Sean and Lauren Burnetter first realized something was wrong when their wedding planner tried to get more money from them about a week before the wedding.Screenshot/CBS Chicago
As CBS Chicago reports, Sean and Lauren had gone out of their way to arrange a beautiful, catered wedding in a trendy loft space. They’d even hired a wedding planner, Tameka Jones, from Chicago’s swanky Michigan Avenue to handle the details.
The couple gave Jones $30,000 to pay the vendors. But with just under two weeks to go, the money they’d paid was suddenly not enough. In the video below, Sean told CBS Chicago they received an invoice from Jones that had been padded with things they hadn’t ordered, driving up the price:
“We already paid her about thirty grand and she asked for eighteen grand more.”
A short time after, the other shoe dropped. With only nine days left before their wedding day, Sean and Lauren received a devastating letter from their planner. Jones informed them that her event planning company, Pretty in Pink, was filing for bankruptcy.Screenshot/CBS Chicago
In other words, Jones was going out of business — and the Burnetters were out of luck. They wouldn’t be getting their money back and they had no way to pay the wedding vendors their fees. Sean told CBS Chicago the revelation was a shock:
“I just couldn’t believe it — that somebody could do this to anybody.”
Sean and Lauren are certain they were conned by Jones, and others in the family called it “theft.” Sean’s father, Bob, told CBS Chicago that he thinks Jones should be charged with a crime:
“I think the whole time she was just dragging in every bit of money she could, knowing eventually she was going to walk away with it.”
An investigation by CBS Chicago uncovered several suspicious facts about the circumstances of Jones’s bankruptcy. She has four other bankruptcy cases on record, dating back to 2008. What’s more, immediately after filing bankruptcy for Pretty in Pink, she launched a new event planning company called Outside the Box Events and Catering.
Reached for comment, Jones told CBS Chicago that her other bankruptcies were personal and not business-related. She also claimed that what happened with the Burnetter wedding wasn’t fraud. While she confessed she’d “mismanaged” and “improperly handled” the couple’s money, Jones said that she’d simply run her company badly and gone out of business.
While Jones informed the Burnetters she would be filing for bankruptcy back in October 2017, as of early January, she still hadn’t filed. The Burnetters have filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which is currently investigating the case.
Sean told CBS Chicago that he hopes Jones will return the money she took:
“I would like our money back to help us start a life together. And I want to make sure she doesn’t do this to anybody else.”
However, Jones says she can’t even pay her rent, much less reimburse the Burnetters.Screenshot/CBS Chicago
Meanwhile, the young couple was stuck, just a week before their wedding, with no way to pay their vendors and carry off the event. For a short time, it looked as though they might have to cancel. Then family stepped in to make their big day memorable.
A different venue gave the Burnetters a discount, and the family helped pay so that the wedding could go on as planned.
According to WPVI News, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends researching all the vendors you might use for your wedding and carefully reviewing the terms of the contract. Document orders and get details in writing.
The organization also suggests that paying vendors (and deposits) with a credit card gives brides and grooms the ability to dispute charges within a certain period. And a cautious couple might consider buying wedding insurance, which will cover them in case of an emergency or disaster on the big day, according to the BBB.