Neil McElwee, 24, and Yanan Sun, 19, along with their 40 guests arrived at the Guildhall building in Londonderry on Tuesday for the couple's wedding. To the shock of all, the police arrived, arrested the couple and detained the guests.
Police were acting on an anonymous letter sent to the Guildhall building that this was a "sham marriage." A sham marriage is a marriage by a couple for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws.
McElwee and Sun were taken to the police station and held for five hours. They were separated and had to dress in forensic clothing.
They were released after their solicitor came to their rescue. Their solicitor, Karina Breslin said, “I would have thought that in something as serious as disrupting a marriage ceremony that basic police work would have been done, for example, to contact the borders agency and the registrar to find out did it look like a regular marriage.
Chief Inspector John Burrows said they were acting in good faith but admitted they were wrong. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) did apologise for the raid.
According to Belfast Telegraph EcElwee said, "An apology? It's just no good - apologies won't give us our day back. It won't make everything better." He added, "It was absolutely disgraceful. My wife is five-and-a-half months pregnant and they just treated her in a disgusting fashion."
They didn't get to their reception until 8:30 that night. guardian.co.uk reports they were married the next day. They quote McElwee said, "It just doesn't add up - something on that scale based on an anonymous letter and some paperwork faxed through about two hours before the wedding. It just doesn't happen like that. So there's a lot of questions that need answered and there's a lot of people responsible for this mess-up."
The couple were planning on getting married next year until Sun became pregnant. They moved the date up and McElwee who is a chef was working hard so their wedding would be memorable.
McElee told Derry Journal, “I saved whatever money I could to try and make the day as special as possible for my wee woman. I just wanted to give her her dream day and we put in so much effort to make it happen."
He added, “In front of everyone, our family and our friends, they said the wedding was a sham. I couldn’t believe it. I started shouting at them to stop. I told them they would be sorry. We knew we were in the right. The only sham which took place on Tuesday was how the police acted.”