My heartbreak as planner stole £600 from our last-minute wedding budget so my dying mum could walk me down the aisle – The Sun

SAMANTHA Devine was planning a luxury wedding abroad, when her mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Having already lost her dad, the 32-year-old, from Hull, was determined her mum would walk her down the aisle.

The procurement specialist and fiance Phil Leach, a retired firefighter, brought their wedding forward by two years and started planning an event here in Britain.

But they were in for more heartache when their event planner disappeared – with £600 of their money.

Here speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, mum-of-one Samantha tells her story…

My relationship with Phil Leach was very loving, but he'd never been the roses and candlelit dinner type.

When he proposed after three years, in July 2018, it was in typical Phil style.

He gave me a birthday card and shuffled off to work, and when I opened it a ring tumbled out.

It was stunning but it didn't cross my mind it was an engagement ring, I thought it was just a nice gesture for my birthday.

I knew Phil wasn't overly romantic, but surely that wasn't how he'd propose.

"You're wearing it on the wrong hand," Phil told me that evening, as we got ready for my birthday meal.

"What do you mean?" I asked him, startled. But he slid it onto my ring finger – and just like that we were engaged.

We're going to have to move the wedding forward," I told Phil. "I want my mum there

We started saving for a wedding abroad but, three months later, I was given some devastating news.

My mum had been given the all clear from cervical cancer the previous year. But now it was back, and it was terminal.

I was there when she got the news, the doctor's words seemed like a blur.

It took me a long time to get my head around it, but one thing was for certain.

"We're going to have to move the wedding forward," I told Phil. "I want my mum there. I'm her eldest daughter and I want her to give me away."

My dad had already passed away, making mum's illness even tougher to take.

So we went into full planning mode. Instead of getting married abroad in 2022, we brought everything forward to 2020.

My mum had dreamed of my wedding day for as long as I had and, as I held her hand to tell her we'd moved it forward, I knew I couldn't have done anything differently.

But now we had a new challenge to face, trying to plan a wedding quickly on a tight budget.

I couldn't believe my luck when I saw an amazing deal for a wedding planner, on a Facebook group for thrifty brides.

Dana Twidale seemed well known across Yorkshire, with lots of brides singing her praises, and told me she'd planned weddings in London too.

In July, I noticed a post on Dana's Facebook profile. A bride had turned up to her venue to find it completely empty

I explained my situation and Dana told me she'd be happy to help.

Her profile showed dozens of photos of amazing bouquets and table pieces she'd put together.

There was still loads to do – the venue, my dress, decorations – but my planner assured me she had it all in hand.

It all seemed very much above board and I even got to meet her, taking a friend to a venue where she was setting up for a christening.

As we walked in, she was chatting to the venue owner about doing a wedding fair.

She seemed very popular, everyone was coming over to chat and one woman even told me: "She's a wonderful lady, helping loads of brides-to-be get the wedding of their dreams."

My friend agreed Dana was the right choice – she seemed honest, genuine and happy to help me through one of the hardest times in my life.

I told Dana I had a budget of £1,500 to spend with her – explaining I was thinking about using a marquee on my friend's land, but I'd need her help dressing it.

"No problem. I can get the table covers, the chair covers, the centre pieces," Dana said.

She was certainly helping to ease my stress, everything seemed to be going so smoothly.

I felt fear rising in my throat, I'd already given her £500 to cover the cost of decorations and £100 for a marquee deposit

But then, in July, I noticed a post on her Facebook profile. A bride had turned up to her venue to find it completely empty.

She said there wasn't a chair cover in sight, much less Dana.

My stomach sunk. I felt fear rising in my throat, I'd already given her £500 to cover the cost of decorations and £100 for a marquee deposit.

I was panicked but didn't want to believe it. Surely no-one would leave a bride destitute on the eve of her wedding.

But the messages started coming in, thick and fast.

"Don't ever book a wedding with this woman!"

"I've lost so much money!"

"A complete no-show!"

I could see the visions of my dream day crashing around me.

Phil and I decided to send her an innocent message, asking if she knew a videographer, to see if she responded. But my message wasn't even read.

I couldn't believe it – how had I allowed myself to be duped this way?

As more horror stories began to appear on her page, it became clear I wasn't getting my money back.

I was heartbroken. "How could someone take advantage of this awful situation?" I sobbed to Phil.

But I couldn't stop the wedding plans, there was still so much to sort.

I reported Dana to the police for fraud, along with other brides-to-be, but months later no-one's heard from her.

She's accused of fleecing her ex Carl Twidale out of £10,000 too. There are even rumours she's fled the country.

Thankfully there were some decent people out there, who flooded me with offers to help when they heard my story.

I found it hard to trust when people asked for deposits, but I was fortunate I hadn't blown my whole budget on Dana.

So far, I've booked someone else to dress the venue, as well as a DJ.

Sadly my mum died last week, so she won't get to walk me down the aisle.

Now I just hope she's found and justice is served.

She deserves to know the heartache she's put me through, and to face up to what she's done.

Yesterday, we spoke to a woman whose husband attacked with an axe by raging neighbour after he complained about their Bonfire Night bash.

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