Alberta couple loses $9K as dream wedding falls apart; warns of scam

WATCH ABOVE: An Airdrie couple won’t be getting their dream wedding despite paying their planner thousands of dollars. Global’s Sarah Offin reports.

CALGARY – An Airdrie couple getting married on Saturday say it’s not the wedding they planned, and is warning others after they paid a wedding planner over $9,000 just to have their dream fall through. Three other couples are sharing a similar story.

“We’re trying to be excited but we’re just so done with it now because, I mean, we’ve been through so much,” said Natasha Holzapfel.

Lance Wellman and Holzapfel met last fall and were engaged by November. They wanted a rustic wedding and found a wedding coordinator on Kijiji.

They found an ad for Annise Toleikis, who they say told them she managed the Symons Valley Ranch property on the northwest outskirts of Calgary.

“It all just came together at that point and she made it sound like it was great and she would do everything,” said Holzapfel.

The couple was asked to pay $3,500 for the first month (February) then $3,000 each month until their wedding day, for a total of$18,500. The venue, photographer, officiant and more would be secured and paid as part of the deal.

“So here we were, three months left to our wedding, and I was asking, ‘When are we going to do flowers? When are we going to do the cake?’” said Holzapfel.

Concerns came to a head in May after the couple realized only two of their vendors had been paid and reservations, including at the venue, were not secured.

They’d already paid $9,500, but discontinued payments and were told to discuss any further matters with Toleikis’ lawyer.

The lawyer, Jodi D.M. Fraser, called the matter a “contractual dispute” saying “we are prepared and ready to respond to any claim that Ms. Holzapfel chooses to file.”

“This is an unfortunate matter that has occurred between two parties regarding a contractual dispute. Our client has attempted to resolve this matter with Ms. Holzapfel on multiple occasions through various dispute resolution processes; however, Ms. Holzapfel has chosen to have the merits of this claim heard by public forum as opposed to the proper judicial processes. It is unfortunate that things have come to this point but we are prepared and ready to respond to any claim that Ms. Holzapfel chooses to file, which she has not done at this point in time to establish the truth of her allegations. While our client is limited in the response that she is able to provide at this time due to a lack of disclosure of information, we maintain the position that we have made clear to Ms. Holzapfel up until this point in time,” said the statement from Jodi D.M. Fraser, Toleikis’ Lawyer.

Global News has since spoken with three other couples in dispute with Toleikis, ranging from $3,000 paid to $9,500.

Kelsy and Justin Faryna were contacted by Symons Valley Ranch less than two months before their wedding, having paid $9,500 like Wellman and Holzapfel.

“We actually got an email from the owner of the property herself saying that Annise had been evicted and that we would no longer be able to have our wedding out there,” said Kelsy.

Justin added: “There was a point when I really didn’t think we were going to get married.”

The Wellmans said they will look into legal action after the big day on Saturday. They’ve cut back on their dream wedding to make up for the loss, and are now trying to focus on the love that brought them together.

“It’s definitely going to make us stronger in the long run, because it’s not about everything. It’s just about us,” said Wellman.

Symons Valley Ranch has since offered the Wellmans the option of having their wedding at the venue free of charge. They told Global News Toleikis continues to have a number of tentative bookings with them – but advise any couples who want to get married there to deal with them directly.

Wellman and Holzapfel have created a GoFundMe fundraising page to help them try to recoup some of the other costs, and the legal fees they’re likely to have to pay.

With files from Erika Tucker

© 2015 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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