INDIANAPOLIS — Some brides and grooms across Central Indiana say they had a bad experience with their wedding officiant.
WRTV Investigates has uncovered at least 10 complaints about Indiana Wedding Design, including consumers complaining to the Better Business Bureau about not getting the services they paid for, not receiving refunds in a timely manner as well as difficulty getting a hold of the officiant.
The Better Business Bureau put out an alert about the company due to the number and pattern of unanswered complaints.
Sarah Mueller of Carmel says her wedding day was wonderful, including her ceremony officiated by Angel Bodenhamer, manager of Indiana Wedding Design.
“She was a lovely officiant,” said Mueller.
But Mueller said her wedded bliss was short-lived.
A month after her big day, Mueller tried to get a copy of her marriage license.
Mueller says she paid Indiana Wedding Design to file her marriage license as part of her package, but that didn’t happen.
“When I called the courthouse to try to say hey do you have a copy of our marriage license, they said ‘oh we never received it’,” said Mueller.
When Mueller tried to reach Angel Bodenhamer via text, Bodenhamer said she would check on it and then stopped responding to Mueller’s messages.
“I tried to text, I tried email, I tried calling, I tried voicemail,” said Mueller. “My husband and I finally got so fed up with it, we went back to the courthouse and we had to pay for another marriage license."
Mueller said the problems with her wedding officiant have taken an emotional toll.
“All the pomp and circumstance that we had is not our actual wedding date,” said Mueller. “It's still kind of a sore spot but I use it as a fun fact— the day of our wedding is not the day I'm legally married."
Mueller filed complaints against Indiana Wedding Design with the Indiana Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau.
“I don't want other people to have to deal with this frustration that I did,” said Mueller. “Because it is a day that is so important. When you pay someone to do a service you expect that it's going to be done."
Charles Westra of Lawrence also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
He paid a deposit to secure a date for Spring 2020, but when COVID-19 hit, the couple had a hard time getting a hold of Indiana Wedding Design to reschedule their wedding.
“We kept trying to get in touch with them, and then finally I grew fed up with trying to contact them,” said Westra. “I informed them if I did not hear back from them about the breaking of our contract, I was going to seek other opportunities whether it be legal or public forums."
Westra said he had to spend more money to hire a different officiant for his drive-through wedding.
His BBB complaint says Indiana Wedding Design has not refunded his money.
"To have someone who is supposed to be there to make that day special, to make it all work and then basically drag them through the mud and ruin it,” said Westra. “I just can't not let that go."
Sarah Myers of Fair Oaks Indiana filed a similar complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
She put money down for Indiana Wedding Design to officiate a small ceremony.
Myers’ complaint says Angel Bodenhamer did not show up for a pre-wedding meeting, and then didn’t respond to questions about not showing up.
Myers said she had to hire another wedding officiant.
"I set up somebody else because I knew this already wasn't looking good,” said Myers. “To this day I haven't heard from (Bodenhamer)."
Myers is seeking a refund, according to her BBB complaint.
On March 31, 2021, Indiana Wedding Design legally changed its name to Indiana Wedding Officiant, state records show.
The company used to be located in Indianapolis but now has a Crawfordsville address.
The Better Business Bureau has an alert about the company on its website, along with an F rating.
"What we look for is a pattern of complaints and that's what we saw with this particular company, that they were not coming through with what they said they were going to do,” said Tim Maniscalo, president of the BBB Serving Central Indiana. “The company didn’t answer phone calls, they didn’t answer emails, things like that. It was a variety of things that prompted us to look a little bit deeper into this.”
The BBB has 10 unanswered complaints from summer 2019 to the end of 2020 in which consumers allege the business:
- Collects down payments but does not provide services.
- Does not respond to consumer requests for updates, reschedules, or refunds in a timely manner.
- Does not issue refunds in a timely manner.
The Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to research a wedding vendor before hiring them, including checking them out at bbb.org.
"We certainly hope the company comes through whether it's providing services or the refunds -hopefully this will prompt them to do that,” said Maniscalo.
WRTV Investigates has learned Angel Bodenhamer of Crawfordsville received two paycheck protection loans totaling $41,666 from the U.S. Small Business Administration this year— one $20,833 loan was approved on March 20, 2021, and the other, also for $20,833, was approved on April 16, 2021, records show.
Records show the loans were used for payroll and to retain two positions.
WRTV Investigates contacted Angel Bodenhamer via email and text message.
“We have been in business since 2015, and have performed ceremonies for hundreds of couples, perhaps over a thousand,” read Bodenhamer’s response. “For every complaint, I can imagine that we have 50 ecstatic couples. I can't imagine any business that will not have some margin of error when that type of volume is generated."
Regarding the Better Business Bureau complaints, Bodenhamer explained why she hasn’t responded.
“They are simply a mediation source between a consumer and a business,” read Bodenhamer’s response to WRTV. “In the beginning, I did answer them, but found the process time consuming, and futile. We do respond to our Google Reviews earnestly.”
The Indiana Attorney General’s office has received four consumers complaints against Indiana Wedding Design, mostly about not getting refunds.
Records show the company didn’t respond to two of them, provided a refund for one customer so the complaint was withdrawn, and Sarah Mueller’s complaint was not resolved.
“I operate a business in a budget niche,” said Bodenhamer in a response to WRTV. “Sadly, there are many unrealistic expectations that can come from that.”
Consumers have filed three small claims lawsuits against Bodenhamer or her business.
A judge ruled in favor of Indiana Wedding Design in one case.
Two other consumers won their cases, and the courts ordered restitution -- $333 for one customer and $252 for another, court records show.
"It is a learning curve for any business owner to learn how to manage a business as opposed to work in it, and I have made mistakes in staffing, and growth, that is for sure,” said Bodenhamer in an email with WRTV. “I have decided to keep the business drawn back to primarily myself and my immediate family when in the past I have had up to 20 contractors on the schedule."
Bodenhamer is still booking weddings.
“We somehow managed to survive COVID shutdown, personal tragedies of our staff and myself, and still rebrand and try to make a comeback,” read Bodenhamer’s response to WRTV on September 8. “We have married couples this week, and have many on the books for this year, and have had no issues."
The couples in our story say they did research before hiring their officiant including reading reviews and going with vendors recommended by their wedding venue.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to protect yourself when planning a wedding:
- Research businesses before hiring them. Before you fall in love with a vendor, check its availability for your wedding date. Read reviews. Check business profiles on BBB.org. Ask the business ahead of time what their plan is for delivering their product on time. Do they have guarantees? What is guaranteed? Don't pay the entire fee up front.
- Check how long a business has been operating. Find out how many people are still using their services, in order to avoid paying a business that might close before they can provide their product or service.
- Double-check prices. If you've learned about a vendor at a bridal expo or other special events, make sure you ask if prices are the same after the event. Be careful of high-pressure sales tactics to make you commit to a product or service on the spot.
- Unexpected fees. Some caterers, hotels, or reception venues try to charge extra for “plate splitting,” “cake-cutting” or “corkage” fees, especially if you bring in a cake or liquor purchased from another source. Ask whether any fees apply beyond the cost per person, gratuities, or room rental, if applicable.
- Dresses that don’t measure up. Brides have complained to BBB about bridal shops ordering the wrong sizes and colors of gowns as well as dresses that arrive too late for timely alterations. Make sure your order specifies new merchandise, sized to fit you and your bridesmaids. Remind the shop of your schedule in advance.
- Wedding transportation problems. Complaints about limousine service include poor customer service and rigid cancellation policies. Get details in writing. Ask how the company handles problems if you aren’t satisfied and what they will charge if you need the vehicle longer on your wedding night. Don’t pay the entire amount in advance.
- Musician switch. Couples shouldn’t rely on a website, demo tape or phone conversation when hiring a band or other music service. Find out where you can hear the musicians play before you hire them. Ask who will actually perform at the reception and get a written commitment from the band or musician, including the amount of time they will play and costs to extend the time the night of the event.
- Photographer issues. A common complaint is that the photographer doesn’t show up for the wedding or fails to deliver pictures until months after the wedding. Find out when and how pictures will be delivered, whether you will have the option of getting all the images on a DVD or CD, how much time you will have to choose the pictures and whether other members of your family or wedding party will have access to the pictures.
- Floral changes. Fresh flowers are a perishable commodity, and the final bouquet or arrangements may need to change depending on what’s available on the wedding day. Make sure you spell out a minimum size or number of stems in each bouquet or arrangement. Ask how the florist will handle any last-minute substitutions and charges, especially if the value of the flowers actually used is markedly different from what you had agreed upon. Find a florist near you.
- Bridal gown preservation. Some bridal shops or other businesses sell bridal gown preservation packages, including cleaning and a box, for $250 or more. Many of these packages are no more than regular dry-cleaning and a cardboard box, which may not be acid-free. Check with a reputable cleaner on the cost of cleaning your gown after the wedding. The cleaner or another supplier may be able to sell you an acid-free box and tissue at a more reasonable price.
- Wedding memorabilia. Monogrammed napkins, decorations, swizzle sticks, pens or other souvenirs often are marketed as a way to enhance the event or remember the wedding. Resist the temptation to buy items that may be overpriced, of poor quality or that add needlessly to the total bill.
- Get it in writing. Get all sales promises in writing, including specific dates, products, prices, name brands, etc. Make sure all oral agreements are included in the written contract. Cancellation policies should also be included.
- Pay with a credit card. Avoid paying in cash up-front for services. If you pay by credit cards you have protection in the event of a problem that is not available with other forms of payment.
- Follow up. Confirm all services one or two weeks prior to the event and verify all of the details agreed upon. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises on your wedding day.
Potential Wedding Scams:
- The knock-off dress. Some shifty private sellers will tell you it’s a one-of-a-kind Vera Wang, but at a ridiculously low price, it could be a fake and definitely not worth the money you save. Always shop at reputable vendors or the designer's shop.
- The gift grab. Piling up your wedding loot on a table at the venue looks great, but it also exposes gifts to would-be thieves who may be lurking, or even working at the venue (not to mention guests you don’t know very well). It’s always best to request that gifts be purchased through your wedding registry.
- Even service providers get scammed. The wedding photographer scam has been making the rounds. A photographer is hired via email, a check for more than is required is sent and the photographer is asked to forward the money to a non-existent event planner via money transfer. The payment bounces and the photographer loses out.