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Katie did take Springer to small-claims court—the first in more than a dozen such suits Springer would eventually face—and won. And Katie bought her dress again, for $100 more than she’d planned to pay the first time, from another boutique. Today, she and her husband, Anthony Havel, are happily married—and savvier about protecting themselves when making big purchases. "Had I called the Better Business Bureau, I would have seen Springer had four claims against her," she says. "And I definitely would have paid with a credit card, because then I would’ve had some protection."
This is what helped Helena and Ted Manning. For their Madison, WI, wedding, they wanted a photographer who would give them the negatives—not an easy feat, given that most wedding photographers keep them to ensure they receive the income from prints ordered. When Helena met with Casey McGovern, an established Madison photographer who agreed to hand over the negatives, she was so impressed with his professionalism that she hired him and wrote a check for $738.48, more than half of the total bill.
Their reception was held at Monona Terrace, a Madison landmark, and by all accounts, McGovern did a wonderful job. "He took extra steps to make it special," Helena remembers. "People commented on how charismatic he was. You could tell he enjoyed being there and had pride in his work."
McGovern told the Mannings he normally needed six to eight weeks to deliver the proofs, but that since their late October wedding would coincide with holiday orders, theirs would arrive a little later. So when they didn’t hear from him by Christmas, they weren’t worried. But when Helena called a week after the holidays, she learned the number was disconnected. She went to a bridal shop where she had earlier seen McGovern’s card and when she asked the shopkeeper why it was no longer there, she was told the store wasn’t allowed to discuss it. The Mannings contacted the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, who confirmed that McGovern had run into financial trouble and gone missing. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal reported that McGovern and his wife had skipped town only a month after the Mannings’ wedding and were now on a yacht somewhere in the Caribbean.
As they sorted through the paperwork needed to take legal action against McGovern, the Mannings couldn’t believe they would not have a single photo of the best day of their lives. Then a police raid on McGovern’s studio and apartment turned up 12 rolls of film in a Ziploc bag with the Mannings’ name on it. Their credit-card company refunded the $527.47 balance they’d paid McGovern 10 days before the wedding, and they used it to develop their photos. Still, the soap opera took a toll on their enthusiasm. "We developed only the four by sixes and put them in an album with clear plastic sleeves," says Helena. "We knew we were the lucky ones because we actually got our pictures, but we were too exhausted to deal with them."