With tropical backdrops, luxurious surroundings, and attentive service, wedding cruises are a romantic option for to-be-wed couples. Before succumbing to the allure of a seagoing ceremony, however, it is important for couples to understand the benefits and detriments of such a choice.
Benefits of Being Married at Sea
For many couples, a cruise ship wedding is the perfect alternative to the extensive planning, out-of-control costs, and potential problems of a land-based wedding. Wedding coordinators from the cruise line are provided with every package to help arrange even the smallest details, eliminating stress for the soon-to-be newlyweds. While ship weddings are naturally more limited than other ceremonies, there are still dozens of features to choose from to create a personalized event to treasure through each anniversary.
Other wedding cruises benefits include:
- Generally lower costs than for land-based weddings.
- Coordinated assistance for marriage license and other paperwork.
- Built-in venue for a tropical honeymoon.
About Wedding Cruises
From start to finish, a wedding aboard a cruise ship is a memorable, romantic experience. Cruise lines offer several levels of service for wedding packages, with different amenities and features for each one depending on the location and number of anticipated guests. For complete details about which cruise lines offer which options, couples should consult a cruise travel agent or the cruise line's wedding department for details.
While features vary depending on the specific package, cruise line, and destination, typical parts of wedding cruises include:
- Services of a wedding coordinator familiar with all the cruise line's options.
- Ceremony performed by a non-denominational minister, judge, or notary. Ships' captains are not permitted to perform weddings.
- Live or recorded ceremony music.
- Tuxedo or wedding gown rentals.
- Flowers including a bouquet (roses or local flowers) for the bride, boutonniere for the groom, and decorative arrangements.
- Wedding stationery including invitations and announcements.
- Refreshments including bar service, champagne, cake, hors d'oeuvres, or luncheon arrangements.
- Souvenir merchandise such as photo albums, commemorative frames, champagne flutes, t-shirts, robes, or wedding favors.
- Couple's activities such as dinner for two, breakfast in bed, and spa treatments.
- Photography and videography services.
- Assistance coordinating transportation, salon appointments, and other arrangements if applicable.
- Priority check-in and escorts during embarkation.
Wedding packages are usually calculated based on the specific features and upgrades a couple chooses for their perfect day. The cost of the package is in addition to the standard cruise fare (which varies based on the cabin choice, itinerary, and other factors), and typically ranges from $700 for a small package (bride and groom plus very few, if any, guests) to over $2,500 for deluxe packages involving dozens of guests.In addition to the base rate of the package, couples need to consider the additional costs of cruise weddings: the fees for marriage licenses and other paperwork, plus per-person charges for additional guests above what the package initially includes. Holiday cruises may incur additional wedding surcharges, and port fees vary based on difficulty, customs, and the time the ship will be docked. Furthermore, some items are not included at all - the wedding rings, for example. All of these costs can add up quickly, and while basic wedding cruises may be less expensive than traditional affairs, an elaborate ceremony will be just as costly as a similar event on land.
Limitations of Wedding Cruises
Couples planning a seagoing wedding need to be aware of the packages' limitations. While there are many ways to personalize a cruise wedding, there are also many options that are not available. For example, most cruise ships supply a wedding cake, but the couple has only limited flavor and decorative options. The same goes for flowers and music, though some lines permit the couple to provide their own music within guidelines (typically based on timing). Because of customs regulations, brides cannot usually bring their own flowers under any circumstances. Menus, while delicious and representative of the decadent cuisine available on all cruises, may be limited as well. Furthermore, depending on the ship's itinerary, not every destination is available for wedding ceremonies, and couples may be required to comply with blood test and residency requirements for the ceremony to be legally binding. The number of guests may be limited based on the ship's size and the wedding location, though most ships can accommodate up to 200 non-sailing guests without excessive problems (guest lists and reservations need to be supplied well in advance).
One limitation few couples consider about cruise weddings is exclusivity. Because weddings must be performed in port, typically on the day of departure, it is not uncommon for multiple weddings to be performed in a short period of time, which may make brides feel less like it is their special day. If this emotional aspect of the wedding day is a concern, a cruise ship wedding may not be the best option.
Cruise Lines that Perform Weddings
All major cruise lines are willing to perform weddings, though the specific options, prices, and availability will vary. Couples can also opt for vow renewal packages and romance packages instead of full-blown weddings, though the features are more limited and fewer accommodations for personalization will be made. Mainstream lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian and Disney have the largest number of options, and Norwegian cruises in particular are very popular because of their exclusive Hawaiian destinations, perfect for the ultimate tropical wedding.
From a tropical beach to a luxurious waterfall to a glacier to an intimate chapel, wedding cruises can provide a multitude of unique experiences for couples. With dozens of personalization options available (despite necessary limitations), couples can find everything they want for a cruise ship wedding, and sailing off into the sunset is a romantic beginning to any marriage.