Picture this: the invitations are sent, the venue is booked, the cake and flowers are ordered, everything is coming together. And then just weeks before your big day, chaos hits.
Not only are you not getting the designer wedding dress you paid for months in advance, but it was never even ordered.
This nightmare has allegedly been the experience of dozens of brides-to-be in Australia and New Zealand after boutique Primrose and Finch went into liquidation two weeks ago without warning, with a report stating the Auckland-based business is more than $300,000 in debt. Former staff, landlords and designers have also come forward claiming they are owed money.
Mamamia spoke with Kara Williams, whose fiancee Rebecca Timms purchased her A$2400 dress from Primrose and Finch’s Melbourne store ahead of their wedding in New Zealand, where same-sex marriage is legal.
They paid a 50 per cent deposit for the London-made gown in February before paying the final balance in early June after receiving an email from the store's co-owner Kerry Smith stating the dress was almost ready to be dispatched.
Unbeknownst to Williams, the Melbourne store was shut down in May, according to the liquidator's report obtained by Mamamia.
Before shelling out the requested funds, Williams claims she was reassured for 20 minutes by Kerry's husband Matthew that the entire process was safe. She said she was told that the next step would involve final fittings at the store to have the gown ready in time.
This was the last time they were in contact, she said.
Eight weeks before their September 29 wedding, a nasty spanner was thrown in the works: Timms was without the dress of her dreams.
As Williams picked up her own gown from another bridal boutique, she and Timms realised it was strange to not yet have heard from Primrose and Finch.
They tried calling but the numbers in both Melbourne and New Zealand were disconnected, and the website was shut down.
"They let us find out on our own, they had plenty of opportunities to tell us. It's so insulting," she said.
"It's the most gut-wrenching moment when you find out and think, this stuff doesn't happen to us, it happens to other people, people on the news."
She claims the owners, although facing financial strife, acted as though it was all business-as-usual. (Post continues after gallery.)
"The most hideous part of this whole thing is that these dresses didn't exist because they were never ordered, (we contacted) the designer (and they) didn't even know who Bec was, they never received our order," she claims.
Unlike some other brides who paid on credit card and should be able to secure a refund from their bank, Williams and Timms paid Primrose and Finch using a third party payment system to limit the currency conversion fees to NZD.
"There's no way of recouping these funds, our only hope is that the liquidators can get us our money back," she said.
Mamamia staff reveal their biggest wedding regrets. Post continues after video…
Timms has had to buy another dress - their third between the two of them - only this time she has selected a number off the racks.
Williams said she was shattered watching her fiancee cry in a bridal store, urgently trying to pick out a new gown.
She said, in her opinion, it was "gob-smacking that people can do this in the industry they're in, taking advantage of people obviously going through this process of spending thousands and thousands of dollars."
Despite everything, Williams said she and Timms felt very lucky for the outpouring of support they have received since the news broke.
"This won't ultimately affect our day. We’re going get married and be in love and be happily ever after," she said.
"These people can't take that away from us.
"We can go to sleep with love in our hearts and they can struggle to sleep because of what they've done to people, and I'm content with that."
Affected staff and customers have been gathering on a Facebook page named Action Against Primrose and Finch.
Jayne Coney, a former contracted seamstress at Primrose and Finch in Melbourne, claimed she was owed $1800 in unpaid wages.
Coney, who was hired late last year, told Mamamia cracks began to show in the business as early as December when she claims she was not paid for a fortnight of work.
From there, she said she noticed dresses were requiring rushed alterations after being delivered to the store from their New Zealand headquarters with small faults, including without requested customised features, wrong sizing or bits of grime.
"It seemed like the perfect job, it was a lovely boutique, but things started to come apart at the seams," she said.
Coney quit her job after Easter. She said she had not heard from the Smiths since April.
Kerry and Matthew Smith have not responded to requests from Mamamia to comment.