Getting Married at Sea
One of the fundamental laws of marriage in the UK is that the public have the right to attend, and object to, any marriage. For this reason marriage must take place in a permanent structure so that it can be easily located, and ships, like marquees, don’t comply with this law.
However, international law applies to the seas, and you can marry at sea on any ship registered to a country that allows marriage at sea – in effect this means ships registered to most countries except the UK.
For this reasons many cruise lines, most recently including Cunard, register their fleets to countries other than the UK.
From Spring 2012 you will be able to get married on any of Cunard’s three iconic ships – Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth.
Although English law does not permit weddings at sea, from November 2011 all three ships will be registered to Hamilton, Bermuda, where the law permits getting married at sea.
For traditionalists, the Red Ensign flag will continue to fly on all three Cunard ships, as Bermuda is a British territory and the ships’ home port remains as Southampton.
It is expected that the most popular choice for couples will be to tie the knot in the middle of the Atlantic on Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2.
Cunard weddings will be on sale from December 2011. A variety of wedding packages will be available, including the option of having the ship’s captain perform the ceremony.
Marriage on board UK registered ships :
Marriages on board UK-registered ships have been recognised in the past. However the current view is that, since marriages must be solemnised in readily identifiable premises (e.g. so that the public would have access to witness the ceremony and if necessary, object to the marriage) a marriage at sea on a UK-registered ship is not recognisable under UK law except in very limited circumstances – such as when it is impracticable for the parties to wait until the ship has reached port.
Marriage on board non-UK registered ships :
Where a marriage is performed on a ship which is registered in a jurisdiction whose law permits marriages at sea then the marriage will be valid.