Bride-to-be left in lurch after Northern Ireland wedding venue hotel closes without notice
A bride-to-be has spoken of her devastation at being left in the lurch - and thousands of pounds out of pocket - following the sudden closure of a popular wedding venue.
The Balmoral Hotel in Warrenpoint shut without warning last month, six months after it was taken over by new management, dashing the wedding day dreams of more than 20 couples.
It is understood that before March this year the venue had been booked for 24 wedding receptions, but now those affected have been left scrambling to make alternative arrangements at short notice.
Waitress Judy Campbell (35) and fiance Adam Wallace (33), a businessman from Markethill, had paid a deposit of £1,000 in March when they booked The Balmoral for their big day on December 7 this year.
"I only found out what had happened when my fiance's sister called me to say she'd heard it had closed down," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I didn't believe it. I thought there had obviously been some mistake so I started phoning but the line was dead.
"The hotel had been taken over by new management but I'd met the new owners and I'd been told everything was okay.
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"I'd even brought the woman in charge of the wedding decorations with me so she could see the venue and see where things were going to be placed.
"It was all as it was meant to be as far as I was concerned and we exchanged a few emails, right up to a fortnight before this all happened."
Judy said she called the previous owner, to whom she had paid the original deposit, but she was told all the documents were with his solicitor.
"My primary focus had to be the wedding, which is in seven weeks' time, so I spent the next 24 hours frantically trying to find an alternative venue," she said.
"It wasn't easy. Thankfully the Kilmorey Arms in Kilkeel was able to help us out but I had to move the date to December 6, a day earlier, and that meant we lost the photographer.
"We had to get another photographer to step in and help us. We lost the deposit for our original photographer booking and we had to pay a fresh deposit of £500."
She added: "We had everything booked 18 months ago so this was our worst nightmare. We went from being shocked and disappointed to feeling disgusted, to be honest."
Apart from "losing £1,500 of our hard-earned cash", Judy said the "hardest thing to take" was the lack of communication about the hotel closure, which was reported by the Newry Reporter.
"We've been told absolutely nothing," she said.
"We know that over 20 couples have been affected... we've all been left in the lurch and this was supposed to be one of the best days of all our lives."
Judy and Adam now have to postpone their "very special" honeymoon in New York until next year.
"We've had to put that on the back-burner because we've had to dip into our savings to sort all this out," she said, adding that they will bring their children Tommy (13) and Ruby Sue (6) with them.
"Tommy is also going to have to share his 14th birthday with our wedding day now that it's been moved to December 6."
Newry painter and decorator Jamie McEvoy (27) and his partner Deborah Torrens (26), a childcare assistant, have already paid £1,980 to The Balmoral for their wedding on August 29, 2020.
"I was working in Kilkeel when someone told me the hotel was shut so I just packed everything up and drove straight there," he said.
"It was closed and when I asked someone about it I was told that it had been closed for a week. That's how I found out. Then I had to tell Deborah and she was heartbroken."
The couple, who have a two-year-old son Logan, are in the process of buying a house so Jamie said the loss of almost £2,000 is a devastating blow.
"The Bank in Newry has stepped in to help us out with the wedding reception, otherwise I don't know what we would have done," he said.
"We really needed the money that we've lost for good. I'm working every hour under the sun to get money back together."
He added: "We'll not be going anywhere on honeymoon now. It's not going to happen because of this. It's some predicament to be in."
In a statement the company that took over the management of The Balmoral Hotel from March to September this year said: "It is very sad news, however, we were not in receipt of any money from previous management who couples had paid up to weeks before we took over."
The management prior to that said "no comment" when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph and asked about the couples who have lost both their wedding venue and their deposits.