Raleigh, N.C. — Planning a wedding is stressful and expensive.
For 12 area couples, things unexpectedly got a lot more hectic when their caterer shut down. Their deposits, totaling tens of thousands of dollars, are likely gone.
"I got off the phone and I was just in tears," said Kristi Smith of Wake Forest.
When the phone rang in March, the news was devastating.
"She wanted to ask me if I was sitting," said Smith. "And I was like oh no, something's not right here."
Heather Irvin, the owner of Premiere Catering and Events in Raleigh, called to tell Kristi she was going out of business and wouldn't be catering her June wedding.
Smith says she's heard nothing but wonderful things about Irvin, that all of her vendors highly recommended her. They even met two weeks before Irvin pulled the plug, "and she seemed completely fine, everything was great, we were on track," said Smith.
Behind the scenes, things were unraveling at Premiere Catering. Kristi Smith's $8,000 deposit was gone.
Smith and her fiance, John Parr, are just one of at least 12 couples left hanging.
John and Nina Gilroy of Raleigh lost $5,000 for their daughter's wedding.
Lora Nemeth and her fiance, Nicholas Kaylor, lost $4,500. They got the news two months before their wedding.
"How are we going to make this work, financially," wondered Nemeth. "How are we going to catch up to where we should be?"
Beyond the food, Premiere Catering was also supposed to order their wedding cake and handle the flowers.
Nemeth talked with Heather Irvin. "She was like, 'I have $1,500 put aside for your floral deposit'" said Nemeth. "And I was like 'great, could you put that in the mail for us?'" said Nemeth. "She said yes, that she would," added Nemeth. "That was in March, and the check has not shown up."
As for the rest of their $4,500 dollar deposit? "I asked her to at least have the decency to tell me what she spent the money on," said Nemeth of Irvin. "She said she spent it on gas and electric bills, and stuff like that."
5 On Your Side contacted owner Heather Irvin. She told us she regrets what happened, that the company is "using all available means to address the concerns of its creditors."
She also asked her clients to bear with them a little longer as they work toward that goal.
Irvin told some of her clients she would be selling off equipment.
For now, the company's website is still up, and her Raleigh office shows little sign of trouble.
"You know, it was a nice building, it was a nice website. Never would I ever expect anything like this would ever happen," said Nemeth.
"It's a lot of money from all those brides that has gone somewhere," said Smith. "I'd love to know where that money has gone."
In an e-mail to WRAL, Irvin said she used the money for businesses expenses such as rent and overhead. She asked clients for 50 percent deposits.
5 On Your Side contacted a number of caterers and deposit amounts vary widely, though most were less than 50 percent – some only required 10 percent deposits. 5 On Your Side reporter Monica Laliberte recommends customers should negotiate the amount, and make that figure part of their selection process. Also, Laliberte says pay with a credit card, which can provide at least some protection.
The families 5 On Your Side heard from have all found new caterers and are moving forward with their weddings; some are considering legal action.