Dear friends,

We hope you and your family have been staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. If you are currently in the process of re-planning your wedding, please know that Karis and I are incredibly heartbroken for you and that we’re here to support you in any way that we can. Due to the unprecedented nature of what we are collectively facing, we are fully aware that perfect solutions are few and far between; but if we can be methodical and compassionate in our approach, we are confident that we can minimize the devastating impact COVID19 has had on our families, our work and of course your wedding plans.

In response to all the frantic emails and phone calls we’ve received since the COVID19 pandemic began, we felt that now would be a great time to provide some clarity to our current clients and hopefully provide a little bit of relief as well. In our 10 years of photographing weddings, we’ve anticipated and addressed almost every single contingency one can possibly face as wedding photographers: from deaths in families, break-ups, hurricanes, and even venue closures. For the folks who remember from our initial consultation, you “may” recall that we have backup plans for every contingency, even something as catastrophic/improbable as COVID19 (it’s true, I promise).

But for those who don’t remember; here’s a refresher, just in case:

Is there really a backup plan?
Yes, there are several backup plans – the primary one being your ability to reschedule your wedding to a later date without penalties, fees or rate-hikes.

Will I lose my retainer if I reschedule?
No, you will not lose your retainer if you reschedule with us. As per our contract, we will be happy to apply your retainer to your new date, pending availability.  If you need us to hop on a call with your other vendors, I’m happy to do that too. To make things SUPER EASY for our clients who are currently considering a reschedule, we’ve prepared an availability calendar which you may access here: https://benlau.com/availability-calendar. The calendar is updated regularly as the cancellations and hold-requests come in. We want to make this process as seamless and easy as possible for all of our clients!

What if you’re unavailable for my date?
In the off chance that I’m personally unavailable for your date, Karis will be be stepping up as the lead photographer on your wedding day; as discussed during our initial consultation and detailed in the contract (as you may or may not have been aware, the “substitute photographer” has always been Karis, since Day 1). As my co-shooter of over 10 years, she brings with her a wealth of experience and a style of photography that is most closest to mine. Our clients can rest assured that they’re in capable hands; but you don’t have to take my word for it. You can check out her work here: https://heykaris.com.

And just for good measure, you can also check out our talented photographers at our associate brand here: https://pearlpaperstudio.com. Inquiries, service and post-production are still handled by me and Karis, with the only difference being the photographers who will be providing coverage on the day of. 

So what you’re saying is: Karis will shoot exactly like you?
Like fingerprints and DNA, no two photographers will ever be 100% identical. But as we’ve been co-shooting together for over 10 years, her style of photography will still most closely resemble mine, especially if compared to any of the millions of photographers out there in the universe. 

What if I’ve found another photographer?
In that case, you won’t owe us a penny more. And while we would be very sad to see you go, we understand your decision would not be a personal one, and we would sincerely wish you the best on your journey moving forward. We would simply need an email from you confirming your intention to cancel so that we have everything on file.

Can I get my retainer back?
The retainer we receive from clients is not a deposit (which is defined as a partial payment for services not yet rendered); but rather, it’s a firm reservation and guarantee clients make with us (as well as a promise that I make to them) that I will be working for them at a future date (and would therefore turn other business away because of this personal guarantee). However much we genuinely love the work that we do and the amazing folks we get to do it with, there is a tremendous amount of work that we devote to every client outside of having an actual camera in our hands. For this reason, the retainer is and always has been non-refundable. Our retainers and refund policies were both calculated and planned with all of this in mind.

Wait..you just mentioned “refund policy”. Under what circumstances would a refund be appropriate?
If your originally booked date gets re-booked with a new client, then we would be happy to issue you a refund of all monies paid – no questions asked. However during these days of COVID19, this scenario would be highly unlikely – which is why we stress the importance of finding a date that works with everyone’s availability. The good news is that I personally have a ton of availability within the next 12-18 months, along with the wide-open availability of our very capable photographers via Karis and our talented crew at Pearl Paper Studio.

Will my retainer be applied towards the new photographer if we decide to go with one of your other brands?
Yes. Absolutely. There will be some price-adjustments since everyone’s rate is a little different; Variables will include whether or not you’ve completed your engagement session, as well as the starting rate of your newly selected photographer. Feel free to ask us anything if you’d like to explore your options with us!

And below, some COVID19-specific FAQs:

What if I don’t want a Thursday wedding?
That is totally fine! Within a rolling 18 month period (which is the average length of time our average couple spends planning their wedding, if they were to get engaged today), there are 156 possible weekend dates, (234, if you include Fridays), and I’ll likely only be booked for 50ish of them. That leaves you with at least 100(ish) days to consider for your reschedule. In the interest of full transparency, and to reassure you that there are no shenanigans on my end, I’ve made my calendar public here: https://benlau.com/availability-calendar.

How soon should I be thinking about rescheduling my wedding?
I would not recommend panicking if your wedding is more than 3 months out; in fact, I wouldn’t recommend panicking at all, regardless of the circumstances :). We understand your guests may have to make travel arrangements, so I would probably say that the 2-3 month mark is when you should start considering your options.

We’re currently exploring our date options with our other vendors. Can we place soft holds on several dates?
Yes, you absolutely can. But please note: out of professional courtesy to our other clients, we won’t be able to soft-hold multiple dates indefinitely; but we’ll be happy to hold as many dates as you’d like while you sort out the details on your end. Should a new inquiry come in for one of the dates we’ve placed on soft-hold for you, you would be immediately notified and our availability would be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.

We are planning on eloping/having a small intimate wedding with under 10 people. Is this something we can possibly do?
At the time of this writing, wedding photography is neither essential work nor permissible in the states of NJ and NY. So unfortunately, under the current state of affairs, governmental regulations, and an overwhelming abundance of caution, we would not be able to photograph your intimate elopement or intimate wedding ceremony.

In the end, it goes without saying that we are all in this together. Your pain is our pain; your hardships are ours. You can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to help you where we can, and to be fully transparent and honest with you when we can’t. Just like you, we are simply trying to make the best out of an unfathomably impossible situation; and sometimes this means having difficult conversations together and moving forward with imperfect solutions if necessary. Together in good faith, we hope we’ll be able to find compromises that will disrupt the least and accomplish our original plans as closely as possible. You have our word on that.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, or if there’s anything else we can possibly do to accommodate you better. In the meantime, we wish you safety and good health, and keep on washing those hands :).

With much gratitude,

Ben & Karis

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Northern NJ, NYC documentary Wedding Photographer, Educator & All-Around Nice Guy

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