Couples scramble to find new wedding venue as estate gets caught up in bankruptcy case

Diane Wilson Image
Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Wedding nightmare: Bankruptcy derails couples' plans
A wedding nightmare for some couples after the estate they rented for their big day wound up in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A wedding nightmare for some couples after the estate they rented for their big day wound up in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

Planning the big day is stressful enough, but to learn the rental you booked and paid in full for is having financial troubles made for some tough emotional times for these couples.

Jess Kempton and Danny Gillies said they found The Farm's Champion Estate at the Triangle on VRBO when looking for places to celebrate their nuptials with friends and family.

"It was really the perfect option for us. We wanted a place where people could gather to celebrate the wedding for the weekend. We found it on VRBO, just like vacation rentals and it was marketed as somewhere for large parties," Kempton said. The couple paid in full for the rental for their November 2024 date and started planning their wedding.

Kamice Klein and Christopher Alvarado are another couple who also found The Farm's Champion Estate at the Triangle and thought it would be the perfect spot for their September wedding.

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"It was the first venue we found. We built the wedding around the venue," Alvarado said.

The couple paid close to $10,000 to rent the estate. They had even started booking and reserving other vendors for their big day.

Both couples thought everything was going well until they got an email from The Farm, LLC, the property manager of the estate. The email said the company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"It definitely like it took the wind right out of us," Kempton said.

"First was kind of like panic mode: figure out what to do, you know? And then later, I think more of the emotional side of it of like we kind of lost the, the venue," Gillies said.

Besides The Farm, LLC filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company sent those who had rented The Champion Estate at the Triangle a letter that stated for the venue in Durham to continue to operate, the bankruptcy court required the company to adhere to a rigorous payment schedule. The letter goes on to say that if they fail to make the payments and comply with the order, the company will have to relinquish the property.

"We are simply not confident we will be able to comply with the onerous guidelines required to keep this property in our collection. As such, we are not confident that we will eventually be able to honor your reservation," the letter read.

For Klein and Alvarado that worried them.

"We cannot promise that we'll own this home by the time your event comes. So it's not something that we were willing to risk. Anyway, we are in crunch time. So we were like, let's get the ball rolling and just get somewhere else," Klein said.

Kempton and Gillies also felt the same way. Both couples are using the wedding planner, Debra Maingi with Unveiled by Debra and said they were thankful to have her help them through this process.

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"Once I knew what the venue was saying, once I knew the expectation for my couples, I knew immediately that we were not going to move forward, even if they could make any kind of promises because, in the long run, I would rather solve this issue for them two, four, five or six months in advance versus four to six weeks because we tried to trust them," Maingi explained.

While Maingi used her resources to help the couples find alternative places to have their weddings.

"What it comes down to is when issues like this occur, you want somebody who's boots on the ground, able to find you resources, able to reach out to other venues or other vendors, and who's able to review the contracts and understands really what the refund policy is for places," she said.

Maingi advised both couples to dispute the charge on their credit card for renting The Champion Estate at the Triangle.

Klein and Alvardo did win their dispute and have already found a new location for their wedding. Kempton and Gillies are still waiting to hear if they won their dispute with their credit card company.

"It also feels like we're paying to have a bad experience. We're paying to not have the wedding of our dreams because we don't know if we'll get our money back," Kempton said.

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson has heard from other couples also impacted by The Farm, LLC bankruptcy filing. Besides the Durham location, The Farm, LLC leases venues in multiple states.

The CEO of The Farm LLC provided this statement:

The Farm, LLC is blessed to welcome over 10,000 guests a year to our properties.

In January 2024, we entered Chapter 11 Reorganization to stabilize our family's business. This Reorganization affected less than 200 guest bookings made prior to the January 2024 filing date. We have notified affected guests and proposed alternate accommodations or refund solutions to them.

The Farm's Champion Estate at The Triangle remains open to guests and is accepting new reservations as we continue to dialogue with the real estate owner about our long term lease of the Property.

Any guest who booked with us or made a payment to us after our January 25, 2024 filing date will receive a 100% refund from us in the event that we must cancel the guest's reservation for any reason.

If you feel you are affected by this issue and you have not heard from us, please email us at so that we can help.