Family & Relationships These newlyweds say a videographer walked out of their wedding because they're a same-sex couple. Now, they're fighting discrimination in the wedding industry.
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This is an excerpt from Wish We Knew What To Say: Talking With Children About Race by Pragya Agarwal, a behavioral and data scientist, activist and author, published by Dialogue Books. The Wish We Knew What To Say podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts. How do we prepare our children against discrimination? This cannot just be a one-off conversation. All children can benefit from talking openly about diversity and bias. But for kids in groups more likely to be a target of discrimination, such conversations can be even more critical.
- Clarissa and Teegan Templeton said a videographer left their wedding after learning they were a same-sex couple.
- The couple got their money back, but they are now calling for a more inclusive wedding industry.
- Tolman Media, the company that hired the videographer, says it does not stand for discrimination.
Clarissa and Teegan Templeton expected their wedding to be one of the happiest days of their lives, but instead it turned out to be a day of pain and hurt.
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For the past 14 months, they have both worked two jobs to afford their dream wedding on a farm in North Carolina. Along with reserving the venue, flowers, and a photographer, they also booked a videographer through, an international company that has branches throughout the US.
However, on their wedding day, Clarissa said the videographer walked out moments before the ceremony began because they are a same-sex couple. Now, they're fighting back.
The couple says the videographer ruined their wedding day when he walked out
Clarissa Templeton told Insider she found Tolman Media on Instagram and booked their services in June 2020 for their wedding day on April 3, 2021. The Tolman Media branch in South Carolina contracted a videographer who reached out to the couple via email a month before the wedding to confirm his services and introduce himself.
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On the morning of their wedding day, Teegan arrived at the venue first and saw the videographer there. When Clarissa arrived, she said she didn't take notice of the videographer, but when the ceremony began, she couldn't spot him in the crowd as Teegan was walking down the aisle.
"I had a mini panic attack. I started to panic in my head and told myself maybe he ran to the car or had some technical difficulty," Clarissa said. "I refused to let myself focus on it anymore and put 110% of my focus on Teegan in that moment we were sharing together. I wanted to be in that moment."
After the ceremony, the couple started taking pictures outside, and Clarissa asked her photographer - who was not hired through Tolman Media - where the videographer went.
"She stood there and said, 'He left,' and I could hear the pain in her voice," Clarissa said. "I almost fell to the ground crying."
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Behind the scenes, Ashley Hansen, the Templetons' wedding planner, had called the videographer when she couldn't find him. She said during the phone call he told her he left because "of his faith and that he didn't feel comfortable because it's a same-sex marriage," Hansen said.
The videographer did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
After hearing what had happened, Clarissa and Teegan "faked it" through their wedding photos, but the rest of their day was ruined.
"I felt terrible, heartbroken, and like my heart was ripped out of my chest," Clarissa said. "We didn't even eat at our own reception. I honestly wanted the entire day to be over. I didn't want to be there anymore and neither did Teegan."
Clarissa shared their story on social media, where it has gone viral
In the aftermath of their wedding, Clarissa said she struggled to get in contact with the South Carolina branch of Tolman Media for reparations. She said she felt like the branch was dodging her phone calls.
She then decided to post her story on Facebook, writing about her experience with the videographer and the company.
A North Carolina wedding venue refused to host a same-sex couple's wedding
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"When you have a videographer bail on a wedding because of two females getting married - not just the day of but an hour before it started without a word to anyone - that is a big deal," Clarissaon April 14. "You get on it and you fix the problem as fast as you can."
Once the post went viral, Clarissa said the company refunded her in full and told her the videographer would no longer be working with Tolman Media.
No one at the South Carolina branch responded to Insider's request for comment, but Ben Hillyard, the president of Tolman Media, said the videographer's actions were "malicious" and go against everything the brand stands for.
"We at Tolman Media hold discrimination and discriminatory behavior as a very serious offense against individuals. We do not tolerate it within our organization," Hillyard told Insider. "Tolman Media is not this videographer. The opinions and beliefs of this videographer do not represent our beliefs or our track record in any way shape or form."
'What happened to us isn't rare'
Clarissa and Teegan said the issue isn't about money for them - it's about bringing attention to an exclusive industry that isn't always welcoming to LGBTQ couples. In fact, Clarissa said when she was planning her wedding, she felt the need to ask each vendor if they were comfortable working with a same-sex couple.
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"Same-sex couples should not have to ask if they are willing to do business with them," Clarissa said. "I'm not the only same-sex couple that is stressed about planning a wedding. You shouldn't have to ask that. You shouldn't have that extra stress."
Other couples have run into similar issues. Reagan Bowen and Deandra Fair, a same-sex couple in Miami, saidthis month, citing their "Christian beliefs." Just last week, McCae Henderson and Ike Edwards, from North Carolina, said a venue . The venue owner , "God says in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman."
Henderson, a lawyer,there needs to be more protection for LGBTQ Americans under the law, pointing out that there are 27 states that don't have protections.
"The difference that a lot of people like to draw, which is inaccurate, is that we shouldn't force our chosen lifestyle on people," he said. "This is not a choice. It's just like any other protected class that is protected in the constitution of the United States."
In Clarissa and Teegan's fight for changes in the wedding industry, they are starting with Tolman Media, demanding clearer policies.
Ben Hillyard told Insider the company will make changes going forward to make sure this situation doesn't happen again. For example, he said he will ensure branches around the country are fully aware of the non-discrimination policy that is already in place. He also plans to suggest that all branches use contracts that clearly state if they are working a same-sex wedding prior to the wedding date. If the contractor refuses to take the wedding, they will be fired on the spot, per company policy.
Still, Clarissa said there is a lot of work to be done.
"We are devastated over what has been done to us," Clarissa said. "The last thing we would ever want is for anyone to go through this again. It is our wish to do everything we can to ensure that no other couple has to endure the heartache we are left trying to cope with. What happened to us isn't rare."
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