DANE COUNTY — Soon-to-be bride Ruthie Ballweg contacted Call 4 action after being at odds with a Wisconsin wedding venue.
She's trying to move forward with her wedding and honeymoon planning, but can't shake what happened with her first venue, the Fields Reserve in Dane County.
"This has been incredibly stressful," Ballweg said.
"We really needed a venue that could accommodate all of our families. That was one of the main reasons we went with The Fields Reserve. They could have 300 people which is great for us," Ballweg explained.
Ballweg booked with them in December of 2019 and paid nearly $3,000 to hold a spot for an April 2021 wedding. Then COVID-19 entered the picture.
"The pandemic hit and we weren't really sure what was going to happen," Ballweg said.
Ballweg says she was in constant communication with the venue since for most of the pandemic Dane County only allowed a maximum of 10 to 25 guests indoors. She and her fiance wanted a larger wedding.
They waited before canceling however because she was told by the venue, she would get a full refund thirty days before the wedding if the restrictions are still in place.
The Fields Reserve told us it made exceptions to its original cancellation policy couples sign and said, "The rules in Dane County did not allow for what we believed to be a reasonable guest size for a wedding–for much of the pandemic, the county orders allowed for a maximum of 10-25 guests indoors. We decided very early on in the pandemic that despite the cancellation policy that our couples had signed, it was necessary for us to make exceptions. We decided if Dane County had these same restrictions in place 30 days ahead of any couple's wedding, we would offer them the option of either A: a date change at no charge B: a full refund. This was not an official amendment to our rental contracts but rather a gesture to our couples that would give them options if the rules in Dane County remained this restrictive. In total, we refunded more than $230,000 to couples in the last year."
Below is the entire statement from The Fields Reserve:
One month and eleven days before Ballweg's wedding -- that all changed. Venues were allowed to reopen with a 150-person capacity. The exception to the cancellation policy was off the table.
The Fields Reserve also said in the statement, "If Dane County hadn't modified their orders, we would have been happy to issue a full refund."
"Yes, Dane County's restrictions lightened. But, they didn't lift and that's the impression they gave us this entire time -- that if restrictions are in place, then you can get your money back," Ballweg said.
Per The Fields Reserve contract the couple signed, the venue did issue her security deposit back -- $650. But Ballweg is out nearly $2,300.
"We had plans for this money, we want to go on a honeymoon. This money means a lot to us and they said, 'Nope, we're not going to do that," Ballweg said.
Ballweg and her fiance went with another venue and now are getting married in August. The Fields Reserve says the couple was told they can re-book a future date. Ballweg though at this point says the venue isn't available for a while.
"Seth and I have been together for twelve years almost and we don't want to wait another two years to get married," she said.
"Did you learn anything in this experience at all?" Consumer Investigator Kristin Byrne asked Ballweg.
"I guess I learned that you should get everything in writing," she answered.
"Life goes on. You still need to focus on the positives. We're still going to get married. We're still going to live happily ever after," she said.