NewsTeam 10 Investigates


San Diego wedding planner accused of taking brides’ money

Natalie Gartner operated Little Miss Party Planner
Wedding planner
Little Miss Party Planner
Posted at 2:43 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-02 23:20:37-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Several couples are accusing a San Diego-based wedding planner of promising beautiful weddings and then taking some of their money, not providing the agreed-upon services.

“She was going to take care of everything,” said Tanya Rivera, who hired Natalie Gartner and Little Miss Party Planner for her daughter’s wedding.

Rivera said she found Little Miss Party Planner online. Her contract she shared with ABC 10News showed she paid close to $3,400 for her daughter’s December 2020 wedding.

“She was a pop up wedding planner, so seems like a perfect deal… with everything all in one,” Rivera said.

A pop up wedding is typically a smaller affair with a short ceremony and cheaper than your typical wedding. Little Miss Party Planner’s website said they “take the design to a whole different level for a fraction of the cost.”

At first things were great for Rivera and her daughter Olivia, who lives in Utah. Then she said Friday before the wedding, they hadn’t heard from Gartner despite their repeated attempts to contact her.

They never heard from Gartner again.

According to their contract, Gartner and Little Miss Party Planner were supposed to take care of most everything associated with a wedding including the planning, ceremony, flowers, officiant, photographer, and the toast.

“I’m very disappointed with all of the reassurance and hope that she gave us throughout the entire process, just to leave us hanging in the very end,” said Rivera’s daughter, Olivia.

They are not alone.

Rafaela Mendez and Kyle Bedford, who have been dating for more than four years, were hoping for a perfect wedding at Sunset Cliffs this coming May. Mendez also found Gartner online through social media.

Mendez said Gartner just slowly stopped contacting her. “I would email her a few times. No response. [They were] pretty basic questions, like did you get our permit for Sunset Cliffs? And she just kept telling me, ‘Yeah, I got it.’”

Mendez said she checked with the City of San Diego and there was never any permit. They paid Gartner about $800.

“It’s such a trying time for everyone and it’s already hard enough to try to pull a wedding off during this pandemic with all the different restrictions,” Bedford said.

Bedford said he wished there was more he could do. “It’s just been stressful and heartbreaking for her. It’s just frustrating to me that somebody can do that,” he said.

Cari Goodwin lives in the Los Angeles area. She also said Gartner did not secure a permit for her venue, even though she claimed she did.

As communication worsened, Goodwin asked for her $1,400 deposit back in December. One email from Goodwin to Gartner showed Gartner wrote she would “put it in the morning.” Goodwin interpreted that as a refund.

She still has not received anything.

“I’m hoping for the best that… we do get [to] recoup that money and that Natalie isn’t allowed to hurt other people,” Goodwin said.

Attempts by Team 10 to reach Gartner by phone were unsuccessful. She did not respond to emails.

Gartner and her company have three unanswered complaints on the Better Business Bureau website from November to January of this year.

On Gartner’s Facebook page, she wrote in December: “Apparently some people don’t understand what a pop up wedding is smh (shaking my head).”

Bay area resident Rochelle Stone said she paid a $1,500 deposit. She had a similar story as other brides, saying that communication with Gartner deteriorated. Stone ended up eloping in October and continues to try to remain positive.

“This is a small bump in a large world,” Stone said. “We will be okay.”

As for Rivera’s daughter, she and her now-husband did get married in her uncle’s home in Oceanside. She wasn’t going to let anything ruin her special day.

“It was beautiful,” Olivia Rivera said. “It was awesome having it in my uncle’s backyard. It turned out way better than I ever would have imagined so it was a beautiful day.”

The Better Business Bureau recently issued a warning about pop up wedding planners. It advises everyone to read the fine print of contracts, get a receipt, and always ask for references.