Hurricane Ike, which ravaged the US Texas gulf coast earlier this year, has apparently undone dozens of wedding plans. The owners of two wedding venues, the Bella Terrazza and the Tuscany in Garden Oaks, say that they will not be able to re-open the Bella Terrazza, and it’s not clear what will happen to the Tuscany in Garden Oaks.
Instead, the owners have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early October. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows a business to “reorganise” its debts and negotiate settlements with creditors. The owners did not place wedding deposits into a trust account, which means that the business’ secured creditors have first crack at the deposited cash.
Those holding “secured” debts, like mortgages, and equipment loans, will get paid first. The couples, however, are considered “unsecured creditors” and can look forward to settlements of pennies on the dollar, if they receive anything back at all. Unsecured creditors can place a claim on whatever assets remain only after secured debts have been paid.
Couples who placed deposits of between $1,800 and $30,000 are likely out of luck. The owners have not said when or if they can return the deposits for weddings that were booked through 2009. Some couples have been able to find good deals through other local venues, some at a discount. One bride said the facility threw up a red flag when it offered her a discount on her reception if she paid in cash, so she purchased a wedding insurance policy for about $300 before putting down her deposit. The wedding insurance policy means that she’ll get all of her money back, albeit through the insurance company. That bride said a friend of hers had lost about $20,000 on a similar wedding disaster, which prompted her to seek wedding insurance for her own event.