Paradise wedding that was lost in translation

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The Independent Online

A foreign couple who paid hundreds of dollars to renew their wedding vows in a supposedly traditional ceremony on a beach in the Maldives were unknowingly mocked and humiliated by the celebrant. A video of the ceremony was then posted on the internet. "You are swine. The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine," the couple were told as they smiled and nodded.

"Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel – and we have reason to believe – an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion." The incident took place at the Vilu Reef Beach and Spa Resort, which describes itself as "a luxurious emerald island poised amidst shimmering pools of turquoise and sapphire. A vision of paradise – even before you set foot on the island".

The resort offers an opportunity for loving couples to renew their vows "hand in hand against a golden sunset backdrop". It has since offered a grovelling apology for its staff's "unforgivable conduct".

A report in Minivan News said that unknown to the unidentified European couple, they were repeatedly mocked in the local Dhivehi language. With rings placed in coconut shells on a table in front of them, the couple were asked to get to their feet and were told: "You fornicate and make a lot of children. You drink and you eat pork. Most of the children that you have are marked with spots and blemishes... these children that you have are bastards."

Reports suggest the man who conducted the ceremony at the resort, where rooms start at around £140 a night, was actually an assistant food and beverage manager. The hour-long vow renewal, which also includes a boat ride and traditional music, costs a reported £820. A set of photographs taken during the renewal ceremony cost an additional £280.

Tourism is vital to the Maldives – an archipelago of more than 1,900 atolls, providing around 30 per cent of GDP – and officials are very concerned about the damage that could be caused by the video. The country's Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told reporters he was "horrified" when he learned of the incident. The Maldives Association of Tour Operators and Travel Agents said: "If the couple learns of the humiliation they were subjected to, the Maldives' good name will be clouded."

The Vilu resort is owned by Sun Travels and Tours, based in the capital Male. A statement issued by CEO Ahmed Shakir expressed "deep concerns and regret" and said all those involved in the fake ceremony had been removed from the resort and the police informed.