Wedding Planner

Wedding venue blocks Tampa Bay couple’s big day without notice

An estimated 2.4 million couples are expected to wed this year. It’s the most since the 1980s according to Wedding Report, a market research company for the wedding industry.

Chris Caro and Sarah Smith are among those millions. The two fell in love with Keel Farms in Plant City as a location. In June 2021, the couple made a $1,500 deposit and signed a contract with Keel Farms for an outdoor ceremony and indoor brunch on April 3.

“It was the perfect wedding for us,” Caro said.

In January, the two were about to send out invitations to 60 guests when they contacted Keel Farms to request an arrival time for the ceremony. Two days later someone from Keel called back, Caro said. The news was not good. The only indoor space that could accommodate 60 people was under construction. They couldn’t have the wedding at Keel Farms.

“I was speechless,” Caro said.

Under the contract, Keel Farms had the right to cancel at any time. And he quickly refunded the couple’s $1,500 deposit. But the two couldn’t find another location to hold their ceremony and reception on such short notice. So Caro and Smith moved their wedding to another date, and it cost them dearly.

“Because of the price difference of the new venue, we’re only going to do a reception now, we’re not able to do a wedding ceremony anymore,” Caro said. They also lost around $500 in deposits made to their original vendors.

When contacted by ABC Action News, Keel Farms sent a email with an explanation and an apology. The Winery Production building which was once offered for weddings and private events was now used for storage.

“Thank you so much for contacting me and bringing this to my attention. I have reviewed the event file and have just phoned Mr. Chris Caro as I would like to assist him and apologize for our Winery Production building was once offered as a venue for weddings and private events, but unfortunately this space is no longer available due to the equipment and inventory now stored there. As our business has grown, we have had to invest in new equipment which is not easily transportable and we have had to stock up on glass bottles or aluminum cans which also take up a lot of our space. It is no longer possible to create a space indoors for a private event as it can no longer accommodate more than 50 guests. However, I did not realize the delay in notification or the headaches and heartaches of love that this ac Caro and we will definitely resolve this issue immediately.

Keel trusses

Keel Farms has contacted Caro who says he is asking them to pay the cost difference between his old and new site as well as lost deposits.

Stephanie Voth, a veteran wedding planner, says that in her experience, these contracts are mostly one-sided when it comes to cancellations.

“They explain very quickly what you are supposed to do as a customer. That’s what they’re going to provide, that’s the expectation,” Voth said. “But there doesn’t seem to be any repercussions for them if for some reason they can’t play that day.”

Voth suggests the couples negotiate an addendum to the contract that would compensate them if, for whatever reason, the venue isn’t available as planned.

The wedding planning site, The knot, puts the average cost of a wedding in Florida at $27,000. With the financial stakes so high, brides and grooms should consider wedding insurance. Policies start at around $125 and can be scaled to cover most goods and services should something go wrong. According to a wedding insurer, Travelers, nearly half of all claims involve issues with vendors.