I wish we'd had wedding insurance: Our wedding venue stole our money and ran

June 23 2014 | Guest post by Julie Villar

From New York to Seattle, abrupt wedding venue closures happen ALL THE TIME. Here's some advice from a bride who's been there…

131208_LauraMichael_0519
Photo by Konrad Brattke from Laura & Michael's wedding in the now-closed reBar.

I started reading Offbeat Bride before I was engaged. I ooh-ed and ah-ed over the cool dresses, the amazing locations, and the paper flowers. When I eventually got engaged, I had one venue at the top of my list: Brooklyn's reBar.

It offered the non-traditional feel we were looking for and came with an amazing package. We immediately put down a deposit and made monthly payments for 18 months. We high fived over how stress-free our planning was, and that we weren't going into debt for our wedding while having an amazing wedding.

We had 17 days until our wedding, I was freaking out over whether or not my mantilla veil had been delivered, when I got a Facebook notification that someone in the reBar brides and grooms group had posted that reBar was closed. My fiance tried to assure me that it must be a mistake. Then I saw an article on Gothamist and it finally hit me.

The next 36 hours are kind of a blur… I cried, drank my weight in wine, looked at other venues, had a meltdown on the street in Brooklyn, made it on the 11 o'clock news. But most importantly, I got angry.

I started a Facebook group called "Screwed by reBar" and by the end of the week, we had 130 members. Talking to other people who were in the same situation as us helped to alleviate the worst feelings I had — that of stupidity and helplessness.

We discussed our legal options, created a community to share DIY projects. They were there for me when the obnoxious comments on a certain website known for their snark made me cry at my desk. The emotional support has been invaluable.

I was asked what I suggest for other brides to avoid the situation we're in. My advice is this: WEDDING INSURANCE.

Yes, I know how ridiculous and wedding industrial complex-approved this seems, but if we had spent that $250 eighteen months ago, we wouldn't be out $20,000 now. If you have a small budget, please: think about cutting elsewhere to make wedding insurance work.

We rebooked with a new venue, and learned how you can find support and words of kindness in the unlikeliest of places. We've been overwhelmed by the kindness and support from friends, family, and even strangers. Lucky for us, the venue owner was arrested, and while we'll probably never see any of our money again, we know that we'll get to see him in court.

Ultimately, shady vendors can steal our money — but they can't steal our wedding day.

  1. Oh wow. I am so sorry that happened to you! Good for you for doing what you could to get through. I did not have wedding insurance, but the company I work for rents space from my venue and I was here every day, so I would have known if something were up. It's sad that insurance is necessary for things like weddings, but I guess that's the thing about life. There are very few "guarantees".

    9 agree
  2. This happened to me too — i'm one of the mane jilted Seattle brides left without a venue after EM fine art took our money and ran. ( http://tribe.offbeatbride.com/journals/2014/06/sometimes-the-weddingevent-industry-can-be-the-best-thing-ever ). Sadly the Crane's have not been found — and the SPD is still insisting this is a civil, not a criminal matter. A vast majority of us have filed with the AG — but that is slow going matter.

    Good news is our credit card is returning the $, and thanks to an AMAZING local community of wedding and event vendors we were able to fine a new venue within 3 day.

    16 agree
    • I'm so sorry this happened to you as well. We're also trying to convince the Brooklyn DA's office to press charges but just like you, they're saying it's a civil matter. Jason is going to jail for sales tax evasion so at least he'll be behind bars soon enough. Honestly, not sure what the Washington AG is like but the NY AG made a big show of getting him to agree to pay the collective hroup $1 milliom.But we come after the IRS (he owes them $6 million) and they're insisting he has no assets to seize. So the agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on.
      congrats on finding a new place! Honestly, we loved the place we rebooked with and probably ended up having a better wedding than we would have had at rebar.

      1 agrees
    • Hi Kate,

      Sorry to hear about the issues with EM Fine Art. I just wanted to let you know I own a venue in the SODO area called The Piranha Shop, and we are offering specials to anyone who had their money stolen by EM. If you are still looking for a venue please feel free to contact me. mattyv@thepiranhashop.com

      9 agree
  3. Hey! I know how you feel! I booked with rebar and thankfully my wedding is in September so I've had time to re plan. It's an awful situation and really stressful, not to mention the financial part. I'm not sure if you received the email from Katherine but here's the link to file a claim to get your money back. It's worth a try.

    http://www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/bureaus/consumer_fraud/brooklyn_complaint.pdf

    Mail to:
    ATTORNEY GENERAL
    ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
    STATE OF NEW YORK
    OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
    BUREAU OF CONSUMER FRAUDS AND PROTECTION
    55 Hanson Place, Suite 1080
    Brooklyn, NY 11217-1523

    13 agree
  4. Unfortunately this does happen. A little over a year ago this happened in Las Vegas when an "all inclusive" wedding venue unexpectedly shut it's doors. Luckily for many brides and grooms we had a really strong vendor community and a lot of vendors donated their time/skills to those couples. Still, the panic and loss is something unimaginable.

    2 agree
  5. This happened to me as well!!! We booked a venue, had made payments, and two weeks before our New Year's Eve wedding and reception we found out that the venue was up for auction. I immediately called and spoke to our wedding planner at the venue and she said that if the venue sold then it would close its doors until the new owners took over. Then she went on to say that if it didn't sell they would close their doors at the end of the year. I told her that our event WAS the end of the year; her response "OH!!!" I immediately freaked out! We lucked out and found a venue that was available, and much better, so we booked it. I had to hurry up and order new invitations for our 200+ guests, and make sure that all the details were switched. All in all it was an easy switch, however, the original venue STILL has our money! Unfortunately we have ended up in a court hearing over it, but our wedding was perfect 😉

    3 agree
  6. putting aside ones sensitiveties to anything as "mainstream" as insurance, look at it from a different perspective. If you were buying a "thing" that cost 25 thousand dollars, why WOUDLN'T you buy insurance on it in case something happened? Wedding insurance protects you from vendor and venue fuckery, accidents, theft, and distruction of dresses/cakes/gifts/photos. a wedding can be a big financial investment and its better to pony up a few hundred at the beginning than leave everything to chance.

    38 agree
  7. I work as a coordinator at a venue in Delaware and THIS! not only for if your venue screws you, but for if "acts of god" should fall your way. For most venues if there is a snowstorm, hurricane, fire what have you that prevents them through no fault of their own, to cancel/postpone your event, they generally have in their contract that they don't refund the money. For instance, a lot of venues near me had to shut down when Sandy hit the coast. Insurance protects you from that too.

    8 agree
  8. Okay, now I'm scared … any recommendations for a wedding insurance company?

    I'm so sorry for you and for all the other couples who had to go through that stress! I'm glad your story has a happy ending.

    2 agree
    • Wedsafe, Wedsure, and talk to wherever you have your renter's/homeowner's/car insurance and credit cards you've used for purchases. My renter's insurance actually covers half of the things involved with the wedding–because renter's insurance is like "stuff insurance," and so for example, once the guest has brought the gift to the wedding, it's mine and qualifies under that policy. My wedding insurance also covers any major damages to the venue caused by us–for example, if we have a keg burst and ruin the wood flooring. However, each company does theirs differently, and it's worth getting in writing what's covered under any policies you already carry. It's good to do that before you sign up for any other policies anyway. Know where you have double coverage, don't pay for double coverage if you don't want to but keep in mind that it may be worth having double coverage for all sorts of reasons. For one, not having to go through multiple claims processes in case of major disasters. It is probably worth your peace of mind to have all the coverage under one policy. Understand the policies though too–I just saw that Wedsure has a deductible for EACH line item, but I didn't notice that being the case at Wedsafe, so now I need to check those policies as well to know if, for example, an earthquake happens during my wedding, am I paying nine $25 deductibles or one $100 one? And in the keg explosion example, does the renter's insurance deductible include my pre-paid security/damage deposit or is it paid by the damage deposit, then deductible, then anything left is covered? Allll good questions to ask. (My Allstate agent's receptionist loves me. I ask marginally ridiculous questions sometimes, but she says she loves learning these things and passing them onto her daughter who is 5 years younger than me.)

      4 agree
  9. I just read this post this morning, and thought what a terrible thing, how could something like that happen?? And then not 4 hours later, I got a call from our venue, and they have been shut down completely. Luckily we DID buy insurance, but it still is not going to be fun relocating to a new venue with only a few months to go, and while living in a different state than where the wedding is taking place. The irony is not lost on me.

    13 agree
  10. I have to get "Event Insurance" as per my agreement with my venue if I'm serving alcohol myself (i.e. not under the insurance of the caterer) and they recommended https://www.theeventhelper.com – would that be the same type of thing?

    I was holding off until I nailed down the caterer, but it sounds like I should jump on that.

    2 agree
    • My wedding was at my church and they also required event insurance, but it was part of the cost of renting the hall. Ultimately it was an extra $100 to the venue.
      Michigan also requires having some sort of security staff for events that serve alcohol, so I also paid 2 volunteers from the church to act security for my wedding. I honestly didn't notice them at all, though a few of my guests said that they were very nice and attentive.

    • I don't think "event insurance" is the same as "wedding insurance". Event insurance is basically covering the liability for the venue. If your party guests get too drunk and break the chandelier, then you're covered. The wedding insurance she's referring to in this post covers you if your vendor or venue flakes.

      Places like WedSafe offer both but they are distinct products.

      1 agrees
      • I'm not seeing any event insurance that doesn't cover your venue flaking, or wedding insurance that doesnt have liability coverage (but that's separate because it's typically only necessary when alcohol is being served and is still often covered by your renter/home insurance). The differences I'm seeing relate to the dress, rings, flights, and multi-location aspects that are more common with weddings than other events.

  11. I booked with a city run venue to avoid this headache, but still getting insurance cause you know how cities are. Construction, last minute changes etc. Its my dream venue so i hope they dont decide to renovate two days before. Lol

  12. Markel Wedding Insurance is a great wedding insurance option. We got our policy for only $150! (they start as low as $75)

  13. This happened to me too, luckily we were only out $600 total. Our deposit to hold the date in the place I had dreamed of getting married at since I was 16. They closed about 2 months after we booked. Never got anything back either. The property still sits empty today.

  14. I looked into wedding insurance here in The Netherlands, but was amazed to find out none of the policies covered bankruptcy of the venue. So, be careful to read the fine print… I may not cover what you hope it to.

  15. Please forgive me for reviving this old post. Is there an official OBB recommended Wedding insurance? I see that Markel is linked are they sending a finders fee to OBB? I'm totally ok with that so I can use the link to do so!

    • There's no official recommendation, but we are an affiliate of Markel's, so we do get an affiliate commission on purchases made from this post. (Note affiliate disclaimer at the top of the post — we aim to be transparent!)

      Thank you for asking. 🙂

      • there it is all gigantic when I look at it on my phone. I couldn't see it immediately when I looked at it in the browser. I'm also super freaking out trying to buy insurance now that we've been burned by a venue. Luckily no money had been exchanged but damned if I'm not super pissed.it's also midnight on the East Coast I've been up since 6 a.m..

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.