Wedding bells turn to wedding troubles during COVID-19

Couple forced to cancel, didn't receive full refund
Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 15:21:33-04

CITY OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — A local couple wants answers after they were forced to cancel their upcoming wedding, and the venue would not give them all their money back.

Steven and Gina planned on getting married at Tonawanda Castle in October 2020. Gina said she was drawn to the castle for its indoor and outdoor appeal, and wanted a fall wedding.

"It seemed like just what we wanted," Steven said.

The couple still wanted to get married there, just delayed until October 2021 due to the unknowns surrounding Coronavirus and what wedding guidelines will look like in three months. The couple said when they asked the owner of Tonawanda Castle if they could postpone to next year, he said no.

The couple said they were offered two options, either take a date in November or December 2020, or cancel.

"Of course we're going to pick the health an safety of our family and our guests," said Gina.

They broke their contract two weeks ago, and said they were shocked and disappointed that the venue would not work with them.

The owner of Tonawanda Castle, Mostafa Tanbakuchi, returned 7 Eyewitness News' request for comment after the initial story aired, sending a transcript of an email he said he sent to the couple. In it Tanbakcuhi apologizes to the couple that they cannot have their wedding at Tonawanda Castle, and wishes them the best.

"As we navigate this pandemic, we are doing our best to balance the unique situations of each couple with the responsibility we have to maintain as viable a business as possible for our employees and the greater community," Tanbakuchi said in the transcript.

Tonawanda Castle is keeping nearly $4,000 of the couple's money. Steven and Gina said they know the $1,000 security is non-refundable. The other portion is 25 percent of the couple's installment. Tonawanda Castle is keeping that based off the cancellation's date in the couples contract that they signed in January 2019.

“When we signed this nobody figured that anything like this would happen," Gina said.

In the email Tanbakuchi said he sent to the couple he laid out the venue's cancellation policy.

Additional provisions to cancellation policy due to COVID-19:
- if an event is canceled due to the New York state mandated shut down for COVID-19, then Tonawanda Castle will refund all your payments, except the nonrefundable save the date deposit. If the customer chooses to reschedule their event for an available date in 2020, all their payments will be credited towards the reschedule date.
– Unfortunately due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 impact into the future we are unable to book any events beyond 2020 at this time. Once we have clarity from New York State regarding future mandates we may be able to open dates beyond 2020.
– If the customer chooses to cancel their event, the refund policy will be according to their contract.
Owner, Tonawanda Castle

The Attorney General's office said consumers with COVID-19 related concerns can file a complaint here.

The couple said they are not just frustrated at being out the money and not receiving a 2021 date, but at the way the situation was handled.

“There was no compassion, no I’m sorry, no kind of recognition for the stress that we’re under right now and the hard decisions that we had to make," Gina.

In the email transcript Tanbakuchi wrote he wished the couple well.

"My heart goes out to all the Tonawanda Castle couples who have had their joyous occasions upended by this pandemic," Tanbakuchi said.