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Getting Married at Sea

Married-at-sea-2021-09-12-at-5.17.07-pm

Thinking about getting married at sea?  Today, on World Maritime Day, Celebrant Shell Brown from Geraldton, WA guides you through the ebbs and flows of doing so…

Getting married on a boat or a cruise ship can seem very romantic… I’m picturing the iconic scene with Kate and Leo in Titanic… “I’m flying, Jack.  I’m flying”

However there is a lot of planning and probably a bit more organising than a wedding on land, so consider all the points below before you jump in and start booking things.

Firstly, what do the Australian Marriage Act and Guidelines say?:

The Australia Marriage Guidelines say that Celebrants should avoid marrying people at sea. 

Guidelines 5.1 TIME AND PLACE

A marriage occurring in Australia may be solemnised on any day, at any time, and at any place.35 The marriage must be registered in the state or territory where the marriage was solemnised. To meet this requirement, and possible requirements of other countries for recognition of the marriage, marriages in aircraft and ships at sea should be avoided.

There is no reason given, however my guess is that the exact location can become a little messy once you step off terra firma, although as long as you account for the name of the vessel you’re onboard, the name of the body of water you are on and if possible the GPS co-ordinates, the BDMs are happy.

The Marriage Act says couples can marry on any day, at any time, in any place. 

Marriage Act 1961 - 43  Marriage may be solemnised on any day etc.

                   A marriage may be solemnised on any day, at any time and at any place

‘Any place’ is limited to the Australian Mainland, Tasmania and the 8,221 islands within Australia’s Maritime borders and Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island.  Also the Territorial Sea surrounding those lands.

So what is the Territorial Sea?

Territorial Sea (12 nautical mile limit)

The next paragraph is taken directly from the website - www.ga.gov.au

“The Territorial Sea is a belt of water not exceeding 12nm in width measured from the territorial sea baseline. Australia's sovereignty extends to the territorial sea, its seabed and subsoil, and to the air space above it. This sovereignty is exercised in accordance with international law as reflected in the Convention. The major limitation on Australia's exercise of sovereignty in the territorial sea is the right of innocent passage for foreign ships. The territorial sea around certain islands in the Torres Strait is 3nm.”

Photo from: www.ga.gov.au

Photo from: www.ga.gov.au

Having said all of that, in Australian Territorial Waters you can get married on any seagoing vessel from a dinghy to a luxury yacht to a huge ocean liner… If you could just get your hands on one! 

Cruise Ships:

Most Cruise Lines only permit marriages to take place at the dock.  This is where the couple would engage a Registered Marriage Celebrant who would board the ship, perform the ceremony, then disembark before the ship sets sail.

Can the Captain of the ship perform the marriage ceremony?:

No. The Captain of the ship is not allowed to marry couples unless they are also a registered Marriage Celebrant or a Minister of a registered religion in Australia

Dr Karl has written an interesting article about the myth of Captains marrying people at sea - https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/07/15/2304463.ht

The only way that the Captain or a Senior Officer (or anyone) could be involved is if they performed a non legal ceremony - which would include making sure that everybody in attendance was fully aware that what they were witnessing was not a legal marriage.  Then the couple would have a legal marriage ceremony before or after the cruise with a Registered Marriage Celebrant.

But if you’re on your own private yacht... be generous - take your celebrant with you.

Things to think about:

Always have a Plan B - the weather can turn in a moment.  If your wedding his on land, you can simply move to a new location or put up a brolly, but if you are 11 nautical miles out to sea and the weather turns - that could make for a memorable day for all the wrong reasons.

  • Do you or any of your guests get seasick? 
  • Does anyone have a fear of boats or the ocean?
  • Will the noise of the wind effect the microphone and speaker during the ceremony?
  • Will your Nana be able to get on and off the boat safely? 
  • Is there enough seating on board?
  • Are you and your guests required to wear life jackets?
  • Is alcohol allowed on board?
  • How many guests can you invite?
  • Where will the boat go?
  • What is their bad weather plan?
  • Will you need to take out extra insurance?

Talk to the skipper of the vessel… maybe they will suggest to hold the ceremony tied up to the jetty or in a sheltered bay, then go for a cruise afterward. They will let you know what is and isn’t allowed on their boat ie: candles, sparklers, high heels or confetti, ect… Work together to see if what you want to achieve is achievable? 

Also talk with your Celebrant for advice.  Their experience could be invaluable to your decisions.

 

Comments 3

Leslie Ridgeway on Tuesday, 05 October 2021 00:30
Ahoy There

Great article Shell. It was really helpful to see the exact boundaries of Australian waters. I was once asked by a couple to marry them on a cruise ship in another country. They were going to pay my fare and stated I was welcome to bring my partner. After I explained to them the problems with their very awesome plan, they reassessed. What an opportunity - nearly.

Great article Shell. It was really helpful to see the exact boundaries of Australian waters. I was once asked by a couple to marry them on a cruise ship in another country. They were going to pay my fare and stated I was welcome to bring my partner. After I explained to them the problems with their very awesome plan, they reassessed. What an opportunity - nearly. :D
Fiona Hall on Thursday, 30 September 2021 16:06
WEDDINGS ON THE WATER

What a fun and unique way to be married, great advice Shell thank you. I loved them ceremony I performed on a boat, luckily we had calm waters!

What a fun and unique way to be married, great advice Shell thank you. I loved them ceremony I performed on a boat, luckily we had calm waters!
Shell Brown on Thursday, 30 September 2021 18:02
Ahoy!

Thanks Fiona, there's definitely something special about getting married on the water... and I agree, it's much nicer for all concerned when you have a calm day.

Thanks Fiona, there's definitely something special about getting married on the water... and I agree, it's much nicer for all concerned when you have a calm day.
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