Toronto

Brides say videographer vanished with their wedding memories and money

When it came to picking out her dress, Lily Nguyen knew she wanted something pink. It was the other wedding details like finding the right videographer that she struggled with. Now she wishes she was more cautious about who she hired since she’s out nearly $2,000. 

Women who haven't received videos will all get 'what they are owed,' videographer vows

Lily Nguyen shows her daughter her wedding dress. Nguyen says she never received the wedding video she paid nearly $1,800 for in June 2018. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)

When it came to picking out her dress, Lily Nguyen knew she wanted something pink.  It was the other wedding details like finding the right videographer that she struggled with. Now she wishes she was more cautious about who she hired since she's out nearly $2,000.

A few months before her wedding, Nguyen took a colleague's recommendation and went with Shelby Morell Photography. 

She didn't bother looking into the company and says during her two day celebration in June 2018, everything went as planned. 

"The reception was fine, everything was perfectly done. No mishaps, nothing," said Nguyen, who lives in Toronto's west end.

But that honeymoon didn't last.

Videographer vanished in a flash 

According to the contract she signed, Nguyen was supposed to get a short trailer "within four weeks of the event and a feature-length video within 10 weeks of the event." The trailer came late and the full video never arrived. 

Nguyen says she called and emailed Morell dozens of times and only got a response seven months later. 

"On January 22, 2019, she texted me back saying that there was a death in her family, that she is sorry and there is a delay in editing my video," said Nguyen. "I said I totally understand ... and she said the full video would be ready in 10 days."

It's now been more than a year since her wedding and there's still no video. She has, however, found several women in the same boat, who paid Morell in full. 

Debbie Wiley and her husband booked Shelby Morell Photography in February 2018 to film their wedding. Wiley says the videographer stopped responding and hasn't sent her the footage. (Debbie Wiley )

"She took something from us that nobody can ever replace. That's very frustrating … It's not like we can do the wedding over again," said Nguyen.  

She took something from us that nobody can ever replace.-Lily Nguyen

Debbie Wiley has been waiting nearly two years for her wedding video. She got married in February 2018 and says the only time Morell ever responded to her was by email in October 2018.

Wiley wrote she was going to see her dying grandmother in Hong Kong and wanted to show her some footage of her wedding.  

"So I said, "Please, Shelby. I haven't been able to get a hold of you. At this point I don't care if I have the trailer or the video I just want the raw footage so I have something,'" said Wiley.

Wiley says she was promised the footage but it never came.

Another bride, Bobbie Cotton, says the only reason she got her photos was because she threatened to go to the media. Cotton says she had paid Morell $500 to shoot her wedding. 

'So ashamed'

CBC News made repeated efforts this week to contact Morell, via email, telephone, even going to her house in south Etobicoke. After two days, she responded with an emailed statement saying she's "so ashamed" and that she "wholeheartedly" acknowledges her mistakes.

"Between personal struggles and admittedly taking on more than I could handle during my first busy year in weddings, I recognize that I failed a few clients who certainly don't deserve it and I sincerely regret the way I have handled these situations," she wrote.

"Every one of these women will hear from me by Friday and all of them WILL receive what they are owed."

Watch out for undercutters 

Wedding and event planner Annmarie Borosic says these types of horror stories are becoming more common since the industry is booming and many new vendors are trying to make a name for themselves, often offering more than they can deliver. 

"There's an industry standard across the board. I would say you should not expect to pay anything less than $2,500 per service, be it videographer or photographer," said Borosic, founder of Event Culture.

Annmarie Borosic, founder of Event Culture, says always ask your photographer or videographer for references. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)
 

Whatever the service provider promises, Borosic says couples should get it in writing and ask plenty of questions, including how many weddings or events the vendor has planned for that day or week. That could be a telltale sign of how much time they'll be able to devote to your celebration. 

"Ask what's included in the price. Is it for the full wedding day? How many photographers will be on site and how will the files arrive? Will it be a website, raw files, is a photo album included?" said Borosic. 

The website for Shelby Morell Photography no longer exists, but online reviews are popping up on websites including the Better Business Bureau. The organization says it has tried to contact Morell several times as well but hasn't heard back. 

As for next steps, both Nugyen and Wiley say they're considering legal action if they don't get the raw footage of their big days. 

About the Author

Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and investigative journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie: natalie.nanowski@cbc.ca

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