A popular venue for weddings in suburban Lemont suddenly shut down, leaving more than two dozen couples scrambling to make new arrangements.
Montefiori has 30 weddings booked between May and November of next year. Couples say the news that the outdoor venue is closing came as a complete shock.
While venue owners say the bad economy and higher property taxes forced Montefiori to shut down, soon-to-be brides and grooms say the staff never gave any clues the place was having financial problems.
With 28 acres of trees, a pond and -- when in season -- lots of flowers, for bride-to-be Jillian Phillips, Montefiori was a perfect place for her wedding.
"It is much different than any other venue," said Phillips. "It's outdoors, which I really wanted. It sort of feels like a fairy tale."
It is a fairy tale turned nightmare for Phillips and 30 other couples who booked weddings at Montefiori in Lemont. The outdoor venue suddenly closed business, leaving couples looking for a new place and worrying about their deposits.
"We signed the contract in March, put down $5,000, and will probably never see it again," said Phillips.
Groom-to-be Danny Milovanovic doubts he will see his $3,500 deposit. The 28-year-old and his fiancee are getting married next September.
"At the end of August, when we put our deposit down, there was no signs or indications," said Milovanovic. "There were landscapers here, everyone was working, hustling and bustling."
Milovanovic says business seemed normal until he and his fiancee received a letter informing them that Montefiori was officially closed December 1.
"It was so impersonal, so blase," said Milovanovic.
According to Joe Lepore, one of Montifiore's owners, business closed because of financial problems. He says taxes on the property tripled, pressure from the bank and a bad economy all contributed.
Lepore said "felt horrible and that every couple will get their deposits back."
For Phillips, it's not enough.
"It's more the fact I found my dream venue, and that dream has been dashed," Phillips said.
Phillips says she looked at 18 venues and found Montefiori to be unique because of its big outdoor grounds.
Co-owner Lepore says he and others in the company will spend the next three days calling each couple to apologize.
Lepore say he has lined up other venues willing to hold the weddings.