A couple from Lower Darwen, Blackburn, had their dream Caribbean wedding ruined by a series of blunders, which saw them return home unmarried. Andy Helsdon, 45, and his partner Heidi Brown, 49, had spent 18 months saving up money and planning the wedding of their dreams at what was described to them by TUI as a luxury 5 star family resort.
The couple and their 22 guests were left in shock when they arrived at a rowdy resort that couldn’t have been further from the relaxing and peaceful hotel TUI had described.
All the problems together with a disastrous wedding day made this couple’s Caribbean dream a living nightmare. A blunder with the wedding register meant that still to this day, Andy and Heidi are still unsure of whether they are legally married.
We put our complete trust in TUI and the whole experience was tarnished. We’ve walked away with bad memories of our wedding day and have been left absolutely devastated that we’ve come home not knowing if we’re even married.
She Said Yes! Let The Wedding Planning Commence…
Soon after Andy got down on one knee, the couple started looking through holiday brochures in search of the perfect resort that included a wedding package. They found the hotel Riu Montego Bay, Jamaica, which is part of TUI’s platinum collection, particularly appealing.
“We went down to our local TUI store in Blackburn in September 2017 to discuss it further. The shop staff highly recommended the resort, describing it as a family hotel with a luxurious twist. It ticked all the boxes and so we booked a two week holiday and a wedding package for April 2019.
We had our full trust in TUI as the experts. We were promised a romantic getaway and full wedding service including legal documents and our own private wedding coordinator at our beck and call.”
The Stress Started Upon Arrival
After two years of anticipation, the couple arrived in Jamaica on 3 April 2019 ready to say I do in front of 22 friends and family members, including Heidi’s children from a previous relationship.
Upon arrival they were given a room upgrade which was a great start but from there on in, things started to unravel…
Andy says, “The father of the bride had just undergone heart bypass surgery and it was very special that he was able to join us and celebrate our nuptials. He was not given a room on the ground floor as requested and had to move rooms four times.”
Exotic Dancing And A Rowdy Atmosphere
Andy describes a resort worlds apart from the one they’d booked: “The place resembled a rowdy 18 to 30s resort with foam parties in the pool and women twerking on the bar. Most evenings the children had to stay in their rooms with an accompanying adult because the entertainment was overly sexualised and not suitable for families.
The hotel furniture was old and tatty and could not be described as luxurious; it resembled a 3 star hotel rather than a 5 star. It was sold to us as paradise but in actual fact it was a nightmare.”
The couple describe how many basic items said available by TUI were regularly unavailable and things were incorrectly listed in the brochure such as free catamaran trips being $40.
Searching For The Wedding Coordinator
One of the couple’s main reasons for picking TUI was that they offered a wedding package inclusive of a wedding coordinator who would take the stress and hassle out of organising a wedding and make sure the day ran smoothly.
“We got to our room expecting a note from the wedding coordinator but there was nothing. We had to go in search of them and when we found them, they were less than helpful.
We became increasingly concerned about the wedding day itself and felt uncomfortable with the whole set up. It was disorganised and we didn’t feel we were given enough information and planning time, despite continuously asking for more.
Last-Minute Jitters And Planes Flying Overhead
The day of the wedding came and as the sun rose, the resort was still very much alive with late-night revellers and loud music.
Heidi put on her wedding dress and waited for the wedding planner to signal when all the guests had arrived at the ceremony as previously arranged. As time went on, Andy was left waiting at the alter while Heidi was sat waiting alone in their room.
The wedding planner that we had originally been liaising with had disappeared and their replacement was late collecting Heidi. It didn’t help that we were told a few days earlier that there would be a $50 fine for every 15 minutes we overran
When Heidi was ready to walk down the aisle, they had to wait even longer because the minister was late.
“The service itself felt rushed and we had to stop the wedding twice due to planes flying overhead which meant no one could hear the minister. We couldn’t even hear each other despite being stood next to one another.
It was a total disaster. Even the wedding reception that followed was a shambles. Food that was meant to be on offer wasn’t and the hotel staff were rude and lacking in any customer care.”
The day after the wedding, the couple noticed that there was a blunder with the wedding register that has ended up costing them their entire marriage.
The certified copy showed the witness names had been written by the minister in the wrong place and the errors invalidated the legal document. They were not legally married
“We spent the rest of the holiday speaking to various people, including the TUI representative about how we could correct this but they didn’t take it seriously. They even tried to blame us and said we filled them out wrong despite the documents provided by us all filled out correctly.
We were verging on hysterical and they just scribbled on our copy of the document by way of correction, even though this didn’t mean anything legally as the official register didn’t match.”
Left In Limbo And Living In Hell
Andy and Heidi returned home with tears in their eyes, embarrassed to even talk to people about what was supposed to be one of the best times of their lives.
“The whole experience left us feeling ashamed in front of our guests who had all spent a lot of money to join us. Heidi spent the plane journey home sobbing her heart out. We feel like we are still living in hell, in limbo about if the wedding is legally binding. We should be basking in happy memories but instead our special day will always be tarnished.”
TUI Have Taken No Responsibility
After making numerous complaints while on holiday which were ignored, the couple went straight to their local TUI store once home to complain about their ordeal.
“The staff in the store couldn’t believe what we were telling them. They were eager to help and told us to write up our complaint up and they’d send it to the TUI head office. It went straight to director level which sounded promising but we didn’t hear anything during the 28 day period they said they take to investigate the case.
The couple have spoken to the Blackburn Registry Office and the National Registry Office who have both advised that in England, Andy and Heidi’s wedding is not legal
We eventually received a response that was condescending and insulting and said we weren’t entitled to anything. TUI denied all responsibility and said our marriage was fine and legal, which isn’t the case. They said it was nothing to do with them and to get in touch with the hotel directly.”
Over To The Experts For Help
The couple were determined not to be fobbed off and began researching online to see what options were available to them.
“We’ve walked away with bad memories of our wedding day and will never travel with TUI again. They need to accept their part in this. While looking online, we came across Bott and Co and without hesitation, contacted their Consumer Complaints Team to make a claim for loss of value, enjoyment and money.
Under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 2018 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015, TUI had a responsibility to provide all the elements of the package contracted as they were described. There was a contract in place between both parties to provide a legally binding wedding which was not fulfilled
Andy and Heidi were massively let down by TUI throughout the entire holiday, on the wedding day itself and are still suffering now. We’re going to do all we can to get them compensation from TUI for the terrible experience.”
Heidi said: “We went away to get married and commit our lives to each other and it has just been one big stressful mess. This was meant to be a holiday of a lifetime for not only ourselves but our guests, making memories we could cherish forever but it will always be tainted with this memory.
We came home not sure if we we’re even married. We are utterly heartbroken.”