Visiting brides will no longer have to pay a duty charge on wedding dresses or wedding attire when entering the Cayman Islands after the Customs Tariff Law this week eliminated its policy.
The Cayman Islands government announced this week that Cabinet had approved a decision to enable the duty-free importation of both new and used wedding apparel by tourists who are getting married or are a part of a wedding party.
The policy of charging those arriving in Cayman for a destination weddings a 30 percent deposit on their dresses was reviewed following an incident earlier this month in which a traveling groom was held up at Customs and eventually asked to leave a $67 deposit on his fiance’s wedding dress.
A former resident of Grand Cayman, groom Scott McLean, from Milwaukee, had returned to the island for his wedding but was outraged when officials confiscated his wife’s wedding dress and demanded he pay a $500 deposit to allow the dress on island. His wife was a resident in Cayman at the time.
Collector of Customs Samantha Bennett said following a review of internal procedures, it became apparent the long standing process required a comprehensive review.
“HM Customs will inform all staff of the new procedure and enforce this accordingly for visitors,” she said.
“The process of declaration will be followed in accordance with the Customs Tariff Law Schedule 2 on tourist apparel … only now the discretion will be legally expanded to not charge a deposit. Please note that duty were never applicable unless the item was remaining on island indefinitely.”
In a statement released by government Tuesday morning, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the Cayman Islands hoped to provide a stress-free “Caymankind experience” for visiting couples.
“Following a recent incident surrounding a wedding dress that was not declared upon entry into the Cayman Islands, we came together to address the issues around charging duty on wedding attire,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
Wedding planner and celebrant of Simply Weddings Joy Basdeo said she was relieved to hear of the changes but felt the Department of Tourism and Cayman Islands Tourism Association would still need to do some damage control.
“Whether or not the previous policy has any lasting detrimental effect will depend on how efficiently we get the word out to our partners in the destination wedding industry,” Ms. Basdeo said.
“Only last week I did a wedding where a visiting bride was required to put a deposit on her wedding dress, which she was told would be refunded when she was leaving the island in a week’s time. Needless to say, the bride, who was traveling with a group, including her mother and grandmother, was quite upset by the stress caused by this previously unknown policy,” Ms. Basdeo said.
“This was a luxury wedding which would have brought thousands of dollars into our economy, not only from the wedding itself, but hotel rooms, restaurants, tours and transportation.”
Ms. Basdeo said visiting brides did not usually travel with invoices for their wedding dresses, and it was stressful to figure out what to declare.
“Our aim should always be to make our visitors, brides and grooms included, feel welcomed and to make their traveling experience when they arrive in our islands as stress-free and painless as possible,” she said.
Oneisha Richards, deputy director of the Department of Tourism, said it was important to convey to those invested in the wedding industry that the Cayman Islands was dedicated to maintaining high quality standards, as well as moving forward as necessary.
CITA President Kenneth Hydes said the change in policy was great news and evidence of what could be achieved when all parties were unified on the desired outcome.
“This change in policy can only help to confirm the importance of destination weddings to the Cayman Islands as we look to expand this market where we have so much to offer potential wedding planners and couples for their big day,” he said.
Chamber of Commerce president Johann Moxam said the swift action by Minister Kirkconnell, the Ministry and Department of Tourism and the Customs Department to amend the Customs Tariff Law was commendable.
“Destination weddings are an important segment of our tourism product and it makes good business sense to remove any barriers that may tarnish what should be the most memorable experience for couples who decide to get married in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Moxam said.
“I would encourage the government to conduct a further review of the Customs Tariff Law at the earliest opportunity and consult with the business community to determine if there are other areas that can be amended that would improve the overall business environment.”