Couples planning the most important day of their lives have been left at the altar... by their own wedding venue.
The iconic Bobsleigh Hotel in Bovingdon has confirmed it is to close next month, leaving all brides-to-be and their grooms who had planned their special day at the part-16th century venue stranded in the aisle.
Staff at the 46-bedroom inn – which is part of the Macdonald chain of hotels – informed prospective guests that any weddings and functions booked after the end of November would be cancelled.
A spokesman for the chain revealed a series of failed planning applications to extend and revamp the venue were partly to blame for the hotel’s collapse.
The spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Bobsleigh Hotel will cease trading.
“As a result we will now enter a period of consultation with all staff. As a priority we are also in contact with all customers who have outstanding reservations at the hotel.
“The hotel is no longer operating at a viable level and to upgrade the existing property to the Macdonald standard would require extensive investment that is economically unviable.
“There have also been prolonged delays in securing planning for a new development.”
The company also said it is keen to ensure all 15 full-time and 10 part-time employees are re-deployed within the Macdonald estate, where practical for each individual.
But for those whose weddings are just around the corner, the announcement has caused upset, inconvenience and unexpected extra costs.
Sam Hayhoe, 29, and her fiance Martin O’Connor, 33, had chosen the Bobsleigh as the venue for their wedding on February 21 next year.
The couple – who live in Hemel Hempstead’s Woodhall Farm – said they first saw rumours the hotel was going to close on social media, but their fears were confirmed last week when their wedding planner at the Bobsleigh delivered news of the cancellation.
Sam said: “Distraught was not the word. I just didn’t know what to do – five months until the wedding and we now had no venue.
“It has been a very stressful time for us, and I am disgusted with the way the Bobsleigh has treated us.”
The disappointed pair have been told their deposit would be returned in full, and although they have since managed to secure a different hotel at the last minute, they have been forced to incur extra costs on reissuing their notice of marriage and reprinting invitations.
They have also had to pay for higher room rates for themselves and their guests at the new venue in Hunton Park, as the Bobsleigh’s management could only offer another Macdonald venue miles away in Ascot as an alternative.
Another man from Hatfield told the Gazette he had booked his wedding at the Bovingdon venue next year and will also now miss out.
The groom-to-be said: “It is highly unfair they are shutting the hotel and failing to honour any commitments.
“We had arranged things for that day and have printed save-the-dates with that address on, and we have now got to run around to find somewhere else that will be able to host it on the same day.
“The staff at the Bobsleigh are so helpful and friendly, and we really looked forward to having our wedding there because it is a lovely place.”
Macdonald’s spokesman acknowledged the broken promises made to those who had booked functions at the Bobsleigh, saying: “We completely understand the inconvenience this closure will cause, particularly with those couples who have future weddings booked.
“We are in contact with all those individuals to make alternative arrangements.
“The company recognises that the Bobsleigh is in many ways a part of the local community and the decision to close the hotel has been a very difficult one.”
The hotel was known as the Bovingdon Country Club until its owner’s son, Tony Nash, won a gold medal as part of the British two-man bobsleigh team at the Innsbruck Winter Olympics in 1964.
The Bobsleigh will officially close its doors on November 23.