A NORTHUMBERLAND wedding venue has said it "unreservedly apologises for the hurt caused" by its decision to unilaterally cancel its wedding ceremonies in 2022 and ask customers to re-book at double the price.

Couples due to get married at Matfen Hall, near Hexham, next year were left reeling this week after the venue dispatched identical letters to them all cancelling their booking - unless they’re happy to pay thousands of pounds more than was originally agreed.

The luxurious country hall, described in one TripAdviser review as “the most magical place in the North of England”, sent out the letters on September 10 to all couples booked from the second quarter of next year onwards.

The letter confirms the cancellation of their bookings and offers them a new “bespoke” booking - at a minimum spend of £20,000.

Those couples not willing to shell out the extra money now have to find another venue they like on the same day, in order not to lose other deposits they’ve put down for things like bands and photographers.

One of the couples, Ritchie Cummings and Nicola Sanderson, from Coanwood, were booked in for July 20 next year. They made their booking last summer.

Ritchie, 40, said that the venue cited a clause in the contract that allows them to take this action, but added that the new price was more than £10,000 more than they’d agreed. “It’s pretty devastating to be honest,” he said. “We’re still trying to sort things out.”

Another couple, Chris Marshall and Laura Davies, of South Shields, had booked their wedding for November 5, 2022.

Chris, 32, said that they “adored” the venue but following a long conversation they’ve decided to try to find somewhere else.

“We weren’t actually given the option to pay the extra, the first thing we heard about it was that it had been cancelled,” he said.

“Whilst the situation is awful it’s the way that the management at Matfen Hall have handled this that we have the big concern with.

“They could have sat down with people or at least given us the opportunity to decide if we wanted to go ahead, come to some form of compromise, rather than simply cancelling the wedding."

The letters caused a storm in the press and on social media. Matfen Hall, which employs 130 people, initially posted a 358-word statement on its website explaining its decision and “recognising” the disappointment it has caused - but stopped short of offering any words of apology.

But in a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the venue said: "We unreservedly apologise for the hurt this decision has caused. It was never our intention to cause any upset for the couples involved.

"Every wedding is a special occasion – the most precious day in a couple’s lives and it has been our privilege to host hundreds of weddings and play a part in those special moments. We will have honoured 119 weddings by the end of the year booked under the previous management.

"We have invested heavily in upgrading the wedding experience at Matfen Hall to make those occasions extra special for our guests and as a result, many people have been booking their weddings for 2022 with us.

"It is clear that we have not explained this to a number of guests and that has caused a lot of hurt. We know it is up to us to put things right and to explain to those guests who had booked under the previous management how their wedding would be vastly enhanced."

The statement added that the venue is now "working privately and individually with the couples on a solution."