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[[quoteright:330:[[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/OBriensWedding_1164.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:330:I now pronounce you MauveShirt and Wife.]]

->''"Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all ship masters have had one happy privilege: that of uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony."''
-->-- '''Captain James T. Kirk'''[[note]]Later echoed by Capt. Picard and Admiral Ross[[/note]], ''Franchise/StarTrek''

So you're in a rush to get married, only you don't want to go through the hassle of standing in line for a marriage license, getting a blood test, and blowing thousands of dollars on an elaborate ceremony. What do you do?

Well, you simply hire out the nearest sea captain (the saltier the better), have him take you in his boat beyond the 12-mile[[hottip:*:about 20 KM]] mark and then let ''him'' perform your wedding ceremony. After all, you're in international waters. Anything goes, right?

Well... wrong. Captains ''can'' perform marriages, but they need a license to do so, just like anyone else would. There are no laws that "automatically" grant captains this right, although [[TVNeverLies you wouldn't know that by watching television]], where a sizable chunk of nuptials are performed by salty sea dogs. (Bonus points to the captain if he wears a patch over one eye and reads the vows to the couple in a {{pirate}}-y accent.)

(Speaking of pirates, there was actually a wedding aboard a [[BuccaneerBroadcaster pirate radio ship]] off Britain in the 1960s - one of the [=DJs=] married another DJ's sister - which was of course broadcast live.)

The trope may have originated in the [[WoodenShipsAndIronMen Age of Sail]] when Europeans would have to travel by ship for months at a time to reach far flung colonies. A couple could meet, court, and marry all while still enroute to their destination. The marriages had to be registered in the port of call, but otherwise were considered fully legal in most seafaring nations.

Can result in an AccidentalMarriage. May also be done by TheCaptain of a CoolStarship.

Compare WartimeWedding, OldFashionedRowboatDate (another boat-relationship trope).



[[folder: Fan Works]]
* There's a ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'' fanfic out there where Shepard, TheCaptain of the starship Normandy, "copes" with the stress of the Reaper invasion by "marrying" various people to each other. This includes marrying Joker ''and'' Samantha Traynor to [[SpaceshipGirl EDI]], and sending the Illusive Man an email informing him he's now married to the entire Reaper species.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* {{Downplayed|Trope}} at the end of Disney's ''Disney/TheLittleMermaid''. They're married by a priest, not a captain.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheAfricanQueen'' had the two leads being married by the captain of a German military ship seconds before they were to be executed. (The captain may have known that he was unauthorized to perform such a ceremony, but how could he turn down the last starry-eyed request of a couple about to die?)
** Responsible for one of the finest lines in history: "I now pronounce you husband and wife - proceed with the execution."
** In this case it was also a means of [[HoldingTheFloor buying time and distracting the warship's crew]], given that [[spoiler:their own wrecked ship, with armed torpedoes jutting out of its bow, lay directly in the warship's path.]]
** The Captain may have also figured it wouldn't make much difference whether he was licensed anyway, since he was planning to have both people hanged immediately after.
* ''Franchise/PiratesOfTheCaribbean'':
** ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanDeadMansChest'': Jack Sparrow suggests that Elizabeth marry him at sea... and that he also officiate the ceremony.
** ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanAtWorldsEnd'': Will asks Elizabeth to marry him in the midst of the epic climatic battle at sea in the middle of a maelstrom (their planned wedding at the beginning of the second film having been interrupted with a few arrests among the wedding party). Elizabeth at first protests ("I don't think now is the best time!") before agreeing and asking Barbossa to marry them right there mid-battle ("I'M A LITTLE BUSY AT THE MOMENT!"). Barbossa thinks she's mad, but recites it anyway while all three keep fighting Davy Jones' undead fishy crew.
-->'''[[LargeHam Barbossa:]]''' Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today... ''TO NAIL YER GIZZARDS TO THE MAST, YE POXY CUR!''

* In a very different variant, ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' has pushy Nynaeve insist her stoic LoveInterest marry her immediately once they're reunited on a Sea Folk ship, only to discover mid-ceremony that the required vows are rather different and unusually ''specific'' in their culture.
* Lovers Desdemona and Lefty took advantage of being on a ship where no one knew them by faking a courtship and getting married in ''Literature/{{Middlesex}}''. The secrecy was necessary: [[BrotherSisterIncest they were siblings]].
* ''Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse'':
** At the end of ''Literature/JediTrial'' Anakin Skywalker, in his capacity as a general in the Grand Army of the Republic, marries two of the book's secondary characters.
** Played perfectly straight ''offscreen'' in ''[[ComicBook/XWingSeries X-Wing: The Bacta War]]''. After Rogue Squadron (with occasional help) defeats the bacta cartel, and wanting to avoid weeks or months of her father dogging Corran's every step on the way to the wedding, Corran and Mirax get married--by Wedge Antilles, who is in fact not even a "real" captain, but a starfighter commander. However, as the ''Lusankya'' was surrendered to him personally, he became its ''de facto'' commander... which is apparently considered close enough according to New Republic law. [[note]]The New Republic hasn't been around all that long, so [[LoopholeAbuse there probably aren't any specific legal precedents either way]]. And if there AintNoRule saying he ''can't''...[[/note]]
* Played as GallowsHumor in Creator/TimPowers' ''Literature/{{Declare}}''. While Cassagnac, Andrew, and Elena are hiding out in a kind of barge in East Berlin just after UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, Andrew and Elena finally say that they love each other. Cassagnac laughs and says "This is the spirit for dying. The captain of a ship can perform marriages -- and so I hereby pronounce you two man and wife. Kiss the bride quick, Andrew, before you die."
* The ''Literature/AubreyMaturin'' series:
** Subverted at the end of ''HMS Surprise'' when Jack Aubrey proposed immediate marriage to Sophia - to be officiated by a parson his ship transports. She refused anyway, as she wanted a proper marriage in church and with consent of her mother.
** Stephen Maturin had wanted to marry Diana Villiers aboard the H.M.S. ''Shannon'' in ''The Fortune of War'', and the captain was preparing to do it (he even had the proper passages marked in the Book of Common Prayer) when he was interrupted by the imminent [[EpicShipOnShipAction ship-to-ship duel]] with the U.S.S. ''Chesapeake''.
** Played straight at the end of ''The Surgeon's Mate'' when Stephen and Diana are married by William Babbington (former Aubrey's PluckyMiddie and later on [[NumberTwo trusted lieutenant]], now newly promoted to the captaincy of HMS ''Oedipus''), while crossing the English channel, having just escaped from France, thus restoring her British citizenship and allowing her to disembark in England. Turns out that Babbington is CrazyPrepared and even knows that the wedding procedure is just before the section on [[BurialAtSea burial service]] in his manual. They subsequently married again in church in a NoodleIncident between ''The Letter of Marque'' and ''The Thirteen Gun Salute'', because their first wedding was not recognized as canonical by the Catholic Church, which is a rather important point for Stephen.
** In ''Clarissa Oakes'' Reverend Nathaniel Martin, an unbeneficed clergyman who serves on ''Surprise'' as Maturin's assistant, marries Clarissa Harvill (a runaway convict from Australia) to Mr. Oakes, one of Jack's midshipmen, thus giving her some legal protection.
* A variation is presented in ''[[Literature/{{Temeraire}} Empire of Ivory]]'' where the ''captain'' of a refugee-packed dragon transport is being married [[spoiler: to the captain of one of the dragons on board]]. Given that they were [[ShotgunWedding in a bit of a rush]] the ship's chaplain is deemed the only one legally fit to do so.
* In the Creator/MargaretWeis[=/=]Tracy Hickman series ''Literature/TheDeathGateCycle'', the protagonist and miscellaneous refugees are escaping a catastrophe, and two characters ask the protagonist to marry them, citing this tradition. He agrees reluctantly.
** However, they decide not to go forward with this plan once confronted with the somewhat bleak vows of the captain's culture and in an unusual twist, cancel their plans altogether as a result of the tension which arises from being stuck on a boat after narrowly escaping the aforementioned catastrophe.
* In Golding's "To the Ends of the Earth" trilogy it happens once, and the captain accidentally begins to read the funeral service... (well, the groom was actually dying, but he Got Better)
* Two characters get married in space by a transport ship captain in one of the ''Literature/TheLostFleet'' books. However, since we have no idea which regulations apply to TheAlliance SpaceNavy hundreds of years in the future, this may be justified.
* In Creator/JamesClavell's ''Literature/GaiJin'' Captain Marlowe of HMS ''Pearl'' officiates the wedding of Malcolm Struan and Angelique Richaud. Although Marlowe professes some doubts, these are related only to the fact that both Malcolm and Angelique are still legally minors ''and'' bridegroom's mother Tess Struan [[ParentalMarriageVeto expressly forbade the marriage]], so he's unsure "''if the marriage would stick''". (The novel is set in the 1860s, when both Royal Navy ship captains and British merchant navy masters still had uncontested right to perform perfectly legal weddings aboard their ships.) The wedding is then subjected to review by Admiral Ketterer, commanding officer of his squadron, who grudgingly rules the marriage legal from the Navy's point of view, as there's [[AintNoRule no mention of age limit]] in the section on weddings in the Naval Regulations. Whether Tess Truan (who wields [[ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney rather enormous informal influence]] in Hong Kong) would succeed in challenging its legality in civil court is still left open - and rendered moot by subsequent developments.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In an episode of ''Series/GilligansIsland'', the Howells learn via a radio report that the minister who married them was never ordained and thus, they believed themselves to be unmarried. They tried to rectify this by having the Skipper marry them on a raft, but after bickering for awhile, they call the wedding off. They soon learn that the radio report was in error and had named the wrong minister. (The irony here is that, according to the law, even if their minister ''was'' a fake, the Howells themselves would still have remained legally married, since they had believed him to be genuine at the time. See [[http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_450a.html this Straight Dope entry for more details on the subject.]] But then [[RuleOfFunny it's ''Gilligan's Island'']].)
* Lampshaded on ''Series/TheLoveBoat'', when Captain Steubing performs a mass wedding on (IIRC) the Valentine's Day cruise to Mexico. He specifically says that the Mexican government granted him special permission for the occasion.
* Almost done by Lily and Marshall in ''Series/HowIMetYourMother''.
* Marcy's wedding to her second husband in ''Series/MarriedWithChildren''. She made the mistake of allowing Al Bundy to make all the arrangements and soon found him cutting corners to save (and pocket) money. Among the things he did was forgo a minister and hire the captain of a garbage scow to perform the marriage via CB radio.
* Mork of ''Series/MorkAndMindy'' is asked by a pair of teenage friends to perform their secret wedding, justified by the fact that, as Mork rationalized it, he came on a ship, he was the only person on that ship, so he must have been the captain.
** PRE-Teen - two kids who wanted an excuse to eat lots of candy (they understood marriage to be a licence to "do things that kids couldn't"). Which made them sick.
* ''Series/NashBridges'', a ''police'' captain, performs a marriage in one episode, with the excuse that the division he is captain of is currently headquartered on a boat.
* Offered on ''Series/TheOfficeUS'' when the captain of a Lake Scranton booze cruise ([[Series/TheDailyShow Rob Riggle!]]) offers to marry Pam and Roy on the spot.
** Done for real when [[spoiler: Jim and Pam]] run away from their big wedding, to have [[MyOwnPrivateIDo their own private ceremony]] first... on the nearest sightseeing-boat.
* The producers of ''Series/RemingtonSteele'' royally pissed off many [[{{Shipping}} Shippers]] when they had Remington attempting to enter into a CitizenshipMarriage with a random hooker, then had him and Laura wed at the end of the episode by a sea captain in a surly ceremony that wasn't anything near the consummation that many fans of the show were hoping for.
* The original ''Series/{{Star Trek|The Original Series}}'' plays this very straight, with Captain Kirk marrying a soon-to-be-doomed couple and making mention of the tradition of captains marrying passengers to each other. (Of course, this is TheFuture, and he is the highest civil authority on a ship billions of miles in deep space, so it's perhaps not unnatural for him to be allowed to perform a duty like this.) Kirk's speech at the beginning of the wedding is paraphrased whenever a Federation officer officiates a wedding in later series.
** Nor [[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration Captain Picard]] either, when he was asked to marry O'Brien and Keiko to each other.
** [[Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine Commander Sisko]] probably has the best claim of all of them, at least for the Bajorans, who consider him a MessianicArchetype. Sisko is also shown to marry some of his (non-Bajoran) troops. In an episode he lament the fact that he officiated a dead RedShirt's wedding.
** Admiral Ross performed the ceremony for Sisko and Kassidy Yates, also giving the same speech as Kirk and Picard.
** Tom Paris' wedding with B'elanna Torres in ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' was not shown on screen, but it is generally assumed that Captain Janeway must have conducted the ceremony.
*** As was the case on [[spoiler: the "Silver Blood" duplicate of the ship]] in "Course: Oblivion".
* Esteban and Francesca are married aboard the ''S.S. Tipton'' in ''Series/TheSuiteLifeOnDeck'' episode "Mother of the Groom."
* Played with on ''Series/HappyDays''. Fonzie and Jenny Piccolo attend a Halloween party held aboard a ship dressed as a bride and groom. The captain of the ship is dressed as a priest, so they decide to have a pretend wedding. Hilarity ensues when the marriage is initially declared legal and binding, but is resolved later.
* In the Dutch sitcom ''Series/VriendenVoorHetLeven'', Eddie and Ellen do this during their first attempt at marriage.
* In ''Series/LoisAndClark'', after Lex Luthor's failed wedding to Lois, the will reading reveals he was already married. The wedding turned out to be one of these, and the heroes spent some time tracking down the captain to find out who the wife was.
* Luke on ''Series/GilmoreGirls'' went on a cruise with his girlfriend Nicole. When he came back, the two were married. He explains that they got swept up in the moment (the rest of the passengers on the ship were either engaged, on the cruise to get married, or celebrating a wedding anniversary), so they had the captain marry them. They decided on a divorce before leaving the ship.
** Then a few seasons later, when he's engaged to Lorelei and realizes how much he's hurt her by putting off their wedding and tries to elope with her, he mentions that "Apparently a ship's captain can do it," as if he didn't have firsthand knowledge.

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* In "The Captive Castaways," a 1934 sequence in the ''MickeyMouse'' comic strip, Mickey and Minnie are prisoners on Peg Leg Pete's smuggling ship. Mickey gains Pete's trust by pretending to want to join Pete's criminal operation. Since Pete wants to marry the decidedly unwilling Minnie, Mickey persuades Pete to make him captain of the ship temporarily so that he can perform the wedding. [[spoiler:Rather than performing the ceremony, Mickey explains that, as captain, his word is law aboard the ship, and orders Pete to be put in irons.]]

[[folder: Puppet Shows]]
* In the Martin Short episode of ''Series/MuppetsTonight'', Ed Grimley (Short's character from ''Series/{{SCTV}}'' and ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'') needs [[OnOneCondition to get married in order to inherit his uncle's fortune]] ($85 Canadian). Moby the goldfish (who in this skit is a Muppet) declares that he can perform the ceremony because he's a sea captain.

* [[AffectionateParody Affectionately parodied]] in the musical ''Theatre/TheDrowsyChaperone'': The show-within-a-show ends with the best man neglecting to hire a minister for the wedding, so he enlists a passing aviatrix (reasoning that she is a "captain of a ship of the air") to marry all the happy couples en route to the honeymoon.
* Inverted in ''Theatre/HMSPinafore''. The lovers, a sailor and the captain's daughter, intend to elope and get married ashore.

* Guybrush and Elaine are married at sea during the epilogue of ''VideoGame/TheCurseOfMonkeyIsland''.
* Side characters Torlo and Tatiana get married aboard ship in ''VideoGame/InfiniteSpace'' with ship captain Yuri and his sister Kira as witnesses.

* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** RedHerringShirt couple Kazumi and Daigo are married at sea for the fairly simple reason that their ''whole society'' has been driven from their home and is currently a wandering fleet. They opt to share Kazumi's surname, as Daigo's keeping his secret [[NominalImportance as a last resort]]. As a wedding gift, Hinjo promotes them both to nobility, on the basis of not being backstabbing scumbags like [[AristocratsAreEvil the entire rest of the nobility.]]
** The ceremony is also conducted by Durkon, an actual priest (albeit a cleric of Thor). When he asks why they didn't ask Hinjo (both a Paladin and their ruler, so also qualified for weddings), they explain Kazumi is already eight weeks pregnant and they feared he wouldn't approve.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/PiratesOfDarkWater'', a [[MadScientist mad alchemist]] fell in love with Ren (because [[ReplacementGoldfish he reminded her of his father Primus]]), and asked the BigBad to marry them in exchange for turning over Ren's {{Macguffin}}s. He indulged her, although as he confided to Ren, "[[DeathThreat I wouldn't expect much of a honeymoon...]]"
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'':
** Spoofed by Calculon: "As a doctor and captain of this hospital ship, I now pronounce you man and wife with six months to live."
** Spoofed again, with Leela using this as a threat to the crew, claiming she can marry them against their will.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', the Sea Captain is seen performing a wedding ceremony for a man and a cow.
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/GodzillaTheSeries'' ends with this, a more normal island wedding having been interrupted by the MonsterOfTheWeek.
* In ''WesternAnimation/PopeyeAndSon'', this is how Popeye and Olive ended up married - thanks to Bluto, the two of them ended up on a ship far away from the place the ceremony was to be held, so Popeye had the captain of the ship marry them.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Vigliotto Giovanni Vigliotto]], a famous fraudster, had married over a hundred women to swindle them out of their money. He managed to pull this trope off four times... with four passengers of the same liner on the same cruise.
* In the RealLife legality of marriage performed by ship's captain varies according to the legislation of the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_state flag state]] of the ship. There are some jurisdictions in which captains are not allowed to perform regular weddings, but can perform wedding in a 'case of emergency' (definition of ''emergency'' again depending on the national law - and [[FridgeLogic it can be presumed]] that in most of vehicle-related emergency situations TheCaptain would not give very high priority to someone's wedding ceremony - so the emergency most often would be the ''in articulo mortis'' LastWishMarriage when one of the spouses-to-be is dying), in some it even applies to [[TheSkyIsAnOcean captains/pilots in command of airliners]] - the logic being that they're ClosestThingWeGot to a public official/representative of the government onboard a ship.