Can airline pilots marry onboard aircraft

Myth-Busting: Can Airline Captains Marry You On The Plane?

In the realm of urban myths, the belief that an airline captain has the authority to officiate a wedding mid-flight is one that occasionally appears up in popular culture.

Travelling, especially by air, has always had an air of romance about it, with countless books, shows, and movies depicting far-flung romances and passionate embraces at airport departure gates! For many, the idea of exchanging vows at cruising altitude is the epitome of romance.

However, like many myths, the truth is somewhat more grounded. Let’s unravel this misconception.

Background to the Myth

The idea that an airline captain has special legal authority is rooted in the traditional powers attributed to ship captains.

Historically, ship captains have been imbued with a certain authority and mystique, due to their command over vast vessels in the unpredictable high seas.

Out at sea, often for months at a time, ship captains have a surprising number of legal powers. And, sometimes, this does extend to the ability to officiate weddings. 

As aviation grew in popularity and the glamour of air travel took hold in the 20th century, it seems the legend simply migrated from sea to sky.

Couple embrace each other at airport

Legal Rules Surrounding Airline Captains and Marriage

In reality, an airline captain’s authority is strictly limited to the operational and safety aspects of a flight.

Their primary duty is to ensure the well-being of their passengers, crew, and aircraft. This authority does not extend to performing marriage ceremonies.

Airline captain with hat turning on flight directors

Most jurisdictions have specific requirements for who can officiate a wedding, usually centred on judges, religious officials, or other state-sanctioned officials. While it’s true that some countries or states allow for residents to become “deputised” for a day to officiate a wedding, this is a separate legal process that has nothing to do with one’s occupation as an airline captain.

Additionally, even if an airline captain were legally authorised to perform marriages on the ground, a marriage ceremony in the air could present jurisdictional challenges. The legal status of actions performed in-flight can depend on the country of the aircraft’s registration, the nation’s airspace in which the act took place, and the destination country’s laws.

The origins of the myth: Boat captains who CAN legally marry

So, where does the myth originate? As mentioned earlier, it’s tied to the legacy of ship captains. But can ship captains actually marry people? The answer is more nuanced, but it is technically possible.

In some jurisdictions, particularly in international waters, ship captains do have the authority to officiate a marriage. However, this is not a universal rule and largely depends on the vessel’s country of registration and the laws of the country where the couple intends to register their marriage.

One such example where it is legal to be married by a ship captain, is on a Royal Caribbean cruise, who perform marriage ceremonies under Bahamian Law:

Wedding on a cruise ship in barbados

The Captain can perform your ceremony once the ship is in international waters. Your marriage will be legally recognised in The Bahamas. Check with your local governmental authorities to see if they will also recognise your marriage.

Can the Captain perform our wedding ceremony, and will it be legal? —Royal Caribbean Cruises

For a shipboard marriage to be recognized, the captain must usually follow certain protocols. These might include recording the marriage in the ship’s log, having witnesses, and ensuring that the marriage is subsequently registered in a jurisdiction that recognizes the ceremony. Nevertheless, it’s essential to note that even at sea, the power to marry couples is more the exception to the rule.

Can you get married on a plane?

The Short Answer: Yes, but you’ll need deep pockets!

While airline captains can’t perform legal marriage ceremonies, interestingly, getting married on an aircraft isn’t entirely out of the question. In response to the demand for romantic gestures, niche companies have created packages where aviation aficionados can get married in the air!

Private jet companies such as Air Charter Service USA will tailor virtually anything to their high-spending guests’ needs — including an elopement package involving an airborne wedding ceremony.

However, it won’t be the aircraft captain marrying you. After all, he’ll be busy flying the plane — and we think that’s for the best!

Couple embrace each other at airport


The romantic notion of being married mid-flight by an airline captain is a charming one, but it remains just that – a myth.

If you’re dreaming of an aviation-themed wedding, it’s advisable to either get legally married before or after the flight and treat the in-flight ceremony as symbolic. For couples with deep pockets, private jet charter companies can accommodate requests for airborne weddings in countries where it is legally permitted, such as the United States. However, in both these cases, it will not be the pilot actually marrying you!

However, the myth of captains being able to marry does have some grounding in reality. Couples that want a romantic gesture that’s out of the ordinary, could consider a shipboard wedding — as some boat captains can legally marry onboard.

But, always do thorough research to ensure the marriage will be legally recognized. After all, while love may know no bounds, or boarders, the legal recognition of a marriage has its specific altitudes and latitudes!

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