Imagine exchanging your vows as the sun sets over the ocean, surrounded by your loved ones on a magnificent cruise ship.
A cruise ship wedding offers a unique and memorable experience for you and your guests. In this article, we’ll cover the key things you need to know about planning a cruise wedding, and what things to consider to ensure that it all runs smoothly.
Why Consider a Wedding on a Cruise Ship?
A cruise wedding is something very different from a traditional wedding. With stunning ocean views and a huge choice of potential destination options, it offers an attractive alternative to a typical wedding venue.
Cruise weddings combine the excitement of the wedding itself and the honeymoon all wrapped up in one. You’ll enjoy the ease of having your ceremony, reception, and honeymoon all in one location. Plus, your wedding guests also get to enjoy a vacation as well as the wedding day.
In terms of cost, a cruise wedding can potentially be more affordable than a traditional destination wedding.
Another great thing about planning a cruise wedding is the flexibility it offers. You have a huge range of choices in terms of location, and you can also decide if you want to keep things intimate with just a few guests or make it a much grander affair.
Choosing the Right Cruise Line for Your Wedding
When planning a cruise wedding, one of the most important decisions is selecting the right cruise line. First and foremost, consider your wedding style and preferences.
Are you seeking a classic and elegant affair, or is a casual and fun celebration your priority?
Each cruise line has its distinct style and atmosphere, with popular options like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Virgin Voyages, and Disney catering to very different tastes and budgets.
As you start to do your research, you’ll find that most cruise lines offer a range of different “wedding packages”.
When comparing the packages that each cruise line offers, take into account the number of guests you anticipate and what specific services are most valuable to you.
Will you need the services of a cruise planner? Do you want photography included? Is the ceremony on board the ship or in port? Who will be the officiant? What about the wedding cake and any flowers?
Your choice of cruise line will also determine your cruise itinerary, so remember to factor that into your decision.
Make sure you also think about the onboard amenities offered by each cruise line and the specific ship you are considering.
Bear in mind that the latest cruise ships like Utopia of the Seas from Royal Caribbean will have a lot more going on than older and smaller ships like Vision of the Seas from the same fleet.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional advice at this stage, as the decisions you make here are crucial to the success of your wedding and your honeymoon.
Reach out to a travel agent or wedding planner specializing in cruise ship weddings. They will be able to provide you with recommendations based on actual experience which could also save you money in the long run.
Costs and Budgeting for a Cruise Wedding
Just like traditional weddings, the cost of a cruise wedding will vary depending on your plans.
To give you some idea of the cost, a basic wedding package with a ceremony, officiant, and some additional services may start as low as $1,400. However, it can go up to $10,000 or a lot more if you are looking for more luxurious options.
When calculating your budget, remember to include the price of the cruise itself! This won’t be included in the cost of the wedding package. However, you can treat this as your honeymoon cost if you are budgeting separately for that!
Will you be covering the travel and cruise expenses for your wedding guests or any witnesses? On that last point, always ensure that if you are not traveling with any other guests that the cruise line will provide witnesses at the ceremony.
As well as your cruise expenses, don’t forget the costs of Wedding Dresses, Suit hire, invitations, and gifts and favors for your wedding guests.
It’s a good idea to set aside some additional money for extra expenses that might come up, such as non-refundable deposits, last-minute changes, or unexpected fees. It’s always better to have some buffer space in your budget, so you won’t get stressed if something unexpected happens.
If budget is an issue, think about your choice of stateroom. A basic interior stateroom will be a lot less expensive than that nice balcony room or suite and it can trim a lot from your costs.
Don’t forget to consider additional cruise costs. The headline price you see on the travel agent or cruise line’s website marketing will not highlight the port fees and taxes. There are also the additional costs for gratuities, plus any add-ons like cruise internet packages or any shore excursions.
Lastly, depending on how many guests are attending the wedding, ensure you ask the cruise line about any discounts for group rates. A lot of couples forget to do this and there can be significant savings.
Understanding the Legalities and Practicalities of a Cruise Ship Wedding
Take time to get to know and understand the legalities of getting married on a cruise ship.
Firstly, not all cruise lines offer the option to get married while actually “at sea”. Some only allow the services to take place when they are docked in port.
If the Captain is officiating your wedding there will be certain times or days he won’t be available (usually on embarkation and debarkation day or when arriving and leaving port).
If you do decide to get married at sea, the wedding ceremony must follow the laws of the country in which the ship is registered. For example, all Celebrity Cruises ships are registered in Malta. This means that they have to follow Maltese laws when it comes to weddings, which includes ensuring that you have arranged a Maltese marriage license.
Similarly, if you are not getting married at sea, the wedding regulations may differ depending on the port of call. However, the regulations are usually simpler which can keep the costs lower.
The Importance of having a backup plan and proper insurance
In my former career, I was a Wedding Photographer, and couples always asked me what the backup plan was if I fell ill. They would also ask how would I take photos if it was raining, or if there was any equipment failure.
As a professional, I of course had backup plans in place. But I always put the question back to the couple themselves. What happens if you fall ill on the day? What happens if your flights are delayed and you miss the cruise? What happens if bad weather forces an itinerary change that impacts the location of the wedding ceremony?
With any wedding, it’s vital to have these alternative plans in place, particularly when travel and potential weather issues can have such an impact. Always “hope for the best, but plan for the worst”.
Travel Insurance is vital here and make sure it covers the cost of any wedding expenses. If not, consider taking out a separate wedding insurance policy. You will also need to check the insurance coverage carefully as not all wedding insurance policies will cover weddings on a cruise.
Timeline for Booking Your Cruise and Planning the Wedding
The perfect wedding requires perfect planning. So follow a structured process and timeline leading up to the big day.
1. Choose the perfect cruise and wedding date (6 to 18 months ahead)
Start your planning early by researching your favorite cruise lines and selecting an itinerary that suits your preferences. Keep in mind that most cruise lines require either 30 or 60 days minimum in advance for booking your actual wedding package.
Also, check stateroom availability to ensure the cruise can also accommodate all of your guests.
2. Ensure any Guests Book Their cruise as soon as you secure the date (6 to 18 months)
Once you’ve chosen your ideal cruise and wedding date, make sure your guests secure their booking as well. Cruises can and do sell out. This also ensures they have the best choices of stateroom types available and the best prices.
If the cruise does drop the price of the cruise later, you can usually ask them to rebook you at the reduced rate.
At this point ask the Cruise line to link your booking references together. This ensures you can all dine together if you wish.
3. Finalise the cruise wedding packages (3 to 6 months)
Decide on your final wedding package and get it booked and confirmed with the cruise line. Ensure you have everything in writing and what is included in the package.
4. Start preparing and collating a list of documentation requirements (2 to 6 months)
Check with the cruise line to ensure you will have everything you need to get legally married.
Check if your itinerary requires you to have a full passport, rather than just a Government-issued ID. If you need one, put your Passport application in as early as possible.
5. Plan your other wedding-related events (1 to 3 months)
Besides the wedding ceremony, remember to organize any additional events and activities for you and your guests both onboard and at port destinations. These could include rehearsal dinners, group excursions, and farewell brunches.
6. Final check of documentation (1 month)
Ensure everything is in place to ensure any required documents are going to be available for the wedding, particularly relating to ID and marriage licenses.
Wedding Planning Is All In The Detail
Remember, planning a cruise wedding is a unique experience that requires careful organization and attention to detail. By following this guide, you’ll ensure your special day is everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
A cruise wedding offers the opportunity to create unforgettable memories for you and your loved ones. With careful planning and consideration, you can have the wedding of your dreams and an amazing honeymoon.
Plan carefully, but when it comes to the big day, remember to relax. Step back, breathe in, and enjoy it. Leave the planning and coordination to the cruise ship professionals and you’ll have a stress-free Wedding Day.
About the Author
Alan Hutchison is a former Wedding Photographer and is the founder of Cruise Nonstop a cruise travel guide for new and experienced cruisers. When he’s not cruising you’ll find him on the golf courses of Scotland and Florida trying to improve his dreadful handicap