MT. MORRIS – Rebecca King was shopping at Target when she learned of White Pines Resort’s plan to close and declare bankruptcy.
She sat down, right there in the aisle, and cried.
Her Sept. 26 wedding was booked there.
King and 50 other brides had to cancel their wedding plans after concessionaire Beth George decided last week that the losses her White Pines Resort suffered because of the COVID-19 shutdown were too great to overcome.
George ran the resort for 31 years, and hosted more than 1,200 weddings.
“I was devastated,” King said. "For couples, just because of the sentiment that went into it and the business. A lot of things run through your head. The anxiety of being done planning and just having to wait to say I do, and then getting thrown back into planning.”
King has moved her wedding to a venue near the Quad Cities where she lives. She had to cut the number of guests and re-plan most of it with just a 4-month window.
Part of the reason she and her fiancé, Colin DePrez, chose White Pines was its all-inclusive amenities – with a restaurant and cabins, less planning had to be done, it was close for family, and then, of course, there's its scenery.
“I went to White Pines when I was a kid,” said King, who grew up in Rockford. “Our dream wedding was Colorado. We love beautiful scenery, and that’s something we connected on. White Pines was ideal for that and our families.”
King and DePrez thought their date was safe, with COVID-19 threatening only summer weddings. After they got the news, they still wanted to keep the same date – the month is special to them, and DePrez and many guests have careers in firefighting, which limits their schedules.
At least the change didn't hurt them financially. Their new arrangements are less expensive, and George refunded them in full.
George is trying to raise money to pay back the couples and guests before she enters bankruptcy. A GoFundMe page, set up by others, has raised nearly $19,000 to help with those efforts.
The resort attempted to hold a gift shop sale to raise additional money, but it was shut down by the conservation police because the business is nonessential.
Now the remaining inventory will be sold at Starved Rock Lodge and Conference center when it reopens on May 29, and George says she now has enough money to pay the couples and guests.
King stood in line for the gift shop sale Monday, but never made it inside.
“I wanted a memory of our dream wedding that was supposed to be,” King said. “It’s the marriage that matters, not the wedding. But we had dreams of it.
"If other brides read this, stay positive. Think out of the box and go with the flow.”