Couples out thousands after Utah-based national wedding business suddenly closes

Mar 8, 2023, 8:56 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — New Year’s Eve was the perfect night for Lindsey Foreman and Justin Penn to say, “I do.”

“It was right on the banks of the Chicago River. We had fireworks behind us at midnight,” Penn said. “It was fantastic.”

The couple has all the photos and memories from their Chicago wedding, including when Justin’s kids surprised Lindsey with their very own vows.

But photos just don’t do moments like that justice.

“It was that moment at our wedding where I thought to myself, I am so glad this is on video,” Foreman said.

The now-Mr. and Mrs. Penn hired Utah-based Tolman Media for wedding videography services. Their contract shows Tolman Media Wisconsin and Chicago IL, an LLC with a business license originating in Utah, charging $1,675 for 11 hours of videography with a 10- to 12-minute highlight video and raw video files.

That LLC is one of more than a dozen registered in Utah, under the Tolman Media name. Most of the LLCs include the names of various states where Tolman Media appears to have been operating.

The company’s model is to find local photographers and videographers to contract with, who provide services to couples in the state they’re getting married in. The couples pay Tolman Media directly. In this case, the Penn’s only used Tolman for videography and hired a separate business for photography.

Lindsey and Justin Penn on their New Year’s Eve wedding day in Chicago (Photo courtesy: Enduring Moments Photography)

The Penns explained they faced struggles dealing with Tolman Media throughout the process, but the company kept telling them things were OK despite seeming disorganized.

“You’re trusting a company with the biggest day of your life,” Justin said. They were nervous, but still had faith they’d get their video.

When February began to roll around and Lindsey Penn hadn’t heard anything, she set up a meeting with their Tolman contact.

However, their contact missed the phone meeting and Penn would find out Tolman Media completely shut down.

The videographer who shot their wedding got in touch to tell them the news, and Lindsey said Tolman Media never paid him for filming their wedding. Tolman Media was supposed to edit the footage in-house, with the videographer handing off the footage.

The couple appeared to be out of luck trying to get their wedding video, with no response from the one email address Tolman Media claimed was still working. The phone numbers were all disconnected.

All the moments they were looking forward to reliving, were gone.

“I think I like went through the stages of grief,” Lindsey said. “Like, I was emotional. And then I was angry.”

‘Running away with everyone’s money’

Shannon Dance and her fiancée Annette England said they hired Tolman Media for their upcoming April wedding in California.

Their contract shows the LLC Tolman Media Empire – Los Angeles offering eight hours of photo and video coverage with 600 edited photos, a 10+ minute highlight video and raw video files for $3,046, which Dance said she paid in full between two transactions.

Dance’s contract also features Brennan Tolman’s signature — the owner of Tolman Media.

In late February, she received an email from Tolman Media explaining that the company was closing.

“Unfortunately, as of 2/15/2023, Tolman Media has shut down all management operations but will continue fulfillment operations through our talented photographers, videographers and DJs,” the email states. “You should be receiving an email connecting you to your currently assigned Tolman Media creatives. Our creatives have been clearly instructed to onboard you and treat you as if you were their personally booked client, so your wedding should go on without interruption.”

It explained that an email would stay active for 90 days in case of any issues.

Shannon Dance and Annette England (Photo courtesy: Shannon Dance)

At first, Dance wasn’t alarmed.

“We’re still going to be taken care of and there’s nothing to worry about,” Dance said, upon seeing that the email promised their photography and videography vendors would still be able to shoot their wedding. “And that was pretty much it. That’s all we heard.”

A few days later, Dance’s photographer reached out to say that she had not been paid any of the money that Dance had given to Tolman Media, and that Shannon and Annette would need to rebook the photographer and videographer at their own rates.

Dance understood the photographer needed to get paid, but the couple had not planned on paying twice over.

It also directly contradicted what Tolman Media sent to clients across the nation.

“We were just really stressed out. I was anxious about it. I cried about it. Because I was literally freaked out and was like, what are we going to do?!” Dance explained. “We just lost thousands of dollars, and we’re not going to get it back in time to pay someone new.”

The photographer and videographer were willing to work out a deal for the couple, but the couple couldn’t afford the new price. With barely a month until their wedding, Shannon had to start over to find a different team from scratch.

She couldn’t get ahold of anyone from Tolman Media to ask about a refund.

“They’re basically running away with everyone’s money,” Shannon said.

KSL TV has spoken with somewhere around a dozen other brides-to-be like Shannon and Annette, who are in a similar situation. Many sent over their contracts and payment screenshots with proof they paid Tolman Media LLCs anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, for services they won’t get unless they pay all over again.

Forcing photographers into a tough spot

Abby Yerkes and her fiancé, Eric Creech, own A&E’s Vision in Omaha, Nebraska. Abby takes photos and Eric shoots video for weddings, senior photos, couples and families.

They worked as contractors for Tolman Media, filling in spaces in their schedule and using it as a backup to get business.

The couple received an email sent to Tolman contractors, explaining the closure. It said all Tolman Media businesses in every state except for nine (Pennsylvania, North & South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, Idaho and Kansas) were shutting down. The businesses still operating, the email said, were operating as franchises and would rebrand under different names.

“With the recent recession and its impact on the economy we have reached a point in our operations where there is no cash left in the business and we are forced to close our doors,” the email read. “If you have been assigned an upcoming wedding from Tolman Media, please do your best to fulfill it.”

It tells the contractors that any brides with final payments still due, could just pay them directly, but that photographers and videographers would need to split whatever was left.

Wedding videographer Eric Creech and photographer Abby Yerkes (Photo courtesy: Abby Yerkes)

“They were basically saying that (clients) were not getting a refund,” Abby said. “And so obviously, that doesn’t — we have no way of getting that (money).”

Abby and Eric began to reach out to the 10 or so clients whose weddings they were set to work through Tolman Media to explain the situation.

While some clients only paid deposits so far, others had paid in full. It meant that Abby and Eric either had to ask for payment again or work for free.

“We’ve been trying to get in contact with anybody, like even the area manager,” she said. But like with everyone else, the company stopped responding.

A few other photographers, including some in Utah, told KSL TV they weren’t paid for past weddings either. Some say they are owed anywhere from $800 to more than $1,000 for weddings worked over the winter and last fall.

Yerkes said she and Eric have been paid for the weddings they’ve already worked, though the payment was slow and not on time.

They’ve been put in a tough spot as they work with couples on upcoming weddings the best they can, balancing how to move forward.

“There’ll be some clients that he has said they paid in full,” Abby said, of some of Eric’s clients. “And he’s being super generous and just doing it out of the kindness of his heart.”

Filing a fraud claim

Abby said a couple of their clients have filed a fraud claim, and at least one has been able to recover their money.

Justin and Lindsey are also hoping to get their money back.

They said the former Tolman videographer who shot their wedding was able to track down the footage. They’re planning to pay him directly for it, and are still working out if he’s able to edit together a highlight reel for them.

Lindsey is relieved she can still get those moments from their special day, even if she has to pay extra.

“At the end of the day, I’ll just be grateful for the files at this point,” she said.

Lindsey’s mom has filed a fraud claim in the meantime.

“My mom was able to dispute the charge on her credit card and was able to get $1,000 back,” she said. “I’m still fighting the rest.”

With one month to go until the big day, Shannon scrambled to rebook and found a photographer who could work within the couple’s new — and even slimmer — budget. They will end up paying double what they originally budgeted for.

“We did file a fraud claim with our bank, but that’s still ongoing,” she said. “They haven’t said if, what’s going to happen. They told us it could take up to four months. So, we’re kind of just sitting and waiting at this point.”

The Utah Department of Commerce could not confirm if the Utah Division of Consumer Protection has received complaints about Tolman Media or any of its LLCs, but did encourage people who believe they’re victims of fraud to file a complaint on their website consumerprotection.utah.gov or call (801) 530-6601.

For questions or complaints concerning labor and wages, the Utah Department of Commerce said consumers can email the Utah Labor Commission at laborcom@utah.gov or call (801) 530-6800.

Tolman Media did not respond to KSL TV’s multiple requests for comment, but did post this statement on their website:

To Whom It May Concern,

This is a formal notice that as of February 15, 2023, Tolman Media LLC, Tolman Media Empire LLC, and Tolman Media Dynasty LLC have officially ceased operations and been dismantled. All assets have been sold, there is no cash remaining in the business, and no further employees, members, managers, or officers active. All websites, emails, and contact information has been shut off.

During this dismantling process, we at Tolman Media HQ have worked incredibly hard to ensure that all currently booked brides are connected with their highly trained photographers and videographers. No further ads are running for Tolman Media, and no further sales will be made. All weddings that were originally booked through the Tolman Media booking service have now been transferred directly to the photographers and videographers to fulfill themselves.

Ultimately, this dismantling comes as a complete surprise. A few months ago, four licensees running their own, individual LLC entities but using the Tolman Media trademarks and name, went bankrupt. These ex-licensees owed their photographers and videographers large sums of money for work that was already done (which they never paid before shutting their doors). These four failed licensees, using the Tolman Media name, caused an influx of bad reviews, angry customers, and disgruntled creatives that posted their experience and opinions all over the internet. We were able to respond to these reviews, but all this negative publicity ultimately ended up very seriously hurting Tolman Media’s bookings during what was supposed to be its most profitable season.

It all came to a head during the weekend before Valentine’s Day, a YouTube video was posted, falsely accusing founder Brennan Tolman of taking advantage of his photographers and not paying them. Brennan called and confronted the creator of the video, explained the situation with the licensees, and that in the areas owned and managed by him, things have been run with the highest standard. Unfortunately, the YouTuber thought he had an interesting story, and even with Brennan’s multiple requests, he refused to take down the video.

Over the course of that weekend, the video blew up amongst Tolman Media’s photographers and videographers, and booked current and future clients. Even the preferred venue vendors of Tolman Media were getting hate emails for the association of our brand. Photographers quit, now thinking that they would never get paid for any upcoming jobs; current clients wanted to cancel their contracts; and ultimately, Tolman Media’s name, as well as the reputation of founder, Brennan Tolman, in the wedding industry had unfairly become severely damaged.

All of us at Tolman Media HQ are extremely saddened by this chain of events, as we have always strove to treat all of our clients, photographers, and videographers, with the utmost respect.

We are extremely saddened but are grateful that all of our booked brides will still get amazing coverage from their Tolman Media- trained photographer and videographer.

Tolman Media Shareholders

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Couples out thousands after Utah-based national wedding business suddenly closes