Hotel closure scuppers couple’s wedding plans for second time

Chris Stapleton and Alan Horgan’s reception cancelled after closure of Aherlow hotel

A Tipperary couple's wedding plans have been thrown into chaos by the closure of the hotel they had chosen to host their reception – the second time in six months their reception plans have collapsed.

More than 40 couples were left in limbo after popular wedding venue Aherlow House Hotel, which is nestled in the picturesque Galtee Mountains in Co Tipperary, closed its doors without warning this week.

The news, which has resulted in the loss of 25 jobs, has come as a pre-Valentine's Day blow to the Cashel-based Chris Stapleton and her fiance Alan Horgan, who had planned to get married at the hotel in August.

The couple had originally booked to hold their wedding reception in the Dundrum House hotel in Co Tipperary, though a fire there last September damaged the latter’s ballroom and kitchen and brought an end to their plans.

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"At the moment I'm just sitting still, I'm like a rabbit in a headlights. We're going to have to decide what to do or do we cancel everything," Ms Stapleton told The Irish Times.

“Last week I couldn’t sleep I was so excited. Now, I’m completely disheartened and disappointed. We feel ripped off. We feel so powerless. I don’t know what is going to happen next.”

Ms Stapleton said the couple, who are in their 30s, are struggling financially with the loss of their deposit of €1,500 and having to change venue for a second time.

The couple had paid the deposit for the August booking, which is now at risk: “Our money [deposit] is gone. It’s very stressful. None of us [couples] think we’ll get our money back.

“It’s a lot for us. It might not seem like a lot to some people but it is to us. We weren’t going on a honeymoon so we could have a nice wedding.”

“Can we ever afford to book somewhere else, a different date, will we just leave it and call it off?”

Ms Stapleton said the fire in Dundrum was a “shock” but it was “out of the hotel’s control”.

In November, they decided to go with Aherlow hotel as it suited the outdoor civil ceremony the couple had their hearts set on.

“It’s beautiful scenery and surroundings. Nature all around.We were very pleased with the setting,” she said.

“I’ve deposits paid for everything for that day, not just the hotel. I’ve my dress. I’ve paid DJs, Irish dancers, photographer, videographer and registrar. The registrar isn’t available any other day.”

Valentine’s Day

She had been looking forward to spending this weekend at the hotel celebrating Valentine’s Day and her birthday when she heard the hotel shut.

“I still haven’t been contacted by anybody. I contacted the receivers yesterday after my father heard an ad on the radio saying the hotel was closed.”

“We’re so fed up with everything. Do we settle with any hotel we can find at this stage or just call it off? This has been hard. It’s outrageous this can happen.”

The hotel was leased by Auburn Hotels (Aherlow) Limited from receivers Grant Thornton in 2011.

On Friday night, a company spokesman said it had honoured 30 wedding bookings then, even though they did not get the deposits.

"It's up to the new owner to honour the deposits in the same manner that [we] honoured the deposits in 2011," a spokeswoman told The Irish Times.

Grant Thornton said in a statement they were speaking with interested parties with a view to reopen the hotel as soon as possible.

“The receiver fully recognises the anxiety this temporary closure is causing couples who had booked weddings with the company that was operating the Aherlow House Hotel however, the unacceptable performance of that operating company under the lease agreement was not tenable and this has unfortunately led to this temporary closure,” it said.

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is an Irish Times journalist