|TheStar, Toronto - Amanda Kusick and Ryan Greene of Toronto got married on an island paradise in the wedding of their dreams – but the aftermath is shaping up to be a potential nightmare.
Against the backdrop of a tropical sunset, dressed in an ivory strapless gown and flip-flops, Kusick exchanged vows with Greene last October as a local judge presided in Spanish. It all took place in the garden gazebo at a resort in the Dominican Republic.
They signed the registry in front of 14 friends and later retired to the honeymoon suite. The trip cost $6,000, including the $2,000 wedding package.
Every detail was perfect, except one – their wedding may have been fake, part of an elaborate scam in which bogus officials are suspected of colluding with hotels to swindle foreign couples.
"We wanted a simple beach wedding. The weather was beautiful. Everything went off without a hitch. Now to think that it might not even be valid is absolutely devastating. Was it all a farce?" asked Kusick, 32.
"I'm just hoping I'm overreacting because, if I'm not, it was just a big fancy party and I was a pretend bride."
More than 200 Canadian and British couples who tied the knot at resorts in eastern Dominican Republic may not be officially married, investigators there say.
Four employees of the government office that oversees civil marriages have been detained though no charges have yet been filed. A probe started after the office received requests for marriage certificates not listed on the books.
Dominican Republic consular and embassy staff in Ontario could not be reached yesterday because of the Family Day holiday.
It's not clear which resorts were involved but all appear to be in the Punta Cana region.
Kusick was among several people who contacted the Toronto Star after the story broke Sunday, frantic to find out more details. All were still waiting for their marriage certificates to arrive; many were too embarrassed to have their names published.
"My wife, though she could still be my fiancée, is a wreck" since hearing the news, said one man. "It's a shock, especially since I have to find out in a newspaper instead of someone calling me from down there."
All told similar stories, of online research and friends' recommendations leading them to Punta Cana, of mailing documents, including passport and birth certificate copies, to the Dominican consulate in Toronto or embassy in Ottawa, and of resorts with busy, well-oiled and lucrative wedding operations.
The couples each paid $455 in registration fees.
Kusick was told her marriage certificate from Oct. 26 would arrive in eight to 12 weeks. Calls and emails to her wedding planner have gone unanswered.
John Bayliss and Liza Taylor of Milton married July 10 at a different resort and, seven months later, they are also still waiting for a marriage certificate.
"I'm still hoping that things are just delayed and our wedding was legitimate," Bayliss said.
"There were 26 people in our wedding party. If this wedding was a sham, all of us got duped. The worst part is not knowing," he said, adding his wife is upset and in a state of disbelief.
Matthew Lalonde and Charlene Marleau of Ottawa are more nonchalant at finding out they may not be married, despite having a ceremony Nov. 1 at a beach hotel.
It's just one more wrinkle in a trip down south that included landing in a hurricane and lost luggage.
"It was a time to remember all right," said Lalonde with a chuckle.
"We're not freaking out over it or anything. It's just a piece of paper right?"