Since you do not belong to a church, a civil ceremony, as opposed to a religious one, will probably be the route you will want to take. Usually civil wedding ceremonies are performed by the Justice of the Peace, however, depending on where you live, it may also be customary to have it officiated by the county clerk, mayor, township committee chair, governor, clerk of Superior Court, a judge, or magistrate. Simply call your local marriage license bureau and they will put you in touch with the office of the appropriate official to perform your wedding ceremony. If you are unable to locate the marriage license bureau in your local area, call city hall. City Hall will be able to put you directly in touch with local officials who perform marriage ceremonies, or they can give you the number to the marriage license bureau.
When you have located an officiant for your ceremony, he or she may be able to provide suggestions to assist you with planning your boat wedding. Most officials who perform civil ceremonies have married people in almost every imaginable setting, under every imaginable circumstance! They usually have the experience to guide you when it comes to doing something a little less traditional, such as what you are proposing.
As long as your wedding takes place not too far off shore, your guests may be able to gather to observe the ceremony from the edge of the lake in the state park that you mention. Do be sure to consider this from your guests perspective, however. Will they enjoy coming to observe your ceremony from a distance, particularly if they are unable to hear what is being said or to see it well? Will they feel like they are part of what is going on? If not, will they find the experience somewhat disappointing? Will they feel slighted or snubbed for not being part of the intimate ceremony atmosphere taking place on the boat? How about your family? Will they feel left out for being made to watch your wedding from a distance, as an observer as opposed to being “part” of it? And what about yourselves? Have you considered this idea carefully? Are you certain you won’t want your dear ones a little closer when you exchange vows of promise and love with the person you will spend the rest of your life with? Are you sure that you do not want to share the ceremony a little more closely with your family and friends?
There are no right and wrong answers to these questions. I raise them only to ensure that you have taken the feelings of your guests into consideration, and that you have considered this idea from all angles and are still satisfied with the plan. As long as you are doing things in a way that is filled with meaning and importance to you, and so that no one’s feelings are hurt or offended, then you are doing it correctly. Just make sure that you have carefully thought such a plan through so that there will be no regrets later.
If you decide to go ahead with the plan as it is, be certain that your wedding invitation is worded in a manner which prepares guests for what will occur; for the fact that the wedding will take place on a boat with only members of the wedding party aboard, and that guests are invited to watch from shore. Etiquette demands that you extend this courtesy to your guests.
Also be sure to state the boarding and departure times, and be sure to build in a little bit of grace period in case guests are caught in traffic or otherwise running late – you wouldn’t want them to miss the boat! So extend them that courtesy as a gracious host.
If you feel that the considerations I have mentioned are beginning to make your idea more complicated, then consider keeping the ceremony private – only those who will be on the boat would be invited. To the rest of the guests, extend an invitation to the reception only.
Have a wonderful wedding!