AQUILLA, Texas — Your wedding day is said to be the best day of your life, but for Jennie Edwards and JD Davis, it's turning out to be more stressful than fun.
The couple is from Quinlan but planned to get married at a venue in Aquilla in Hill County, close to where she grew up and most of her family.
"It became more important to me to have as much family there as I possibly could, so Leatherberry was it," Edwards told 25 News.
Then just before Christmas, she got an email saying Leatherberry Oaks wedding venue was closed. Owners did not respond to our request for comment, but 25 News did obtain that email where they said they were "devastated and heartbroken" to announce the closure.
"There's nothing we can do," Edwards said of the situation. "There's couples out there who spent every dollar they had and they're not going to get that money back."
The email said they knew many couples would be "desperately hoping" they could still host their event but went on to say it's not possible.
They said "We have tried everything. We have used every penny to try to remain open so there is no money to provide anyone with a refund."
"They said there's nothing we can do, we're out of money, we're not giving refunds, we're shut down. They were not answering emails or text messages or phone calls. They shut down their website. They were gone," Edwards said. "We were already around $7,000 in and there was nothing in the contract that would've protected us."
She said they signed their contract in January of 2022 and made their first payment just a week later. Now they're scrambling to find a new venue, replace invitations, and many of the amenities that were supposed to come with it.
"Our contract included wedding day coordinator services," Edwards said. "It included some other things within the venue like the photobooth, decorations and the property also included basically cabins for up to 20 or 30 people."
According to TheKnot.com, the average cost of a wedding in the US during 2022 was about $30,000. Local wedding planners say those amenities make up for a lot of the expense.
"If the venue is a venue that's like full service, provides table and linen, catering, bar service, that can be the ticket item on your budget," Caitlin Delgado, owner of CM Designs, said.
Delgado's been planning weddings in Waco for about six years. She recommends her couples find venues at least a year before the big day.
"I recommend 12 to 14 months in advance, but I also tell my couples not to just rush into booking a venue," she said.
But for couples like Edwards and Davis who lost the venue they had their hearts set on just ten months before their wedding, her advice is just to be flexible.
"There are a lot of great venues," she said. "The problem is if you're stuck on wanting it to be on a Saturday, it's not really going to be possible that there will be something on a Saturday within just a few months. But you can do a weekday wedding or a Friday wedding."
"I don't know where I'm getting married, but it's not going to be there," Edwards said.
According to Edwards, after many of the couples started reaching out to police and lawyers, the venue sent another email saying they would honor current contracts.
Edwards said the owners then continued to ignore all communication regarding those contracts.
"My husband said everything we do, I want in writing because I don't trust you guys and we're going to have a new contract so we're protected," she said. "They will not. They have blocked us and will not respond to us."
A Facebook group has been started for people who lost that venue where couples have been sharing their tips to reschedule. That group has almost 50 people in it.