Couples miss out after photographer closes

Seven On Your Side
January 19, 2008 7:34:39 AM PST
Hundreds of brides, grooms and freelance photographers are out tens of thousands of dollars after one of New Jersey's biggest wedding photographers closed its doors. Their last hope? Tappy Phillips and Seven On Your Side.Kristin Silipena's 1st birthday is coming up, but her parents are still waiting for their wedding album.

Tappy: "So you're stuck?"
Lauren Donohue: "Yeah."
Tappy: "And you're out, what did you say?"
Lauren: "$4600."

The Donohue's paid Celebration Studios for a video and albums, but since their wedding in the summer of 2006, all they got were proofs.

"I just want my things, and I don't really know where to go from here," she said.

"The customer service has been absolutely horrible," Celebration customer Nicole O'Brien said.

O'Brien also paid Celebration Studios in full. Her wedding day was more than two years ago. She does have one parent album, but her album is AWOL.

"It's very disappointing, especially when people ask, you know?" she said. "You've been married for two years and you don't have a wedding album."

Now, more than 600 jilted brides and former employees have joined a blog to voice their complaints about Celebration Studios.

Click here to see the blog.

Seven On Your Side has received 150 complaints. And New Jersey Consumer affairs says they've gotten double that amount in the last week alone.

We went to two Celebration locations. Both were vacant, the company long gone.

The company's owner, Marc Schwartz, lives in a gated community. A guard there said Schwartz wasn't home.

According to tax records, Celebration owes more than $80,000 to the state of New Jersey and close to $400,000 to the IRS.

Celebration has shut down 10 offices in three states. According to their lawyer, the company may file for bankruptcy within the next week.

But there's no specific plan to get pictures to brides.

We do have good news for a few couples. A framer who was contracted by Celebration decided to help out.

"I haven't gotten paid, but wanted to help the couples," Jack Szura said.

Franklin Framery has four finished wedding portraits and is willing to give them to the couples, free of charge.

Seven On Your Side tracked down one couple. And we were there when Jeff and Jennifer, who were married last spring, picked up the only existing formal picture of their wedding.

If you recognize any of the three couples pictured above, or are one of the couples looking for your portrait, please contact Jack Szura at 973-662-0339.

Franklin Framery is located at 339 Franklin Avenue in Nutley, NJ 07110.

To file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, click here.

STATEMENT FROM CELEBRATION STUDIOS, INC.

The primary intent of Celebration Studios has been and remains to preserve the memories of its customers. Unforseen financial difficulties have made it impossible to continue our business operations and deliver photos and videos in a timely manner. We sincerely regret any inconvenience that this has caused. We do though want to assure our customers that to our knowledge no photos or videos have been lost or destroyed.

We had hoped to provide the digital images to customers in an orderly fashion. However, as a result of circumstances, which include the filing of litigation aimed more at obtaining media coverage than securing photos and videos for newlyweds, rumor mongering on the internet, and the threat of physical violence upon innocent parties, Celebration Studios now believes that the only effective and efficient method of accomplishing this goal is to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

We are preparing the papers necessary for such filing and expect to file them in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Newark within the next 7-10 days. Typically, all interested parties are notified within about 2 weeks after such filing. This notice will contain the name of the Court appointed Trustee and other important information. Upon the filing, the Trustee will be vested with the authority to take possession of all corporate assets and to take the necessary steps to conduct an orderly winding up of the affairs of the company.

It is our hope that everyone will cooperate with the Trustee to allow him or her to handle this in an expeditious and orderly manner. We pledge our cooperation to the Trustee as well.


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