
  19. It sounds to me that it was setup as a casual, friendly, mutually beneficial agreement rather than a hardcore business deal, especially considering the pittance of a fee, but then you become all hardcore about a contract, insisting on deadlines for returning the contract, etc. etc. I think the "client/ friend" (I don't know what to call her) became turned-off and angry by the change in your manner to hardcore business from originally a friendly, mutually beneficial casual agreement.

    If it was a legitimate business arrangement from the beginning, you never would have just charged fifty bucks. If I was in the client's shoes, after receiving your contract, and the pressure you were applying, I would have run away from you as fast as possible. I would think I was being setup, and the fifty bucks was just a come-on.

    Your mistake: are you in business or just a generous donator of your services? Mixed messages that smack of shadyness. I don't blame the "client" one bit.
  20. The contract is not signed & only $50 for a wedding that's 3 hours away? Just move on. She's obviously put the wedding off or is using someone else
  21. You have no contract and no money. Your verbal agreement hinged upon provision of the contract and deposit. You don't
    even have her home mailing address. Call her and leave a message letting her know that because you did not receive the
    necessary paperwork in time, you are no longer available to photograph her wedding. She may pitch a fit, but there's really
    no love lost at this point anyway, right? That's what I would do. :)
  22. Fareine: why are you waiting until tomorrow? Notify her NOW, by certified AND regular mail that there is no contract and that you will not shoot the wedding. From experience, I can tell you that you are being jerked around for some reason you may never know, and that this is a good time to prevent any further problems.
  23. haha, no one is able to put themselves in the "client's" shoes. Photographers never make mistakes, haha.
  24. For future reference, it may be useful to include a "drop dead date" when sending out a contract for signing -- i.e. a date by which the contract must be signed and returned to you, or else any agreement is considered null and void.
  25. I'm with Jeffrey on this one. What's in the contract that she would object to?
  26. but the bride has yet to provide me with a venue name or address or even her home address.
    Wait a minute.
    For all the "well you don't have a signed contract" and "go above and beyond the call of duty" suggestions... just how the hell is the OP supposed to do anything without even knowing WHERE TO SHOW UP to even start taking any bloody pictures? If you go to court on this, no judge that doesn't belong in the loony bin will fault you for not showing up when you don't even have a freaking address. This wasn't even a gig to begin with; stop wasting your time worrying about it and look for something better elsewhere.
  27. Do you NEED these pictures for your portfolio? If so, then it's entirely up to you whether or not to shoot the wedding. Don't feel badly about walking away from this situation. It's the bride's responsibility to get you the information you need (which she failed to do), sign the contract (which she failed to do), and arrange the details of her own freaking wedding (which she is clearly not doing well). None of this is your fault.

    I would also add that the $50.00 is better than nothing, but will barely cover your gas getting back and forth (depending upon the mileage you get). In the future, you might want to consider at least having your expenses covered when you do a "nice" for someone. That's more than reasonable, IMO.

    I'll be interested to hear how this situation plays out...

  28. My contract is heavily based on the Student Photographic Society sample wedding contract. It's very straightforward, 1 page, information form on the front, terms of agreement on the back. The only thing I can think of her objecting to is the copyright information. I have a separate model release form based on the one from SPS that I also sent to her.

    I can understand what Jeff is saying about me going from the $50 bargain to being too business-like and how it seems shady.

    I'm not too concerned about this anymore. I'm happy with the photos I have thus far, I have 2 more weddings booked this month, and I have 4 next year, all at a much higher price than $50. I think I'm fine with my portfolio.

    I sent her an email and called her explaining that I need the contract/wedding info and that if she doesn't reply by Wednesday, the deal is off. I'm not bothering with trying to get a hold of her anymore. If she still wants me, she can run after me herself.
  29. RUN AWAY!!!! If she is this bad now just imagine during and after the photos!
  30. don't waste your time.
  31. Fareine, just to add, if I was the client, I would be thinking why is she so aggressive about contacting me, and why is she so adamant about getting that contract signed for fifty lousy bucks? Red flag!

    Even though that client is missing out on a tremendous deal because she's not sure if it's legitimate, she really is being a smart consumer, or at the very least a consumer not willing to take, what she perceives to be, a risk.
  32. You were a little vague about the copyright issue in your contract. Is it possible that she thinks that you'll charge an astronomical amount for the pictures? Your website looks good, probably adding to the confusion.
  33. One wonders if she is doing this too to a catering outfit; the flower shops; rentals too. If she wont return your calls just give her warning in writting that you will not be there. Alot of time has already been spent; wasted with no real income produced. If you dont have a physical address to send a written decline then leave a message by phone; fax and emails to cover your rear. Terminate the bad fouled client who has passed up the deadline; cut your losses and run like bloody hell. To shoot a wedding one often wants to reduce risk; study the lighting; the layout; where the heck it is; what type of event. A last minute thing adds massive stress and more risk; it also blocks out out time for other work or personal stuff.
  34. A situation like this is abit of a train wreck; or a engine outage around V1 and V2 during takeoff.; or running a yellow light. Normally a scheme of deposits is done so you as a shooter get something if they weasel out. They need time to find another shooter; your time is wasted as the wedding date grows near; you get stressed when you should have a logical fault tree to move on. Heck maybe the wedding wont really happen either. In Wisconsin a buddy of mine always had an idling hot car ready that was running during the wedding; in case the groom needed to escape quickly before the knot/noose :) happened. This tradition went on thru each buddys wedding; the car with the deep cam rumbing away.
  35. i'll donate $50 if we can delete this thread!
  36. OP wrote: "I will not reserve a date for them until they fill out and sign my contract"

    Add: "and send me a non-refundable deposit of 33% (or whatever you decide)" and you will have learned your lessons... time to move on.
  37. There can only be one thing worse than shooting this wedding and dealing with her afterwards - just imagine, you could be the groom... Ha, sorry - I just could not resist!
  38. Send her a bill for $50 for time already taken ! You definitely wont be doing the wedding! and also send her a new invoice with $500 and say you forgot the last zero before when you originally quoted.
  39. In the future, just make it VERY clear that you are a first-come, first-served business, and without the contract and retainer
    the date is not yet theirs. This is the only way to keep your business running without going absolutely crazy. :) If you give
    someone a deadline for receiving their contract by mail, then you need to stick with it. If you can't stick to your policies,
    your clients won't either. :) It's BUSINESS. Just like a business "mistake" could be deadly for your own business, the
    "mistake" of a client not returning her photographer's phone calls or taking seriously the need for a contract could mean the
    client loses her date. I find that there is a huge gap between "mistakes", and complete irresponsibility and disrespect. You
    can set the precedent for both. Hang in there! :)
  40. I had my own business for 30 years (electrical contractor) and I'm telling you from expierence, just forget this client and move on! It isn't often that you'll come across one like this but it does happen. I lay odds that even if you did the job, she would complain about something else and probably would not reccomend you to someone else anyway. Don't work so cheap! Your time is worth much more than the $50 you were going to charge. A customer may get the feeling that your not professional because your rate was so low. Charge what you feel your worth and don't give any discounts. If your good, the word will get around and you'll get plentyof work. I never had to advertise in all those years and often had to turn away work. Good luck!!
  41. I don't shoot weddings, so I have no wisdom to continute, but after reading the thread I am curious how this
    wedding will turn out. The greatest value of shooting the wedding will probably not be developing your portfolio, but might the stories you'll
    have to tell. Good luck.
  42. As far as I understand things you currently do not know where the wedding is taking place. Do yourself a huge favor and keep it this way.

    Good luck
  43. Hi,
    I would just let it be. I also have recently started out in this industry and have done alot of weddings at that price... just so I can build a portfolio up FAST. I have never dealt with a client such as it really doesn't have to do with the price. You did as much as you could and you have not only left voicemails but also left messages. I think she just changed her mind and didn't let you know. Hope this helps you out.
  44. Let's get this right. 3 hours driving each way, 6 hours shooting and let's say 3 hours post production = 15
    hours......for $50!! If she's not prepared to treat you with the utmost of respect for your services at $3.33 per
    hour, then you must show yourself the respect you deserve.

    Time to send her that registered 'no-thanks' letter.

  45. "Let's get this right. 3 hours driving each way, 6 hours shooting and let's say 3 hours post production = 15 hours......for $50!! If she's not prepared to treat you with the utmost of respect for your services at $3.33 per hour, then you must show yourself the respect you deserve"

    Don't forget gasoline.
  46. Jeffrey, while it's nice to be in here sniping on the client's behalf, I don't lift a finger without a contract, even for friends. Doesn't matter if it's a $0 or $4000 wedding. Every friend I have done a favor for receives that contract with my statement that "this helps both of us to understand what is required of each party, and protects both of us in case there is a problem". That contract also includes a release that allows me to use their photos for promotional/portfolio purposes, as well as a limitation of liability due to malfunction or circumstances beyond my control (like, for example, a bride that refuses to let me know where the bloody event is taking place).

    In this case, the OP has done an excellent job by demanding a signed contract. Usually, when a client "doesn't like something" in a contract, it's a misunderstanding of what that section means. If it isn't a misunderstanding, both parties can sit down and figure out if there is an amendment that will serve the interests of both parties. If not, you go your happy way.

    Insinuating that a contract isn't necessary for a $50 wedding is silly, considering that damages could well exceed thousands of dollars in the event there is a mishap, misunderstanding, or other issue that could have been covered by the contract. Additionally, folks are very litigious, and not having an instrument that can be presented in a legal setting can cost you a lot more than the $50 you lost to a problem client.

    Some friends are only friends until the rent comes due.
  47. Well techinically she is not your client without payment or a contract. Leave it be. If she calls you back and wants to move forward, great. But right now it seems you have done more than enough
  48. I hope things all worked out and you had some kind of communication with her. People are so strange when it comes to weddings and contracts, much less when you put the two together. Hopefully you will have better experiences your next time around!
  49. It's a bummer we haven't heard how this situation resolved itself. Just wondering...
  50. The weekend isn't over yet...
  51. "The weekend isn't over yet..."

    It is now! I'm sitting on the edge of my seat and I've run out of popcorn. Fareine, please tell us what happened!!!!
  52. Hi everyone--

    Here's a little update for anyone who's interested in finding out what happened with this situation.

    After sending the "I won't do your wedding if I don't have the signed contract by Wednesday" letter to the client, I sat back and enjoyed my weekend. Come Sunday night, the client calls me and tells me that she is still interested and is still getting married. The reason she never got back to me after her phone call the week before was because her nephew had died.

    Of course, I felt like a complete jerk. So I offered my condolences, but let her know that I still needed the contract and information on the wedding in order to move forward with our business agreement. She said she understood and promised to call me on Monday to clear up the issue she had with the contract.

    Monday... no phone call. I tried calling her, but no answer. She emailed me on Tuesday apologizing and then says she'll call me that night. I finally get the phone call a few minutes before midnight. Turns out her question about the contract pertained to copyright usage and how I would be using the images. The situation was cleared up in less than a minute. I asked her about the contract and she promised to put it in the mail the next day (Wednesday) and then I asked her to give me the address of the ceremony site just in case the contract never showed up in the mail. She promised to call Wednesday to supply me with the information. I finally got my information on Wednesday afternoon, received the contract on Thursday, and then shot the wedding on Friday.

    The wedding was small and hassle free. I still feel horrible about the bride's loss, but looking back on it, I don't really think there was a good way to handle that sort of situation.

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