CHICAGO (CBS) — The place has glowing reviews online; a picturesque farm for a summertime barn wedding. Yet, at least two brides say their experience with Ashley Farm in Yorkville was anything but dreamy.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains the coronavirus complication.
Walking down the aisle during a pandemic certainly wasn’t part of the plan for Lauren Herba and Mitch Thompson.
“Everyone but Mitch and I had to wear masks,” Herba said. “There are like masks in almost every photo.”
They also didn’t plan on a frustrating financial dispute with their venue, Ashley Farm.
“I told them, ‘No, I’m not rescheduling at all,’” Herba said.
They chose to outright cancel, losing out on a total of $9,000 in non-refundable payments; a difficult situation, but owner and operator Whitetail Ridge Golf Club offered a puzzling solution.
“Brides are already on edge, and so this just kind of sent it through the roof,” Herba said.
State guidelines in effect for their June 6 wedding would have limited the wedding to only 10 people. Ashley Farm coordinators didn’t see it that way.
“They just kept leading me, saying that we can still have this wedding with all these people, because they got approval from the local officials,” Herba said.
The couple asked for proof, and received a letter from the venue owner, claiming he had “full approval and support” from the authorities. He mentioned “no restriction on group size.”
However, the letter did not include any proof that any local authorities had signed off on a wedding with more than the 10 maximum allowed by the state.
“It was ridiculous. Yeah. It wasn’t even worth what it was printed on,” Thompson said.
That’s when Herba reached out to a Facebook group of coronavirus brides, and found another Ashley Farms bride trying to plow through the venue’s reasoning.
An official with the Kendall County State’s Attorney confirmed that there was “no approval given” to operate outside Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order limiting public gatherings to 10 people during Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.
“They didn’t even acknowledge the fact that we were told you didn’t have permission. They just glossed over it,” Thompson said.
CBS 2 gave management a 48-hour heads-up that we were coming to ask about this discrepancy. They were apparently unavailable.
Within hours of our initial email, the other bride was offered her money back.
Less than 30 minutes after a follow-up inquiry, a $6,000 refund came in for the newlyweds.
“It’s awesome that they finally did the right thing, but it took us to go to a news outlet to get them to actually comply,” Thompson said.
Overall, they said it’s a relief to both tie the knot and put a bow on this situation.
CBS 2 confirmed with the Kendall County Sheriff and Kendall County State’s Attorney that they won’t arrest or prosecute wedding guests or business owners that host weddings. Still, we’ve seen an email exchange between the venue and county administration urging compliance with state guidelines.
Venue management ignored our repeated requests for comment.