Organiser of Covid-plagued Auckland wedding fair promises event will go ahead after year of delays

The organiser of an under-fire Auckland wedding fair delayed for more than a year says the event will definitely go ahead in May and new dates have been “locked in”.

However, vendors – furious at the lengthy postponement and lack of communication about the situation – say they have heard this promise before and won’t believe it until they see it.

The Hitch’d Wedding Fair was originally set down for March 2020 in Kumeu but was postponed after New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, several new dates have been promised to vendors by fair owner Jade Stack, but nothing has eventuated.

The fair has been running since 2018 and boasts a collection of “80 to 90” boutique wedding vendors including photographers, designers, jewellers, caterers, decor providers, florists, make-up artists, hair stylists and planners.

On Friday, some vendors told the Herald they wanted their money back and were considering legal action.

Stack did not respond to the Herald before that story was published but on Friday night, contacted vendors to confirm she had set a new date.

She said the fair, which had been promised for the end of this month and then another date in April, would now go ahead in May.

“I’m assuming a lot of you have read the article. Please do not worry,” she wrote.

“By now, all of you would be have been contacted by [a Hitch’d employee] to discuss the new dates, and know that we are planning on proceeding with the fair this year.

“We signed the paperwork yesterday for the new date with the showgrounds and were planning a bulk email early next week.”

Stack said the new dates were May 8 and 9.

She said the last year had been “an absolute nightmare” because of Covid and the recent moves to level 3 in Auckland had stymied plans to run the fair this month or next.

“I have every intention of running the fair, and whilst I do not have a lot of time to communicate directly, [the employee] works closely with me so she will be assisting in ensuring this year’s fair is a success,” she said.

“I will become very hands-on with the organisation alongside [her] closer to the time.

“Now that we have a date locked in, we can begin to plan our advertising, update the website and release a new media pack.

“If you have any concerns, you are more than welcome to call me directly.”

Vendors were sceptical about the email, and many said they had not had any contact about the new dates.

A celebrant who has paid a deposit to attend the fair felt Stack’s efforts around communicating with vendors was “poor”.

She said she had been “ghosted” for demanding a refund and questioning the organiser.

“The wedding industry is suffering and we don’t deserve to be treated the way Jade has treated us,” she said.

On Friday night, Stack contacted the Herald with an explanation for the delay which she did not want published – the second time she has done so.

When pushed, she provided a response to questions.

She said as soon as Auckland returned to level 1 restrictions after the most recent escalation, she was able to lock in the latest dates.

“We have not advertised as we have only just been able to confirm the new date,” she said.

“All vendors have been emailed since confirming, and the fair will be advertised in the three to four-week lead time to the new dates, as per previous years.

“We have no intention of cancelling the fair. We have simply had to reschedule the dates several times due to Covid.”

She said all vendors who had paid deposits or in full for stalls would have their funds transferred.

Stack said some had been given refunds – some complete and others partial.

She said her terms and conditions, as stated on the Hitch’d website, were that funds would be transferred to the next event if there was a postponement.

However, there was no transfer if the fair was cancelled and no refunds under any circumstance.

“I offered partial refund to vendors that had requested one. However, this was out of good faith, and not required,” she said.

“My communication has not been as thorough as it could be and I apologise for that,” she said.

“Hitch’d, like many other businesses, was significantly affected by Covid.

“Funds were spent on marketing, venue hire, and advertising, for the original date which did not go ahead.

“We have then spent further funds on rebooking the venue for the new dates, and will re-advertise for the new dates to ensure the event is a success for all vendors involved.”

Vendors spoken to by the Herald were still considering their options.

“She has told us about four different dates have been ‘locked in’ and any changes should be communicated immediately – Covid or not,” one said.

“I just think this is absolutely ridiculous.”

Another said she had withdrawn from the fair as she was sick of getting mucked around.

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