Police were called to a Somerset wedding venue twice in one day this week, as angry couples confronted owners about worries over their forthcoming nuptials.
Officers attended Rookery Manor near Weston-super-Mare twice on Wednesday (September 30) after owners were approached by fuming brides and grooms.
An email was sent to all couples with weddings booked by owner Ian Clapp, explaining the venue would close on October 1 and remain shut until the end of February next year.
The email, sent late on Monday (September 28), appears to have triggered the backlash, Bristol Live reports.
The confrontations involved couples who had either had weddings due to happen during the winter or had already had them moved from this year to next year.
One bride from Bristol live-streamed herself confronting Mr Clapp, on Facebook for more than an hour as she demanded her money back and tried to cancel her wedding.
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In email, Mr Clapp outlined the changes to Government guidelines on Covid-19 and public gatherings was making planning weddings increasingly challenging.
As you will well be aware from the daily news, the situation relating to not only weddings but to restrictions on the public related to COVID 19 are very fluid,” he wrote.
“We are all living and working in very uncertain times and we appreciate it is very difficult to be making any fixed plans for your special day in advance and with certainty currently.”
Mr Clapp told all couples that all weddings were being deferred to 2021 ‘in the hope that there will be more chance of larger groups being able to attend celebrations’.
But he warned: “Of course, we cannot guarantee this and will always act responsibly by following Government guidelines as they are imposed on us.”
Mr Clapp offered any couples with weddings booked between October and March to get in touch if they still wanted to go ahead with only 15 guests, but pledged that weddings moved to 2021 would take place.
Couples with weddings being moved, or with weddings booked for next spring and summer have paid thousands of pounds in deposits and to hire Rookery Manor, and some were concerned that the venue’s future was in more danger than Mr Clapp’s email suggested.
On Wednesday, brides began arriving in the morning, as rumours of the closure began to circulate on social media.
Mr Clapp called the police at 11.15am on Wednesday morning after he was confronted by worried brides, and again when more arrived in the afternoon.
One bride was Kirsty Russell, from Hartcliffe in Bristol, who arrived with her fiance David Horton at around 5pm.
She said she spoke to staff at Rookery Manor who had been made redundant, and they had not allayed her fears for the future of the venue, and the security of the thousands of pounds she had paid for her booking.
She originally booked a wedding party for 100 people in August, but that was postponed until October. Now the news from Rookery Manor left her angry and uncertain.
“We just wanted to talk to him about what the situation was, and we were asking whether, if we opted to get married with just 15 people in October, would we get a refund for the 85 people we’d paid for who couldn’t come,” she said.
“When the reception staff said they were being made redundant there and then and the doors were shutting, we were worried even more.
“We asked Mr Clapp when we would get the refund if we went ahead with the wedding in October, and he said we’d get it on the day, but that wasn’t good enough for us.
“I was there filming and recording for about an hour and a half before I started the Facebook Live.”
Kirsty began a Facebook Live which was watched live by thousands of people, which showed her and her fiance following Mr Clapp around the venue trying to talk to him.
The police arrived and spoke to both parties, and negotiated a settlement whereby she received almost half her money back and cancelled the wedding.
A letter given to Kirsty confirming the refund contained a warning about discussing Rookery Manor on social media.
“I stayed there right until the money was in my account. I was worried I was going to end up with nothing, so at least I’ve got something back now,” she said.
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police confirmed police had been called twice on Wednesday.
“Officers attended the venue on two occasions on Wednesday at about 11.15am and 5.30pm,” he said.
“On both occasions officers encountered a dispute over a contractual issue. The parties involved were told this was a civil matter, rather than a criminal one. Officers ensured there was no breach of the peace before resuming patrol,” he added.
Mr Clapp declined to talk directly to Bristol Live on Thursday, but a spokesperson for the venue said a lot of ‘unfounded and untrue’ rumours had been circulating about the venue following the email being sent out on Monday.
They said the closure of the venue from October to the end of February was ‘absolutely temporary’, and every wedding booked would take place next year, although this depended on the Government Covid-19 guidelines.
“Obviously, like every other wedding venue in the country, we cannot make any promises, but we are absolutely not cancelling their weddings, and no weddings are cancelled,” said the spokesperson.
“We cannot do anything else in terms of planning their weddings, simply because we are all waiting to find out what happens with Covid. There are so many mixed messages going around from the Government, and who knows what 2021 will bring.
“But there’s nothing going on that people don’t know about with Rookery Manor, we’re just not working over the winter, and once it comes to March, we’ll look again at the situation with Covid, and start planning people’s weddings again.
“I really understand that people are upset, but there is nothing we can do. People can cancel their weddings here, but they won’t get another venue where they can have it – every venue is in the same situation.”