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April 2013 Weddings

LONG - Surprise! Your reception venue won't be ready.

Needing to vent a little to fellow brides but also would love your suggestions on how to handle this situation.

Due to living in Iowa but having the wedding in Terre Haute, Indiana, we decided to hire a wedding planner - we'll call her "J." We have been working with her since February 2012 thru the entire planning process. At that time, she let us know she knew this developer in the area who was renovating an old bank building into a new reception venue, specifically targeted to weddings. She let us know she was the only planner that knew about the venue since it had not yet been publicly announced, and was actually a consultant for its design to really make it the dream space for both clients and vendors.

We visited TH in March and got to see the bank building. We were apprehensive of it being completed on time since it had not yet even been gutted at that point, but knew we had over a year for it to be completed, plus our planner said she wouldn't even suggest it unless she knew it would be done in time.

In May we asked for an update on the reno progress and J let us know the space would be completed by October. In June we visited TH and the bank space again and altho it had made progress, it wasn't by much. After that visit we were kind of nervous about its progress and then in July we received pricing for its rental, bar fees, etc and were even more nervous about whether it would fit into our wedding budget, so we asked for other venues and their prices, just to compare. J explained that any other place would be more expensive after figuring in all the included items with the bank space.

We received the pricing info and the contract for the bank space, but still couldn't bring ourselves to sign it yet. We asked J multiple times for pictures of the space or more details on the progress. She did not supply them but let us know that she had been hired on as general contractor and designer and for that reason, could GUARANTEE that the space would be ready by the end of November.

Based on that information, we trusted that she was right, so we sent in the contract and deposit to secure the date. We visited TH again in August and the space had been gutted, but aside from extending an exterior wall (to remove an old store front), there had been no real progress. In September we went back and forth waiting on the final number for how many people the bank space could fit with dance floor. In October I asked again about the max capacity and asked for another update of the bank space. J told me the space would fit 170 people, but never said anything about the status of the bank space.

November 5th I called J because I wanted to speak verbally about wedding stuff and especially the lack of info about the bank space. No answer, so I left a voicemail message and sent an email (which has really been our main communication) updating her with some details on my own progress, but requesting a callback.

Friday Nov 9th I receive an EMAIL explaining that J had checked out the bank space that morning and saw that demo was done but that there hadn't been much completed reconstruction. Apparently the Owner of the bank space didn't realize that the architect had to submit new plans to the State and have them approved before they could continue with the reno. Given that government stuff is typically slow, J basically told us that our reception space will NOT be completed in time and that we need to find something else ASAP. The owner will refund our money, but SURPRISE most good venues are already booked...or outside our price range...or just not what we're looking for.

I was livid. I read this email on my phone while at work and couldn't do anything about it right then - I work in a call center. As soon as I got home I called J's cell and let her know that she cannot tell me this kind of information in an email and requested a call back immediately, no matter how late. Nothing. Nothing on Saturday. This afternoon I received an email from her that she broke her phone yesterday and couldn't access her voicemail. I work in a call center for a wireless carrier so I know you can access your voicemail from a landline. Regardless, she obviously didn't listen to my voicemail beforehand because I called her on Friday!

So obviously FI and I are livid. We never had the best feeling about her from the beginning, but figured it was probably a personality difference. She was busy. She was far away and we didn't mind handling everything via email, so the general time spacing between communications was fine. Except this. If she were really the contractor for the project, she would have known a LONG time ago what the actual progress of the space was and when it would be completed. Maybe she did know and has just been holding out on us - that's how it feels and it's even worse that the blame is all being placed on the architect. Both she, as general contractor, and the owner of the space should KNOW all details of progress at all times.

We are trying to find other spaces in the area or closeby. We already have the cake, officiant, ceremony venue, photographer, DJ, hotel, Save the Dates (we were just about to send them out). We really don't want to change the date or the location, but we might have to revamp everything for this.

I know this isn't a local board, so I don't really expect suggestions for specific venues or anything, but what should we do?

We've paid her about 2/3 of her total fee with the remainder due in January. We hadn't really planned for another visit to Terre Haute til January or so -- I work Saturdays and vacation time is difficult to coordinate. FI's family lives in Indianapolis, so we will likely ask his mom and sister to visit TH with J for options. But we don't even know if it's worth keeping her at this point. We do have a contract with her and I'm not sure exactly what our options are, but we've lost every bit of trust and confidence in this person.
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Reply requested by March 23.

Re: LONG - Surprise! Your reception venue won't be ready.

  • ChiGirl2013ChiGirl2013 member
    500 Comments 5 Love Its Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited November 2012
    She lied to you.  You can't be a general contractor and not know that you have to submit for permits, copies of renovation plans, schematics, etc.  I'm not even a GC and even *I* know that.  Because she lied to you, I would tell her that she's fired and that you want a 100% refund.  When you get that money back, make sure you leave reviews on her wherever you can, including the BBB, so other brides don't end up in the same position.

    I'm SO sorry this is happening to you!  I would be livid as well!  What kind of space are you looking for?  April in Indiana isn't "prime" wedding season yet, so there's still hope.  Can you reach out to your other vendors with your story and ask them if they know of any venues that will be able to accommodate what you're looking for?  We're planning from a distance as well, and our vendors have been great in terms of telling us who is great to work with and who to stay away from. 

    *GIANT HUGS*  It will be OK in the end.  It's a little bump (well, maybe a big pothole) but it's not unfixable. 
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  • Yeah, that's what I figured. Which is why we're so mad. I've tried to be somewhat trusting throughout the whole process even prior to this last weekend, but it's been impossible. Even before this happened I knew I would never vote for her to win anything and would never leave a positive recommendation with anyone else. But I didn't expect this.

    I'm reading over our contract with her now. Apparently the last payment was due November 1st. Oops. I didn't send it and sure as hell will not be doing so now. In her contract she states that if we decide to cancel the contract, all previously paid deposits are nonrefundable, and we must request the cancellation in writing. And we agreed to that. There's no specific reference to situations of misrepresentation or false information, but I would expect everyone to agree that it is a basic understanding and expectation that the truth is told always!

    I went back thru all of our email correspondence and wrote down dates and email excerpts in a Google doc timeline for this situation. I wanted my ammo ready for the eventual conversation with her and with the local bridal association, BBB, etc.

    Thanks for your encouragement and support, and for reading my long rant! :) I'm hoping I'll feel better once I actually hear from her...and we'll see how it goes from there.
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    So ready to bring our families together and PARTY on April 13th, 2013!
    image 225 Invited
    image 53 Are ready to party!
    image 18 Will be missing out!
    image 154 Are MIA!
    Reply requested by March 23.
  • Well, I was in half of your situation recently.  I had to fire my fradulent wedding planner and demand a 100% refund even though I already paid half of her fees.  This is what I would suggest and what I actually ended up doing:

    I would start by demanding a refund.  
    Next, I would immediately start interviewing more wedding planners in TH.  Even if it's just a day-of wedding planner, he/she will have the intel you need.  
    Third, I would email all of your vendors and tell them what your WP did and highly suggest that they don't recommend her to any other brides.  You should also ask them for recommendations on new venues, like ChiGirl suggested.

    When I did this, my vendors were super helpful and while they couldn't recommend another WP since there aren't any in my wedding location(my new one is coming in from Raleigh, 2 hrs away), they were very sympathetic and they've been great about helping me out with every other recommendation.

    It sounds like your WP isn't the greatest to begin with so I would definitely start there.  My new day-of coordinator is awesome and super-responsive and even volunteered to help me save money on centerpieces by using some stuff she has, etc.  For me, it was a blessing in disguise.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!!!  *Hug*

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  • I would def. sue her for all the money you spent or her "services" and for just the incovience of having to find another space. People think suing is really hard. Its not. File a suit against her and generally you will not have to have expensive lawyers but can do arbitration where a judge asks to hear both sides and then makes a ruling.
    If I was in your case I would def. do this ... she should have to help compensate. It sounds like she misled you into this venue.

  • I would take your situation to a different wedding planner and venue (maybe even one a little out of budget) and see what they can do for you. You never know what can happen. Plus some places that aren't booked yet might give you a discount so that day is filled.

    Good luck!
  • You may be able to take her to small claims court and then you probably don't need an attorney.
  • Am so sorry you are having to deal with this when you hired her very on in the planning process. It's sad when people take advantage of the distance. Like, you said, it will be hard to trust this person to handle the most important and might I add, expensive day of your life. So, with that said, I would fire her and get your refund and look for other planners, at this point even a DOC would be helpful and hope you find a venue. I pray things work well for you guys. Hugs.
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