A wedding at sea can be a grand celebration of your love.

How to Get Married in Massachusetts by a Sea Captain

by Keri Dillingham

Fresh sea air, a light cool breeze and small ripples across the water set a tranquil, serene mood for the most romantic of all events: your wedding at sea. Add the colonial backdrop of the shoreline and the seafaring historical significance of the state of Massachusetts, and you have a wedding that is hard to top. To complete the scene, who could be more appropriate to perform the ceremony than a sea captain?

1. The Myth

The key to having a sea captain perform your marriage ceremony is to make sure that he or she is qualified to act as the officiant. The officiant of a non-religious ceremony must be authorized by the municipality in which the marriage certificate will be filed. In the state of Massachusetts, an officiant either must be a current ordained minister or can file an application in the appropriate city or township for a one-day permit to officiate. If the sea captain you find does not moonlight as a minister, inform the captain that he or she must allow proper processing time for the application to be approved; it takes 4-6 weeks to complete, notes the website US Marriage Laws.

2. Arrive Prepared

Per Massachusetts requirements, you and your spouse-to-be must arrive together to file jointly for your marriage license. Out-of-state licenses are not accepted. If you are wondering where to file, since you will be married at sea: file in the city or township of wherever the water vessel will be docked. The website US Marriage Laws indicates that you must allow 3 days after the day you file the license for it to be approved before you can say "I do." You can file for a waiver of the waiting period, but you'll have to jump through some legal hoops to get the license pushed through, so be sure to leave enough time between the filing date and your wedding day to make sure all is in good order.

3. Cruise Line or Private Yacht?

Before you settle on a sea captain, decide if you are going to hold the event on an all-inclusive cruise line or on a private yacht. Many factors play into that decision, such as budget, privacy and shoreline backdrop versus a 360-degree ocean view. A cruise line can execute your chosen plan, whereas on a private yacht, you will have to coordinate every detail. Some cruise line sea captains can officiate weddings, but then you'd be technically married in Bermuda or standing at a cruise terminal for the actual ceremony, notes Cruise Critic contributor Donna Marino Wilkins.

4. Go Nautical for Everything?

If you choose to have your wedding at sea, you might want to complete the image with a maritime theme. This can be as simple as having your event colors be shades of blue or yellow to represent the ocean and sun. Or you can apply the maritime theme to one or several central aspects of the wedding for a subtle or dramatic effect. Martha Stewart Weddings has a slideshow under "Nautical Ideas" in which the Massachusetts coastal areas of Nantucket and Cape Cod are specifically cited. The suggestions cover a wide range of creative ideas from rope knots around napkins to bridesmaids' striped accessories to rope bracelet favors. You can add other frills, such as rope accents and/or anchors or stripes. Have fun with it: pick a few central decorations that incorporate the nautical theme and keep the rest simple for the best photographic opportunities.

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