Wedding planner avoids jail time for theft and deception

An overseas wedding planner who continued to ask a couple for money for their Spanish wedding after realizing her business was insolvent has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Suzanne Danker (48) was running her business, Spanish Dream Weddings, in a haphazard and chaotic fashion when she finally ran out of money in September 2012.

Danker and her then-husband were featured in a 2007 RTÉ documentary titled The Great Escape, about their move from South Dublin to Marbella to set up their wedding business. The company ran into financial difficulties in early 2012, but continued to trade until September, when it ran out of money to pay the contractors.

Danker of Boroimhe Ash, Swords, Dublin pleaded guilty to three counts of deception and three of theft between 7 and 10 September 2012.

Garda Detective James Codd told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that Sarah Foran and Colm Moriarty were married in Spain in September 2012 and paid Danker around €10,000 to organize the wedding event.

Eight days before the wedding, Ms Foran discovered that none of the contractors had been paid. Det Gda Codd said the unpaid list included a florist, DJ, videographer, singer and flamenco dance troupe, as well as church fees.

Danker had continued to seek the couple’s payments and the court heard that she “was scrambling and floundering, trying to offset deposits and commissions from one marriage to meet her obligations to another marriage.”

Defense barrister Olan Callanan BL said that since the company was founded five years earlier, his client had successfully arranged around 200 weddings. He said two of them went off without a hitch in the weeks leading up to Ms Foran’s wedding day.

He said if Danker had informed the couple that there were issues instead of abruptly cutting off communications with them a week before the wedding, “things could be very different.”

He said Danker was running the business in a chaotic and haphazard fashion and was counting on the €12,000 investment pledged earlier this summer. That money never materialized and the court heard someone in Gibraltar had made “a runner with the money”.

Marriage debt

In a victim impact report, Ms Foran said she and her husband were a young couple who had worked hard and saved hard to pay for their wedding. She said their marriage started out in debt after having to borrow money to pay for the wedding a second time.

She said the humiliation and shame of this would always be with her and that Danker had manipulated her and her husband.

“We are both fair and reasonable people, we would have worked with Suzanne,” she said. She said that because Danker cut off communications, they felt helpless at such an important time in their lives.

She said Danker’s actions left their wedding day tarnished and blemished.

Dr Gda Codd agreed with Mr Callanan that the breach stemmed from the fact that, at a time when Danker should have known the company was unable to follow through on the planned wedding, she continued to seek payments .

The lawyer told the court that even after cutting off communications, Danker continued to try to organize the wedding event. Mr Callanan described it as “an inanity”.

He told the court that his client was in the midst of a personal, professional and marital crisis at the time. He said she is haunted by guilt for ruining the victim’s wedding day and will never forgive herself for it.

She accepts full responsibility for how she treated the couple, but was otherwise of good character, with no further convictions, the lawyer said. He said Danker had returned to Ireland and had ‘get her life back on track’.

Judge Martin Nolan said the couple’s wedding day was marred by Danker’s actions. He said he accepts that she is remorseful and that it is very unlikely that she will do it again in this way.

He suspended a three-year prison sentence on the condition that a sum of €9,500 which was brought to justice be paid to the victims and that a further €5,000 be paid in the following two years.

He said it was to punish her and the couple did not have to accept it, in which case it would have to be donated to charity.

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