In September, Tami Rose Hoekstra's wedding to Juan Jose Rocha of Mexico City was a front-runner for Wedding of the Year, if not the decade. Nothing seemed too good or too lavish for Carol Reed Hoekstra's daughter, her bridegroom or the 425 guests jetting in from Chicago and Mexico City.
Six weeks later, the company owned by Hoekstra -- who was estimated to have spent as much as $500,000 on the wedding -- filed for bankruptcy, a federal court in Chicago confirmed yesterday. And some debts from the wedding remain to be paid.
Glen Godden, director of catering at the Sheraton-Carlton, where 100 rooms were reserved for the affair, declined yesterday to comment on how much Hoekstra still owes the hotel for a 12-hour wedding reception and breakfast that was reported to have totaled $125,000.
Not so hesitant was Michael Walton, manager of Friendship Florists, who said Hoekstra still owes him $19,000 for $50,000 worth of church and hotel floral decorations that included statues, Corinthian columns and no end of fresh gardenias. He said he started to worry about a month after the wedding when the check Hoekstra had promised failed to arrive.
"She never gave us an excuse. We just got notification in the mail that she had filed for bankruptcy," said Walton. WDVM-TV reported Thursday night that both Hoekstra individually and her company had filed.
Hoekstra owns the James B. Downing Co., a Lake Forest, Ill., firm that produces lactose and animal feed. The company filed for bankruptcy Nov. 4, a court clerk said. Chapter 11 provides companies protection from creditors, giving them time to reorganize their finances while they continue to operate.
She chose Washington for the wedding, she said at the time, because she and her late husband had always loved visiting here. A few years ago she gave her daughter's 21st birthday party here.
Yesterday afternoon an aide at her office said Hoekstra was not available for comment.
The Sept. 21 wedding was preceded by several days of prenuptial dinners and parties. Hoekstra attended to every detail, including a professional presser for her guests' garments.
At the Sheraton-Carlton, the 30-member kitchen staff spent four days preparing pinwheels of smoked salmon and lobster medallions on toast with aspic and truffles, elaborate doves made out of meringue and butterfly cookies with wings delicately edged with chocolate. Hoekstra, reportedly a teetotaler, insisted on exotic nonalcoholic drinks and even substituted them for alcoholic beverages in the hotel room bars.
The hotel actually closed its doors the afternoon of Sept. 21 so that the Rocha-Hoekstra wedding party could move freely between the reception -- in the lobby and dining room -- and the lavish seated dinner installed under a tent.
"Mrs. Hoekstra's expectations were very high," said Godden, who described her as "very demanding in what the final product would be."
As guests arrived by 60 limousines Hoekstra hired for their convenience -- at an estimated cost of $78,000 -- they passed a string ensemble with harp, arranged by Alice Conway of Entertainment America. Conway coordinated the wedding arrangements, setting up tours, dinners and other special activities. She declined yesterday to disclose what all of that cost, but said most of it was paid for before the wedding took place.
"I knew before the wedding that she was having business problems but I really trusted her," Conway said. "I had done other parties for her and I had always been paid. So I felt everything would work out."
Hoekstra was a frequent visitor to Washington, and her credit rating among vendors could hardly have been better. Diana Damewood, manager of Dominique's restaurant, where Hoekstra gave -- and later paid for -- a $1,200 prewedding dinner for 30, said the Illinois woman never played the big spender in the nine years they have been acquainted.
"She never came in and started flashing bills," said Damewood. "She was a straight 15 percent tipper -- never anything extra. You get some people who are nouveau riche and it's not like that. I was surprised at this bankruptcy . She's very conscientious. We don't know what her problems are; maybe somebody cheated her."
Josh Lanier, head of the Presidential Yacht Trust, which operates the Sequoia, where another prewedding dinner was held, said Hoekstra donated $10,000, making her one of the trust's larger donors.
"She drove by the boat one day a couple of years ago, fell in love with it and said she wanted to donate. Soon thereafter, a nice check arrived," Lanier recalled. "She's a very patriotic woman -- red, white and blue across the board. If she's filed bankruptcy under Chapter 11, then she's going to try to reorganize and I'd think that it doesn't mean the bills she owes won't get paid."