There’s good news for couples who want to get married in a beautiful location without the hassle of planning a formal, sit-down dinner for 300 of their closest friends. Many cruise lines now offer a variety of services to help you plan a shipboard or shoreside ceremony, which, of course, will be combined with a romantic cruise honeymoon.
Planning a cruise wedding can be as easy as making one call. Just dial and, poof! In-house wedding coordinators will begin arranging the ceremony, menu, cake, flowers and music. Some will even help you to obtain wedding licenses or provide invitations and thank-you notes. And it’s easy to let them handle all the extras — from tuxedo rental to hair and spa appointments.
An onboard wedding can be a great value, as well. Prices start at about $795 (the sky’s the limit) on top of the cost of the cruise. Typically, onboard weddings are held in a ship’s chapel (if one exists), a lounge, the library or a boardroom. But, the larger ships can offer offbeat ceremony locales aboard a carousel or on a rock-climbing wall. While the members of the wedding couple must be passengers on the cruise, most lines with full-service packages include an option for landside guests to come onboard for a couple of hours for the event.
Married folks can also get in on the fun with onboard vow-renewal ceremonies — a perfect way to celebrate on your anniversary trip.
Weddings and vow renewals at sea can, indeed, be the ultimate in romance. But, before you book your cabin, remember these tips:
If you want to get married at sea by the captain, you’re limited to only a handful of cruise lines, due to legal limitations that are based on ships’ countries of registry. On the “can officiate” list are Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, whose ships are now registered in Malta. Princess Cruises‘ captains are also able to marry couples at sea; its ships are registered to Bermuda. Beginning in 2012, Cunard will offer onboard weddings after its ships are re-flagged from Southampton to Bermuda.
Several cruises lines have private islands for wedding or vow renewals. Disney Cruise Line captains can lead wedding ceremonies onboard or at Castaway Cay. However, because senior officers cannot perform legal ceremonies, the actual “legal” marriage (and paperwork signing) must occur in the cruise terminal before the ship leaves Port Canaveral — not terribly romantic. Holland America conducts weddings and vow renewals at its private island, Half Moon Cay, during its Caribbean and Panama Canal cruises.
For the most part, it’s the big-ship, mass-market cruise lines that have embraced full-service weddings. Some, like Crystal Cruises, don’t allow onboard weddings. Others — mostly in the high-priced luxury category — like Seabourn don’t have a problem with wedding or vow renewal plans, but they eschew packages, opting to provide customized amenities to these guests.
Weddings have become so popular on some ships that Carnival, Celebrity, Azamara, Holland America and Royal Caribbean levy surcharges for certain times of the year.
Cruise ship weddings may not be for everyone. If you’ve always dreamed of picking out each flower yourself or getting married in your hometown in front of 300 people, you may not be happy with this simple approach. And, getting married legally while at sea is complicated, so plan to have your ceremony on the ship while it is in port, or plan well in advance.
Weddings in ports of call can be fabulous, but what happens if the ship has to cancel the call? Consider very carefully ports that require ships to tender; Grand Cayman, for instance, can be a highly unpredictable site, as winds often hamper tender operations, causing cruise ships to skip stops at the island. For the same reason, we do not recommend planning a shoreside wedding at a Caribbean locale during hurricane season (June through November).
And, while many brides start planning their dream nuptials a year to a year and a half in advance, don’t jump the gun by planning land-based, post-cruise celebrations too early. Couples have been bumped from their wedding cruises — due to full-ship charters after they booked — forcing them to reschedule everything.
Info provided by Cruise Critic