COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) — A letdown. A Lifetime movie. Not the words you would expect someone to use when describing their wedding day. But some North Texas brides say that's how they feel, and they all blame their wedding photographer. Now the Better Business Bureau is stepping in with its own warning about the Collin County company.
CBS11 spoke to 18 brides who said they hired Olivia Seymour Photography for their engagement and/or wedding photos. Fourteen of those brides say Seymour did not show up for their big days, and missed many engagement shoots as well.
Sarah Barrington says Seymour messaged her hours before her ceremony to say she would not be there. "'Family emergency going on, I need to be with my grandpa right now,'" she says she was told.
Seymour's contract allows her to send a substitute if she cannot make it. Barrington says her new photographer was nice but inexperienced. "She said that it was her second or third wedding that she'd done by herself, so she was going to try her best."
Later that day, Barrington and her husband, Ryan Burcham, say the substitute mentioned that she'd been hired days in advance. Text messages between Seymour and the substitute show a conversation took place eight days before the wedding. "It's very disappointing, and such a big letdown," said Barrington. "This was our special day and I barely have any pictures."
Macy Barrett hired Seymour for her wedding in February. She says on the day of the wedding a woman introduced herself as Olivia and shot the wedding; later Barrett learned that the woman with the camera was not Seymour.
"She said her name was Olivia," said Barrett. "She answered me when I called her Olivia!" When Barrett confronted Seymour about it, she was told the woman was Seymour's business partner.
Barrett says only when she threatened to sue did she receive her photos. "I thought it was a Lifetime movie," she said. "I really did. I was like, 'This is a Lifetime movie because I don't know where my pictures are, I don't know if Olivia's lying about it, I don't know anything.'"
Kaiden Songer says Seymour did shoot her engagement and wedding photos. While the first set of photos arrived, Songer says it took nearly six months - and the threat of a lawsuit - for Seymour to deliver her wedding photos.
She was not happy with the quality. "I feel like I should be grateful that I did receive them, but then I go through them and I'm just devastated," said Songer. "How do I recreate this? How do I fix these?"
It's not just brides who are upset. We found several photographers who say they stepped in for Seymour but allegedly were not paid. "She messaged me on Facebook around 9 a.m. frantically telling me she had a sick kid," said Rachael Stonecipher. "The wedding was at 2 p.m."
Stonecipher says she didn't have much wedding experience and the pay wasn't great, but she agreed to do the job. She says she submitted her own contract, which Seymour signed, along with an invoice. Seymour assured her, Stonecipher said, that she would pay half once she arrived at the venue and the other half once the photos were uploaded.
Stonecipher says she never received any money from Seymour for working the August wedding. The bride - who had already paid Seymour in full - paid more money to buy the unedited photos from Stonecipher.
In September, Seymour sent a mass email to 77 brides apologizing for her "communication not being the best," explaining that she had "fallen a little big behind" because of personal issues.
That's when the brides learned they were not alone.
They took Seymour off the email thread and began sharing their experiences. Soon they realized they were receiving the same explanations. At least three brides received the same photo of a thermometer, all on different days.
Remember Sarah Barrington's wedding day and the family emergency with the grandfather? That was the same morning another bride - who also expected Seymour at an event that day - says she received a text with the thermometer photo.
Maggie Vaught says after several delays by Seymour she finally called off the engagement shoot out of frustration. She says Seymour promised extra bridal shots at the wedding.
Even so, Vaught was skeptical that Seymour would show. CBS11 was there as Seymour called half an hour before her arrival time, saying she had been in a car crash on the way to the venue. "I'm laughing actually, because this is exactly what I thought would happen," said Vaught. "I'm so blessed to have a backup."
Vaught said while she had time to make other arrangements, she's upset about the brides who weren't as lucky. "I just want [Olivia] to understand the damage she's causing all of these brides - and the pain!" said Vaught. "I mean, this is a once in a lifetime thing."
Seymour is currently facing three civil lawsuits in Collin County from brides who say they haven't received their photos.
The day after our original report aired, Seymour's attorney contacted CBS11 with the following statement:
I represent Olivia Seymour. The allegations made against her are untrue and defamatory. Mrs. Seymour has not "scammed" anyone. As you are no doubt aware, contracts for services such as wedding photography often require deposits which are non-refundable. This is certainly the case in each of the contracts among Mrs. Seymour and her clients. Pursuant to such contracts, and as is customary in the industry, a person who decides to cancel and/or to use some other photographer does not result in the refund of a deposit. It is also typical in contracts for services, including wedding photography, that full payment of the contract price must be paid prior to the photographer having an obligation to appear and perform services. The contract provision is common because it prevents the photographer from being put in a situation in which her artistic services are provided, and the client later fails to pay for the services. It is expressly in Mrs. Seymour's contract that full payment must be made before she has an obligation to provide services. As to the "complaint" that in some instances Mrs. Seymour sent another photographer to shoot some weddings in her place, that is absolutely true, and not surprising. It is expressly set forth in the contract with each client that this can occur. It is also not un-common in the industry for such a clause to be in a wedding services contract. The contract provision protects the client from being without a photographer if something unforeseen were to prevent the primary photographer from being able to shoot the wedding. While it is true that Mrs. Seymour is behind schedule in delivering final, edited photographs to a small number of clients, it is anticipated that all of those will be finished and delivered within the next week or so. Regardless of any displeasure with, or complaint against, Mrs. Seymour, none of it justifies the serious threats, cyber stalking, and harassment of her and/or of her family or children which is occurring. It should be noted by those who have and are doing this, that their actions, messages, photographs of her children that have been surreptitiously taken and sent to her, online bullying, and otherwise, are unlawful and are being reported to law enforcement. I trust this clears up the false allegations against my client, and would encourage anyone who has made false allegations, or is considering doing so, that defamation is serious, and lawsuits for damages can be filed. Further, with respect to those that are engaging in the above referenced criminal activity, prosecution will be sought.
The Texas Professional Photographers Association says you need to do your research and check a few boxes before handing over money to a photographer.
- Meet face-to-face before the event. This will allow you to get to know the photographer and discuss styles, the venue, your shot list, etc.
- Ask: will you be the one photographing my event? If not, who are your substitutes?
- Ask for references of weddings or other events in the last four months.
Steve Kozak, the executive director of the TPPA, says if the photographer has not finished editing photos from that time period, it could be a red flag. He also suggests asking if the photographer is registered with the TPPA or a similar organization.
The BBB says brides paid Olivia Seymour Photography with apps like Zelle and Venmo. It can be difficult to dispute charges that way, so you may want to use a credit card for payment.
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