Newlyweds Who Trashed Photog Over $150 Fee Ordered To Pay $1.3M In Damages

There’s a very solid lesson to be learned here about reading the fine print of your contracts: Do it. Always know what’s in there, and never get indignant if you get pulled up because you were too much of a dingus to do it.

A married couple in Texas who dug their heels in the with their wedding photographer over a minor extra fee is now staring down the barrel of a life-ruining payout, after a jury ruled that they’d conspired to defame their photographer online.

Neely and Andrew Moldovan got hitched back in October of 2014. Their photographer, Andrea Polito, ran a very successful photography business at the time and was hired to shoot their wedding.

The couple paid Polito a princely sum to shoot their wedding, but when the time came to deliver the physical prints to the couple, Polito’s studio baulked.

Not for any malicious reason, mind you. The studio merely asked the Moldovans to fill out a standard print order form and pay the accompanying US$150 printing and delivery fee; a clause that was written in their original contract, in bold, and was a standard industry measure to ensure couples don’t merely take delivery of the digital proofs and vamoose. The dine-and-dash of wedding photography, so to speak.

The problem with that, as it turns out, is that the Moldovans did not – or refused to – read that part of the contract. And instead of dealing with their complaint with the company directly, they almost immediately began conspiring to involve local media in a plan that used Neely’s platform as a beauty blogger to jumpstart a campaign of hatred aimed at ruining Polito’s business.

Local NBC news crews covered the Moldovans’ issue, showing the couple holding empty picture frames and painting the situation as a mean-spirited studio holding photos “hostage.” An online campaign spearheaded by Neely caused clients to desert the business entirely. All this despite the fact that Polito had decided to absorb the minimal cost in order to keep the client happy. The Moldovans ignored this, and pushed ahead with their media and publicity campaign against the business.

Polito, as a result, had to close down her 300,000 square foot studio. Her reputation in tatters, she subsequently burned through her entire savings and retirement fund trying to simply exist.

The business, which she spent 13 years building, went from 75 to 100 wedding clients per year, to just 2.

This past Friday, a Dallas jury determined that the Moldovans’ campaign was little more than malicious defamation, and ruled in Polito’s favour to the tune of US$1million (AUD$1.3million) in damages.

‘Course the Moldovans will likely challenge the verdict before a judge orders them to cough it up, and there’s no guarantee that Polito will ever see any of the cash.

But heed this as a warning, when you’re planning a wedding, don’t cheap out on tiny nonsense. Sometimes – only sometimes – the bride ain’t always right.