As Muslims, men may have as many as four wives, but there is little evidence to suggest that many have more than one at one time. In the 1990s, half of all women married by the age of fifteen while about 60 percent of men married at age twenty or later. This is no longer true. Age at first marriage: 24.1 for men and 21.6 for women (compared to 33.4 for men and 31.2 for women in Finland and 22.1 for men and 17.9 for women on Nepal) [Source: 2009, Wikipedia and Wikipedia ; Helen Chapin Metz, Library of Congress, 1994]

Legal Age for marriage: 18 for men and 18 for women without parental consent. Less than 18 for men and 18 for women with parental consent. [Source: United Nations Data]

Cross cousin marriages are preferred.Marriages generally take place between couples that are from the same island because island rivalry is so strong it is considered sort of treasonous to marry someone from a different island. Residents of one island often don't like other islands and it is difficult to move. Maldivian women used to get married and have many children at an early age. The minimum age for marriage was 15. All these things are no longer true

Maldives High Marriage Rate

The Maldives have highest marriage and divorce rates in the world. The marriage rate in the early 1990s was 34.4 per 1,000 people, compared to 9.7 percent in the United States and 7.9 in Sri Lanka, where divorce is rare. One of the main reasons the marriage rate is so high is that the divorce rate so high. According to a 1977 census, nearly half of the women over the age of thirty had been married four times or more. See Divorce Below.

Families tend to be nuclear and fluid because of the high divorce and remarriage rate. Women often own a house and the children remain with her after a divorce. Isaac Henry Victor wrote in the“Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”: “Despite the Islamic value on marriage and the family, there has been increasing rate of divorce, single-parent families, and cohabitation without marriage in Maldives, especially in Malé. Polygyny is allowed in Maldives, though only about 1 in 11 men have more than one wife. [Source:Isaac Henry Victor, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”, Thomson Gale, 2006]

Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) is regarded as the greatest traveler of all time. He visited the Maldives and even though he stayed there only a few months he married and divorced six times. On marriage and divorce in the Maldives, Ibn Battuta wrote: "It is easy to marry in these islands because of the smallness of the dowries and the pleasures of society which the women offer... When the ships put in, the crew marry; when they intend to leave they divorce their wives. This is a kind of temporary marriage. The women of these islands never leave their country."

Joanna James wrote in “On a quirky note, the same couple is given permission to marry each other up to four times. In the event that a husband or wife divorce and take other partners they are allowed to re-marry each other up to 4 times should they so wish. In the olden days a man's worth was measured by the number of marriages he has had, and in some instances, up to 40 marriages per individual have been recorded. This was, by the way, one of the main forms of fun distractions on the islands. [Joanna James,, December 22, 2016]

Islamic Marriage Customs in the Maldives

All marriages and divorces are based on Islamic law and carefully recorded. Women need permission from a male guardian to marry After the father gives his consent and the bride states the “mehir” (bride money) which the husband is expected to pay, the couple is married by an authorized person.

According to “Countries and Their Cultures”: Marriages are not arranged. In accordance with Islamic law, a man can have four wives at any time if he can support them financially, but polygamy is uncommon.Sex before marriage is a punishable offense. Marriages can take place only between Muslims. [Source: “Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

In the Muslim world, marriage is regarded as a religious duty and generally carried out in accordance with religious laws and customs rather than secular ones. Men have authority over women and are expected to be a provider and a “protector of women." Muslim schools of law stress that “equality” of marriage or that the bride and groom be of similar rank and position.

Marriage is viewed as a process of acquiring new relatives or reinforcing the ties one has with others. To participate fully in society, a person must be married and have children, preferably sons, because social ties are defined by giving away daughters in marriage and receiving daughters-in-law. Marriage with one's father's brother's child is preferred, in part because property exchanged at marriage then stays within the patrilineage. The relationship between in-laws extends beyond the couple and well past the marriage event. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Weddings in the Maldives

The wedding ceremony in the Maldives is comprised of the most basic Muslim rituals. Traditionally, the bride often did not appear at her own wedding. Her consent is obtained prior to the ceremony by the katibu who presides over the wedding. Every woman has a male guardian who signs for her marriage, There is no dowery system or large exchange of money between families. The parents of the bride do not have bear the cost of the wedding and provide money for the law by tradition and by law. [Source: Clarence Maloney and Nils Finn Munch-Petersen, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Paul Hockings, 1992 |~|]

The marriage contract is a fixture of Muslim marriage arrangements. It is sort of like a pre-nuptial agreement and are generally regarded as vehicle to guarantee certain rights to the wife. The contract can be used by a wife to spell out her expectations and demands from the marriage. She can insist on working outside the home and keeping her finances separate from husband’s. She can also establish the terms for a divorce and reserve the right not to clean the house or cook.

Not all Muslim cultures have wedding celebrations because once a marriage contract is signed, the couple is regarded as married. When there is a wedding ceremony it is generally not performed in a mosque because most Islamic marriages are effected by a civil contract and men and women are supposed to be separated in a mosque. Instead the ceremony and celebration afterwards are usually is held in a wedding salon, the house of the groom or the bride or one of their relatives or in the streets or a courtyard.

A traditional Maldivian wedding ceremony includes a Bodu Beru (drums) procession. Joanna James wrote in “The Bodu Beru Drums beat in rhythm to signal the arrival of the bride; while the groom together with elders from the tribe wait at the altar...As the Maldives is a Muslim nation there are no other wedding ceremonies than those conducted under Islam law. Although the ceremonies are performed according to tradition, they may not be legally binding and couples getting married need to ensure the legal side of the ceremony are taken care of. White is the chosen colour for wedding attire. Maldivians are not lovers of overly elaborate wedding attire but stick to garments that are in accordance with Muslim laws. The women wear the traditional white dress while males wear sarong or 'Mundu' with a shirt. This is similar to Malay dress. [Joanna James,, December 22, 2016]

Weddings for Foreigners in the Maldives

The Maldives is favorite honeymoon destination for foreigners. It is also being promoted as a place to get married and rebew marriage vows. In the early 2000s, The Hilton offered three different wedding packages: 1) the Chapel of Love, which included a ceremony at the jetty where sea planes arrive; 2) A beach Wedding, a Maldivian-style wedding with the guests wearing sarongs; and 3) the Goma Wedding, where couples renew their vows while traveling on the resort’s 22-meter yacht.

Joanna James wrote in Many resorts welcome loads of western couples choosing to have a tropical wedding ceremony on the stunning white sand beaches. Resorts now include weddings and honeymoon packages as part of their holiday promotions. There are those that give couples the full service including traditional Dhivehi speaking priests to conduct the ceremony. [Joanna James,, December 22, 2016]

Today many resorts offering Maldivian wedding packages will go the whole nine yards to offer couples a unique experience. The traditional Bodu Beru drums are there to herald the arrival of the bride. Most ceremonies are organised on the beach with couples walking barefoot to the altar, as gentle sea breezes gently waft across the ocean. Many resorts offer a variety of venues to choose from, such as an Ocean Ceremony or Beach Ceremony. You can decide on the time of day and toast your nuptials to a stunning sunset or early morning splendours of the tropics.

'Yobbish' Behavior at a Foreign Celebrities Maldives Wedding Party

Billie Faiers is a British television personality, known for her appearances on the ITVBe reality series “The Only Way Is Essex” and “Sam & Billie: The Mummy Diaries”. Her 2019 wedding party in the Maldives pissed a lot of people off. Lucy Needham wrote in The Mirror: “Billie Faiers and Greg Shepherd's 100-strong wedding party have turned a luxury Maldives resort into the 'Costa Del Sol,' according to disgruntled holiday-makers. The couple have descended on the idyllic island of Kuramathi along with family, friends and an ITVBe filming crew to mark their impending nuptials. But other guests enjoying a once in lifetime trip to the pricey beach destination have complained their holiday has been 'ruined' by the Faires-Shepherd 'invasion.' [Source: Lucy Needham. The Mirror, March 5, 2019]

“There have been multiple reports of guests complaining about cordoned off areas, yobbos screaming and drunken guests spoiling the atmosphere. One holiday-maker, who said they'd spent years saving up for their trip, told The Sun it had been 'the opposite' of what they were expecting. “It was meant to be the height of luxury, but it’s full of drunken yobs shouting and trying to be the centre of attention. “Guests who have saved for years to be here are so upset,” they added.

“Following complaints, ITVBe cameras are said to have been restricted to filming in dedicated areas only. But guests claim they were banned from the serenity pool and the next door sand bar for Billie's hen party. While the Island coffee shop garden, champagne loft and palm restaurant are also said to be off limits to those not included in the wedding party.

“Billie and Greg are set to say their vows as part of a beach side ceremony on the mile long stretch of sand this week. Essex businessman Greg had popped the question in the Maldives in 2014 by arranging a private moment the two of them on a secluded islanded. But things have been very different this time round, with the couple joined by a huge wedding party made up of Billie's sister Sam and their reality TV mates including Ferne McCann.

“Another Madives' holidaymaker has described the group as a 'nightmare.' "They go around in a gang. I’ve seen Greg and quite a few of his mates shouting for waiter service and being loud," they claimed to The Sun. “For a holiday that we wanted to be quiet, they’ve bombarded the island. They’ve taken over; we can’t go to places on the island," they added.

“A spokesperson for Kuoni told The Mirror: "We want to make sure that all guests are able to enjoy their holiday and have taken steps to ensure that the wedding group respects the privacy of other customers. "We have representatives on the island who are talking to guests at the moment to reassure them that filming is restricted to specific areas, with a team in place to manage the wedding. "It’s our priority to ensure that everyone is able to continue to relax and enjoy their time away and we’ll be doing everything we can to discuss individual concerns so we are able sort everything out as soon as we can.”

European Couple Viciously Insulted While Renewing Vows in the Maldives

Anita Singh Wrote in The Telegraph: “The couple chose an idyllic resort in the Maldives as the perfect place to renew their marriage vows and pledge everlasting love. But their happiness has turned to humiliation after the wedding video was posted on YouTube and subtitles disclosed that their "Islamic blessing", which was conducted by a hotel employee in the native Dhivehi language, was in fact a stream of insults. "You are swine. The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine. Your marriage is not a valid one," he intoned as the couple held up their hands in prayer, blissfully unaware of what was being said. [Source: Anita Singh, The Telegraph, October 29, 2010]

“Dismissing them as pork-eating "infidels", the employee went on: "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. "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."

The BBC reported: The amateur film on YouTube shows a celebrant explaining the ceremony in English before everyone stands and holds their hands up to pray. He uses the intonating style of prayers to unleash a torrent of abuse in the Dhivehi tongue on the unwitting couple, who smile shyly. The celebrant also makes references to sexual diseases. After the ceremony, the couple are taken to plant a coconut tree together, during which various comments are made about the bride's breasts. [Source: BBC, October 29, 2010]

According to The Telegraph: “Several other staff members were present at the ceremony but said nothing. One appeared to be stifling a laugh. The "celebrant", identified as Hussein Didi, made reference to bestiality and "frequent fornication by homosexuals". Close inspection of the official-looking document in front of him reveals it to be a copy of the staff employment regulations.

“The video was shot by hotel employees who can be heard sniggering in the background and debating whether or not the bride is wearing a bra. "Don't look at the breasts!" says one as the bride leans over in her white wedding gown to plant a coconut palm. "My beard has gone grey watching those things. I have seen so many of them now that I don't even want to look any more when I see them."

“The ceremony took place at the Vilu Reef Beach and Spa Resort, which charges £820 for the privilege. The hotel's website claims that the sunset ceremony is the perfect way "to mark a milestone in your amazing journey together". Although the couple's identity was undisclosed, they were thought to have been Swiss.

The video has caused uproar in the Maldives, a nation heavily dependent on tourism, and the government ordered a police investigation. Ismail Yasir, the deputy tourism minister, said he was "very concerned". "We have asked the resort to inform us what action they have taken," he said. "We are embarrassed and outraged. We would like to assure everyone who would like to come to the Maldives that we will take such incidents seriously and will take action." The staff involved have been suspended. A spokesman for the Vilu Reef apologised for their "unforgivable conduct" and said: "The management of the resort is deeply saddened by this humiliating event."

Arrests and New Rules After Maldives Wedding Insults

Soon after the incident describe above police in the Maldives have arrested two employees at the Vilu Reef Beach and Spa Resort, where the Swiss couple was abused while renewing their marriage vows. The BBC reported: “One of the men acted as the celebrant, who allegedly called the couple "infidels" during the luxury ceremony. [Source: BBC, October 29, 2010]

“President Mohamed Nasheed has promised new guidelines on conducting wedding ceremonies for tourists. In his weekly radio address on Friday, President Nasheed described the behaviour of those involved as "absolutely disgraceful". He said all tourist hotels will be required to follow the rules, which will be issued soon. He noted that "bad behaviour, such as that depicted in the YouTube video, can cause enormous damage to the country's tourism industry".

The government has launched an investigation into the incident at the Vilu Reef resort. Both men are being held in police custody while the prosecutor's office decides on charges. With police refusing to confirm the couple's nationality, their identity remains a mystery, although a Maldives tourism official told AFP news agency they were French. The foreign ministry identified them as Swiss, however.

“The hotel has apologised for the incident and is in contact with the couple to offer compensation, said Ahmed Shakir, the head of Sun Investments, which operates the resort. He told the BBC he did not know if other couples have been subjected to the same sham ceremony and abuse but the company was investigating the possibility. Vilu Reef charges $1,300 (£820) for the ceremony, which it says offers couples the chance to "mark a milestone in your amazing journey together".

Divorce in the Maldives: the World Highest Rate, By Far

According to the Guinness Book of World Records and United Nations: the country with the highest divorce rate in the world is the Maldives with 10.97 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants per year, followed by the Belarus with 4.63 and the United States with 4.34. Rank, Country Divorces per 1,000 inhabitants per year; 1) Maldives: 10.97; 2) Belarus: 4.63; 3) United States: 4.34; 4) Cuba: 3.72; 5) Estonia: 3.65; 6) Panama: 3.61; 7) Puerto Rico: 3.61; 8) Ukraine: 3.56; 9) Russia: 3.42; 10) Antigua and Barbuda: 3.40. [Source: Guinness World Records]

In the Maldives, divorces are relatively easy to obtain and the interpretation of Islamic law is such that it is easy for divorced people to get remarried. It is not unusual for a man to divorce his wife and marry another islander and then divorce her and remarry his first wife or another islander. It is not unusual to find people that have been divorced a dozen times. There are even cases of people who have been married 80 or 90 times, often several times to the same partner. [Source: Clarence Maloney and Nils Finn Munch-Petersen, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Paul Hockings, 1992 |~|]

Men can obtain a divorce by making a simple pronouncement. Women generally get a divorce by acting in such a way that their husbands give them divorces. Divorces from a husband can be obtained from the appropriate courts if a husband refuses to divorce his wife. For three months after a divorce and woman can not marry another man other than her ex husband. This is done to allow for reconciliation and determine paternity in case of a pregnancy. During this time the husband has to support his ex wife and she must live in a place agreeable to him.

Because of the frequency of divorce couples often own property as individuals. Divorce is generally not very hard on children because the divorced parents often live close to one another and often get remarried.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Republic of Maldives Department of Information, the government site (, Ministry of Tourism Maldives (, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC,, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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