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A British couple has successfully sued their wedding videographer after he turned up disshevelled to their big day and then left the camera sitting in the grass.
A British couple has successfully sued their wedding videographer after he turned up disshevelled to their big day and then left the camera sitting in the grass.

When wedding videographers go rogue Add to ...

As the procession swept across a lawn, the guests' ankles were filmed up close, and a flower girl scurried out of sight. Then came the giggling bride, visible for only a moment before she stepped out of view toward the chapel.

The camera filmed sideways through blades of grass. No, it wasn't an art-house touch - the camera had been abandoned on the lawn as the wedding party sailed by.

Videographer Clayton Bennett also missed speeches and the cutting of the cake, but he's paying for it now. Newlyweds Martin and Heidi Shubrook sued him for breach of contract, and this week won back nearly double what they paid for the slipshod wedding video in July 2009.

"It was heartbreaking. We've got no recollection of our day at all," Ms. Shubrook, an Essex, England, primary-school teacher, told the Telegraph.

It's one of the first things fiancées plan and one of the most important: wedding videos and photos that capture those prized (and pricey) moments. Still, wedding planners say inexperienced newlyweds get burned every year, especially when they go cheap, hire Uncle Bob or skimp on the research, online and in person.

If they'd gotten to know their videographer ahead of time, as experts recommend, the Shubrooks might have sensed something was amiss. Mr. Bennett "turned up to our wedding with scars all over his face and when he was asked about them he said he was a cage fighter," Ms. Shubrook told the Daily Mail.

The Shubrooks also cheaped out, paying just £350 ($559) for the day. Canadian experts say that for pristine videography, expect to shell out $3,000 - minimum. "If you're willing to cut corners, you get what you pay for. Afterward, those moments are gone. You can never recreate them," says Melissa Stramboski, owner of One Fine Day Event Planning & Design in Toronto.

Lisa Hanslip, owner of The Wedding Planner Inc., in Calgary, says she's never encountered a "good, inexpensive" videographer: "They don't have the equipment or the expertise to do a good job with the editing."

Surprisingly, Ms. Hanslip's own 2005 wedding video was botched after she booked her videographer last minute - two of her close friends couldn't attend and she decided to record the day for them. After bailing on the rehearsal, the videographer set up on the wrong side of the church: "During the vows and ring exchange, he got the back of our heads," Ms. Hanslip recalls.

Too preoccupied with filming the bride as she disembarked from the car - a moment she had no particular interest in - the videographer also missed the procession and failed to mike the opera singer and quartet.

In the end, Ms. Hanslip paid the videographer a fraction of his fee for the grainy, poorly lit raw footage. After showing it to one of the absent friends, she hid the video in a closet, "never to see the light of day." Her conclusion? "It's better to have no record of it than to have such a ridiculously bad record of it."

For Anney Woo, an inept photographer ruined the big day. The Toronto-based IT director hired her husband's college buddy for her 2007 wedding. "He did mention he was going to use a latest model-camera from Japan, but obviously he didn't know its functions well. Three weeks later, we received 200 pictures and they were all off focus," said a "heartbroken" Ms. Woo, who slashed his fee in half.

Julianne Craig, Edmonton owner of A Modern Proposal Event Planning, has seen many shoddy wedding photos: "I've seen under-exposed, overexposed and out-of-focus shots, equipment failure, improper lighting and missing key shots."

Ms. Craig said inexperienced wedding photographers "don't know which cues to look for, when a minister or officiate is speaking, to be able to get the money shot - the first kiss."

Worst off are brides who wait years for their photos, says Melissa Lui, a blogger who runs WeddingObsession.com from Edmonton. "You're keen to see your photos after your wedding. When you're waiting a long time, things happen in your life and the photos aren't as important any more," said Ms. Lui.

She says the proliferation of wedding blogs has upped the ante for wedding photographers, videographers and the newer breed of cinematographers who shape the footage.

"Blogs are posting real weddings and brides are seeing what photographers can do. There's a lot of expectation now for really good-quality photos to capture the day."

But the Internet presents its own challenges: too much choice, as well as opportunities to tweak your aptitude and experience online, says Courtney Starheim, a blogger and wedding planner in Vancouver. She says that in many cases like this, brides end up relying on family and friends for their amateur photos. "It's disheartening to think that you've paid for something professional and then you're forced to use something that you'd find on your friend's Facebook page, and that's your memory from your wedding," Ms. Starheim says.

Ultimately, she says that developing a relationship beforehand with your videographer or photographer is key: "They've become the fun, interactive part of the wedding-planning process. You meet them for coffee."

And find out if he's actually a cage fighter.

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