MORE North East couples have shared their "devastation" after their wedding plans were thrown into disarray when they were told to pay a further £10,000 or lose their venue.

Several further couples - including one from Bishop Auckland - have spoken out after luxury venue, Matfen Hall hiked up the cost of pre-arranged weddings at the weekend.

They have said their plans have been drastically changed, while one said they had experienced a number of unplanned changes to their agreement since booking last year.  

Read more: County Durham couple 'heartbroken' after being told to pay £10K MORE or lose wedding venue

The Northern Echo first revealed how an Aycliffe couple were left "heartbroken" after being told their day would not go ahead unless they paid a new quote, some £10,000 more.

Brad Saunders and Elly Devenport, both 27, said they had been left shocked after being advised their wedding no longer met the venue's new minimum spend of £20,000.

At the time, the Northumberland venue said the weddings had been agreed at a "loss-making" price while under the previous owners, and that it was no longer viable to honour them all.

But last night, The Echo was made aware of several further couples whose weddings had been thrown into turmoil after also being faced with a 50 percent hike or cancellation.

The Northern Echo: Chris Marshall, left, with partner Laura Davies Picture: CONTRIBUTORChris Marshall, left, with partner Laura Davies Picture: CONTRIBUTOR

Chris Marshall, who had been due to marry partner Laura Davies next November, said they had been left looking for a "compromise" after being faced with the difficult decision.

Mr Marshall, who lives in South Shields, said the pair could potentially lose deposits paid out to a number of suppliers if an alternative venue could not be secured on the same date.

He said: "We had booked this about a year ago - just after they were bought out. We had a look around, we'd looked at a few, and just thought it's a stunning venue. 

"I'm rarely speechless, but I thought I just don't know what to say - it was 100 percent the perfect place."

But after learning that their existing contract would no longer be honoured while on holiday with Ms Davies at the weekend, Mr Marshall said they had been left mortified at the news.

He said: "It was made worse because of the situation - you're at the other end of the country and you've been effectively told your wedding has been cancelled."

Mr Marshall, who had signed and agreed to pay around £9,000 in total, said he had no reason to believe his price would be more than doubled when making his booking.

He said despite being making the booking after the new owners took over, there had been no suggestion his wedding would not be honoured. 

He said: "Until Friday we had no inkling of any issues.

"I spent all day yesterday speaking to alternative hotels, it’s just trying to find the compromise now," he added.

The Northern Echo: Kathryn, right, and Carl Howe of Bishop Auckland Picture: CONTRIBUTORKathryn, right, and Carl Howe of Bishop Auckland Picture: CONTRIBUTOR

But for one County Durham couple, who said they had a “lucky escape,” the problems relating to the venue started before the price hike was announced.

Kathryn Howe, who is now married to husband Carl, alleged that she had been “let down” by the luxury venue after making a booking in January last year.

Alleging that the terms of her wedding had been changed, prompting her to later ask for a full refund, she said that she had been promised one thing, and then told another.

She said: “They had sent a big email to everyone saying they are refurbishing part of the hotel and I asked if I could see what it would look like.

"They said there were no pictures available, they said it's nothing major - they end up changing the whole layout and put the reception area right next to the wedding venue."

Ms Howe said she had also been told via email that part of the venue would need to be shared with hotel guests on an evening, despite being originally told the East Wing would be "exclusively" for them for the whole wedding.

She said: "We had deliberately wanted somewhere that wasn't shared, then they said we couldn't have the East Wing or the Great Hall as that would need to be changed back for hotel use during the evening."

Opting to cancel before her wedding in June as a result of the uncertainty, she added: "I just think now though, there are people that have been through all of this too and still stuck with it and kept their bookings, now to be told it’s cancelled and re-quoted a higher price.

"I feel like I’ve had a lucky escape to be honest."

The Northern Echo: Matfen Hall.

The Northern Echo was made aware of further couples, who did not want to be identified, who said they had been left counting the costs after refusing to pay the extra £10,000.

One said they had been left concerned over the costs already spent on accommodation, suppliers and transport for guests, which ran into the thousands as they claimed the venue should rethink its plan. 

They said that it was unlikely they would receive this money back as a result of their replacement venue being unavailable on the same date.

In a fresh statement last night, Matfen Hall said it "recognised" the disappointment caused after choosing to scrap the contracts previously agreed before it was taken over. 

Read more: Luxury wedding venue issues fresh statement after significant backlash for cancelled weddings

That came after the venue received significant backlash on social media, with many describing the hotel's move as "greed," something which the venue refuted.

Matfen Hall said: "Since the lifting of Covid restrictions in May, Matfen Hall has hosted 56 weddings with a further 55 planned for the remainder of this year. A further eight weddings are scheduled in the first quarter of next year.

"We have honoured these 119 weddings at prices agreed in 2019 and 2020 by the previous management. In doing so, this is coming at a cost to the hotel of over £1.2m.

"When we made that commitment, it was with the best of intentions but regrettably, it is one we can no longer continue to sustain.

"The hotel employs over 130 people and uses many local suppliers that rely on us. Our team cares passionately about our guests and ensuring they have the wedding of their dreams.

"However, it is not possible to absorb those costs indefinitely while at the same time ensuring that Matfen Hall remains a venue where people can come to relax and get married for many years into the future.

"We understand that this will be disappointing for those affected by this difficult decision, made in light of what is currently an extremely challenging time for the hospitality sector.

"The current management team took over Matfen Hall prior to the prolonged lockdowns we have since seen, and with the intention of undertaking multi-million pound refurbishments requiring a two-year closure.

"The volume of weddings that had already been booked, however, led us to reconsider closing and instead honour 119 weddings whilst absorbing the extra costs and running a loss.

"The challenge of running weddings at a loss has been further compounded by the huge labour shortages we are now seeing in the UK hospitality industry.

"At the time we made our commitment we could not foresee the huge additional strain this would put on our existing staff to handle the volume of weddings we have seen as a result of postponements and cancellations that have been brought forward.

"Every wedding is special and this is an outcome we tried our utmost to avoid. We have returned all deposits and given more than nine months’ notice to all those affected, but we recognise the disappointment this has caused."


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