A groom who returned to the Cayman Islands to get married and celebrate his honeymoon says it will be the last time the newlyweds return to the island after the way they were treated by customs officials upon entry.
Scott McLean, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had previously lived on the island for nine years and returned last week for his wedding but was shocked when officials removed his wife’s wedding dress from its protective bag and demanded he pay $500 deposit to allow the dress on island, or face losing the gown.
“I chose this island to come back to for my wedding and, within one hour of the plane’s wheels touching the ground, my honeymoon was cut in half, my wife’s wedding dress was confiscated, and my 67-year-old mother was in tears,” Mr. McLean said.
“They kept changing the laws as we were standing in front of him, then he took the dress out of its packaging.
“My wife was crying, my mother was crying – it was just a massive ordeal. It was not the homecoming I wanted, it was devastating.”
Mr. McLean said although the issue was resolved with him paying a $67 deposit, he and his wife had vowed never to return.
“That two-hour segment put such a damper on our wedding, that’s all people [at the wedding] could speak about,” he said.
“We will never come back. It was just a brutal, brutal homecoming and now we are making other arrangements.”
Collector of Customs at H.M. Customs Department, Samantha Bennett, said passengers are required to make a full declaration of all goods being imported onto the island, and failure to do so would result in the seizure of goods and fines imposed.
Returning residents can enter with dutiable items or household goods up to the value of $350 duty free, while for a nonresident, an item, such as a wedding dress, is dutiable at 22 percent upon receipt of the cost of value. If the wedding dress is imported on a temporary basis, a deposit of 30 percent of the gown’s value is held as security and returned upon exit.
“I understand there was an incident involving a wedding dress and the passenger opted to pay a deposit, pending export versus paying the duty. This is the normal process the Customs Department encounters on a weekly basis, as Cayman is a wedding destination location,” Ms. Bennett said.
She said the couple did not initially declare the wedding dress or the suit for the groom.
“These items were found by an initial search by a customs officer. While we had the discretion to seize the item … the matter was considered by H.M. Customs and it was agreed a deposit would be paid by the passenger.”
Joy Basdeo of Simply Weddings, who was the celebrant at the couple’s wedding on Seven Mile Beach on Saturday, said she had never heard of such an incident before, but added that most Cayman brides purchase their wedding dresses overseas because there are not many stores on the island.
“I’ve never heard of that happening before, but that was the most exquisite, handmade wedding dress that I have ever seen,” Ms. Basdeo said.
She said the busiest season for weddings is between December and May, with a 50 percent split between resident and tourist weddings.