Wedding vendors left standing at the TV altar?

  • Article by: JAMES ELI SHIFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2008 - 9:56 PM

They donated goods and services for a reality show that has yet to air; impresario says no firm date was ever set.

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DJ Chris Hammond, who owns PurEnergy, unloads his van with audio equipment for a wedding at the Radisson University Hotel.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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The plot of a new reality TV show: Apple Valley couple gets a free wedding worth $100,000 -- if they let cameras record behind-the-scenes stress and exhilaration of prepping for the big day.

The back story: Wedding vendors donate services in exchange for free publicity on prime-time Minneapolis cable-access TV show to air in May. But six months after the wedding, there's no show. The events planner behind the idea, Marisa Colby Lang, is no longer predicting when it might air.

New storyline emerges: Angry wedding vendors rise up against wedding planner, saying they got nothing for thousands of dollars of services and products they donated.

"I really believe we've been severely misled," said Chris Hammond, the DJ leading the revolt. "This has all been basically a sham. ... She used this story to hook all these nice people into this silly shenanigan."

Lang, whose Grand Gatherings event planning business is based in Savage, bristles at that description. Despite a rapid turnover of producers, the show is nearly finished, she said. It will get broadcast, as long as Hammond stops "slamming me all over town," Lang said.

"I did something really good for someone. ... Something positive is being depicted as something negative," she said.

It all started last winter, when Lang placed an ad on Craigslist, the online classified site, seeking volunteers for a reality TV show about a free big event. Kim Torgerson and Travis Herndon, working parents in a blended family with three kids, answered the ad in February. They only had $500 budgeted for a community center wedding. Kim thought the wedding-show idea sounded fun.

Lang recruited vendors for a sumptuous affair, saying she had a deal with MCN 6, the Minneapolis cable-access channel, to broadcast it in prime time. She told them her producer worked with HGTV, the big home and garden network.

That's what persuaded Tammy Smith to cart her custom photo booth 250 miles from Dilworth, Minn. Ordinarily it rents for $1,300. "I'm interested. It's national. Who wouldn't be?"

The ensuing weeks were a blur of video shoots, meetings with a life coach and an organizational consultant, bridal gown fittings and interviews. Two days before the wedding, the local Savage Pacer newspaper published a story about the show and Lang's prediction that it would air in May.

The March 15 bash at the Little Log House Pioneer Village in Hastings had more frills than the happy couple ever could have afforded. The tables were decked out in fuchsia and gold lamé. Chicken asiago dinners were served. The toddler wore a tuxedo. The DJ spun tunes for more than six hours. Finally, everyone went home.

That's when the trouble started. A few weeks later, with no word on the show's air dates, Hammond contacted Gay Jacobson, operations and program director for MCN 6. Hammond didn't like what he heard.

Jacobson had met with Lang, but there was no contract. "I know I was very clear to her that we had nothing arranged or set up," Jacobson recalled recently.

Lang said she never promised that the show would air in May. Producer after producer quit to take other jobs, but a new one is on the job and nearly finished, she said. The vendors "knew it was going to come out as quickly as it was going to come out," she said.

Lang maintains that when MCN 6 sees the show, it will be broadcast. She said not all the vendors are angry, citing Cyndi Davis, manager of Glenrose Bridal, who offered $1,740 worth of services, including rental of the bridal gown.

But it turns out Davis is plenty unhappy. "I just think this is terrible," Davis said. "All we're asking for is for her to produce what she said she would do."

Kim Torgerson-Herndon has fond memories of her lavish nuptials. But even she's not entirely content. The jeweler providing rings backed out at the last minute, so she and Travis had to make a wedding eve trip to JC Penney to buy the bands of matrimony.

The couple ended up spending at least $1,200 for their wedding, more than twice their original budget. They're happily married; as for the vendors, it's starting to sound like a divorce.

"I'm really upset, because this is my wedding day," said the bride. "I want it to be done with."

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