Toronto wedding customers left in the lurch days before nuptials

Click to play video: 'Wedding venues suddenly close in Toronto '
Wedding venues suddenly close in Toronto 
RELATED: In the heart of the annual wedding season a Toronto company that operates several venues has gone into receivership. As Sean O’Shea reports, the move by creditors has left brides and grooms scrambling.  – Aug 2, 2023

They paid deposits, sent out invitations, booked every last detail in preparation for the big day.

There’s just one problem: the company that controls many Toronto social event venues is now in receivership and brides and grooms can’t host the weddings they planned.

“What we’re feeling now is shock — we just found out last night,” said Tyrelle Hunt, a family physician who is scheduled to marry her future husband at the Berkeley Fieldhouse on Aug. 12. The couple has invited 95 guests arriving from the U.S., British Columbia and various locations in Ontario.

“The tears start to well up, you have this thing to look forward to and it’s ripped out from under you,” Hunt said, speaking to Global News from Port Severn, Ont.

Click to play video: 'Wedding woes: Couples offered help after venue business collapses'
Wedding woes: Couples offered help after venue business collapses

Hunt is one of many customers facing the same predicament: the dream wedding she planned and paid for won’t go ahead as intended.

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Four companies that own and run Toronto-based Berkeley Events have been placed in court-approved receivership, a move triggered by creditors seeking to recover money they’re owed by the venue operator.

Berkeley Events currently operates the 1871 Berkeley Church, the Berkeley Fieldhouse and La Maquette, all situated in or near downtown Toronto.

Aja Spanier just attended a wedding at the Berkeley Church last Saturday.

“We had no idea (about a pending receivership). Everyone was acting normal. It went off without a hitch,” said Spanier, who was due to attend another friend’s wedding at one of the Berkeley venues later this month.

“A year of planning, all that money, all their hopes and dreams. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s devastating,” Spanier told Global News outside the church.

The receivership appeared to come as a surprise to executives at Berkeley Events, according to a post on LinkedIn.

“I was blindsided to hear about the financial issues facing our parent company which owns the operating company and event venues,” wrote Michael Sherman, vice-president of Berkeley Events and Catering.

“I share your shock and disappointment.

“I hope this city’s great venues can come together to accommodate these celebrations on short notice.”

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But couples who’ve booked weddings in August won’t likely have much luck finding comparable spaces to celebrate their scheduled nuptials. The final full month of summer is typically one of the busiest at popular event spaces in the city.

Global News attempted to reach Berkeley Events for comment but the phone line was answered by a recorded message. A reporter also asked the company’s lawyer to relay a request for comment but a call was not returned.

It isn’t known how many wedding parties are affected by the receivership but there are many, according to Facebook groups discussing Berkeley’s sudden closure.

The receiver appointed confirmed to Global News that event spaces are closed and that booked events will not go ahead.

It’s unlikely anyone who paid deposits for weddings or other scheduled social events will get any money back. The receiver acknowledged a pecking order of creditors that places banks and mortgage holders at the top of the list, along with employees who are owed wages.

Hunt says she’s sympathetic to other brides in her position.

“I feel devastated for everyone. I’m sure there are people in worse situations,” Hunt said.

In her case, this is the second attempt at a formal wedding ceremony in Toronto. Originally, there were plans for a wedding in the spring of 2020 but those were cancelled because of the pandemic.


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