CI News in Tuesday’s edition reported an Australia-based couple has accused Paradise Wedding Desires of fraud after the business, which ceased operation about three months ago, failed to deliver the promised wedding in September last year, as well as the agreed refund. The refund amounted to about $9000.
Paradise Wedding Desires co-owners Charles Ingaua and Remi Wearing have said the scam allegation was “overly exaggerated”, adding the issue was refunding, which they were trying to resolve “as soon as possible”.
However they failed to refund the money by the deadline that they committed to on Friday last week.
After reading the story online, CI News was contacted by five people, including local vendors, who claimed to have had similar experience with the wedding-planning business.
Auckland-based Salote Vendt, who got married on Rarotonga in October last year, was introduced to Ingaua by a mutual friend that works with him.
“My husband Dylan and I weighed the options of wedding planners we had within our budget and decided to go with Charles and Remi since we had a mutual friend. We had paid them $10,600 for our wedding including the deposit/planning fee,” Salote said.
“Communication with them prior to the wedding was good we met in person a couple of times, went over the plan and what we wanted. Everything seemed to be great, we paid everything up front two months prior to the wedding on October 18, 2018.”
On October 15 when the couple and the families arrived on Rarotonga, they were met by Wearing at the airport.
The following day, the wedding party attended their first activity with Koka Lagoon Cruise which Salote said went amazing and set the tone of the wedding trip.
On October 17, she said they met with their celebrant and had a rehearsal at the beach where they discussed potential plans if weather failed.
“We were told our Plan B was to be held at the Pacific Resort. Later that evening Charles and I were in communication about which plan would be going ahead, and transportation pick up times at the specified locations. He advised we will run with the original plan of beach ceremony and reception.”
On the wedding day, Salote said bridesmaids had to do a lot of running around because the original hair and make-up artists that were booked did not show up.
“Charles asked my maid of honour if we could all go to the salon for his back-up hair and make-up artist. I said ‘absolutely not’, he will have them come to us. We have small children in the wedding party getting ready with us.
“In the end a team did come and they did an amazing job.
“At this stage we knew nothing was going right and I was on the verge of tears. The photographer never showed up – apparently a death in the family for both the main and back-up photographers.”
Salote also claimed transportation did not show up for any of their guests including their master of ceremony (MC) who was at the first pick-up point.
“On the morning of the wedding, Charles and Remi made the choice to move the reception. I could not believe this was happening to us.
“My transport was missing and didn’t show on time. Remi and his cousin who had a van had become our transport.
“My husband’s transport (white tuktuk) was cancelled without us being informed. Dylan and his groomsmen waited 30 minutes in the sun for transport and they were promised a few beers and nibbles, but only the nibbles were delivered.”
At the wedding ceremony, Salote claimed the stereo system was missing.
She also said they found out after the ceremony that the reception had been moved from Pacific Resort to another hotel which confused their guests.
“Before the wedding party got to the reception, the MC and a few others rushed to the venue sensing something was wrong and nothing was set up at all. Kids were in the pool, not enough tables set up.
“It was embarrassing that we had paid all this money for our guests to set up our wedding reception. On top of that, we had no DJ, had to change our reception itinerary to suit the performance dance times as they had another booking that night.
“The food was good, but we had agreed on an island buffet with a pig on the spit. Our guests had to choose from a set menu and the cake was not the cake I ordered. Apparently the vendor had the incorrect date (17/10/18 instead of 18/10/18) which doesn’t make any sense because we still would have had the cake we wanted a day later.
“The $800 bar tab had run out within 30 minutes of us being at the reception which I found hard to believe as we had 80 guests which included 25 kids, parents that weren’t drinking and pregnant women.”
Salote said on the morning of Friday, October 19, they met with Ingaua and Wearing and “they completely agreed that it was their fault and would give us a refund of $6500”.
She said later that evening, the party bus also went wrong and they had to sought back up and organise a taxi for the remaining eight guests who could not fit on the (green) bus.
“From the time we arrived back in New Zealand, I had messaged their business page via messenger and would get a few replies that they were busy and would get someone to transfer the money over,” Salote said.
“Charles had set up a payment to go out on 1/12/18 for $6500 and sent me a screenshot of this, as it was a weekend, I had to wait until Tuesday (4/12/18) to allow time for the funds to clear, but nothing came through.
“For weeks I messaged them via Facebook to their business and personal pages, their business email and tried to reach them on their mobile number and still nothing.
“It was as if they dropped off the face of the Earth. False promises that they would refund our money, that they are sorry and would like to sort it out. It was all a ruse.
“They never planned the wedding they sold us. We trusted them to do the right thing and fix the mess they had created but they have not.
“They ignored all my attempts in contacting them.”
Salote said they were now looking at lodging an official complaint with the Cook Islands Police.
CI News sent a message to Ingaua on the latest allegations, but did not receive any reply when this edition went to press yesterday.
Meanwhile the police in a statement yesterday said they did not receive an official complaint regarding the publicised controversy over a failed wedding arrangement.
“The police cannot act upon speculation generated in the media or online, or through any third party. There would need to be direct communication with the complainant if there is to be an investigation into this incident and any alleged unlawful activity,” police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said.
CI News then forwarded him the email that was sent to a senior police officer on February 6 by the Cook Islander couple living in Australia. In that email, the couple made an official complaint against Paradise Wedding Desires and its owners.
Pitt replied: “What is not apparent from the police side is the disruption to our communications and network.
“I'm told the Commissioner (Maara Tetava) is now clarifying on the progress of the email, which had been referred to CIB (Criminal Investigation Bureau). So the complaint should stand, and subject to the CIB confirming receipt.”