October 16, 2019

KEY LARGO — When Victoria Yurcheshen was proposed to last October, the Chicago bride-to-be waited until after the holidays to begin planning her wedding.

In February of this year, she and her fiancé settled on a seemingly perfect venue, Key Largo Beach Lighthouse Weddings, for a destination wedding in March 2020.

A lot of time, budgeting and stress can go into planning a wedding, which last year carried an average price tag of $33,931, according to The Knot, a wedding planning publication.

Yurcheshen was no exception. She began planning the biggest and happiest day of her life.

“I didn’t stumble upon the news of Lighthouse until late September. I already had a planner, photographer, caterer, music and decorator signed,” she said.

“I was looking online for some favors and when I got to about the third page of my search I saw a headline,” she said referring to a previous Florida Keys Free Press article reporting that a special magistrate judge had issued the Key Largo wedding venue a cease-and-desist order last October for illegally operating a commercial business in a residential neighborhood in violation of Monroe County code.

The judge also ordered the venue to book no more weddings after Aug. 31, 2019, and to submit its wedding manifest to the court.

The Thurmond Street Partners venue then filed an appeal in the Monroe County court system and two motions to continue booking weddings until the appeal is resolved.

Those motions were denied as was the venue’s most recent request that the county’s effort to have it ruled in contempt be tossed out. The county alleges that the venue continues to book weddings after being ordered to stop and is now doing business under the name Sunset Beach Weddings. The venue also has a new website, thurmondbeach.com, according to the county.

The code violation case has been slogging through the court systems for nearly two years.

“It was a moment of pure panic when I started to read the articles,” Yurcheshen said. “I can’t take the risk of my wedding not happening. I never thought to look at court documents.”

Key Largo Lighthouse Beach Weddings has since issued Yurcheshen a full refund after initially attempting to quell her fears, she said.

Yurcheshen’s potential crisis has been averted, she said, and she’s thrilled to have rebooked her wedding at a different venue in Key Largo after extensively researching 12 other locations.

The vendors she previously chose through Key Largo Lighthouse Beach Weddings will accommodate her wedding at the new venue.

“I was in the middle of planning invites. Thankfully, they had not yet printed any,” she said. “I fear for the other brides because they probably don’t have a clue. I can only wish the best for everyone else, but it is terrifying that this could happen to anyone else.”

Yurcheshen encourages engaged couples to fully research destination wedding venues.

Key Largo Lighthouse Beach Weddings did not respond as of press time to the Free Press’ request for a statement.

tjava@keysnews.com