It’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life, but when one of the vendors you had booked for your wedding closes due to an issue such as bankruptcy or completely disappears without notice, that special day can turn into a nightmare.
It’s a story that Emma Rockburn and her fiance Phil Dallimore are experiencing firsthand in Toronto after Berkeley Events — which operates several venues in the city — abruptly shut its doors with many couples saying they only found out the company was in receivership through a post on Facebook.
“I immediately started crying, of course,” Rockburn told Global News, “and panicking and going to a very dark place of, ‘this is a bad omen for my marriage. Is this why is this happening to me and my partner?’ And ‘oh my gosh, we’ve just lost so much money and what are we going to do?’”
Rockburn and her fiancé were set to have their wedding at Berkeley Church in September. They’re now trying to find a new venue for the same date while dealing with the stress of trying to recoup their losses.
Rockburn said the response she’s gotten from the wedding community has been a big help.
While many of the couples who had booked that venue found out about the closure through Facebook, many have also received advice on replacement venues with some businesses even reaching out to brides and grooms to offer their locations for the weddings.
Alison McGill, host of Aisle Seat Podcast and former editor-in-chief of Weddingbells magazine, says while social media is one way to find assistance, some couples may want to hire a wedding planner, who can help in many ways, including rebooking vendors if things go south.
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“If things do happen and the bottom falls out of the bucket in one or more ways during the course of your day — which it did for so many couples during COVID — these wedding planners are the heroes really of the wedding industry through COVID,” she said.
“They managed to reschedule so many wedding days for couples.”
McGill says a wedding planner also doesn’t have to be used for the whole process. In some cases, they can be hired just for the day-of. And having a person to organize things while a bride or groom focus on getting ready to walk down the aisle can be another “level of insurance” for the couple.
But a planner is not the only tool soon-to-be newlyweds can reach for when putting together the big day, McGill said. As they book vendors for their wedding cake and venue and outfits, she advises people to read through contracts so they know what happens if a cancellation were to occur, or even if a company were to go bankrupt.
“You really need to put your business head on because, you know, this is an event, an expensive event, and it’s really a kind of a business,” McGill said. “It’s a business transaction. Whether you want to think about it in that way or not.”
That’s not to say you can’t still go with vendors with whom you connect. They are the people who inspire confidence as you work to create your special day, McGill said.
“It’s great to, at your core, at least be heading into this feeling like you have a trustworthy and a solid relationship, if something comes up… this person is going to communicate with you.”
Wedding venues suddenly close in Toronto
When cancellations or other situations leave a couple in the lurch, legal considerations may also come into play.
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Alycia Rose, founder of “The Wedding Lawyer,” a firm that specializes in reviewing vendor contracts and dispute resolution, says it’s another reason why reading contracts can be crucial when planning your celebration.
According to Rose, contracts will often lay out details like cancellation clauses and payment schedules, which a lawyer can review. But she says having a wedding planner in your pocket can also be helpful.
“Better yet… someone who has knowledge of both the wedding industry and contracts in general to attempt to negotiate these contracts because they are negotiable. You can negotiate anything in the contract that you’d like,” Rose said.
When sourcing suppliers for the various aspects of your wedding, Rose also advises people to “trust your gut.”
“Trust your gut in terms of, you know, do you like these vendors? Do they have good reviews? Are they in consistent and constant communication with you,” she said. “Are they working with you to have the day of your dreams, or is it sort of more of a one-way street?”
Rose also advises people to consider options when paying suppliers. Using a credit card, for example, could offer recourse by having your bank stop payments should your vendor go out of business.
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She adds as a last-case scenario, couples should consider reaching out to a lawyer or possibly a financial agency to see what options are available around litigation and what options a couple may have as an unsecured creditor with the business that goes bankrupt.
In Rockburn’s case, it’s unlikely she or any other couples impacted by the receivership of Berkeley Events will get their money back.
The receiver in the case acknowledged to Global News that there’s a pecking order of creditors. Banks and mortgage holders at the top of the list, along with employees who are owed wages, which means couples who booked the space are likely out of luck.
Despite this, Rockburn said she’s focused on the positives that have come from losing her space.
“What I have taken away from this is that all that matters is me and my partner… and us getting married,” she said.
“I have felt so supported by my family and friends, but also by strangers and people in Toronto and people in the wedding industry who just genuinely want to help.”
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