Can A Ship's Captain Get You Hitched?

Posted by John K. Fulweiler | Apr 05, 2013 | 0 Comments

So let's say you and your buddy and his girlfriend are out for a sail this summer. Maybe, after a few beers, you improvise a marriage ceremony. Back on land and six months later, his girlfriend is saying its legal because you were the vessel's captain that fateful day, is she right? Now, there's no legal advice given nor attorney-client relationship created in this blog and, if you couldn't tell already, I don't pratice family law. But, this whole issue of whether a ship's captain can perform a binding marriage aboard a vessel is curious and here's three things that you likely didn't know:

  • There is a specific Navy regulation prohibiting a Navy captain from performing a marriage ceremony aboard his or her ship. See, 32 C.F.R. 700.
  • There is a 1929 New York Court of Appeals decision which upheld a marriage performed by a captain on the high seas. See, Fisher v. Fisher, 1929 A.M.C. 659 (Feb. 13, 1929).
  • There is a statute requiring that all marriages be recorded in the vessel's log. See, 46 U.S.C. § 11301.

Like many other aspects of the maritime law, these waters are murky and you should always consult an attorney so that you clearly understand your legal rights.

Underway and making way.

--- Fulweiler llc

About the Author

John K. Fulweiler

Proctor-In-Admiralty / Licensed U.S. Coast Guard Master Formerly a partner in a New York maritime law firm, John K. Fulweiler graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Marine Affairs degree and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law. In addition to being recognized by...


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