Bride distraught by wedding no-show
The wedding industry is big money - that's a given - but what makes it worse is when you fork out thousands on suppliers and planners only to have them not turn up.
Tegan Iakimo, 36, and Jerome Iakimo, 32, from Mackay in Queensland, claim to have paid a hefty fee of $9900 to an Auckland-based business Paradise Wedding Desires to plan their big day.
But after arriving in Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, they were told hair and make-up artists, photographers and caterers were not available despite having pre-booked them all.
The couple, who got married in September last year, also had their wedding reception venue switch at the last minute.
They'd excitedly planned touching details, including a tuktuk, a traditional island mode of transport, to drop them off, but instead the bride was forced to arrive in a mini-van.
But on the day, they were told the cake maker had gone into labor, and instead of a dining on a traditional wedding breakfast, the bridal party had to make do with a quick fix of burgers and chips from the local takeaway.
The two men behind Paradise Wedding Desires, Charls Ingaua and Remi Wearing, who are both Qantas flight attendants, have told out-of-pocket brides they are closing the business and are now being investigated by Cook Islands police.
"I was so upset, I couldn't stop crying. It got to the point where I was hysterical. Everything was so bad it was funny,' Mrs Iakimo told Daily Mail Australia.
"Everything went wrong, one thing after another. We were meant to have a beachfront wedding on a private property with a marquee and a band, but it didn't happen."
Mrs Iakimo said when she later contacted the vendors Mr Ingaua was supposed to organise, they told her they'd never received bookings.
The Sydney Moring Herlad reported Mr Ingaua admitted in emails to the Iakimos the wedding had been a failure and he would refund them 90 per cent of their payment. But they're still waiting for the $8910 six months later.
Mrs Iakimo said the only good thing to come out of it was being surrounded by loved ones who helped on the day when disaster struck.
The distraught bride said she and her bridesmaids were forced to empty out their own make-up bags and make do with what they had when the professional make-up artist and hairdresser were a no-show, allegedly due to a family emergency.
"I was very stressed, it's not what you want to be doing on the morning of your wedding day," Mrs Iakimo told the Daily Mail when explaining a bridesmaid had to dash to the local store for false lashes.
The couple was told by the planners the photographer was also stuck in a "family emergency". The Iakimos were forced to turn to the husband of a bridesmaid to step in as wedding photographer (he had brought his own camera).
When a mini-van showed up instead of what was supposed to be traditional tuktuks, Mrs Iakimo told the Daily Mail she was hysterical.
"I managed to compose myself with about half an hour before the ceremony," she said.
"I would never have cancelled the wedding, but I was pretty devastated.
"The main thing was I was marrying Jerome, and we're both people that look on the bright side."
The couple was not only forced to skip the speeches because of all the delays, they missed their "first dance" as the replacement reception venue didn't have "ample space".
"It broke my heart to see my gorgeous friend crying only minutes before the ceremony. She had planned and paid for her dream wedding, and one by one, it looked like it was falling apart," bridesmaid Jodie Kelly said.
It wasn't until a day after their wedding when Mr Iakimo met with Mr Ingaua he admitted the wedding was a failure.
He promised to provide the couple with a 90 per cent refund - but six months later, they are yet to receive it.
"We've not yet received a refund, but they keep making excuses. First they claimed they were trying to get the money back from vendors, and then they sent me a screenshot of a bank transfer stating they had transferred the money. But both times it failed," Mrs Iakimo said.
The Cook Islands News reported on at least four other cases where New Zealand and Australian couples - as well as local wedding vendors - were allegedly left out of pocket by Paradise Wedding Desires.
According to the Daily Mail, police opened an investigation file last September when a complaint was made against the planners.
News.com.au has contacted Paradise Wedding Desires for comment.