Dozens of devastated couples booked to tie the knot at a historic Kent castle have had their weddings cancelled at short notice.
The firm running events at the Lympne Castle country estate, near Hythe, has dealt a blow to those set to marry at the £11 million property after revealing the venue has been snapped up by a new owner.
Bosses say the business has been wound up as the buyer has bought the castle as a property and estate only, but it is understood a new firm intends to run weddings at the site.
However, dozens of couples have been offered full refunds in emails telling them their big day has been cancelled, with many already desperately searching for new venues.
One bride-to-be whose wedding is in just seven weeks says she was left in a "state of shock" after hearing the "nightmare" news.
Another couple from Folkestone, Luke Jones and Natalie Holness, say they are heartbroken, having only booked their wedding for next summer three months ago.
Mr Jones says his wife-to-be was left "crying in the supermarket" after receiving a "cold and unsympathetic" email from bosses at the venue yesterday afternoon.
The 30-year-old added: "I received an email from a friend who spotted something on social media from someone else saying that their wedding for next month had been cancelled.
"They asked if it affected me, but it was the first I had heard.
"A couple of hours later we received an email [from Lympne Castle] saying they were going to have to cancel, and sent us a refund request form.
"It was very cold; there was no explanation as to why.
"We felt devastated - my partner burst out crying in the middle of the supermarket.
"I feel more angry particularly because we knew the sale was coming, and when we booked we asked staff directly 'will the sale affect future weddings?' and they told us 'no'."
The pair are now back to the drawing board and are hoping to contact other venues to see if their date is free.
Mr Jones added: "We are in a much more fortunate position than some people given that we have a bit longer, and the only other thing we had booked was our photographer.
"The photographer we are using we met at a Lympne Castle wedding fair.
"It's one of his preferred venues and when we rang him to tell him the news it was the first he’d heard of it.
"I hope the new owners don't plan to run it as a wedding venue as they've just committed career suicide.
"To cancel everyone's wedding the day before Valentine's Day seems a bit harsh."
Another bride-to-be, Rebecca Dittrich, shared the news her wedding had been cancelled at short notice on the Facebook page Kent Wedding Suppliers, Brides And Grooms Buy And Sell.
She wrote: "Nightmare. We're getting married in 49 days and our venue (Lympne Castle) called today to say that the castle was sold and the wedding is cancelled!!!
"I am absolutely devastated and in a state of shock. Trying to think of what to do next."
The post sparked more than 200 comments - many from couples booked to marry at the castle.
Charlotte Eames posted: "Just received my email. I was booked for September 2024. I thought it was spam at first but now realise it's true."
Maria Loft, whose son was due to marry at the venue this autumn, branded the situation a "fiasco".
"I don't get how they could be booking so many weddings knowing they wouldn't be fulfilling them," she wrote.
"I'm absolutely gutted for my son and his fiancée and so many of you affected by this.
"I think they should also be refunding deposits for other services lost as a result of this fiasco."
A spokesperson for the team running Lympne Castle events said: "Due to the retirement of the owner, Lympne Castle has been on sale since last year.
"A matter of days ago, the castle was sold. It has been sold as property and estate only and therefore our wedding business has been wound up too.
"Regrettably, this has meant that we have had to formally cancel our booked events and were unable to transfer them directly to the new owners.
"Our customers have now all been emailed with details of how to claim refunds for payments received, which will begin at the end of next week.
"They have also received contact details of the new company, who are willing to take on existing bookings.
"We have been in touch with other nearby venues who have also stated that they have some availability.
"We fully understand the distress this has caused and hope that bookings/rearrangements can be made very soon."
Efforts were made to clarify if any new events firm at the castle will honour existing bookings and prices.
The news comes just a month after 37 weddings were cancelled at the Hadlow Manor Hotel in Tonbridge when the venue announced its sudden closure.
The following day, another 15 couples had their wedding dreams dashed when The Blue Pigeons hotel in Worth, near Deal, "ceased operation immediately".