Secrets to getting married on a sailboat
Getting married in a unique setting is like nothing else in the world. Forever after, when people asked where you were, you can say, “On a sailboat.” I’ve done three weddings on the boat, and each was special. Here are eight secrets.
This is a metaphor for good weather. There’s a reason June is the most popular month, and so it goes on a boat. Warm, sunny days bring warm breezes. Typically we sail around for a while to get everyone acclimated to the joy of sailing, and then we do the ceremony and sail for hours. But one wedding was on a fall day that was blustery, so we held the ceremony in the shelter of Sarah Creek, off the York River, and then went out and sailed like it was a honeymoon.
My boat holds six people plus me. This is clever because it precludes a huge wedding and a list of 100 or so guests. It’s also a lot easier to plan and execute because there are fewer moving parts.
It helps if the performing minister would otherwise be a guest. In my first wedding on the boat, the groom’s brother was a circuit judge in Virginia who was empowered to tie the knot. People ask if I as skipper can do it, but I’m not ordained as a minister. I have two local boater/sailor ministers on retainer if you need one. The idea of the sea captain marrying couples is a myth that gained traction in the sit-com “Love Boat.”
Similarly, it helps to have an invited guest who’s also a photographer, which I’ve seen several times. Alternatively, this is something Let’s Go Sail can provide. I shoot hundreds of photos every week on the boat, and it’s easy because (1) the boat is stopped in the water for the ceremony, and (2) people are looking their best at a wedding. I transmit the best shots overnight, unlike the pros who wait for weeks as if they’re editing the collection.
Keep the celebration small by limiting the food and drinks. People like to lay out the spread in the salon below deck and then bring the fare out after the ceremony. Back on shore at a wedding dinner, you can lay on a bigger fare.
The skipper is trained at opening the champagne bottle. Again, we keep things simple by providing plastic cups that won’t tip over. For more extensive drinking, wait till you’re back on shore.
I came up with this when too many would-be grooms were taking their fiancés up to the bow to propose. They were so nervous about dropping the ring that I went out and got a fake one that looks terrific. It doubles as a wedding ring, although the problem of dropping it is reduced because the ceremony is held in the cockpit where everything is more protected.
One lovely couple came from the desert of Arizona to get married on the water. Without warning, just before the ceremony, 20 dolphins showed up around the boat and started frolicking about. They swam under the boat and dove up from the water and waved their flukes. The minister/judge began, “We are gathered here in the presence of friends, relatives and Flipper.”