Editor’s Note: The following post includes language that may not be suitable for all readers.
When Angie Orth planned a dream destination wedding in the Bahamas, she had no idea what a nightmare it would become. And when the Bahama Beach Club resort failed to deliver the event she planned, she turned to us for help.
If you think this is a run-of-the-mill ruined destination wedding, you’re right — as long as you had included allegations of lying, harassment and cyberstalking in your description.
Orth, her fiancé and their 38 guests arrived last October at the Bahama Beach Club in Treasure Cay for their special event, collectively spending tens of thousands of dollars on accommodations. When they arrived, half of the resort was shut down for renovations. Restaurants and bars were closed, and pools were empty. Six days before her ceremony, Orth visited the reception venue, which was filled with construction tools and equipment as it underwent renovations.
Weddings often create unrealistic expectations in brides. But Orth’s case raises interesting questions about what can be done when a destination wedding doesn’t go according to plan, and what recourse is available when things start getting ugly.
And things got ugly.
But that’s not how things started. Orth, a blogger and public relations professional, chose a Bahamas wedding because she had worked in public relations in the Bahamas for several years and was familiar with the island. And while she hadn’t stayed at Bahama Beach Club before last year, she took trips to the resort during the planning stages to discuss the event and vet the facilities. Following her initial trip to the resort, she wrote glowing reviews about the beauty of the location and the amenities available to resort guests.
But the same amenities she gushed over were notably absent months later, when she arrived for her wedding. Even though Orth was in regular contact with the resort in the weeks leading up to her wedding, the resort never told her that certain facilities would be closed during her stay. The resort did contact her, however, to insist her final payment needed to be made weeks in advance of her arrival.
Orth was understandably upset about the on-site construction project, but when she complained, Bahama Beach Club management blamed the renovations on Hurricane Joaquin, which didn’t actually hit Treasure Cay.
While Orth and her now-husband did get married that week in a ceremony Orth said was beautiful, the only concession made for her disappointment — and that of her guests — was refunding $1,700, the cost of the rehearsal dinner, which was held under a pavilion next to an empty pool.
The night before the rehearsal dinner, I was crying to the wedding planner who had just arrived. We’d already been there several days and she was not present as promised. As part of our package, her services were supposed to be included all week. Her replacement was the bookkeeper, who knew nothing about our wedding or any plans that had been made.
The rehearsal venue was set to take place at the poolside restaurant, but the pool and spa were both empty, the pool deck was unpaved and the bar area was covered in dust and equipment. The day of the rehearsal, it was all still a wreck, so the wedding planner called and said they’d decided to refund just that part of our wedding expenditures. We appreciated that very much, especially considering the dinner was ultimately held next to an empty pool, but it wasn’t terribly helpful for all the guests who paid for a luxury resort experience and instead listened to jackhammers all week.
Once home, Orth wanted to let others know about her disastrous wedding experience. She and several family members posted negative reviews on TripAdvisor about Bahama Beach Club.
Strangely though, the negative reviews kept disappearing. Orth began to question why TripAdvisor removed the reviews, and whether it was at the request of Bahama Beach Club.
TripAdvisor’s guidelines clearly state that it may remove user reviews for any reason at its own discretion. We’ve investigated this practice in the past, and I suspect that multiple people posting similar, negative reviews may have gotten them removed en masse.
We also know that when TripAdvisor removes reviews, it sends an email to the reviewer to let him know. But unfortunately, it will never tell the user exactly what language in the review triggered its removal. Reposting a review that was previously flagged in violation of policy will also result in removal.
During the short period the reviews were active, Bahama Beach Club management responded in turn, launching accusations against Orth. The company wrote:
This is now the 12th, 13th or 14th bad TripAdvisor review from the very same unhappy bride and her aliases. This gal wanted money to write “nice things” about our resort to offset the cost of her wedding. We refused!
On background: There were two beachfront wedding at our resort that weekend, but only one unhappy bride. She invited 120 guests, but only 38 showed up.
Further, as a result of our Hurricane preparations and resulting renovation delays, this unhappy bride was given free round-trip airport transportation, free rooms, free meals and drinks, a free rehearsal dinner for her 38 family members and guests, free golf carts, etc., etc., etc. Even her mother’s $4,300 credit card charge has been declined!
Hurricane Joaquin killed more than 33 people in the Bahamas that week; fortunately our island was spared any deaths or damage. Still, we apologize again for our October 2015 storm delayed renovations and wish this unhappy bride much success in her marriage.
Even if any of his accusations about Orth were true, this type of review from a business is telling.
Defensive responses that do not address the facts of the situation speak for themselves and border on harassment. A business response littered with accusations intended to damage Orth’s professional reputation, or information about a declined credit card transaction, are clear red herrings, designed to distract from the true problem: These renovations took place at a time that disrupted dozens of people’s vacations, and yes, left a bride quite correctly “very unhappy.”
The company’s responses, too, were eventually deleted. But the owner continued to post the same response to other, unrelated guests’ negative reviews, trying to sweep them all under the rug.
We wrote to management at Bahama Beach Resort on Orth’s behalf to try to help facilitate the discussion, but our messages went unanswered.
One of the stranger aspects of Orth’s story, however, was the dozens of messages she received over the course of a few months on Twitter. According to Orth, the tweets came from an individual claiming to be a public relations professional for Bahama Beach Club. Although most of them have since been removed, Orth sent us the screen capture of the bizarre messages, some blatantly threatening.
The only tweets remaining are the very few Orth responded to, asking him to cease communications. Orth kept a paper trail of these unsettling posts, and reported them to law enforcement.
After several months of documenting the intimidating messages, the messages stopped. Orth tells us the account profile was modified to no longer reflect any connection to the resort.
Hindsight being what it is, Orth now questions some of the signs that the Bahama Beach Club might not have be able to deliver everything it promised, such as avoiding putting things in writing. She thought planning a destination wedding would be a simple way to have a casual, fun wedding, but in the end it was, according to Orth, “a risky venture.”
“Had we gotten married in the U.S., we would have a much easier time holding the venue to the contract from a legal perspective,” she wrote. “In our case, there’s little we could’ve done differently. We visited in advance, had dozens of phone calls, ironed out every detail and still, it turned out like this. Bahama Beach Club was out to scam us from the beginning, so no amount of due diligence could predict how low they would stoop.”
While it seems that Orth has taken all of this in stride, it is unfortunate what unexpected and dark turns her story took. We regret that we have exhausted our resources in trying to help, and it seems that the parties will never see eye to eye on who is to blame.
And while we readily acknowledge there are two sides to every story, we might think twice before booking a trip to this resort.