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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:12 PM   #1
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Divorce before video is finished

Hi all,

In all my years of filming weddings, I've just come across a new one that has me perplexed and I'm looking for some advice.

I filmed a wedding in September and received a phone call today from the bride’s brother indicating that she and her husband are getting divorced. Their wedding video is just about finished and was going to be delivered shortly. The bride’s brother made the call in place of the bride because neither the bride nor groom want anything to do with each other or any of their wedding related stuff (i.e. pictures or video, etc.) and are probably ashamed or embarrassed or just too hurt to speak with me directly. The bride’s brother indicated that they are no longer interested in receiving the video as it would be too hurtful for them or their family to watch. He acknowledged and understood that we spent the entire day with them filming their wedding as well as another day of shooting their love story and yet another day of putting together a photo montage for their reception...and also understands that we have spent the past several months editing their video and were just about to wrap things up. However, he suggested that the family would be better served with a partial refund instead of the video.

How the heck would you handle a situation like this?

We don't have a partial refund policy because of divorce or for any other reason for that matter. As already mentioned we spent the entire day (morning thru night) with them and captured everything. We spent a separate half day shooting their "love story", and one more day scanning photos and putting together their photo montage. Their final edit is about 98% complete and then the bombshell gets dropped that things aren't going to work out between them and both they and their family have no interest in the video at this point and would rather receive some sort of "fair" partial refund for the work we have already done.

Has this ever happened to you and if so, how did you handle it? Common sense tells me that we did all of the work thus far (except author the video and deliver) and it's their soon to be divorce that has caused this issue. I personally don't believe that any sort of refund is in order at this point but just wanted to get other opinions before I call her brother back.

The couple (as was their family), was extremely fun and outgoing and I would have never seen this coming from a mile away which makes it all the harder to tell them "sorry, but there will be no refund". I suppose business is business. Your thoughts???
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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:36 PM   #2
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

I don't do weddings...but if it was me in your shoes.... I'd charge the full amount.

It's not your fault what happened - but it is your business you need to protect/your family that needs feeding - and you've obviously worked hard and diligently I'm sure to deliver a professional product (that they would otherwise have been please with in normal circumstances).

Just take off whatever it would have cost (time and materials) to produce the final discs/mail them out etc. (obviously) and then move on.

Now, if you had had a watertight contract in place then all this would be crystal clear....

In the corporate world (my world) companies sometimes get bought out/change direction/senior managers/ideas about what they want film-wise in a very, very short time frame (days). That's how I learnt "the hard way" several years ago about having very well written contracts in place before filming starts.

It's a very unhappy situation, not just for them but for you too. After all, there are unlikely to be any glowing recommendations or web showreel material coming out of this one, which already means you're "down" on where you might have been.

The wedding videographers on here might be able to see an angle that escapes me right now.... but you said (wrote) it yourself - business is business.

Hope this helps a bit.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:44 PM   #3
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

I would offer sincere condolences for the failure of their marriage but not a refund. Partial or otherwise.

Offer to deliver the video as promised wrapped in something they don't have to open if its too painful.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:46 PM   #4
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the reply. I do have a pretty solid service agreement in place...unfortunately, probably not watertight as I don't have a divorce refund policy or something along those lines. Looks like I'll be having my attorney add something to this effect in the near future. The bride in this case is actually an attorney so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Thanks again for your response.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:47 PM   #5
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

I'm not in your shoes, but I would absolutely not give them a refund. Yes it is hurtful, but in the end they signed a contract. They won't be getting refunds from the florist, DJ, reception venue, baker, caterer...and so on. And if you had finished the edit/copies a week sooner, the phone call would have been too late anyway.

My thought is to explain to them that you did everything you were contracted for...I would even give them the video, or ask who might be a good recipient to send it to in case in the future there is a change of heart, or anything, but otherwise, no refund IMO.

Sticky situation though...YIKES! Good Luck, let us know what you end up doing!
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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:48 PM   #6
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

You did work on the wedding day and all the time and effort spent in post production. You deserved to get paid in full. They aren't returning all the gifts back to their friends and relative.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 03:55 PM   #7
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

I would finish the job and send off your dvd to one of them, get a receipt for delivery that way If they ever wanted to bring you to court you can prove the work that was paid for was done.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 04:01 PM   #8
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

Refund shouldn't even be a consideration, period. No court would give a customer a refund because they got a divorce. The very idea is ridiculous, and the fact that the bride is an attorney will make no difference. She or they may threaten and bluster, but it will be only that, threats and bluster. They have no recourse. They "could" try and sue, and in theory you could end up in court, but you can recover your attorneys fees most likely since they will lose, as I would think the judge would award you your cost for your defense.

Scott, that's excellent advice.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 04:02 PM   #9
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

If you already got paid in full, finish up the work and send them over. Product done!
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Old December 29th, 2011, 04:10 PM   #10
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

Right Taky, it's all over but the mailing of the video. The divorce is the client's problem, not Michael's. Hopefully they won't attempt to make it his problem too.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 04:17 PM   #11
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

I had a doctor pay a large deposit last year, and the wedding was called off, and he threatened me pretty bad when I wouldn't give him a refund. I told him to do what he needed to do, but I was sorry for his trouble.

Two weeks ago he called me back and said they were back on, and getting married in February and asked if I could film them in an exclusive hotel while they danced alone to a large band where there would be no guests, just them. Sounded cool, so I'm doing it for "free". But I had been paid $1K already and did no work for it, so I don't mind. It could make for a great web sample. I'm looking forward to it.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 06:06 PM   #12
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

One of my brides who is getting married in March next year, called me to tell me her fiance had just walked out on her. Now she was civil..she said she realised that the booking deposit was non-refundable and wasn't looking for any refund at all. She obviously is not getting married in March any more!!!

Jeff, I really wonder how long your doctor's marriage will last if he has already cancelled it once ... I think you could quite easily find yourself not at the hotel in February as he has called it off again!!! If he does still stick to your no-refund policy!!

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Old December 29th, 2011, 06:58 PM   #13
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

This happened to me probably about 20-22 years ago. I had just finished the good old VHS tapes and came to find out the were in process of getting divorced. While I sympathized with them I also told them they had signed the paperwork and I had completed my end of the bargain. He said something to the effect that I could stuff the tapes he wasn't paying. I said something to the effct of fine, I'm being forced to take further action. I called my lawyer at the time, he fired off a letter to both of them and within a week I had full payment and they got their tapes.
I also immediately changed my paperwork to indicate payment in full by the day of the event which I changed later to pay in full before the event just like almost every othr wedding vendor in my area. Problem solved. I actually had another one a few years later, similar situation, and those VHS tapes sat on my self for a good number of years. I finally got rid of them maybe 5 years ago. I'm a pack rat and I never wanted to be accused of not fulfilling my service agreement but my lawyer said hey what the hell if they haven't done anything by now they won't. The never have.
No refund, fulfill your obligation and what they do with the DVDs is up to them.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 07:51 PM   #14
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

Forget a refund. What an insult to even suggest it!!!!

I would ask for an extra $500 FROM the couple to offset the anger & frustration of having spent so much time on something which is never going to be viewed, shared or cherished by anyone.

Are they returning all the wedding gifts I wonder?
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Old December 29th, 2011, 09:30 PM   #15
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Re: Divorce before video is finished

Real quick. We always require the final balance to be paid 4 weeks before the wedding. We are pretty lenient with this and things have always worked out. Like one of the previous posters said, I would tell them that the job is 98% complete and list out what those things are. If there is nothing left to do other than burn/package the discs, tell them that the cost of that is $20 and that would be all that is refundable, everything else has been done. Lastly, I would also tell them that you need to deliver the product to someone and have them sign some form that states completion. Tell them they can sign the paper and toss the DVD's, you just need something that covers you in case they ever decide to do something in the future.
Good luck and I hope it all works out.
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