Getting married at sea sounds like a start to a fairytale, while having a destination wedding sounds like you’re off to a luxurious life. What if you could have both, without spending a ridiculous amount of money? This is where cruise ship weddings can save the day.
There are many benefits to getting married on a cruise ship, amidst some downsides to consider—but it is definitely something worth looking into. And if you think cruise ships are outdated, think again! Most cruise lines, especially post-COVID, have adjusted to modern times and modern couples. In other words, you can have a spectacular at-sea wedding that syncs with your style. And often, it can be far more luxurious than you can imagine while also costing a fraction of the price.
Before you book your tickets, it’s best to get acquainted with the most important details you need to know about getting married on a cruise ship, both good and bad.
…of choices! Let’s start on a positive note. Most cruise lines sail through multiple destinations, offering you quite a lot of potential spots not only for your ceremony, but for photos. You’ll have tons of stunning backdrops as you sail from one spot to the other.
Since many cruise lines now offer wedding packages that are basically all-inclusive or at least half of that, having a cruise ship wedding can actually save you a lot of money. There are packages that cost only a couple of thousand dollars for a guest list of up to 10 people that include champagne, dinner, cake, and even breakfast in bed. And almost all packages offer the service of a wedding planner at no extra charge. However, this accounts for accommodation for neither you nor your guests. But it’s safe to say this is definitely a better deal than any land-based venue you can find. Of course, this isn’t true in all cases. Cruise ship weddings, depending on the package, can get quite expensive at around $1,000 per guest. Hence, it’s best to do your own research.
As of the writing of this article in March 2022, one cruise ship line we looked into was fully booked (for weddings) for the rest of the year. This is surprising considering it’s not even spring! Other lines, however, were open and available, but this suggests that it’s best to book early if you have your heart set on a specific company or route.
In addition, several popular lines have advised reserving your wedding plans at least three months in advance, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re having a last-minute elopement.
Contrary to what you see in the movies, not all cruise captains can legitimize your wedding. First, not all captains are certified to legally officiate a wedding. Second, not all cruise ship weddings are legally binding. And this is where things can get complicated.
Assuming you want your ceremony to be legal and legitimate, if you’re getting married in international waters, you will need to get a marriage license from the country your cruise ship is registered in. (NOTE: Just because you depart from the United States, doesn’t mean the ship is registered in the United States.) And if you’re getting married while docked at a certain international location, you’ll need to get a license from there first. To make things even more complicated, not all countries allow same-sex marriages. Let’s just say that it’s best to inquire with any cruise ship company about your options before you book.
Alternatively, it might just be easier to seal the deal at the local city hall either before or after your wedding and have your cruise ship vows be simply for symbolic purposes.
Following up on a point we mentioned earlier—guest accommodation is often not included in the wedding package. However, this doesn’t mean they need accommodation. Many cruise lines are quite flexible and will allow you to have friends and family over while you’re docked (as long as they don’t stay past curfew).
Going back to negative points, it’s important to acknowledge that your vendor choices will be limited on the cruise. Sure, you can probably hire your own photographer, but catering-wise? You don’t really have an option. (This isn’t necessarily a negative, as cruise ships generally hire highly professional chefs that will cater to every and all preferences.) Again, it’s always smart to check in with the cruise lines about which vendors are your responsibility and which are theirs.
As a final note, you should account for the possibility of bad weather if you’re at sea. Unfortunately, cruise ships may not be able to dock at a certain location if the water’s rough, so you may have to prepare a plan B. And if you were counting on a legal marriage, the worst-case scenario is that you can always have your wedding be symbolic and officiate it once you get back home.
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