British Columbia

Broken vows: Brides say makeup artist refused refunds for undelivered services

Over half a dozen brides say a Surrey-based hair and makeup artist has not refunded them money paid for services they didn't receive. One hairstylist says brides should never pay upfront in full for hair and makeup services.

'I wanted it to be perfect. I wish I could change it,' says bride who hired Surrey makeup artist

Liza Josef had her cousins do her wedding day hair and makeup after her makeup artist, Sonya Beaulieu of Glam Girls Mobile, cancelled on her days before the wedding. (Liza Josef)

On the biggest day of her life, Liza Josef wanted to look like a princess.

Wearing a sequined ivory ball gown and tiara, the 25-year-old woman exchanged vows with her husband in front of 75 close friends and family on June 1 in Mission, B.C. Everything went according to plan that afternoon except for one thing — she didn't receive the professional hair and makeup she paid for.

Three days before the wedding, she says her makeup artist, Sonya Beaulieu, told her she wasn't sure she'd be able to do the job because she was sick. Josef, who had paid $1,150 without signing a contract to Beaulieu's company, Glam Girls Mobile, instead had her cousins do her hair and makeup.

She walked down the aisle with natural makeup and her hair in soft waves, but it wasn't the exact look she was going for. 

Josef said she asked Beaulieu for a refund but never received it, and hasn't heard from her since a week after the wedding.

"Every girl dreams about their wedding day," she said. "I wanted it to be perfect. I wish I could change it."

Josef is among eight women in the Lower Mainland who have filed recent claims since June with the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), a dispute resolution board, against Surrey-based Glam Girls Mobile.

The women say they are owed between $600 and $1,150. They list a string of grievances against Beaulieu, claiming, among other things, that she didn't show up for makeup trials before their weddings, that she refused to honour cancellation refund agreements and that she couldn't be reached when they asked for refunds.

The brides were left scrambling to find other makeup artists, which often book up months in advance. They want to warn other brides.

"I do not want them to be put in this position and have their hard-earned money taken and then putting this damper on what's supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life," said Ashley Nelless.

Nelless, 35, says she is owed over $400 after she cancelled Bealieu's contract because her makeup trials were cancelled three times in advance of her upcoming wedding in October. 

Hairstylist Aubrey Bonnah-Vink says contracts should never require a deposit of more than 50 per cent of the total cost of the service. (CBC/Don Marce)

Pushed to bankruptcy, owner says

According to Glam Girls' contract, if the company cannot fulfil its service agreement, it will hire another team to complete the service or refund 80 per cent of the deposit paid.

Beaulieu, the sole proprietor of Glam Girls, has not responded to any of the brides' allegations levelled in the CRT claims.

In an email to CBC, she said she finds it unfair the brides are speaking out and says she intends to file for bankruptcy.

"The business is closed and no longer taking bookings. I have been left with no option but to file bankruptcy on the 20th," she said in the email.

When asked when clients would be receiving refunds, she did not respond. 

"I have spent three years making brides happy and this was all ruined," she said by email. 

The brides waiting for refunds were initially lured by promises of discounts for large parties and for payment upfront, and several did not sign contracts before sending money by e-transfer.

Do your research

While provincial regulators like Consumer Protection B.C. oversee specific consumer protection laws and regulate certain industries, the beauty industry is unregulated in B.C. and workers do not require trade certification like a Red Seal.

While it's not common, one Vancouver hairstylist said she has heard stories of hair and makeup artists not showing up on wedding days or violating contracts.

Finding a reputable hair and makeup artist comes down to research, said Aubrey Bonnah-Vink, owner of BV Bridal and an associate at Topknot Beauty Room.

A contract should never require a deposit of more than half of the total cost, which should not be paid in cash, and because prices don't vary much across the industry, steep discounts can be a red flag, Bonnah-Vink said.

Brides should meet their hair and makeup artist in person — and while reviews are a good place to start, talking with people who have worked with a hair and makeup artist before can be helpful, she added.

"Word of mouth is the biggest thing in this industry," Bonnah-Vink said. 

Adina Sale, who says she is owed over $700 in refunds from Glam Girls Mobile, wants other brides to be aware of the red flags to watch out for when booking hair and makeup services. (CBC/Nicolas Amaya)

'It was an expensive lesson'

In hindsight, those words of warning are no consolation to brides like Adina Sale, who is waiting for a refund of over $700 for hair and makeup services after she cancelled with Glam Girls when she never received the hair extensions she paid for in advance. 

Now that Sale, 40, has signed a contract with another beauty company for her Sept. 1 wedding in Chilliwack, she can see why paying upfront in full with Beaulieu was not standard practice, even with the discounts offered.

But when Sale walks down the aisle next month in her white wedding gown at the Cultus Lake Community Hall with the glamorous hair and makeup she envisioned, she won't be thinking of the money lost along the way — just the life she's starting with her partner. 

That's the kind of stress-free day she wishes for other brides. 

"Do your homework. Don't always try to save money. A savings isn't a savings if it costs you money in the long run," she said. 

"It was an expensive lesson."

Sale has hired another beauty company to do her hair and makeup for her wedding next month. (CBC/Nicolas Amaya)