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March 17, 2013
A few years ago, when first my son and then my daughter got married within a year, I found myself on the front lines of wedding planning. Both events turned out to be magical affairs, but not before I got plenty of panicked phone calls from the about-to-be-newlyweds during the months leading up to the big days.
I'm sure none of those calls compared to the ones placed by Tony Bermani and fiancé Kimberly Denya when they learned that La Renaissance, the East Windsor facility where they were planning to hold their wedding reception on April 27, had closed unexpectedly.
"Stressful" is an understatement in this situation.
"We found out less than 60 days before our wedding," says Bermani. "All of our invitations were out, our info cards, our transportation planned, everything. We couldn't believe it."
The couple immediately started calling other venues and, luckily, managed to find one that had their date available. They rebooked at La Notte, also in East Windsor, and notified all 150 guests and other wedding service providers of the change in plans.
The $4,000 deposit the couple paid to La Renaissance is another story.
"We're working with the state attorney general's office and our credit card company, but I don't know if we'll ever get it back," says Bermani.
Wedding insurance would have covered that loss, but Bermani says in the early stages of planning, when his fiance suggested purchasing a policy, he just laughed.
"I said, 'Oh, come on,' we don't need that," says Bermani. "As they say, 'Hindsight is 20/20. I don't ever plan on getting married again, but if I did, I'd buy the policy."
For those lucky people who say "I do" to wedding insurance, a situation like this one can be easier to deal with. Premiums for policies start at under $200 and in most cases, the one-time cost covers deposits lost when venues close, or when disasters, such as extreme weather, force a change in plans.
According to Travelers Insurance Company, which offers wedding insurance through a website (www.protectmywedding.com), venue/vendor problems account for close to half of all claims.
"People know that with the economy the way it is, businesses can be affected," says Travelers representative Gary Griffin. "Because of that, more couples are purchasing coverage."
Regardless of whether you have wedding insurance, there are steps to take if your venue closes unexpectedly.
>> Try to reach someone at the facility to request return of your deposit and call the state attorney general's office and department of consumer protection to inform them of the situation.
>> If you paid by credit card, you may have more protection. Notify the credit card company as soon as possible, explain the situation and ask to have charges canceled.
>> Next, call any other wedding services providers you've contracted with, such as DJs, florists, photographers, limo companies, bakeries, and let them know what's happened. Ask if they can suggest other venues; if they have flexibility with dates in case you have to re-schedule and if your deposit can be returned if they don't.
Melissa Slater, wedding coordinator at the Aqua Turf Club in the Plantsville section of Southington, says she's gotten a number of calls from people who had events scheduled at La Renaissance, including weddings and high school proms.
"It's a horrific situation," says Slater. "My heart goes out to anyone who has to deal with something like this."
When calls come in says Slater, the first thing she does is grab her calendar.
"You hope you have the date open," she says. "If not, you do your best to help the couple work something out. You call other facilities. The wedding services community is small and tight knit and most business will do whatever they can to help people caught in these situations."
Lorena Chimirri, wedding coordinator for Chimirri's Bakery & Pastry Shop in Wethersfield, which provided wedding cakes for La Renaissance, says they had no idea that there were problems until they started getting frantic phone calls from brides.
"Some of them, with weddings scheduled for April, were hysterical," says Chimirri.
The bakery is working with customers to reschedule for different dates, as well as offering discounts on cakes for those brides and grooms displaced by La Renaissance's closing.
While there's no absolute way to predict a business closing, Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen offers the following advice to brides and groom who are in the beginning stages wedding planning.
>> Do your research before signing a contract with a venue. Check on how long have they've been in business and do an Internet search to check for news reports and online reviews. Do they indicate any problems, such as with the quality of service or food or condition of the premises?
>> Check with the BBB, the attorney general's office and the dysyr Department of Consumer Protection to see if anyone has filed a complaint about the venue.
>> Pay the deposit by credit card if at all possible. If something happens with the venue, you can try to get a chargeback through your credit card company.
>> Familiarize yourself with the venue's cancellation policy, and ask questions. For example, will the venue refund your deposit if you have to cancel? Will they offer you a refund, but only if they are able to find another booking for the same date and time?
>> Consider whether to purchase event cancellation insurance. Check with the venue, or with your insurance agent or carrier to see what coverage might be available.
Editor's note: This story has been edited from an earlier version to correct the spelling of Gary Griffin's name.
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant