How to spot and avoid fake wedding vendors | @offbeatbride

How to spot and avoid fake wedding vendors | @offbeatbride


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I was checking my emails before finishing for the day working as an independent bridal wear designer, when this subject line caught my eye: "A designer in Seattle is claiming your designs as hers."

As someone who is unfortunately no stranger to the odd bit of plagiarism, I followed the links with interest. What I saw even shocked me...

Under the heading "Our Blushing Brides," nearly 30 of about 40 images were from my or my clients photo shoots. The name of one of my gowns and one of my brides had been changed, and at least three other designers' works had been appropriated and included on the landing page. This designer had included a blurb about her 25 years of experience and her design process - but nearly all her design examples were images stolen from other people!

So how does this effect you?

All over the world, people like this are taking advantage of the internet to dupe potential customers. Pretty much anyone can put together a slick-looking site that only needs a few good photos to really make them look like a legitimate business.

The problem is that if you commission someone like this to make a design for you and the result doesn't live up to expectations, what recourse do you have? Yes, you can take them to court, but that doesn't solve the dress disaster that you have little time to salvage. And it won't fix your terrible wedding photos after the fact.

So what can you do to avoid the fake wedding vendors?

Fortunately, situations like the one I discovered are the exception rather than the rule - don't be put off, but do be smart and do your research. There are some fairly easy steps to gauge how genuine a creative business is and how good they actually are.


  1. Is a designer's portfolio of work consistent in style?
  2. Do they have customer reviews? Reviews with photographs are an especially good sign.
  3. Do they use social media? Most businesses do, and they may even throw in a few "behind the scenes" photos.
  4. A legitimate business may also have a section devoted to press they have received.
  5. Does their "About" section share specifics about who they are and how they evolved, or is it all a bit ambiguous?
  6. Google them. Unless they're brand new, there should be at least a few results linking to them, talking about them, or reviewing them (good and bad), etc.
  7. If you visit a designer's studio, expect to see and be able to try on a selection of their designs. Take advantage of seeing their work up close.
  8. Use a reverse image search. In Google Images, you can paste an image's link, and Google will show you all the websites that feature that image. Often you can even just right-click on an image and select "Search Google for this image." See below:

How did this checklist apply to my discovery?

In this particular case, the designer in question had one posted a reference - but no photograph of the client wearing what had been made for them. The About page talked about 25 years of pouring creative energies into every design and alteration, but no real background information to back it up. The portfolio of work did look fairly consistent, because it was mostly my work - but the odd photograph of her own was thrown in and did look out of place.

But by far the easiest way to see through this business was thanks to our hero Google Images; reverse-searching all these images revealed that they belonged to other designers!

What other wedding industries can this apply to?

Outside of the world of online markets and cheap knockoffs, I don't think this level of deception occurs very often within the wedding fashion part of the industry. But fake wedding professionals are common with photographers, florists, stationers, hair and beauty artists, and so on. Make sure to follow my checklist for all your internet-based vendors!

What can wedding vendors do about this?

This situation has really taught me that serious business owners need to protect ourselves.

While I knew about reverse-image searching, I don't do it very often. I now recommend regularly Googling your own images and taking action to get any unlawful uses removed. There's always the Cease and Desist legal letter option.

Ultimately, I felt the infringement was so bad that the best way to deal with it was via an open letter to this person on my blog with evidence of the infringement (screenshots) before they removed the images from their website. Privately asking the business to have my images removed from their site leaves them with the option to simply upload someone else's work in my place and to continue defrauding the public. As a result, that designer's site is now offline, and no one will get taken advantage of by that individual.

Wedding vendors and people shopping for vendors: How are you keeping yourselves protected from scammers online?

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