Let me first start off by saying that I am not going to name names here. The point of this post is not to draw negative attention (and thereby any attention) to specific individuals. Instead, I mean only to inform brides planning to get married in Key West that there are a few things to keep an eye on when booking your vendors.
First and foremost, if you are talking to one vendor about a combined service, and they are saying they will handle the booking of the other service(s) for you, make sure you get copies of that vendor's contract WITH THE OTHER VENDOR. Do not trust your wedding day to someone else. If you hire a videographer, and they say they will handle booking your photographer, EVEN IF YOU SPEAK TO THAT PHOTOGRAPHER, do not assume there is a confirmed booking and a proper deposit paid until you see it in writing.
Better yet, even if you're doing a combined vendor "deal" with two people who work together, simply request that you want to sign contracts with EACH of them, individually.
Why am I telling you this? Well...because this very situation happened to one of my brides, and to me, and I want to help prevent it from happening to others. Because of the actions of one unscrupulous vendor, the bride almost lost her photographer and important members of her other vendor team (hair/makeup/etc) three days before the wedding.
At the request of a very prominent (but unbeknownst to me at the time, notorious) videographer in town, someone I actually considered a friend, I had a consultation by phone with a bride to provide the photography portion of a combined photo/video package. She indicated to the videographer that she wanted to work with me, and (also unbeknownst to me), paid her deposit at that time (this was about 10 months before the wedding).
Over the next few months, for about 5 or 6 months total, I would check in with the videographer on occasion and ask if the bride was booking and if she had paid her deposit. He always told me she had not. Come to find out later, he had actually been lying the whole time, as the bride HAD paid.
Let me also add that this particular wedding was on a very popular wedding date. I had roughly 7 or 8 leads for the date who would email in. I would always mention that I had another inquiry on the date but nothing booked so far. Each time, I would reach back out to the videographer about our mutual lead, and always he would say he'd get back to me. In the meantime of waiting, I would eventually fall out of touch with the other lead, and they would book elsewhere. I lost every other inquiry while waiting for an answer, and many of them for a larger package. But because I considered this vendor a friend, I wanted to be there for him.
When I finally told him I would need an answer or book another wedding for the date, magically the next day he had a signed contract and a paid deposit, meaning, for me, a confirmed booking and I could stop looking to fill the date. Great. At this point we were still a few months out, so I told him he could get me my portion of the deposit at his convenience. (Big mistake on my part....but I really shouldn't have to track it down either).
A week before the wedding, I am getting emails and calls from the planner, the bride...we are talking and going over things, and in every way I am being consulted as the photographer for the wedding. I get the planner's schedule, however, and it's the videographer's business listed as providing photography. I sort of scratch my head, but don't think much of it. After about an hour talk with the bride to go over logistics, we wish each other well and vow to see each other on Saturday. This is when I mention to her my uncertainty of whether I am getting payment from her or from the videographer (I was never copied on any contracts, so I have no way of knowing, and the videographer wouldn't answer me). She cheerfully says the videographer has been paid in full for the entire package "a while ago". Keep in mind, this sum is not an insignificant number.
But when I check in with the videographer, he balks at my mention of the payment. He changes the number. Not by a little bit. By basically almost all of it. He essentially wants me to drive four hours, shoot 8 hours, and deliver the files to him for only about 25% of what we originally agreed to. After expenses...paying my assistant, my editor, my travel, and a few bits of rental gear, I will make nothing. We go back and forth...me very polite and understanding, fully realizing that miscommunications happen, and offering options for how we can come to a resolution. He gets angry, starts cursing, retorts that he had offered me a specific price earlier in the year (not apples to apples mind you, but that's a conversation for another day) and changes into someone I don't even know. He tells me never mind, he'll find someone else.
Except, it's now four days before the wedding, and I know that everyone is booked. I call the coordinator, whom I've never worked with but I know has a good reputation. I explain what's going on. She tries to mitigate. I even offer to renegotiate our terms to make it work for both of us. He won't budge.
So then I call the bride and tell her I'm very sorry, but the videographer will be finding someone else to shoot her wedding. I try to keep the details to a minimum, but of course she wants to know what happened. I tell her the whole story. She is understandably upset with the videographer, who basically took a large sum of money for a photo and video package, but has basically failed to hire her a photographer. Yup. Pretty much.
When it turns out they can't find anyone else, and the videographer won't budge, and the bride tells me she still wants me there, I offer to shoot the wedding....for free. Yes....free. I figure if I'm going to work for someone else and be backed into an impossible corner, and not get paid, then I'm going to work instead for the client directly, handle things on my own terms, and not get paid.
It was a beautiful day, a beautiful couple, and the images turned out great. The working relationship on the day of the wedding was fine, but internally awkward, and when it was all over, I lost a good friend and a respected professional colleague.
Beyond that, it was a valuable lesson learned, and so I share it with you as you work toward booking your vendors for your Florida Keys wedding. Maybe it's the hotel saying they'll book your florist, or your caterer saying they'll book your table decor. If they themselves are not providing the service and are partnering with another company, make sure you speak to all parties, ensure everyone has a contract, and everyone has been paid. And do this long before the week of your wedding, and you will have smooth sailing with no vendor drama affecting your big day.