Bride-to-be Michelle Carroll has more than the usual dose of pre-wedding jitters, she's in a state of despair thanks to uncertainty about her reception.
The Shellharbour woman thought her planning had gone off without a hitch. But then the rumblings started - she heard rumours the function centre she'd chosen was having problems and she has been glued to Facebook posts about brides chasing back their deposits.
Eight weeks out and things were all of a sudden up in the air.
"We heard all the rumours, then the story about the money that went missing from the charity even and we started to panic," Ms Carroll said, referring to the $17,000 that went missing from a January charity event at Bella Portofino in Wollongong.
"Now no one will return our phone calls. My partner and I nearly split up over this, we are under so much stress. We decided we needed certainty so we have booked a reception somewhere else," she said.
"We have to get a loan to pay for it. We are trying to get back the $5500 we paid but no one is returning our calls."
Ms Carroll said she and her partner approached the Bella Portofino function centre manager and was assured as recently as last week that everything was on track. But as her nerves built, she and her partner decided to pull the pin.
"We have made repeated calls since and no one will call us back," Ms Carroll said.
"We just can't take the risk that things won't go pear-shaped, we have booked another venue. We want our money back."
Ms Carroll said repeated calls to the Portofino had not been answered.
She has been closely monitoring Name, Shame and Praise Illawarra Facebook page - which has almost 200 comments from brides and other people concerned about the future of the centre.
She now has to get invitations redone - updated with the name of the new venue, Port Kembla Golf Club.
"We just want to move on now, forget this nightmare and look forward to our wedding," Ms Carroll said.
"The stress of it, my partner was stressing because it's his wedding, too. He could see me, the bride being so stressed, he told Portofino he just wanted it to be perfect for me.
"I don't even care if they keep the deposit. About three weeks ago we attended a mock wedding and were assured everything would be OK. It's not OK."
The trouble keeps on coming for the Portofino, with manager Manuel Paradisis working hard to reassure customers he is working day and night to keep the business operating.
In relation to Ms Carroll's reception, Mr Paradisis said he would honour the booking so there was no need to return the payment.
"We have indicated we will do the function as per the agreement, we will do their function," he said.
"All this social media attention has caused us to lose bookings. We are going through the cancellations and at the end of the day if they all demand their money back we might as well close the doors," Mr Paradisis said.
"We are doing everything we can, I need to get back on my feet after some troubles so people need to calm down and let me try to get back on track," he said.
"At the end of the day it benefits everyone if we keep the business running."
Mr Paradisis said he had secured a loan to help cover money owed to the landlord and give "cash flow to do what we have to do to the venue".
The finances should clear on Wednesday, he said, and he would be in a better position to move forward.
"We just ask that people remain calm and give us time."
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