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Saying I Do Among the Stars

Valentines,Weddings,Zero Gravity
Alex Lin
Mai Saito
February 14, 20202:00 PM UTC (UTC +0)

Every year, 340,000 couples take the plunge with a destination wedding. An exotic location helps set the big day apart, and as space tourism becomes a reality, there could be a whole new meaning to “star-crossed" lovers. Since 2008, the Tokyo Based company First Advantage has accepted reservations from couples hoping to say “I do” from outer space. 

A literally star-studded wedding might sound romantic, but it’s not without its legal challenges. Outer space is essentially like international waters. Since no countries have laid territorial claim over space, it’s hard to say who has jurisdiction over what. There are basic guidelines provided by the 1998 International Space Station Agreement, but there’s nothing about how to officiate a wedding in space. So how should hopeful couples successfully navigate a holy matrimony in the great beyond?

Luckily, there’s a famous precedent for tying the knot while in orbit. In 2003, Cosmonaut Yuri Malechenko and Ekaterina Dmitriev were wed while Malechenko was wrapping up a mission aboard the space station. The two were linked via video transmission, with one of Malechenko’s friends standing in for Malechenko. Meanwhile, Malachenko stood alongside best man and fellow shipmate Ed Lu in space. Still, their union wasn’t without its challenges.

Although Malechenko had proposed to Dmitriev in December of 2002, the couple was only issued a marriage license in July of 2003. Since Malechenko was prepping for his next mission in space at the time, officials in the Russian Aerospace Agency strongly urged Malechenko and Dmitriev to postpone their wedding until Malechenko returned to Earth. The bureaucratic pushback stems from the legal complexities of recognizing a marriage in space and rules held over from the Soviet-era that require military officers to get permission to marry non-Russian citizens. 

In spite of the naysayers, Malechenko and Dmitriev had their dream wedding. Of course, their plans for matrimony had the advantage of career connections. The pair didn’t have to pay for their own flight to space—Malechenko was in orbit already. Although Soviet era bureaucracies were a concern, resources weren’t—so how would the average couple get to space?

Unless you’re a billionaire, it’s not likely.

If you’re trying to get hitched in space, it’s best to start saving as soon as possible. First Advantage’s initial fee for in-orbit matrimony costs a whopping $2.3 million. That covers a wedding dress, a reception on Earth, accommodations at the launch site, travel expenses, and even a live broadcast from space. And first Advantage’s all-inclusive rate is cheap when compared to other prices available to aspiring space tourists, where tickets alone can quickly range in the multi-millions.

A trip for one to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon or Boeing's Starliner is in the tens of millions. For a trip to suborbital space, a ticket on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo could be priced between  $200K to $250K. And although Blue Origin is still determining its exact prices, the company estimates that single tickets for commercial rides to space will fall between $200K and $300K

Once you’ve conquered the financial hurdles to marriage in space, you’ll have to sort out the legalities. Since an official marriage in space would need to be a federally-recognized union of two separate parties, it’s subject to the international and maritime laws that apply in space. Unfortunately for you and your significant other, existing U.S. government documents on space law are sparse. 

Like the high seas, vehicles in space are required to register as property of their native country. As registered property of the United States, spaceships would fall under the territorial jurisdiction of the US government. In fact, all vessels of the United States fall under the government’s legal jurisdiction. According to Title 18 of the US Code of Laws, “vessel” includes any object owned directly by the United States, by a US citizen, and by any corporation created in the United States or any territory, district, or possession of the United States. So even if you manage to create your own rocket company on par with SpaceX, you’d still be subjected to all US laws from take off to landing. 

This makes First Advantage’s model a little tricky, since the wedding company hails from Japan. Which is probably why First Advantage wants to build its wedding ships in the US and launch them from Oklahoma City.

Other than semantics around who owns which “territories” in space, there aren’t many legal blocks preventing weddings in orbit. Contrary to what your in-laws might think, getting married isn’t a crime. 

Still, a wedding is a wedding. In addition to tickets to space, couples need to take into consideration everything else that goes into planning. Will members of the wedding party be on board? Parents of the couple? Will your witnesses watch the ceremony in person, or via livestream? In most states, marriage licenses expire after 30 to 90 days—will you and your would-be spouse get up to orbit by then? Is the additional stress of booking tickets to space worth the hassle?

For those limited by the price tag of a space wedding, it might be comforting to know that the Virginia-based Zero Gravity Corporation offers private zero gravity flights starting at $165,000. While the company’s planes wouldn’t technically fly to space, they would provide passengers with that same feeling of weightlessness that’s probably half the appeal of a space wedding. 

It’s an alternative that Erin Finnegan and Noah Fulmor decided to pursue in 2009, albeit with some difficulty. In order to simulate zero gravity while still in the Earth’s atmosphere, planes must execute a series of parabolic maneuvers, ascending and descending rapidly during flight. Since passengers only have an hour to get themselves oriented to microgravity, a nearly-weightless wedding is probably not as graceful as it sounds. When it came time for the couple to finally kiss, Finnegan told reporters that “Noah knocked into my nose and I thought it would bleed.”

A wedding in space might end up looking more like an MMA fight than a romantic getaway to the stars. But for those looking to make their big day stand out, a ceremony in the cosmos is now a possibility — if you’ve got a few extra million to spare

Alex Lin
Mai Saito
February 14, 20202:00 PM UTC (UTC +0)