Marry Us, Captain (Ship Captains' Authority To Perform Marriages)

The late Pete Younger

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#1
Watching a tv program the other day, the old chestnut of a ships captain having the authority to marry people came up, we all know this is not true, but does anyone know where this idea came from.:confused:
 

JamesWhitehead

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#5
They always say they'll marry you but the next day you don't
even get breakfast at their table.

Bitter? Moi? :(
 
A

Anonymous

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#6
marry me captain

Gee I thought it was true too.Iremember watching the newsreels when I was a kid seeing the new migrants comming to Australia and they always seemed to be marriages on board,but it was probably the ships minister dressed in ships uniform.
 

intaglio

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#7
I think rynner can confirm that the Captains of British flagged ships had no such right, but if there was no ships chaplain on board the Captain could act as one for baptisms, deaths and sunday services. Legal arrangements like marriage could not be sollomnised.

The legend may have started in the days of the *Fishing Fleet* when upper class young ladies were sent to India on the P&O line to search for husbands. Marriages could have been conducted by the Ships's Chaplain if the young mem's found someone shipboard.

Or it may have been an over enthusiastic novelist.
 

rynner2

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#8
As the old joke says "Marriages conducted by the captain are only valid for the duration of the voyage"! That probably sums up the legal position too, but I never was much of a sea going lawyer (a vile species which unfortunately infest certain areas of yacht racing...)

So I've never conducted a marriage on board, although I have been accused of giving a woman a baby - and I never even had the pleasure of sleeping with her!

Puts on Jethro voice: What happened was, a young couple came on a week's charter which I was skippering. They had the only double cabin on board - the other punters used the bunks in the saloon. We encountered some rough weather that week, and a few of the crew, including the young wife, were seasick. Unfortunately for them, their chosen method of family planning was the Pill...

I saw them next year, with a little sprog, and I got the blame!
 

liveinabin

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#9
I've seen film of people on those god awful 'butlins on the sea' cruise liners being married by the captain. I thought it was only legal when you where in international waters?
 

ninja_cat

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#10
I used to work on one of those Butlins at sea liners - (a very accurate description) - and If anybody planned to get married they either got married on one of the islands we stopped at, or we got a chaplain on board. The Captains a)couldn't perform the service, and b)usually couldn't give a toss about the passangers :)
 

liveinabin

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#11
as someone in the process of getting married and just starting to see that getting married outside the UK makes it twice as complicated.
when someone did get married on the cruise liners, where were there marrage certificates issued from and I assume they could only do it if they had the correct paperwork from their own country?
 

EnolaGaia

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#12
The status of commanding a ship does not automatically entitle a captain to legally perform marriages.

If the captain is otherwise or separately certified to officiate at marriage ceremonies he / she can do so. The myth of marriage at sea is so common that some cruise lines have obtained such certifications for their captains as a courtesy to their (mistaken) customers.

Appealing though it may be, the myth of a ship’s captain presiding over the nuptials of dewy-eyed couples has for most of the last century been pretty much just that. And yet the demand for weddings at sea has grown to the point that some cruise lines, operating under foreign flags and laws, have found ways to perform legal unions in international waters with the ship’s captain as officiant.

Nobody really knows how long ago this notion arose, or why ship captains are thought to have more power than, say, airline pilots or train conductors. Most likely it has to do with the fact that ocean crossings have always been longer than the typical flight or train ride, and that amorous assignations were known to flourish on the high seas. Who better to legalize them than the commander of the ship?
SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/fashion/weddings/a-marriage-at-sea-get-me-rewrite.html
 

Cochise

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#13
This is interesting. I assumed it was true, it crops up so many times. Has it really no basis in fact prior to the current cruise lines' efforts? There goes a heck of a lot of plots, notably Tom Sharpe's The Throwback.
 

henry

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#14
i suspect the presence of a shipload of rum, and notion of international waters played a part
 

EnolaGaia

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#15
... Has it really no basis in fact prior to the current cruise lines' efforts? ...
Apparently not ... Here are some excerpts from a 2008(?) Australian article on the subject ...

First - a confirmation that no one seems to have pinpointed where or when this myth originated.
In the academic land of folklore research, nobody has been able to track down exactly how this myth started.

Here's a blanket statement about the myth's substance ...
...(S)hips' captains have never (until very recently) performed marriages.

In fact, both the US and UK governments have specific regulations relating to marriage for the captains of military and civilian ships.

They are clearly forbidden to perform marriage ceremonies, and do not, and never have had, the authority to do so.

Let me give you a direct quote from the US Navy Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32, Subtitle A, Chapter VI, Subchapter A, Part 700, Subpart G, Rule 716, also known as 32 CFR 700.716):

The commanding officer shall not perform a marriage ceremony on board his ship or aircraft. He shall not permit a marriage ceremony to be performed on board when the ship or aircraft is outside the territory of the United States, except: (a) In accordance with local laws … and (b) In the presence of a diplomatic or consular official of the United States.

In recent times certain jurisdictions have made allowance for ship captains performing marriages as proxies in the legal context of the given jurisdiction.
But today there are a few exceptions.

Japanese ships' captains can now perform marriage ceremonies, but only for those with Japanese passports.

Beginning in 1998, a few cruise lines have offered wedding packages — perhaps to gain extra revenue, or perhaps from a deep and profound respect for the sacrament of marriage.

The captains of Cruise West ships can get a temporary permit to perform marriages — but only in certain Alaskan waters, where arrangements have been made with the counties that abut those waters. These include Prince William Sound, Juneau, LeConte Glacier and Misty Fjords.

After the marriage, the captain then has to mail the license to the relevant courthouse, so that the marriage can be legally registered.

It is also possible to get married at sea on a few of the Princess Line ships. These ships (Gold Princess, Grand Princess and Star Princess) are registered in Bermuda, and the captains have Burmuda licenses to perform marriages, but only while the ships are in international waters.
SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/07/15/2304463.htm
 

Cochise

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#16
Apparently not ... Here are some excerpts from a 2008(?) Australian article on the subject ...

First - a confirmation that no one seems to have pinpointed where or when this myth originated.



Here's a blanket statement about the myth's substance ...



In recent times certain jurisdictions have made allowance for ship captains performing marriages as proxies in the legal context of the given jurisdiction.


SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/07/15/2304463.htm
But.. But.. Why would you need instructions to a Captain not to carry out a marriage ceremony if the issue had not previously come up and some - maybe misinformed - captain obliged? Not arguing, but it seems off the wall. I don't need to have instructions sent to me to not inflate frogs with an airline because it would never occur to me to do it. But someone did.
 

Yithian

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#17
I shouldn't be at all surprised if the origin turned out to be an old film, but one source I saw suggested a much earlier germ:

In the age of sail, when voyages could span weeks or months, marriages onboard would have been carried out by the chaplain presumably with the captain's permission.
 

EnolaGaia

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#18
But.. But.. Why would you need instructions to a Captain not to carry out a marriage ceremony if the issue had not previously come up and some - maybe misinformed - captain obliged? ...
Apparently it was the widespread myth that led to explicit inclusion in applicable regulations - at least for the US. The above-cited American statute (32 CFR 700.716) originated in 1998.

https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/CFR-1998-title32-vol4/CFR-1998-title32-vol4-sec700-716
 

EnolaGaia

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#19
... In the age of sail, when voyages could span weeks or months, marriages onboard would have been carried out by the chaplain presumably with the captain's permission.
True ... In the olde days the captain would have been empowered to accept or prohibit a marriage ceremony conducted by someone else.

Another possible angle occurred to me ... In days of yore it was sometimes the case that a ship's captain was of a notably religious bent and served as the chaplain - even to the extent of mandating religious service attendance, observations or conduct. It's conceivable some captains held at least informal clergy credentials that were over-generalized into a mistaken belief they were authorized to perform marriages by virtue of their shipboard rank per se.

In any case, a ship's captain can perform a legally valid marriage ceremony if he / she is separately invested with religious authority.
 

Tempest63

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#20
My wife and I were married on the Sea Princess back in December 2007, by the Captain, in the Library, with the lead pipe. Two good friends travelled with us as witnesses to the event.
We have a Bermudan wedding certificate accepted by the U.K. tax office, DVLA office and the Passport Office as official proof for my wife’s change of name.
Princess Cruises advised us beforehand that they were licensed to carry out marriages at sea by the Bermuda Government.
Our wedding certificate has a latitude and longitude as the place where we were married. We were chugging southwards through the Caribbean Sea at the time and had some of our wedding photos taken on the bridge.
Does that put the issue to bed?
 

Tempest63

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#21
In any case, a ship's captain can perform a legally valid marriage ceremony if he / she is separately invested with religious authority.
ours was a civil ceremony so the Captain would not have to be invested by any religious authority. Similar to any civil/registry office marriage in the U.K.
 

EnolaGaia

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#22
ours was a civil ceremony so the Captain would not have to be invested by any religious authority. Similar to any civil/registry office marriage in the U.K.
Yes, nowadays civil authority would work as well as religious authority. My allusion to religious authority alone was in the context of long bygone situations.
 

GNC

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#23
I shouldn't be at all surprised if the origin turned out to be an old film, but one source I saw suggested a much earlier germ.
It happens at the end of The African Queen, Humphrey Bogart marries Katharine Hepburn after asking the German boat Captain to perform the ceremony. That was 1952.
 
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