A Buckinghamshire hotel could potentially lose thousands of pounds worth of lucrative wedding business after a case of mistaken identity plunged them into the national headlines.
The four-star, 34-bedroom Stoke Place hotel was named erronously in an online news story on the ITV news website as the property where wedding planner Michele Connelly inadvertently sent a future bride an e-mail saying that she and her partner were not "the type of people" who would be welcome at the hotel. The e-mail had been intended for her boss.
However, it was not Stoke Place where the unfortunate incident had occurred, but the nearby five-star, 49-bedroom Stoke Park.
The story was splashed heavily across the national tabloids, which highlighted the fact that the bride, Pauline Bailey was a glamour model who worked for an adult TV channel and her fiancé, Paul Carter, had a pierced eyebrow and two earrings.
A spokesperson for Stoke Park described the incident, which happened six months ago, as "an unfortunate matter" and said that the hotel had apologised profusely to the couple. "The comment expressed in no way reflects the opinions of Stoke Park", he said. "We are an extremely welcoming and friendly hotel, inclusive of everyone and we apologised within 24 hours to the couple. For legal reasons we are unable to comment further."
Meanwhile, Stoke Place was dragged into the incident when it was named in the news story which appeared online, via the ITV site. It took three days for the story to be correctly updated. But damage has already been done with Stoke Place's wedding planner Michelle Mehmi, receiving e-mails and telephone calls blaming her for the blunder and threatening to cancel bookings.
The confusion was undobutedly heightened as the name of the wedding planner at Stoke Park and Stoke Place was respectively Michele and Michelle. To avoid an ongoing misunderstanding, Michelle Mehmi's job title has now been changed to wedding manager.
General manager of Stoke Place, Christopher Baigent, said that while the hotel had been able to placate people who had rung in, his big concern was the potential loss of business from people who had read the story when it first appeared on the ITV website.
"We took immediate action by using Twitter to try and spread the word that it was not Stoke Place that was at the centre of the story," he explained. "However, we have no idea what long-term damage might have been done to the brand."
Stoke Place, which is owned by Tej and Sarina Dhillon, generally hosts around 60 weddings a year, each costing an average of between £14,000 and £16,000,
An ITV News spokesperson said: "We accept that we made a factual error and we apologise for this. We were informed about the mistake and took immediate steps to ensure that copy was amended both on the website and in our archive. ITV News is in direct contact with those concerned."
By Janet Harmer
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