Getting Married Underwater

I helped plan an underwater wedding early in my diving career, and I came up with some helpful hints when it comes to getting married underwater. Here are a few things to consider.

Check local regulations

First, you want to make sure that the country or state in which you plan to conduct your ceremony will allow a legal underwater wedding. Regulations on this can vary quite extensively, but a quick phone call to an official should give you all the info you need.

Also, check coastal regulations. While there technically isn’t much difference between a bunch of people going scuba diving together and a bunch of people going to scuba diving together and two of them emerging married after the dive, some coastal authorities may have a different opinion. 

Pick a spot

Once you’ve decided on the location in general, it’s time to pick the dive site. The focus of getting married underwater is the wedding, not the dive. So pick a shallow location that has easy access, a flat, sandy bottom, clear water, and generally effortless conditions — this should not be one of your more challenging dives. Generally, warm water makes things easier (no need to remove gloves for the exchanging of the rings), but a wedding can be performed in cold water if all divers are comfortable.

Get a scuba-diving wedding officiant

For a legal wedding, you’ll most likely need a licensed wedding officiant to conduct the ceremony. In some areas, anyone can be licensed to perform marriage ceremonies, whereas in others, they must hold some official role. In any case, you’ll want someone who can both legally perform the ceremony and scuba dive. Quite a few dive instructors I know, myself included, are also licensed to perform wedding ceremonies, so ask at your local dive shop, or wherever your ceremony will be conducted.

Remember: not everyone is a scuba diver

Consider that many of your guests won’t be able to witness the actual wedding ceremony and vows. Any non-divers will be left on shore or the boat, while the couple and witnesses take the plunge. Make sure both you, your spouse, and your loved ones are okay with this, and make sure you’ve secured the legally prescribed number of witnesses who are also scuba divers.

Technically, you could hire a scuba instructor to take care of any non-diving members of the wedding party, making it a Discover Scuba dive, but many dive centers won’t go along with this, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Making an underwater wedding come together is stressful enough without having to worry about Uncle Bill, who’s breathing through a regulator for the first time in his life.

Have a backup plan

As any scuba diver knows, our activity is highly weather permitting, and weather can often change with little warning. As a minimum, choose a backup underwater spot if your primary one doesn’t allow for diving that day. It’s best to have a land-based location lined up as well if the weather completely negates getting married underwater that day. 

Yes, you can have champagne

It can be quite festive for the happy couple and anyone else present at the ceremony to have an underwater toast after the ceremony. I recommend champagne or another sparkling wine because the pressure inside the bottle is greater than that of the water around you — unless you’re having the wedding at a really deep depth, which I wouldn’t recommend — so you needn’t worry about seawater seeping into the wine. Simply pop the cork, carefully take a sip from the bottle (removing your regulator as you do so), and pass the bottle to the next person, covering the bottle opening with your thumb to prevent the wine from escaping. Remember: diving and alcohol do not mix, so keep it to one sip.

Watch the rings

If you’re getting married underwater in water cold enough to require gloves, the rings pose a bit of a challenge. Rings can be easily dropped (and are notoriously hard to find) when being passed from one gloved hand to the next, so be careful to hold onto them. You may want to consider using a facsimile under water and then exchanging the real wedding bands on dry land.

Practice

You’ll need to conduct the whole ceremony using hand signals, unless you do the wedding in full-face masks, so practice these signals with your wedding officiant to make sure everyone understands each other. Doing a dry run (no pun intended) on land of the entire ceremony is a good idea.

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