A couple due to tie the knot at a Holiday Inn have been left devastated after it burnt down.
Rachel Fellows and her partner Dean Webber booked their wedding back in May 2018 and had everything organised for the big day come August 25.
Best laid plans began to unravel however when a huge fire broke out in the sauna of the Walsall hotel at around 4pm yesterday (August 2).
At its peak, 50 firefighters battled the blaze for more than four hours, but the building could not be saved.
Now the couple are desperately trying to find out what they can do.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Rachel, from Walsall.
“Everything was booked back in May 2018. I’ve got my dress, the invites are sent, the cake and flowers booked, everything was done and ready to go.
“Dean’s sister is flying over from Milan, where she and her husband work as teachers, especially for the wedding .
“Now I just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The 37-year-old first heard about the fire when her mum called her with the news.
“I said to her that it would be the Holiday Inn Express, the other hotel nearby,” said Rachel, who works as a beautician.
“Then my friend came round, saying there was a lot of smoke. So I called the hotel and they confirmed that it was on fire.
“Even then I thought it would just be a small kitchen fire that the fire crews would put out. I was convinced it would all be fine.
“Then I saw how quickly the fire went up. It was shocking. I just don’t understand how it burnt down.”
The couple have been together 10 years and have two daughters, Harriet, eight, and Bebe, two.
They chose the Holiday Inn because it was so close to their home, meaning friends and family would be able to get there and back easily.
The whole day, from ceremony to reception, was planned at the Holiday Inn and they have already paid a significant amount of money for it.
Around 55 people have been invited to the day and 80 to the evening.
“Everyone was messaging me on Facebook , sending me pictures and updates,” she said.
“Then Dean phoned home. When I told him, he didn’t quite believe it. I could tell he thought ‘she’s just exaggerating.’
“Then he came round the corner and saw all the smoke.”
Being the weekend, Rachel and Dean are struggling to get any advice on what to do.
They have paid £500 for a Notice of Marriage and they are concerned there may not be time to arrange a new one.
“We cannot book another venue until we know what the Holiday Inn are planning to do and we can’t get through to anyone there as it’s the weekend,” she said.
“I’ve rang round another couple of hotels but, being August, they’re already booked up with weddings.
“When we booked the suits back in October, the man in the shop said that August 24 and 25 was the busiest weekend of the year for weddings.
“Everyone is saying we need to call back on Monday but that’s losing us another couple of days.”
Rachel said that while she has not been a ‘bridezilla’ up until this point, the stress of the hotel blaze had taken its toll.
“I’ve been very laid back about the whole wedding, I’ve not been a bridezilla at all,” she said.
“But now I just don’t know what to do.
“We need to contact all the guests now but we need to know ourselves first what is going on.
“We really want to get married that weekend. If we change the date, I don’t know if we’ll be able to book the same photographer and DJ. The cake and the flowers are all arranged too.
“And Dean’s sister and husband wouldn’t be able to make it. They’ve booked their flights.
“The girls were with their grandparents yesterday whilst I was at work and, when I picked them up, my niece asked what are you going to do about your wedding? And I said I just don’t know.”
It’s understood that the hotel management team is busy relocating guests to nearby hotels, including the Holiday Inn Express.
They are said to be working with guests to rearrange future bookings.
Staff are also getting in touch with those who have weddings and events planned at the hotel as soon as possible to help them to make alternative arrangements.
A spokesperson for Holiday Inn Walsall said: “The safety and well-being of our guests and colleagues is our highest priority.
“We believe that all guests and employees have been evacuated, with guests being relocated to nearby hotels, and are working closely to confirm this with the emergency services who remain on site”.