More than a year in the making, Nikki Reddy and Sagar Patel were finally just weeks away from their big day when they realized COVID-19 would require them to reschedule their wedding.
“That was our first intent. We really think the venue’s pretty. We wanted to host the wedding of our dreams at a later time, you know,” said bride Nikki Reddy.
That was around mid-March. It was a few days later when they learned Walters Wedding Estates, the owner of their venue the Olana, had canceled all weddings through the beginning of May.
That included their April 10 celebration.
In its place, they said they were offered several weekdays through the end of the year, only one of which fell on a Friday as originally planned.
The couple said booking a Friday was necessary for the religious ceremony they planned to hold there during a full week’s worth of events.
“You know, coordinating a large Indian wedding, it’s been a huge process,” said Sagar Patel.
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The doctors also worried that the window wasn’t enough time to get them through the thick of the current health crisis.
“From a medical standpoint, from a public health standpoint, we don’t feel safe having that kind of celebration this soon,” said Reddy.
That’s a familiar sentiment from half a dozen brides that reached out to NBC 5.
But according to Walters Wedding Estates owner Keith Walters, the company has reached agreements with 450 clients across its 14 North Texas venues.
“I’ve got to make a decision that’s best for the majority to ensure that we stay in business, which we will. And I get it’s an emotional thing, but if we’re looking at a half a dozen, we’re looking maybe 5% that are unhappy. But when 95% get it and are saying just thank you for making it work, we feel like we’re doing the best we can,” said Keith Walters.
The company sent a follow-up email:
“This client was offered several same day alternatives. I can confirm the client was offered several dates including weekend dates verbally by our Venue rep. This client is booked with us for a ring ceremony (non-wedding), therefore they needed a date that is the day before their wedding which makes this circumstance a little different. We are not scheduling their primary event date. Further, they limited the times available because they stated they could only get married in limited months of the year due to religious reasons. They only gave us two months that were options for them and this severely restricted the date availability due to what the venue had available for the two peak months they had to select from.”
The couple denied that they were offered weekend dates, that they restricted rescheduling to two months and that they were booking the venue for a ring ceremony.
They said the couple’s only other option is to walk, which Reddy told NBC 5 means a loss of $20,000.
According to the President and CEO of Bridal Shows Inc. Naomi Butler, Walters’ response isn’t out of line with the industry’s response as different companies handle the crisis in different ways.
“I know a lot of companies are doing month to month where it might be, we’re waiting to see what the city mandates here before we move on to the next month. Some are saying the next two or three months and some are saying to the end of the year. Some are just wide open for whatever they’ve got that they might be able to accommodate,” said Naomi Butler.
She’s also encouraging both vendors and brides to remain flexible.
But with $16,000 on the line, bride Amanda Carter said that’s tough to do.
She and her fiancé were offered eight dates for rescheduling their May 15 Wedding at the Aristide in Mansfield, the latest of which was the first weekend in September.
“I don’t think everything’s going to be open back up by July or even August. I think there’s still going to be a restriction on group sizes and we have well over 300 people who are coming,” said Carter.
Walters responded in an email:
"This client had the option to reschedule their date and if the health crisis was still happening, we would allow them to reschedule their date to a later date at that time at no additional cost."
Walters also said she told them she’d only accept a date next May.
Carter told NBC 5 she’s paid a premium for a spring date to ensure the wedding day she’d always dreamed of.
“I’m 34 years old, no kids, never been married, so I’ve waited for this,” said Carter.
Walters denied charging Carter any more for a day in the spring than they would've for a different season.
“We’ve got to bond together and give people the benefit of the doubt that we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers happy but also stay in business,” said Keith Walters.
Both couples said they’re now trying to get their money back.
Butler said some wedding insurance plans could cover their cancellations if they were purchased early enough.
She believes in response to what’s happened, contracts within the industry will change.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.