Comal County, TX (KXAN) — Law enforcement officials are turning to the public for help identifying a woman accused of stealing joy from Central Texas couples on their special day.
Monday morning, Comal County Crime Stoppers shared a post, hoping someone could identify a woman in photos who is suspected to have made a habit out of posing as a guest at weddings and stealing the gifts. Officials say she has been involved in a series of thefts at wedding venues, both in Comal County and in surrounding areas, the post said.
“This elusive suspect has been dubbed ‘The Wedding Crasher,'” the post from Comal County Crime Stoppers said.
The Comal County Sheriff’s Office hopes the public will help identify her, “before she strikes again”
“Let’s not let her ruin anyone else’s special day and bring this crasher to justice,” the post read.
Jennifer Smith, public information officer with the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, explained that the department believes this woman has crashed a total of three different weddings. One of these venues was in the Spring Branch area of Comal County.
The first of these thefts happened in December of 2018, the most recent happened on August 3 of 2019. Smith added that it’s possible this suspect also stole from a wedding in Kendall County.
Smith explained that the department was able to track down the surveillance video of the woman trying to use the gift cards that were purchased for the couple who was getting married.
“We finally got a picture of who we think it is and we wanted to release it right away,” Smith said.
“We’re getting some good leads,” she added.
She said this woman stole mainly envelopes, cash, and gift cards. Smith was not sure of the total value of the items this woman has stolen.
New Braunfels Police Department shared the post on Facebook as well, noting that those who want to submit tips can earn a cash reward of up to $4,000.
You can submit an anonymous tip, by contacting Comal County Crime Stoppers. You can submit a tip online from this link: http://www.comalcrimestoppers.org.
You can also submit a tip by using the mobile app: Download the “P3 Tips” app for iOS or Android mobile devices and submit a tip through the app.
Additionally, you can call in a tip on the phone (24 Hours a Day/7 Days a Week): Call 830-620-TIPS (8477) or call 1-800-640-8422.
Advice from wedding professionals
KXAN reached out to several professionals in the Wedding industry near Comal County for this story, most had not heard about this “Wedding Crasher until today.
“I think it’s heartbreaking, weddings are the couples’ — you know– it’s their special day and they want everything to be perfect,” said Jill McCarty, who owns Couture Events wedding planning company and serves as the vice president of the New Braunfels Wedding Chamber. “[The couple has] spent a lot of money, they’ve spent a lot of time. It’s really heartbreaking to think that there would be someone out there who would take advantage of people on their day.”
McCarty said this isn’t something that has ever happened to her clients before, but it is something that she warns the couple about.
“We tell them there are different ways you can prevent this from happening at the wedding,” she said.
At the weddings she works, when the couple is having dinner, her team will take all the gifts and cards to a designated area.
“When we’re meeting with clients we also tell them to make sure that they make their rounds during dinner and if they see someone they don’t recognize, ask them who they are, a simple, ‘I don’t think that we’ve met before'” McCarty explains. She doesn’t recommend that couples handle the situation themselves if they discover a wedding crasher, but rather that they delegate the task to security personnel, a wedding coordinator, or a trusted friend.
She adds that couples can also decrease their risk of wedding crashers by reducing their wedding guest count and being very specific on invitations about who is invited.
Many of the wedding planners we spoke with mentioned that some wedding venues require some type of security officer for the event, especially if alcohol involved.
“Our area here is getting to be such a big wedding destination area, we hope that they get these people caught,” McCarty said of the “Wedding Crasher” suspect, noting she doesn’t want people to be deterred from having weddings in the area.
Darcy Hamilton, who works with Hamilton Wedding Finishing in New Braunfels said the number of weddings she has seen happening in the New Braunfels area over the past couple of years has been “skyrocketing.”
She says more people are seeing the New Braunfels area as a place to have destination weddings. she estimates that 80% of her business is people coming from out of town.
With so many venues in the area, she could see how a wedding crasher suspect might be able to hop to multiple venues in one day.
“The town is growing and you have to be more vigilant,” Hamilton said.
With the clients Hamilton works with, she always suggests that at the beginning of the reception that the wedding planning staff removes all of the gifts and takes them to a lockable room or a designated vehicle.
Heather Orsak, the owner of The Perfect Day which does event rentals and coordination, said she actually rents out a device to put cards for the couple in that has a lock on it.
“I pretty much insist I move smaller gifts and cards into the bridal suite as long as the bridal suite is a room that can be locked,” Orsak said. She tried to move the gifts when the couple starts dancing because everyone focus is on the newlyweds.
She tells couples that even if they know all the guests in attendance, it’s better to be safe about where they put their gifts. Especially because couples don’t know what gifts guests might be bringing for them, they might not notice if something goes missing, Orsak said.
She added that if your venue has some type of security officer on-site, it’s important the security staff is up to speed on what people shouldn’t be walking off with (for example, make it clear whether or not guests are allowed to walk off with centerpiece decorations).
Orsak explained that she wasn’t surprised to hear about the Comal County wedding crasher, but she does think its “pretty awesome” that someone was able to track down the wedding crasher’s photo through surveillance video — Orsak is hoping this woman gets caught.
Miranda Cushman, owner of The Event Specialist in San Antonio said that hill country venues are very popular for her clients right now and many of them are also interested in getting married in Comal County.
“I actually think its really absurd that this person thinks they can nonchalantly walk into anybody’s wedding with the intention of stealing their wedding gifts,” Cushman said.
She had been doing event planning for weddings for seven years in Central Texas, and while she’s never had clients’ gifts stolen, she has seen people attempt to crash the weddings she’s worked on.
“For my couples, I think it’s important to talk with them about the placement of their gift table, obviously you want it to be somewhere that’s in plain sight of the bridal party,” she said, adding that having a gift table that’s out of sight may increase the chances of someone swiping an item.
“It’s important that coordinators, venues coordinators, vendors, know who is supposed to be there,” Cushman added, noting that it is helpful for the couple to appoint a trusted friend or family member to keep an eye on gifts and personal items to make sure they don’t walk off with someone else.