ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Unhappy couples across Minnesota say they’ve been cheated out of thousands of dollars and precious memories, after a wedding photography company failed to deliver promised videos and photos.
Some of the newlyweds have even won court judgments against Bella Rose Photography of St. Cloud, MN, according to records reviewed by KARE 11.
They say they hired Bella Rose after viewing breathtaking images of weddings and other events on the company’s website.
“The quality was awesome,” said Katherine Theisen of St. Paul.
“Absolutely gorgeous photos,” said Kayla Warwick of Waconia.
“I watched all these sample videos and they looked wonderful!” said Katherine Letellier of Rochester.
But they discovered looks can be deceiving.
“My sister with an iPhone could have done better,” Letellier told KARE 11 after watching the video Bella Rose shot of her wedding.
When they were married in 2014, Katherine and her husband Forest wanted more than traditional still photographs.
“I grew up watching my mom’s wedding video,” Katherine remembered. “And I really wanted that for our kids because we’re expecting a baby in July.”
So, in addition to a still photographer from another company, they hired Bella Rose to shoot video of their special day.
“I invested more money into this than I invested in the photography, the decorations, the food, everything. Because I wanted a good video!” she said.
The Letelliers paid nearly $3,000 in advance thinking they’d get two video photographers, coverage of the wedding ceremony and the reception, and a polished “cinematic feature film” with the highlights.
When we spoke to them in January, it had been more than two years and they were still waiting for what was supposed to have been a 15-30 minute highlight video.
“This is not $3,000 of video by any means,” Katherine said.
“We really only received bits and pieces of the entire wedding,” Forest explained.
“There’s no vows. There’s no exchange of rings,” Katherine added.
The couple showed KARE 11 portions of the raw and unedited video they received from Bella Rose.
“So this is the footage right before our kiss, and another guest has just stepped in front of the camera,” Katherine said.
And what about video of the same scene from the second camera they paid for?
“There’s none of that. There’s none of that,” Katherine said in frustration.
What’s more, they say the audio from the ceremony is poor, even though Forest was wearing a microphone to capture the special moment.
“You can barely make out what the priest is saying, let alone what Forest and I are saying to each other,” Katherine said.
“And we had been mic’d up for this. But they’re not using that audio,” her husband added.
“It’s like they stole from me,” Katherine said about the missing memories.
After more than a year of trying to get the “cinematic” video they’d paid for, the Letelliers took Bella Rose to court. In August, 2016, they won a $3,080 judgment against the company.
Other unhappy customers
The Letelliers are not alone in feeling cheated.
“How many of you feel like you paid Bella Rose money for something you did not receive,” reporter A. J. Lagoe asked a group of Bella Rose customers.
Everyone raised their hands, unhappy about the poor quality and missing memories.
“We’re embarrassed to show our wedding pictures,” said Kayla Warwick.
“I don’t have a single picture of me walking down the aisle with my dad,” said Kayla Disch.
On its website Bella Rose boasts its highlight videos are “so emotionally charged” and “full of excitement” that “even strangers will smile and cry.”
But some customers cry about what they are missing.
Laura Pelant says she’s missing important photos she specifically requested of her grandmother who was in failing health.
“It was the last family wedding that she was able to attend,” Pelant recalled. “It would have meant a lot.”
“You’d think after a year it wouldn’t be so emotional, but it is,” she said through tears.
Katherine and Matt Theisen say you can’t hear their wedding vows in the video they got from Bella Rose.
“The audio quality is awful,” Katherine said.
“You can’t hear each other say ‘I do’ in the wedding ceremony,” Lagoe asked.
“No. And I was mic’d,” Matt replied. “I had a mic in my pocket.” “We paid you paid you $2500 for this? It’s ridiculous,” he added.
Tired of waiting for their wedding video, Stacie Toquam and her husband went to court.
“I gave them a year,” she said. “You didn’t receive an edited video of any kind,” Lagoe asked. “No. Nothing. Just the unedited stuff,” she replied.
In September, a judge ordered Bella Rose to pay $2,765 to Stacie and Brennen Toquam.
Melanie and Mike McDonald also got a court order after they showed a judge examples of the raw wedding video they received.
One example compared the footage a friend took on a cell phone with the video Bella Rose shot of a special dance that Mike and his mother had choreographed for the reception.
The amateur video shows the dance moves Bella Rose didn’t capture.
“It was shoulder and up, is all the footage that they got,” Melanie said. “And the ceiling and floor.”
“You’d think after two years I’d be over it. But I’m not,” she said.
Bella Rose response
Bella Rose Photography is run by Jessica Tallant and her husband Jesse.
KARE 11 asked them for an interview to discuss the customer complaints and court judgments. They originally agreed, but later refused. So, last week we went to St. Cloud and tried to get answers.
“Excuse me, Jesse. A.J. Lagoe, I’m from KARE 11 News,” Lagoe said as Jesse Tallant walked to his car. “We’ve got some questions we need to ask you about Bella Rose Photography.”
“You’ve got a lot of people saying you guys are stealing away precious memories that they can’t get back,” Lagoe said to Tallant.
“I’m going to another job right now. I’m not stealing (expletive) from anybody. We got screwed over,” Tallant said.
Lagoe continued with a few more questions as Tallant got into his car. “When you take money and fail to deliver, what would you call that?” “Are you saying you’re the victim?”
Without answering, he drove away.
The following day, Bella Rose Photography changed its website, announcing that it was no longer taking new customers. “Our most sincere apologies to those we let down, please know it was not malice in intent,” it said.
When KARE 11 originally requested an interview, Bella Rose contacted the Letellier family. After more than two and a half years and a court judgment, the company finally provided an edited 15-minute wedding video.
But other customers are left wondering whether they’ll ever receive promised videos or refunds because Jesse and Jessica Tallant also recently filed for bankruptcy.