After a prominent wedding and event venue closed its doors suddenly last month — leaving brides and grooms stranded without their deposit money and without a venue for their big days — the community has come together to begin finding alternate locations.
“The community has really stepped up to the plate,” said Terri Kimble, President of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
The Chandler Chamber began helping ousted customers of Inspirador, located near Downtown Chandler at Arizona Avenue and Boston Street, find alternative locations by helping them negotiating with hotels to waive room fees and finding alternative venders willing to offer services at a discount.
“We’ve only had 34 couples reach out to us, but we’re also starting to hear success stories,” Kimble said.
Perhaps one of the lesser-known cases so far was that of Gilbert Christian High School’s prom, which was supposed to be held at Inspirador Saturday, May 4.
“A whole portion of our budget went to the venue,” said James Dragonette, a representative of Gilbert Christian Schools. “The worst case scenario was it was going to be held in the cafeteria.”
The school had paid the venue $1,400 for its 150 high school students, he said. It is the only dance that is off-campus.
“Over the weekend, we secured the Scottsdale Princess,” he said.
The Fairmont-branded resort donated the venue to the school, offering the location for free, said a grateful Dragonette.
“From our standpoint, we’re trying to help as best we can,” Kimble said of the Chamber’s involvement.
A large number of businesses that support the bridal and event industry had contacted the Chamber, hoping to reach out to those affected, she said. By using the Inspirador Facebook page to connect, the Chamber contacted both brides and venders willing to offer discounted services.
While this sort of closure does happen, it’s not that common — especially with a venue as large as this one, said JoAnn Grant, owner of Apropos Creations, a Chandler wedding coordinater.
“It happens every now and then,” she said, mentioning a location in north Phoenix that closed in January, leaving about a dozen couples without a venue.
What make it difficult are the time constraints, she said.
“Many of the brides are stuck with a date — they have family coming from out of town or the date is important because it’s personally meaningful,” Grant said.
“They thought they could check off one of the biggest tasks—the venue for the ceremony and reception,” she said.
And while she has planned weddings in as few as three months and as many as two years, it still is going to take more than 40 hours to plan a wedding, Grant said.
“The peak season here really is in the spring and fall,” she said. “For fall weddings, a lot of dates are already taken.”
However, if brides are more flexible with their dates, it’s easier to find a solution, she said.
Since hearing about the closure, Grant said she has been working pro-bono to help brides connect to alternative locations.
“Many places have been very helpful,” she said. “I know I spoke with 12 W Main (in Mesa) and they’ve already booked five.”
Some venues are offering discounts, but the venue is still going to be a big chunk of the budget, she said. Photographers, deejays, bakers and other venders are also offering discounts with the hopes that couples can put their money toward a new venue.
“Terri was able to get the ball rolling,” said Scott Bonomo, a groom who was planning a Sept. 21 wedding with his fiancé, Cheryl Landers.
Last weekend, they were able to sign a contract with Ancala Country Club in north Scottsdale, keeping their fall wedding.
“All we need is a photographer,” he said.
Bonomo and Landers began planning their wedding a year ago, Bonomo’s second and Lander’s first.
“It’s too bad it’s come to this,” he said. “There are lots of folks who can’t; we have the means to move on.”
The re-printed invitations will go out soon, he said.
But for others, there are major financial challenges after the venue closing.
“Luckily, our wedding isn’t soon, so we have time to recuperate, but it still sucks,” said Melissa Hernandez, who had planned a Feb. 22, 2014 wedding.
Hernandez and her fiancé, Kyle Fortin, both raised in Glendale, had moved to Chicago after graduating from Arizona State University, she said. They wanted to get married in Arizona, where both their families live.
After paying $6,000 to Inspirador that won’t be returned, the couple has decided to postpone the wedding until December 2014.
“The majority was coming from us,” she said. “We can’t come up with that right away.”
Even searching for a new venue means an additional $500 for plane tickets, she said. The two are planning on returning to the Valley in the next few weeks to begin picking out a location all over again.
“It was modern, it had an art gallery, which I liked a lot,” Hernandez said.
Finding something similar will be challenging, she said.
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