Grand Forks couple's appearance on 'Dr. Phil' show spotlights defunct wedding photo business
Bryce and Brianne O'Neill raise awareness of Glasser Image's failure to provide wedding photos, but also get the surprise of their lives, on the popular TV talk show
GRAND FORKS – On his TV daily talk show, Dr. Phil McGraw, a noted psychologist, invites viewers who have a problem they’d like help with, to contact his show.
Last fall, when Bryce and Brianne O’Neill – avid fans of the Dr. Phil show – heard that invitation, they both thought, “what if we wrote in to Dr. Phil?” Brianne said.
The Grand Forks couple is among hundreds of engaged couples who hired Glasser Images, a Bismarck business, to photograph or videotape their weddings. Glasser Images was a large operation that used about 150 subcontractors to shoot wedding events across North Dakota and in other states.
When the business folded in October, The O'Neills and other couples were told they would not receive any of their pictures or videos – nor any refund of payments they’d already made.
The O’Neills were worried about the apparent loss of photos from their wedding day, July 10, 2021, in Grand Forks. And frustrated that they, and other couples, were not getting any response, or their photos, from Glasser Images.
“We went online and we submitted something to Dr. Phil,” Brianne said. “And we thought, how crazy would that be? Maybe we could get it on TV to help, not only us, but all of the other couples, too, get our pictures back and give it national attention.”
After contacting the Dr. Phil show online, “to our surprise, they got ahold of us,” Brianne said. “They went through the whole process” of requesting copies of contracts, news articles and other information, she said. “They did a lot of research on it to make sure everything was truly what we were saying.”
The couple were invited to appear on the Dr. Phil show in March, and the episode – which captured the biggest surprise of their lives – was aired May 16.
Choosing Glasser Images
Glasser Images was well-known in the wedding photography business, Bryce O’Neill said. “We had seen them at a lot of weddings we attended.”
The O’Neills had planned the date of their wedding around when a Glasser Images photographer was available, Bryce said. “That was two years out.”
Wedding photography is “very expensive,” he said. “And it’s the one thing people really, really want.”
He and Brianne were stunned when they learned Glasser Images shut down and they would not be getting their photos or a refund of the $5,000 they had paid in advance.
“We were more shocked than anything right away,” Bryce said. “It’s one of those things that just doesn’t happen.”
At first, the O’Neills thought that, even though the business closed, they would still receive their photos, Bryce said. “I thought, a couple of weeks and we’ll get them back.” They later learned that Glasser Images subcontracted with various photographers and videographers, he said. “And they are separate from Glasser Images.”
The O’Neills also learned that, when the business closed down, Glasser Images employees simply left work and “all the pictures were dumped in one place,” without identifying information, Bryce said, so it was difficult to determine “whose pictures were whose.”
“They stole our memories from us,” Brianne said. She remembers wondering, “what if they don’t recover them and maybe they were deleted, and they’re gone.”
“You’ve got to stay positive,” Bryce remembered thinking at the time. “But you just don’t know. There was a lot of crying.”
“It’s such a terrible feeling,” he said. “This, maybe, sounds sexist, but every female wants pictures from her wedding day.”
To make matters worse, he and Brianne had told their guests to put away their cellphones, that the professional photographer would be capturing all the pictures. So they didn’t have photos of many moments – such as the bride with her parents, grandparents and bridesmaids – that others might have shot, Brianne said.
For months, the O’Neills had kept in constant touch, reaching out to Glasser Images and to the photographer who shot their wedding. The photographer, who had not backed up the wedding images, told them that his contract with Glasser Images required him to submit all his photos to that business.
The O’Neills, who only received 10 “sneak peak” photos from their wedding day, felt they had to be persistent.
“It’s scary. If you don’t stay on top of it, you’re never going to get your photos back. You think they’ll kind of forget about you,” Bryce said. “If we wouldn’t have stayed on top of it, it would’ve been years before we’d have seen, or even heard about, our photos.”
Complaint with attorney general
Those couples who felt they were scammed formed a Facebook group to share information, commiserate and discuss their options. Bryce estimates that more than a thousand couples “were stuck in this situation."
They filed a complaint with the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, which is working to untangle the mess. Brianne said she feels the attorney general’s office “is doing their best” to obtain justice for the couples.
This past spring, a federal judge in Georgia ordered Glasser Images to pay almost $1 million in a lawsuit connected to the credit card dispute involving former clients.
The O’Neills’ appearance on the Dr. Phil show has helped to raise public awareness of the problem Glasser Images created, Bryce said. “There’s only so much people can do. Now (with the Dr. Phil show) you’re getting attention from the world.”
Appearing on the Dr. Phil show was “a huge step” that he hopes will result in more couples getting their photos back, Bryce said.
The O’Neills were flown to Hollywood in March to film the show and the episode was aired on May 16. All the trip expenses were paid by the Dr. Phil show.
During filming, they were presented with a hard-cover book. When she opened it, Brianne first saw the 10 “sneak peak” photos she’d received earlier from Glasser Images. But as she kept turning the pages, she discovered the book contained all of their wedding photos. “It was a shock,” she said. “I burst into tears.”
“She was crying and I was shocked,” Bryce said. “I was shocked she was crying on national TV.”
But he was “not totally surprised” at the turn of events,” he said, because “Dr. Phil helps so many people.”
Dr. Phil and his staff had managed to secure the photos, with the help of an Atlanta-based firm called ShootProof, for the O’Neills. Dr. Phil had sworn to silence everyone working on the show to not tell the O’Neills the surprise that was in store for them.
Brianne recalled the woman who styled Brianne’s hair before the show saying, “maybe Dr. Phil will give you another wedding,” she said. “I told her, well, that would be nice, but we just want our pictures.”