An estimated 2.4 million couples are expected to tie the knot this year. That's the most since the ’80s according to Wedding Report, a market research firm for the wedding industry.
Chris Caro and Sarah Smith are among those millions. The two fell in love with Keel Farms in Plant City as the venue. In June 2021 the couple made a $1,500 deposit and signed a contract with Keel Farms for an outdoor ceremony and indoor brunch on April 3.
“It was the perfect wedding for us,” Caro said.
In January, the two were on the verge of mailing out invitations to 60 guests when they contacted Keel Farms to ask about an arrival time for the ceremony. Two days later someone from Keel called back, Caro said. The news wasn’t good. The only indoor space that could seat 60 guests was under construction. They couldn’t hold the wedding at Keel Farms.
“I was speechless,” Caro said.
According to the contract, Keel Farms had the right to cancel at any time. And it quickly refunded the couple’s $1,500 deposit. But the two couldn’t find another place to host their ceremony and reception on such short notice. So Caro and Smith moved their wedding to a different date, and it cost them.
“From the price difference of the new venue we are only going to be doing a reception now we are not actually able to do a wedding ceremony,” Caro said. They also lost about $500 in deposits paid to their original vendors.
When contacted by ABC Action News, Keel Farms sent an email with an explanation and apology. The Winery Production building that used to be offered for weddings and private events was now being used for storage.
“Thank you so much for contacting me and bringing this to my attention. I have reviewed the event file and just gave Mr. Chris Caro a phone call as I would love to assist him and apologize for this major inconvenience. Our Winery Production building used to be offered as a venue for weddings and private events, but unfortunately this space is no longer available due to the equipment and inventory that is now stored there. As our company has grown, we have had to invest in new equipment that isn't easily transported and we have had to stock up in glass bottles or aluminum cans that also take much of our space. It is no longer feasible to create space inside for a private event as it no longer can hold 50 plus guests. However, I did not realize the delay in notification or the headache and heartache this caused the Caro's and we will definitely fix this issue immediately.”
Keel Farms has reached out to Caro who says he is asking them to pay for the difference in costs between his old and new venue along with the lost deposits.
Veteran wedding planner Stephanie Voth says that in her experience these contracts are mostly one-sided when it comes to cancellations.
“They are very quick to lay out what you are expected to do as the customer. This is what they are going to provide, this is the expectation,” Voth said. “But there doesn't seem to be repercussions for them if for some reason they can't perform that day.”
Voth suggests couples negotiate for an addendum to the contract that would compensate them if for some reason the venue isn’t available as planned.
The wedding planning site, The Knot, puts the average cost of a Florida wedding at $27,000. With the financial stakes so high, future brides and grooms should consider wedding insurance. Policies start at around $125 dollars and can be tailored to cover most goods and services if anything goes wrong. According to one wedding insurer, Travelers, nearly half of all claims involve issues with vendors.