Three brides put down deposits with a designer for custom wedding gowns or bridesmaid's dresses. All three say it was downhill from there.
Ashley O'Dell dreams of the perfect wedding dress. She gets her inspiration thumbing through bridal magazines.
"It been very busy, and I'm either online looking at wedding blogs or I'm looking at wedding magazines," O'Dell said.
Karla Cornejo can only fantasize about the bridesmaid dresses she wanted her wedding party to wear.
"I wanted something the same color, same fabric, but that would suit their personalities; I wanted something unique," Cornejo said.
Both hired Danielle Pettee, also known as Danielle the Dressmaker, in March of last year.
Her website features her line of clothing being showcased on fashion runways. There are rave reviews about the San Francisco designer on Yelp.
O'Dell hired Pettee to design a wedding gown. Cornejo wanted her to make the brides maid dresses. Her bridesmaids flew in from as far as Dallas for the final fitting last August. But two weeks before the wedding, the dresses weren't done.
"We showed up and there were pieces of fabric on the floor and just cut up," Cornejo said.
It wasn't much better for O'Dell either. Four months after O'Dell paid the designer a deposit, the contract had yet to be signed, the fabric selected and no sketches of the dresses had been produced.
"I asked for the fabric money back and terminated or asked that we terminate our professional relationship," O'Dell said.
Joyce Scardina Becker is a wedding planner and president of Events of Distinction.
"Unfortunately, there are so many people that can go online to Yelp and give a comment and we don't know if those people are a part of the business owner," Scardina Becker said.
Two online resources she trusts are "Here Comes the Guide" and "Style Me Pretty." She thinks both do a good job vetting their recommendations.
"Most importantly, I'm going to ask for references; I want to make sure that they have happy brides, so I will ask for at minimum 10 bride's names, phone numbers and emails," Scardina Becker said.
O'Dell and Cornejo both contacted 7 On Your Side after being frustrated trying to get their deposits back.
"I had asked for the money at least, I don't know, countless times," O'Dell said.
"I didn't loan her the money, it was money I paid as a deposit to receive dresses and that wasn't fulfilled so I expected my money back," Cornejo said.
7 On Your Side called Pettee back in the fall. She backed out of an on camera interview after agreeing to do one. She told us by phone she simply doesn't have the money to pay everyone back promptly.
"She said that she didn't have the money, but the funny thing is that she went on a Vegas trip and went to New York Fashion Week," O'Dell said.
On July 30, Pettee posted on Facebook about shopping and going to a pool party in Las Vegas. On August 22, she posted, "Just booked my ticket to NYC for fashion week," which she now says was paid for by a sponsor.
She has since paid O'Dell back her $300 deposit in full after also being sued by her. Pettee says she offered to back out of the deal after she realized she didn't charge enough. O'Dell plans to get married in June wearing a gown she bought at a store.
Cornejo also ended up going to a retailer and had a beautiful Mexico wedding.
Cornejo has received $150 dollars of her $400 deposit. Pettee has accepted full responsibility for not making the dresses in time and is promising to pay her in full, as well as a third bride who is owed $200. And the dressmaker says she will no longer accept work designing anything for a wedding.