If you are planning to get married at sea you should check this first to make sure all T’s and I’s are spotted.
Everyone knows those romantic scenes in the movies where the captain marries a couple on the high seas (or even Captain Kirk and Captain Picard in Star Trek on a spaceship that continues the ocean-going tradition). But can captains really do that? Are captains allowed to marry people on board their ship?
The short answer (and no-answer) is – it’s complicated. Of the many requirements to be a captain, managing weddings is not one of them.
What the space future thinks about weddings on the high seas
Far into the future, in 2266, Captain James T. Kirk will have a wedding between Robert Tomlinson and Angela Martine in the USS Enterprises Chapel. There is also a whole Star Trek Original TV Set to visit in Ticonderoga, New York.
In 242 years, Captian Kirk will say in his capacity as an officer:
“Since the days of the first wooden ships, all skippers have had a happy privilege. The one to unite two people in the bonds of marriage. And so we are here today with you, Angela Martine, and you, Robert Tomlinson, in the face of those around you …“
Star Trek: The Original Series (Season 1, Episode 14)
Years later, Captain Picard will say the same thing, since he too is officiating a wedding. But that begs the question, do the “shipmasters” of the “first wooden ships” have the right to officiate weddings?
Are captains allowed to marry? – Not really, no …
The first thing to consider is the country where the ship is registered. Most countries do not allow the captain of a ship to marry at sea.
When it comes to the American Navy, the answer is a categorical no! The powers of the master, as defined in the Code of Regulations of 1913, are: “The commander is not allowed to marry on board his ship or aircraft. He may not allow the wedding on board.. “
- U.S. Navy: Getting married on board is generally prohibited
Exceptions are made depending on local laws and in the presence of a consular or diplomatic American official who has issued the required certificates.
“By the authority that Kaiser Wilhelm II has given me, I declare you a man and a woman. Proceed with the execution.“
– The African queen (1951)
For civil manatees, the court precedents were a bit of a contradiction in terms. In particular in the case of Bolmeer v. Edsall of 1919 told the court that marriage was subject to the laws of the country in which the ship is owned.
- United Kingdom: It is forbidden for the captain of a merchant ship to marry
- Japan: Allows ship captains to marry – but only for Japanese citizens
There is an exception in Spanish and Filipino law that allows it at the time of death.in articulo mortis“. It can be carried out by the captain or chief of an aircraft or by the commander of a military unit.
… But it is actually possible!
While most countries do not allow the captain to marry at sea, some do. Three of them are Malta, Bermuda and the Bahamas. Some cruise companies have even moved the registration of their ships to Bermuda so they can get married on board their ships.
- Countries that allow marriages: Malta, Bermuda, Bahamas
According to Bernews, In 2011 Cunard registered its luxury cruise lines in Bermuda to participate in the lucrative maritime wedding market (as they were not recognized under UK law).
The luxury ships included Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.
The managing director of Cunard notes that they have received many requests to get married on one of their ships at sea – especially in the mid-Atlantic on board the Queen Mary 2.
Meanwhile, Carnival Cruises have been marrying their Princess Cruises since 1998 when it first launched a ship with a chapel.
Note: Most princess captains also have Bermuda licenses to conduct weddings
- Carnival cruises: Registered 11 of its Princess Cruises in Bermuda (3 in the UK)
- Possible on: The Golden Princess, Star Princess and the Grand Princess from Princess Cruise
In general, some captains can host weddings. But not in their capacity as captains, but because they have other qualifications (such as ministers of religion, justice of the peace or notaries, etc.).
An easier way to get married on a ship is to do so in the port and under the supervision of an officer of that port. But that seems somehow less romantic.
Aside from the luxury cruises mentioned above, getting married at sea usually requires some planning and research.
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