Jennifer Brooks
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The wedding was less than two weeks away.

Everything the bride and groom had planned for the past year was ready: Church, dress, flowers, caterer, photographer and the reception at an airy, light-filled wedding barn in Isanti County. Soon, 185 guests would be packing their bags; family would be flying up from Alabama to see Minnesota at its best.

Everything was ready — except the Circle B wedding venue, which was out of business. Effective immediately. Without warning. Without a refund.

In tears, bride-to-be Katelyn Stalboerger posted an appeal on TikTok.

She and her fiancé chose the picturesque barn for their May 4 wedding reception. Then on Sunday evening came a curt email from the business, owned by Wayne and Angi Butt, who also own the Historic Furber Farm wedding venue in Cottage Grove. Subject line: "Circle B Permanently Closed."

The Butts cut the ribbon on the Isanti County wedding barn in 2023, but the message from Circle B said the "historic" venue was closing due to rising costs, a changing economy and competition from newer businesses.

"[W]e understand that this news will not only be disheartening to many of you and your families, but for many of you this will been devastating for your plans, for that we are truly sorry," read the message, concluding with: "Nobody is available to take calls or emails."

Circle B's website and social media had been deleted. Couples who managed to reach the Butts or their attorney were told brusquely that all the payments in full the Butts had required — including fees that some couples said were requested just days before that email went out — would not be reimbursed.

For couples left with little time to find a new wedding venue and no money to pay for one, "devastating" doesn't begin to describe this situation.

"We have nowhere to go and we're not getting our money back," Stalboerger said in her post, which had garnered more than 2 million views by the end of Monday.

Now the community, online and off, is rallying to clean up Circle B's mess and save dozens of big days.

Vendors and venues across the state have stepped up with discounts and offers of help. Strangers have offered their own backyards as wedding venues.

"The community has been incredible," Stalboerger said in an interview. "There have been so many people who reached out, just to be supportive. Which has been really nice."

The marriage is the important thing, people remind her. And she knows it's true. The venue, the celebration — all those things would have been beautiful. But they're just things. And not the important things.

"It is about the marriage," she said. "The response on TikTok just reminded me. That's how I'm trying to stay positive."

She and her fiancé, Isaac Nelson, will be getting married on May 4, no matter what, surrounded by love and the people they love.

Neither the Butts nor their attorney, Ryan Kaess, have responded to calls or requests for comment.

Stalboerger isn't alone in having to scramble to find a new venue.

Heidi Kafura and Matthew Niemeyer are getting married on Aug. 31, as planned. They just won't be getting married at Circle B, as planned. They have too many guests who have booked flights and too many relatives who are first responders to change the date at the last minute.

Just a few weeks before, the venue reached out to her with a routine question about one of her vendors. The news that the wedding barn was going out of business was a complete shock. She tried emailing, but her messages bounced back. She tried calling, but the phones just rang, unanswered.

"I was just in tears," she said. "Their logo was gone, their name was gone, there was no way to contact them."

She called her caterer, who told her: "You're my third bride this morning."

Kaitlin Gulstad and Justin Lynch snapped selfies under the chandelier-strung roofbeams of Circle B, where they were supposed to celebrate their wedding on Sept. 14.

They had relatives planning to fly in from out of the country, they had alpacas booked to join the party. Lynch is a medical student with a packed schedule, so he and his fellow residents had requested time off for the wedding 15 months in advance.

Looking over the many photos she took on their walk through Circle B, Gulstad mulled her limited options. Would they start fresh with a new location, new vendors and less money?

"Are we going to have to wait another year to get married, just to have people there?" she said.

Her sister set up an online fundraiser to help, and Gulstad has marveled at all the vendors and venues and total strangers that have stepped up with offers of help.

The Minnesota Rural Event Vendors Association — MNReva — has mobilized in the Circle B aftermath the way communities rally after a natural disaster. It wasn't just dozens of couples who had their plans disrupted — it was every caterer, photographer, wedding planner and vendor they worked with.

Many of those vendors have been kind to the couples in need. Gulstad even received a refund of her nonrefundable deposit for her wedding alpaca rental.

Dennis Davis owns another Isanti County wedding venue, Erickson Farmstead. With peak wedding season looming, he and the other venues have drafted spreadsheets, desperately trying to match couples to venues with space available on the dates they need.

Many venues — including his own — are completely booked for the year. Some do have space and have offered bookings to Circle B clients at a discount.

So many people are trying to help. It hurts to see couples robbed of their wedding day, their peace of mind and a small fortune all at once.

"I think we've been able to help several of them, at least give them some options that might work for them," Davis said. "We've got 40 or 50 members [of MNReva] that we've been tapping into over the last 12 or 15 hours to see who has openings."