Brides stood up by wedding venue closing in Lemont

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Mary Kate Farnan, 28 was planning an outdoor spring wedding reception at Montefiori in Lemont this May but the business is in foreclosure, Farnan along with other brides don’t know if they’ll get their deposit money back or whether they’ll find somewhere else to hold the wedding. Mary Kate Farnan makes out her Save The Date cards. December 7, 2011 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

When Jillian Phillips first saw Montefiori’s rolling grounds earlier this year, the Roscoe Village bride-to-be felt like she’d been plopped into the middle of a fairy tale.

“It feels very much like a magical place,” Phillips said of the 28-acre campus in Lemont. “There is a pond, willow trees, flowers — flowers everywhere. It literally looks like something out of a movie or a book.”

And now, Montefiori has become nothing more than a fantasy: Lifescapes Productions LLC abruptly announced that it is closing its wedding/special events facilities effective Dec. 1, telling stunned clients in certified letters, “all events scheduled for calendar year 2012 are hereby canceled.” The company cites financial problems in the “current economic downturn.”

Phillips and dozens of other soon-to-be-wed brides are now scrambling to find new venues and wondering if they’ll ever see the thousands they paid in deposit money.

“I was devastated, and I don’t use that word lightly,” said Mary Kate Farnan, of Brookfield, who had planned to hold her reception on Montefiori grounds in May 2012.

Farnan said she and her fiance paid a $6,000 deposit — 1/3 of the total cost. Farnan, like the other anxious brides, said she’s called all of the contact phone numbers at Montefiori, but found they’ve all been disconnected.

“I’m wondering how I’m going to pay for my wedding now that they have $6,000 of mine,” said Farnan, a public school teacher.

The certified letter makes no promises, but states: “Returning your deposit is our top priority, therefore we also ask for your patience as we sort through things and endeavor to rectify the situation as quickly as we can. Please accept our deepest apologies for this situation.”

Unable to reach a single company representative, Farnan’s and Phillips’ patience is wearing thin.

“My wedding isn’t until October,’ Phillips said. “But I think about all the girls who are getting married, possibly this month — or this weekend — who don’t have a venue.”

Calls and an e-mail from the Chicago Sun-Times to company representatives were not returned Wednesday.

Edward Krzyminski, a Palos Heights attorney and investor in Lifescapes through 2009, said the limping economy, a spike in real estate taxes on the property and problems re-financing a bank loan all contributed to Montefiori’s demise.

And there just weren’t enough customers for a venue that boasts in an online video presentation with Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” playing in the background: “We can facilitate anything you can imagine.”

Through the years, that’s included bringing in circus elephants and horse-drawn carriages, Krzyminski said.

“They were phenomenal,” Krzyminski said. One wedding “even had a helicopter that circled and landed, and the groom got out and got onto a white horse and then met up with the bride, and they had a procession.”

When Phillips was considering options for her own wedding at Montefiori, one of the planners mentioned one woman who’d spent $50,000 on flowers.

“It looked like the perfect location,” Phillips said. “But appearances are not always what they seem.”

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