‘That’s inexcusable to me,’ Tenn. bride says of catering no-show

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Another bride has come forward, saying a Gatlinburg catering company emailed her the morning of her wedding to tell her they wouldn’t be there. The couple had already paid more than $2,500 to the Happy Pinecone Café by the day of their nuptials.

“I got a call from my husband and he was like, ‘Hey, don’t freak out, I saw this article on Facebook this morning about the same caterer who is doing our wedding and how she had kind of stood some brides up,'” explained newlywed Kendra Patton Kingery of the WATE 6 On Your Side article her husband sent to her Saturday morning.

Her groom tried to get in touch with the owner of the café. When they did get ahold of the Owner, Sarrah Willhite, it wasn’t the news they were hoping.

Morning everyone. 

It is not my intention to do this but I literally can’t make it to your weddings today. I can’t handle it mentally. I will get you the money back soon. And I just ask that yall pray for me and I promise to make it right. 
I’m sorry,  truly sorry for all of this. 

Email from Sarrah Willhite, the Owner of the Happy Pinecone Café, to Kendra Patton Kingery

They were left with nothing at 9:30 on the morning of their wedding.

“I was just in shock,” said Kingery. “She was supposed to bring the cake, cupcakes all the food, plates, silverware, napkins, cups, drinks, ice, two servers.”

While it was a wedding crisis, what Kingery didn’t know was her soon-to-be husband, family, and friends were all already taking care of it.

“She’s like, ‘Yeah we already got it taken care of,'” Kingery said about when she first spoke with her mother after receiving the email. “Elijah [her husband] went to Publix and tried to get a wedding cake, Melinda, my aunt, is going to go get ice and a cooler, my brother is going to get drinks. “

Two local, family-favorite restaurants also stepped up in a big way.

“We always go to one of the local Mexican restaurants around here, it’s called Tequila Spice,” she began. “My dad gave him a frantic call at ten in the morning and was like, ‘Hey, I need you to come through for me, can you make food for 50?”

“The other business was Squisito Too in Tanger Outlets,” Kingery added. “We were like, ‘Hey, I know this is short notice we really need you to come through for us how much pasta can you make?”

Both business owners came through for their regular customers.

At the end of the fiasco, Kingery and her parents estimated it cost them at least another $1,300 to get the food, drinks, and supplies they needed the morning of the wedding. As of Monday, they were still tallying up the unexpected bill.

Kingery says she is thankful for everyone who jumped in to help and also happy everyone seemed to have fun. Ultimately, she said it was just food and she still got to marry the love of her life. She could have just done without the last-minute stress and doesn’t feel that’s how business should be done.

“If she {Willhite} had known two or three weeks prior that she wasn’t going to be able to come to my wedding that would have been nice to have a head-up at least,” Kingery began. “To not show up and let me know like six hours before the ceremony, that’s inexcusable to me.”

Kingery also acknowledged the need for workers in the popular Smoky Mountains town, saying she understands people may be short-staffed. She just wished the owner would have communicated that she may have over-extended herself rather than cancel entirely.

In the end, Kingery hopes other brides see this story and any warning signs sooner than the morning of their big day.

Kingery, her new husband, and the rest of their families are still waiting for their refund.

WATE 6 On Your Side did reach out to the Owner of Happy Pinecone Café for a comment on this past weekend’s cancelation. She sent us the statement below:

Anyone who truly knows me knows that I would not intentionally steal or take anyone’s money or agree to do something and then not do it. I’ve already promised to make amends to their contracts. I am not taking on anymore caterings either. Everyday for two months I have received outrageous harassment. When the first TV report came out Friday night, I received threats all night long, multiple people called my phone, and that morning I was at the grocery store when my own daughter was brought into it. 
This has already gone too far. At some point we have to stop throwing stones, and work together to find a solution. A solution should never be to destroy someone until they cannot stand or for that fact stalk and push to the extent that has been dealt to me (or anyone for that matter).  And it has taken me this long to stand back up despite the hatred. Mine was unintentional. All of this is intentional.  
My plan is to stand and repay. I can’t change the past but I can re evaluate, correct, and grow my business stronger for the future.

Email from Sarrah Willhite, the Owner of the Happy Pinecone Café, to WATE 6 On Your Side Reporter Lexi Spivak

When WATE 6 On Your Side Reporter Lexi Spivak asked when Willhite would be able to repay or refund people’s money, she replied, “when people stop destroying my business.”

The Smoky Mountain Wedding Association is also aware of the situation.

We are just as disappointed as you are about what has happened to so many brides in our area regarding the Happy Pinecone.

The Smoky Mountain Wedding Association President, Ron Crivellone and the board would like to make the statement that this in not normal for our area for both members of the Smoky Mountain Wedding Association and the community as a whole. We have a lot of hard-working passionate professionals in the Smokies including Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge; that care to give that extra effort to the people that hire them. Basically, this individual is not a “normal” representation of our area.

Brides are welcome to contact us for reputable business in the Smokies for their peace of mind.

Ellen Crivellone, Administrative Assistant for the Smoky Mountain Wedding Association

WATE 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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