Carol Fleming, from Drangan, received an email from Elaine Whitney, company owner of winourwedding.ie, stating she had no other option but to close the company due to cashflow problems.
Ms Whitney said she is “heartbroken” for letting the couple down and promised to reimburse them when she could.
Carol, who won the competition in March 2016, said she wants an explanation as to where all the money has gone after she received more than 24,000 votes at a cost of €1.25 in order to win the competition — potentially generating up to €30,000.
Carol has a three-year-old son with a complex cardiac condition which saw him spend seven months on life support.
“People got behind us because they wanted something good to happen to us, and now I feel so bad for them because they wasted their money,” she said.
Set to marry her partner Dermot Molloy in three weeks, she said they never planned for a wedding because of the expense of caring for their son. They have been together for 11 years and got engaged two years ago. Carol’s sister entered her into the competition hoping they could finally afford to get married.
“The company did pay €2,800 towards the hotel, €50 for our cake and flowers but our band cancelled on us because the deposit was never paid,” she said.
Carol said she does not understand where the money has gone, considering there were 100 couples receiving votes before it was whittled down to 10 finalists.
Speaking to theMs Whitney described how she started the business in 2013 with two partners who left in 2016.
She said she has not pocketed any money from the competition and explained that although it was €1.25 for each vote, there were alternative voting options which skewed the amount of money generated by the votes.
She said that although couples received more than 20,000 votes, this did not mean each vote was cast at €1.25 as five votes could be bought for €2.50 or 15 votes for €5 online.
Ms Whitney said the first competition she ran only took in €17,000. She said when the next wedding came around she got into a cycle of debt but continued to run the competitions to try and make money to pay for the weddings.
When asked why she continued with the business in the knowledge she was not making a profit, she said she really believed she could turn the business around.
“I’m a fool, I hold my hands up. I would never do anything to hurt anyone,” she said.
However, Ms Whitney admitted she should have closed her company when she noticed it was not making a profit.
“There are two things I’m guilty of, one is not closing the company in 2016 and the other is letting couples down. I am absolutely heartbroken,” she said.
Despite this, Ms Whitney has started a new company based on a new model and has said she will be able to cover the cost of two weddings in 2018 once the new model is up and running.
She also stated she would reimburse the couples she has let down once she gets back on her feet.