What Happens When Your Wedding Planner Disappears With All Your Money?

Photo: Getty Images.
Update (July 7, 2017, 10 a.m.): Cudd updated us on her wedding:
"Our wedding went off without incident. It was everything we dreamed of and then some! Our community rallied together through this difficult situation with us and offered services free of charge or at a severely discounted rate. Within 24 hours, we had everything covered that we were pending. We have not heard from our former wedding planner at this time. There is an ongoing investigation."
This story was originally published on May 11, 2017, at 12:10 p.m.
A couple in Houston, TX, is living through one of the biggest wedding-planning nightmares you could imagine: Their planner has gone MIA, no longer returning any of their phone calls or emails. Oh, and there's another small problem. She still has the $10,000 they've given her to pay all their vendors — and the vendors are calling them asking where their money is.
"I think this has been the worst experience of our life, to be completely honest," bride India Cudd told KPRC 2 Houston in an interview.
"When she came home, she calmed me down and told me what happened and to tell you the truth, I just flipped," said her fiancé Michael Morrill.
Cudd and Morrill met three years ago and were planning to get married in The Woodlands, TX, on their anniversary, which is coming up in just 15 days on May 27. They've been saving up to hire a wedding planner, and chose local company Hand in Hand Weddings & Events to coordinate with their vendors and make sure everything runs smoothly during their wedding day.
"I work days, he works nights, we both work full-time jobs to pay for our bills and also to pay for our dream wedding," Cudd said.
"I think it makes us upset and angry because this was supposed to be our dream wedding," said Cudd. "We're young, we wanted to take our time and really kind of plan it out to be what we really wanted, and we feel like our dreams have just been completely crushed."
Now, the couple just wants their money back. After all, they will likely want to hire some new vendors — like a caterer, florist, rental company, and a more reliable wedding coordinator — in a very short period of time, which, if you know Wedding World, is not a super-fun or practical prospect. Their venue has offered to help, according to KPRC 2, and has obviously taken Hand in Hand off its preferred-vendor list.
"We want them to do the right thing, give us our money back I mean; you can keep [it] for whatever services you have going up to this point, but we want the rest of it back," Cudd said.
Hand in Hand Weddings and Events is owned by Magen West, according to LinkedIn and WeddingWire. We tried calling its listed number, and there was no answer (the phone actually seems to have been disconnected). A request to speak to West via LinkedIn has also gone unanswered so far. The company's website is down. We have also reached out to India Cudd, and will update this story when we hear back.
On WeddingWire, reviews of Hand in Hand are mixed, with the average being positive (it has a respectable 4.2 out of 5 stars). They range from, "Magen is awesome! So helpful and attentive and just amazing!" to, "Hand [in] Hand Weddings was the worst decision I made throughout my entire wedding planning." Some clients complained that West still owed the vendors money, including from past weddings, and that the company was so disorganized it didn't even send any of the vendors a timeline (which is a big part of a wedding coordinator's job). The oldest review is from 2008.
KPRC 2 even went to Hand in Hand's office at 525 N. Sam Houston Parkway E. Suite 210 in Houston, but the door was locked and there was mail strewn about outside. In the segment above, the reporter says the station recently got a call from another couple that got stood up by Hand in Hand; they're planning to get married in September.

This was supposed to be our dream wedding. We're young, we wanted to take our time and really kind of plan it out to be what we really wanted, and we feel like our dreams have just been completely crushed.

India Cudd
Stories about wedding vendors jilting their clients are, unfortunately, way too common. We recently talked to Brandi Ryans, a New York bride who said she and her fiancé RJ were cheated out of $17,000 by their venue manager, Jason Stevens. Stevens, who owned the now-closed gastropub reBar in Brooklyn, was hauled off to jail in 2015 after scamming scores of couples.
Thankfully, it ended well: The Brooklyn couple's family and friends came together to raise money on GoFundMe for a new celebration, which was at No. 7 restaurant in Fort Greene. Through it all, Ryans said it helped that she and RJ never forgot that even though Stevens took all their money, he could not take away the fact they loved each other and would get married either way.
"My friend Erin came up with the idea for the fundraiser, and thank God she understood how uncomfortable it made me feel," Ryans, a massage therapist and yoga teacher, told Refinery29. "I didn't want to ask anyone for anything. I didn't want to burden my nearest and dearest. I didn't want to announce such a fantastic failure to everyone. Luckily, Erin didn't care."
Before they knew it, they had the $10,000 they had asked for. "Looking back, it made our wedding that much more special," she said. "It warms my soul thinking about it still. It really was a labor of love. Very do-it-yourself, of course. Just two Brooklyn kids, a webpage, and a bunch of gold spray paint, and we were hitched."

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