Elise Chapman, 28, Geraldton, WA
As the plane took off, I was so excited. My dream wedding was just days away! My partner Shannon, 38, had proposed in Bali a year earlier. It was so romantic. So it seemed natural that we’d return to the tropical location to tie the knot too. ‘The entire family can come for a holiday,’ I told my mum Lorraine, 59.
With demanding jobs in the mines though, Shannon and I struggled to get organised. A friend recommended a wedding planning company, Bali D’Luxe. With offices in Perth and Bali, they could take care of it all for us. So I got in touch and before long Shannon and I were back in Bali on a tour of their venues. Walking around a rural villa, we knew we’d found the perfect place.
The wedding planner was very professional. So we paid $3000 in fees and a $2500 deposit to secure the villa for five days in September 2014. It was a relief to know our wedding was in good hands. ‘It’ll be the best day of our lives,’ I beamed to Shannon.
It was a relief to know our wedding was in good hands.
Over the next few months, we transferred money for our band, photographer and videographer. I also chose a stylist to do hair and make-up. We paid for an arbour covered in pink flowers and even ordered embroidered beach towels as wedding favours for our 50 guests. All in all, we paid $25,000 to Bali D’Luxe. But a month before the wedding, I got a Facebook message from the stylist.
Are you still wanting to book me? she wrote. I haven’t had a deposit yet.
Confused, I replied confirming our booking. Then I got a similar message from the band. My heart sank. What was going on?
After chasing the planner, she promised to fix things. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and one week before the wedding, we touched down in Bali. Heading to the company’s office, we found their doors were locked.
My heart sank. What was going on?
‘We haven’t seen anyone in months,’ a neighbour told us. Frantically phoning our wedding planner, we got a call back from a man, Ryan*. ‘Your original planner had to go back to Perth, so I’ll be taking over,’ he told us. I felt uneasy about the sudden change. ‘I’m sure it will all be fine,’ Shannon reassured me.
The day before the wedding, the bridal party and my family headed to the villa. Shannon and the groomsmen would meet us at the altar. I breathed a sigh of relief when our bus transfer turned up as scheduled. I’d been worried for nothing! ‘See you tomorrow,’ I smiled, kissing Shannon.
I woke up on our big day excited for it all to begin. As the stylist did my hair, Mum and my brother Luke, 35, went to meet Ryan. But when Mum came back, she looked upset. I listened in horror as she explained nothing had been paid for except the villa. The people who were supposed to be setting up for the ceremony refused until they were paid and the band were considering cancelling. There was no photographer or videographer either.
‘It’ll be $18,000 to book everything,’ Mum said.
‘But I’m getting married in six hours!’ I cried, feeling ill. We couldn’t possibly plan our wedding in that time! ‘What’s happened to the cash we’ve paid?’ I choked.
‘But I’m getting married in six hours!’ I cried.
Ryan was in the dark, and desperately tried to sort it out. To make matters worse, I couldn’t call Shannon as his phone didn’t work abroad. After fraught negotiations, the cost was reduced to $7500. It was so much money, but we didn’t have a choice. Everyone had already flown in to see us get married!
Friends and family helped me scrape together the cash. This is a nightmare, I thought. When our guests arrived, the venue was still being decorated. I tried to plaster a smile on my face, but inside I was shattered. Walking down the aisle, it was wonderful to see Shannon. But all I could think about was our missing thousands. We hadn’t even had a chance to talk about it yet!
Somehow I managed to focus on my vows as I promised to love Shannon through good times and bad. If we can get through this, we can get through anything, I thought.
Sadly, the rest of the day was a disaster. The new photographer didn’t know what we wanted and there was a delay with the food.
‘Are you enjoying it?’ I asked Shannon.
‘No,’ he answered truthfully.
Thankfully, our family and friends said they had a great day. But I couldn’t shake the feeling we’d been cheated. Back in Australia, we discovered the company had become insolvent. Four other couples had their weddings ruined too.
Turning to Consumer Protection to investigate, in time we were awarded $20,471 in compensation. Due to the company’s financial state, we’ll face a lengthy wait before we get anything back. Losing the money was tough, but not as bad as having our day ruined.
Being married to the man of my dreams is the most important thing though. Now, we’re just focusing on a happy future together
Originally published in that's life! Issue 37, 2016.