Wedding planner avoids prison term for theft and deception

Suzanne Danker (48) was running her Spanish-based business in a chaotic way, court told

The wedding company ran into financial difficulties in early 2012, but continued to trade until September when it no longer had enough money to pay contractors. Photograph: iStock/Getty

The wedding company ran into financial difficulties in early 2012, but continued to trade until September when it no longer had enough money to pay contractors. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

An overseas wedding planner who continued to ask a couple for money for their Spanish wedding after she realised her business was insolvent has received a suspended prison sentence.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Suzanne Danker (48) was running her company, Spanish Dream Weddings, in a haphazard and chaotic way when it finally ran out of money in September 2012.

Danker and her then husband featured in an RTÉ documentary in 2007 called The Great Escape, about their move from south Dublin to Marbella to set up their wedding business. The company ran into financial difficulties in early 2012, but continued to trade until September when it no longer had enough money to pay contractors.

Danker of Boroimhe Ash, Swords, Dublin pleaded guilty to three counts of deception, and three of theft on dates between September 7th and 10th 2012.

Detective Garda James Codd told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that Sarah Foran and Colm Moriarty were getting married in Spain in September 2012 and had paid around €10,000 over to Danker to organise the wedding event.

Eight days before the wedding, Ms Foran discovered that none of the contractors had been paid. Det Gda Codd said that the list of those left unpaid included a florist, a DJ, a videographer, a singer, and a flamenco dance troupe, as well as the church fees.

Danker had continued to look for payments from the couple and the court heard that she was “scrambling and floundering, trying to offset deposits and commissions from one wedding to fulfil obligations to another wedding”.

Defending counsel, Olan Callanan BL, said that since setting up the company five years earlier his client had successfully organised around 200 weddings. He said two of these had run without issue in the weeks running up to Ms Foran’s wedding day.

He said that if Danker had informed the couple there were issues instead of abruptly cutting off communications with them a week before the wedding, “things may be very different”.

He said Danker was running the business in a chaotic and haphazard way and was relying on the investment of €12,000 promised earlier that summer. This money never materialised and the court heard that a person in Gibraltar did “a runner with the money”.

Wedding debt

In a victim impact report Ms Foran said that she and her husband were a young couple who had worked hard and saved hard to pay for their wedding. She said their marriage began in debt after they had to borrow to pay for the wedding a second time.

She said the humiliation and shame of that will always be with her and that Danker manipulated her and her husband.

“We are both fair and reasonable people, we would have worked with Suzanne,” she said. She said that because Danker cut off communications, they were left feeling powerless at such an important moment in their life.

She said Danker’s actions left their wedding day tarnished and tainted.

Dt Gda Codd agreed with Mr Callanan that the offending comes from the fact that, at a point at which Danker should have known the company was not in a position to follow through on the planned wedding, she continued to ask for payments.

Counsel told the court that even after cutting off communications, Danker continued to try to get the wedding event on. Mr Callanan described this as “an inanity”.

He told the court that his client was in the middle of personal, professional and marital collapse at the time. He said that she is haunted by guilt at having ruined the victim’s wedding day and will never forgive herself.

She accepts full responsibility for how she treated the couple, but was otherwise of good character, with no other convictions, counsel said. He said Danker has returned to Ireland and got her life “back on track”.

Judge Martin Nolan said that the couple’s wedding day was marred by Danker’s actions. He said he accepted that she is remorseful and is highly unlikely to re-offend in this way.

He suspended a three-year prison term on condition that a sum of €9,500 which was brought to court be paid over to the victims and that another €5,000 be paid in the next two years.

He said this was to punish her and there was no obligation on the couple to accept it, in which case it should be donated to a charity.