I have a wedding where I am marrying the couple on a boat, we are all going to get on and cruise for 10mins until the couple get a feeling like yep lets pull up here and then I will do their ceremony, then the boat will carry on for couple of hours whilst everyone has drinks, food and watches the sunset. So in regard to Location of marriage on paperwork, NOIM and Marriage Docs as I won’t know the coordinates until we literally pull up, do I just write the coordinates in quickly before I call everyone in to kick ceremony off or can I fill when we go to sign docs? And am I just writing the coordinates, or do I need to put the boats name also?
So there’s three things to consider when marrying people away from the general landlocked wedding venue you might be used to.
Where can Australian marriage celebrants marry people?
Australian authorised marriage celebrants have the authority to marry any two people that can marry according to the law, anywhere in Australian territory. It’s that definition of Australia that is the important thing to note.
Australian territory is defined as the Commonwealth of Australia (the eight states and territories like the ACT and NT), and the Australian external territories including Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and others. Excluded from this list is the Australian Antarctic Territory
Not only can we marry people on the land in those places, but also the ocean and the sky above.
Our authority to marry extends to the boundary of the Australian territorial seas, that’s 12 nautical miles, or 22.2 kilometres, from the low water line from Australian land. In somewhere like the Whitsundays where there are many islands, roughly imagine drawing a circle with a protractor off the coast that is 12 nautical miles off the shore of each island. This map gives you an idea of those boundaries. The captain of the boat, given the direction to stay within Australian territorial seas, should be able to comply, and “10 minutes” in a boat should be fine.
For those wanting to scuba dive, that Australian territory goes all the way beneath the water’s surface, past the ocean floor.
Australian airspace extends to 60,000 feet above ground level, that’s a smidge over 18km. I’m writing this article around 10km in the air in a Qantas 737, most commercial jets top out around 10-13km, so unless you’re in a spaceship then the height should be ok.
Remember though that horizontally, as the bird flies, that Australian airspace is the same area as the land territory and sea territory.
So if you’re flying (or cruising) from Melbourne to Launceston, or to Perth, over the course of that journey you’ll leave Australian territory for a time because the flight takes you over the Great Australian Bight which is legally only Great and Australian for 22km off the shore.
The definition of Australia is a funny thing when you start talking territories etc. So I’ll quote the guidelines here:
The Marriage Act applies to Australian external territories – Christmas Island, Norfolk Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (section 8 of the Marriage Act). The Marriage Act does not apply to the Australian territory in the Antarctica.
The Guidelines and the Act does not mention foreign embassies, but if you contact Australian embassies they will tell you “it is not possible to get married at an Australian Embassy or Consulate.”
Captains of ships and airplanes do not have the authority to marry people according to the law in Australia. Unless they are also authorised and appointed marriage celebrants by the Commonwealth of Australia. So the old stories of getting married by a captain of a ship are just fun, not legal.
What you need to consider in that unique ceremony
Safety, permission, vibe. Take charge of making that moment amazing, but safe. If you’re on a boat consider stopping, if you’re in a plane, whatever you do, do not stop.
How to record the location of marriage
There is no direct advice on recording the location of a marriage ceremony in the sea or in the air from the AGD office or the Guidelines. They do offer the advice to avoid air and sea weddings because of the unsurety of the ‘place’. The marriage certificate, and the Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages require a date and place from you however.
If the airplane or boat is docked or at terminal, the terminal name is appropriate, e.g. Brisbane Cruise Terminal, Hamilton, Qld, or Gold Coast Airport, Bilinga, Qld.
If the boat is at sea, record the name of the boat with the name of the water you’re in, like the bay, river, sea, or ocean, e.g. M.V. Rutherford, Sydney Harbour, NSW. Ask the captain to record the longitude and latitude at the time the vows were exchanged (the legal timestamp of marriage) and then after the ceremony look them up on Google Earth to get the name.
If you’re unsure of the name of the body of water, recording the longitude and latitude with the name of the vessel, may suffice, e.g Qantas Flight 1574 VH-YQX, -30.8760231, 152.6671871, NSW.
However I would double check with the intended state’s BDM to find out exactly what they would like recorded in this instance.
Recording the place after the ceremony
It is acceptable to record the place/location of the marriage ceremony after the ceremony has taken place. I like to visualise the monitum as the legally necessary introduction to the vows, the vows being the legal lynchpin, the on/off switch, of the ceremony, and the marriage certificate a record of the what happened at the ceremony. So although most of us would prepare a marriage certificate ahead of the ceremony, it’s merely a record of the ceremony, so leaving the place blank until after is perfectly ok.