Groundbreaking for new Noah's Event Center in Lindon 3

Bil Bowser, president and founder of Noah Corporation, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new Noah's Event Venue in Lindon on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

Utah brides are among thousands of couples across the nation looking for last-minute wedding venues after a judge ordered a local event venue company to cease operations last Thursday.

Noah’s Event Venues is a Utah-based company that oversaw 42 event centers across the country before closing dozens of locations after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last May. They had locations in Lehi and Lindon.

During a hearing in early February, Judge Joel Meeker told the company’s operators the remaining locations could not continue despite the administration’s optimistic projections for 2020, according to court documents.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a trustee collects all of the debtor’s assets and sells any applicable assets. After the trustee sells the assets and pays the debtor, the exempted amount and a commission is taken by the trustee for overseeing the distribution, the net proceeds of the liquidation are distributed to creditors.

Due to the nature of the bankruptcy, as many as 7,500 people are forced to wait in line for a chance to get their money back.

The company reached out to clients via email on Monday letting couples know the company would no longer be able to host their events. However, customers could file an administrative claim. The statement also said that many of the building owners have expressed their willingness to continue to host events under different operators.

The company cited negative publicity and a court order for its inability to see through contracts with thousands of brides, and in the emailed statement, added that the company was working to reorganize in order to continue hosting events.

Noah’s is hoping to work with clients interested in hosting their events at the initially reserved locations and have asked affected customers to email with the location, event date and event type in the subject line.

Maile Tuihalangingie is one of the brides affected by the latest developments. While she was in the process of moving from California to Utah, family and friends reached out to Tuihalangingie after seeing the news on social media. With her wedding less than two weeks away, Saturday was the first time she had heard about the company closure.

“When I found out the news through family and friends, I didn’t even know how to react,” she said.

Finding out about the venue’s closure was the beginning of a nightmare for Tuihalangingie. Her family and friends reached out to any nearby venues to see if there was any availability, and even then, available venues were unable or unwilling to allow third-party caterers, for which Tuihalangingie had also already paid.

Tuihalangingie found the South Jordan location online and visited in person before booking not only the ballroom but also the gym, game room and theater for her nieces and nephews to enjoy during the reception. The couple had also paid for linens, a photo backdrop, lighting and miscellaneous decorations. At the time of the initial announcement, Tuihalangingie had already paid all $5,600 of the total cost.

Tuihalangingie contacted Noah’s first thing Monday morning but was unable to reach anyone at the company. The bride-to-be had still not heard from the company on Monday afternoon. Tuihalangingie had, however, heard from a new company who reached out to South Jordan brides with the potential of honoring their reservations.

Kathren Jensen, Noah’s vice president of sales and operations, began reaching out to Utah couples who made reservations at the South Jordan location Monday afternoon. According to an email sent to clients, Jensen — the founder and owner of the SLC Event Venue — is taking over the contracts with brides who initially booked with Noah’s.

Jensen worked out of the South Jordan location for 12 years and assured clients in the email that she knows the venue as well as its policies, contracts and clients’ general needs very well.

“The thought of closing this successful location is heartbreaking to me, which is why I reached out to the Noah’s and the building owners to take over as an operator,” Jensen said in the email. “This location does extremely well, and I have every confidence we can take over your contract without any additional stress on you the client.”

In order for SLC Event Venue to take over as the new operator, Jensen said the company requires commitments from existing customers. Jensen assured previously booked clients that if the event was already paid in full, the new operator would honor the reservation. Likewise, if a client was already making payments on a schedule, couples would continue the payments to SLC Event Venue. Clients would not be required to repay anything that was previously paid to Noah’s.

Still, for a number of couples, this news isn’t necessarily reassuring.

“It still makes me nervous,” Tuihalangingie said. “The fact that we signed a contract and paid it off, I don’t know what assurance I could get. I’m nervous of taking that risk.”

Before Noah’s announced its closing, several brides reached out to representatives after the company initially filed for bankruptcy to voice their concerns. Each time, the company responded to the couples to confirm the dates and locations and put their worries at ease.

A representative for a Texas location told one bride in August that Noah’s had signed a 20-year lease with the location of her event and wrote “I can guarantee that the location will remain open” just months before the company announced the nation-wide closure.

As more information come to light, northern Utah businesses are continuing to step up to help couples affected by the decision.

Jill Streadbeck, director of the Alpine Art Center in Alpine, Utah, says dozens of Utah businesses are coming together to provide for brides in the community in need of venues.

While some venues have been able to offer discounts up to 50%, others are only asking couples to match the cost of operations on the day to try to save future newlyweds as much money as possible.

“A lot of the brides’ concerns have been: Are they going to get their money back?’” Streadbeck said. “I just want to be as helpful as I can. It’s not about the money or making a profit off of it, it’s ‘let’s help the people who need help,’ that’s all the venues are doing.”

Every little girl dreams of their wedding day, she said, and to have such a large part of the event change with short notice can be heartbreaking.

Online communities have also popped up to help brides across the nation find alternative accommodations. In these virtual groups, brides are posting what Noah’s promised them and venue directors in each area are reaching out to offer their services at discounted prices.

Tuihalangingie said the online communities have also helped affected couples get together and also helped her feel not as alone during such an unexpectedly turbulent time.