A Bride's Worst Nightmare
Like most brides-to-be, Elizabeth Arnold has been planning for her wedding day for a very long time.
"Honestly, probably since I was a kid, thinking of different things that I want to do for the wedding," she said.
The couple attended the Dallas Bridal Show last year, and that's where they met Patrick Carter of Lone Star Catering.
The business is based out of Plano.
The couple said they were so impressed with their booth, they scheduled a tasting.
"We went in and everything's amazing. We were like, 'wow!' Not only is this a great deal but these people can throw down cooking," said Arnold.
They signed a contract with Lone Star Catering last year, which included entrees, appetizers, desserts, servers, the works.
"We thought it was going to be perfect. We were super excited about it," Arnold said.
They made two payments totaling up $2,600. Half was paid via credit card and the other half by debit card.
They thought their wedding was set, but in February, they received a text from the caterer that would turn their plans upside down.
"They text messaged me at night to break up! They said we're closing. 'We won't be able to do your wedding,'" Arnold explained.
According to the text, the owner was ill, so they were closing effective immediately, but the couple would be getting a refund "as quickly as possible."
"Six weeks is not long enough. They started giving me suggestions on other catering companies and I'm like, 'do not give me suggestions. I do not want your advice and I do not want anything except for my money back so I can pay for a different caterer,'" she said.
When the couple gave the company a deadline to return the money, they received another text saying, "She can wait like everybody else. Threats don't scare me."
The couple said they sent a demand letter to the Plano business and even went to the police, but were told it was a civil matter.
"Weatherford Police Department suggested I contact NBC 5 news. I contacted Samantha and here we are," said Michael Rutherford.
The Company's Response
I reached out to Patrick Carter, who told me he was sick, filing for bankruptcy and didn't have any money to pay the bills.
When I asked him what other couples were supposed to do now, he said "I don't know how many couples are affected, but I'm closing…"
He then hung up the phone on me.
"He should not be able to do this to people. Period," said Arnold.
I helped the couple get half of their money back from their credit card company, but that still left them $1,300 in the hole.
Wedding Community Steps Up
So, I called the organizers of the Dallas Bridal Show who were heartbroken for this couple:
"We go over and beyond what most bridal shows do by requiring that our exhibitors have business insurance. We do not know of any other bridal show that requires this. We try to take this extra step to help the bride feel more secure about doing business with those companies in the shows. Unfortunately, no consumer trade show can guarantee that a company will stay in business. When this type of situation happens, we do not allow that company back in our shows."
The Dallas Bridal Show gathered donations from the wedding industry and presented the couple with a check for $1300 as a gesture of goodwill. They were ecstatic and thankful for their generosity,
Wedding Planning Tips
Celebrity wedding planner Donnie Brown says all couples should ask these questions before hiring a caterer:
1. Do you have the date available?
2. How many weddings do you cater per year?
3. How many weddings (other than ours) will you cater on the day of our wedding?
4. Is the deposit refundable?
5. What is the attrition schedule and liability for postponements or cancellations?
6. Is there a food and beverage minimum?
7. Have you ever worked in our venue?
8. Do you have a pre-set menu of selections or will you customize for us?
9. Will you do a personal tasting of items for us to choose from for our wedding? If so, is there a fee for this per person attending?
10. What guarantee do we have that the food will be hot and good on the date of the event?
11. Do you provide TABC certified bartenders for our event?
12. Do you require we buy alcohol from you or can we supply our own?
13. If we supply our own alcohol, can you provide all other bar related mixers, fruits, etc?
14. Do we do catering rentals through you? Or do we have to contract that through a third party?
15. How many service staff per person do you normally bring?
16. What additional fees can we expect (i.e. bartender fees, additional staff, etc)?
17. What kind of food would you suggest for our budget and guest count?
18. Are you licensed and insured to cater events in the state of Texas?
19. Do you have references?
For more wedding planning tips, click here.