Tying the Knot at Sea
Thinking about getting married on a cruise ship? It is certainly an option for those desiring a smaller guest list, less cost, and a wedding/honeymoon in one. You should be prepared well in advance just as with the more complicated, costly, and stressful big wedding on land. Thoroughly investigate your options as there are many, and contemplate any possible pitfalls with your travel professional. But what a romantic setting a wedding at sea can be!
Weddings “at sea” generally fall into 3 categories: 1) those that happen when the ship is docked in the home port ( the newlyweds cruise on with the honeymoon, guests board for the ceremony only); 2) those ceremonies that are truly at sea; and 3) those that are destination weddings. Ie, they occur at some stop in the itinerary. The latter two categories are further broken down into legal ceremonies, and commitment ceremonies, the latter where you are already married and the cruise wedding is the “show” wedding ceremony.
Why would you want a “show” wedding? Depending on the cruise line you choose, or the country you choose to be married in, the ceremony may not be legally binding. That means you must have a quiet, legal marriage ceremony before you leave on your cruise.
Ships registered in Bermuda and Malta can perform legal ceremonies. Additionally, those ships registered in Bermuda can have legal same-sex ceremonies. Your travel professional can help you discover the cruise line that is right for you if you wish to be truly “married at sea”. These can range from the high-end lines such as Cunard and Azamara to the more contemporary, popular lines like Princess and Royal Caribbean.
Just because you are having a smaller wedding, doesn’t mean there are no details to consider, and last minute plans are not an option. Once you decide what type of wedding out of the three mentioned that you want, plus researching the legal paperwork involved, and cost of obtaining the marriage license, you must then weigh the options available in wedding packages, and any restrictions (timing, officiatiants, party size. etc) to settle on the one best suited to you as a couple. Packages are just that, so there is little customization within most packages, though luxury lines will often customize. Note: some lines do not allow weddings at a certain time of the year, or time of day, or restrict the number of weddings performed in a day. Some charge extra fees depending on the size of the party. In some cases, the captain does not perform the ceremony at all.
A couple of the many things to consider:
Getting married in homeport before your honeymoon cruise sails may be legally easier but you may feel rushed as timing is everything. As anyone who cruises knows, the time in port between disembarkation and embarkation/sailing is not a long time, so if you are thinking leisurely wedding/reception, think again.
Getting married at sea is wonderful – what memories! But if you are planning to take family and friends along on your honeymoon, hopefully you really like them because they will be along for the ride every day.
Having your heart set on a destination driven wedding when your cruise ship stops by your “chosen “port is an iffy proposition depending on the port. Some ports have either no pier, or not enough room at the pier, to accommodate all the ships (forcing you to “tender” on smaller boats to shore). If a stiff wind is blowing, the port may be passed by on your special day. The cruise lines do have the right to alter itineraries due to weather, political situations and so on. Say good-bye to your wedding venue if this happens. A travel professional can advise on ports liable to possible bypass.
All those hypothetical issues aside – as planning any wedding is not easy unless you elope – your wedding and honeymoon at sea can be truly magical. What better way to start your life together than to experience the cruise ship’s beautifully appointed wedding chapel, or a special port of call venue (beach, mountaintop, romantic city), and to share it with those who are truly dear to you. It’s memories for a lifetime.
There are many cruise lines that offer weddings as part of your cruise. Here are a few links to Cruise Line Wedding Planners:
Royal Caribbean International® Royal Weddings
Norwegian® Cruise Line
Azamara® Club Cruises
Holland America Line®
Disney Cruise Line®
Already married, but these tempting offers have whetted your romantic appetite? Consider a vow renewal or second honeymoon.
As always, my advice whether it is a wedding, vow renewal or even anniversary on a cruise, start with talking it over with your trusted travel professional, as it will save you time, many headaches, and he/she will offer you experienced, knowledgeable advice, and back-up if anything goes awry .
This article first appeared in Real Travel Experts. Images courtesy of Bigstock.