Marriages Afloat

“Marriages are made in Heaven”, and many would agree. In France they are also made only in the mairie. Anglo-Saxon countries vest in priests the power to celebrate marriages, though Registry Offices are an alternative to a church wedding; and various premises are licensed provided there is full access to the public. But a few years ago a dramatic improvement was offered: marriages by your Captain – offshore!

Marriages AfloatPhoto: Christine Rodway

The Reporter revealed this in issue 117 (see “Married by Your Captain” below) for the benefit of the many Mega-yacht readers based here. Since the 1800s when the emigrant ships to Australia often took over nine months for the voyage, legal marriages at sea have been conducted only by captains of those cruise liners which have re-flagged to Bermuda (notably Cunard and Princess Lines) or Malta (Celebrity Cruises) – perfectly respectable ship and yacht registers. Thousands of legal high-seas weddings have taken place since Bermuda adopted its Maritime Marriage Act in 1999, and Malta followed in 2008. This has all brought lucrative business to the cruise companies – fine, but why are the luxury mega-yachts missing out? Many are already registered in Bermuda (like Leander, the British-owned flagship) or Malta (the famous sail-yacht Maltese Falcon) but we know of no yacht even enquiring about celebrating a valid offshore wedding as now permitted.

Certainly, yacht captains conduct “wedding ceremonies”, but everyone knows (hopefully) that there is no validity and the bride doesn’t receive any marriage lines. Yet mega-yachts are otherwise perfectly suitable, with double bunking in most of the cabins. Only one technical snag: unless built to especially elaborate rules, even the biggest yachts are restricted by Mediaeval laws to a mere 12 passengers, meaning only 10 guests plus the bride and groom. So, if you want 300 guests at your wedding, give the business to Celebrity or Cunard cruise ships which make every effort to capture this valuable marriage market. In every other way, a luxury yacht has the edge, and the Registrars General of Bermuda ( and Malta ( are keen to take bookings on behalf of romantic couples. Just no same-sex “weddings”. Go for it, charter brokers!