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A Wedding Officiant's Guide to Performing Destination and Cruise Ship Weddings

Published Monday, Nov. 19th, 2018

A newly married bride and groom stand embracing on the shore. Behind them, the ocean, and a large cruise ship in the distance.
Ahoy, newlyweds!

If you're planning a destination wedding, or have been asked to officiate a wedding in another country, read this first!



Despite the many trends that come and go, destination weddings will always appeal to couples planning their nuptials. It might have been half a century since Hawaii Weddings first became popular, but many couples still fantasize about having their wedding take place on a tropical beach somewhere far away, toes in the sand, with a balmy breeze carrying their vows to one another above the sound of gentle, rolling waves… with, of course, their friend or family member standing before them officiating their perfect ceremony.


Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.  After just a bit of research, couples realize how difficult it is to find information on getting married in certain places outside of the United States - let alone the legalities regarding their marriage license and making sure their union is recognized after the fact.


So, what does this mean for AMM Ministers?

First and foremost: Our ordinations are recognized primarily in the United States. It may be possible for you to legally officiate marriage in another country, but the minister authorization process may be difficult (if not outright impossible). Not all countries provide equal rights to all churches and ministers, and the process to acquire officiant status can be complex and time consuming.


If you're looking for additional guidance on how you can perform a legally binding ceremony in another country, you'll need to contact their local marriage authorities directly. If there's a language barrier, be sure to ask for the requirements in writing, and/or ask to speak to someone who speaks English.


Ultimately, you need to comply with that country's marriage laws.  Be prepared: some countries may have strict requirements (training, licensing, resident status, etc.) that you simply cannot meet as an AMM Minister.


The good news is, there's an alternate solution, and it’s much easier for everyone involved!

If the local requirements for ministers are too strict, it's quite simple to have the legally binding ceremony occur in the United States, and then have the celebratory (not legally-binding) ceremony in the destination location.


Furthermore, with a U.S. marriage license, the couple will be spared the hassle of applying for a foreign marriage license and having those records transferred back to the United States. This will mean that the date on the completed and filed wedding certificate will differ from the date of the celebratory ceremony at the destination location – but for most couples, this is a small price to pay to avoid the stress of planning an international ceremony.


a marriage officiant performs wedding in front of the ocean on the beach with palm trees behind him while the couple says their vows



Performing Cruise Ship Wedding Ceremonies

As for cruise ship ceremonies – especially international ones – you will have to contact the cruise line directly and ask about their policy regarding passenger wedding ceremonies. Most major cruise ships only allow celebratory (again, not legally-binding) ceremonies on board, and require that the legally binding ceremony take place at the terminal/dock on United States land.


Cruise lines typically have a special department and staff for events like weddings, so a representative should have very clear answers for you. Once you have contacted them and verified their policy, do not hesitate to reach out to us if you still have additional questions regarding your ordination or ceremony preparation.



Updated December 2023


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Natasha Anakotta
Natasha Anakotta

Guest Contributor

Natasha is passionate about promoting marriage equality, and encouraging couples to celebrate in a way that’s authentic and unique. Aside from weddings, she enjoys Star Wars, true crime podcasts, and eating macarons by the dozen.

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