By Susan Breslow Sardone
Wedding cruises can be fun, inexpensive, and a great way to gather friends and family in a carefree setting. Before planning a wedding cruise, you ought to ask yourselves a few questions:1 - What is our cruise wedding budget?
Like weddings on land, the cost of wedding cruises run the gamut from affordable to over-the-top. The good news is, even if you only have a small amount of money to spend, you can still pull off a wedding at sea.
Keep in mind that you will have two major expenses: The cost of the cruise itself, and the cost of the wedding. Factors that affect the total price include the grade cabin you choose, the number of guests at your wedding, shore excursions you take, and how many days the cruise lasts.
2 - When do we want to sail?
As with reserving a space for a land wedding, you'll need to determine the optimal date for your cruise wedding.
3 - Where do we want to sail?
Although Caribbean cruises are very popular (and among the most affordable), cruise ships actually sail to all seven continents. If you're combining a cruise wedding and honeymoon, consider visiting romantic ports in the Mediterranean. Use a source such as Travelocity (visit the Web site), to search available cruises by destination.
4 - Do we want friends and family to sail with us, or simply to attend our ship wedding and then disembark?
The couple (and/or their parents) is expected to bear the costs of the ceremony, reception, and their own passage. Guests who sail with them are expected to pay for their own cabins and transportation to and from the port.
Is planning a cruise wedding difficult?
Actually, it's the easiest kind of destination wedding you can have. There are companies that specialize in organizing cruise destination weddings. In fact, you can't have a ship wedding without going through one. The Wedding Experience is a leading firm that handles weddings for many different cruise lines.
What are some of the pluses and minuses for a cruise ship wedding?
Cruise ships are well equipped to provide the basic necessities of a wedding. Many have wedding chapels. Ships' big kitchens can feed any number of people, their onboard musicians can provide live entertainment, and their photographers sail along on most cruises. But the big plus is affordability: Reception costs, per person, compare favorably to wedding venues in major cities.
Another advantage is that you can sail away on your honeymoon immediately after the wedding. Some couples encourage friends and family to cruise along with them; others schedule the wedding when the ship is in port and wave bon voyage to guests afterwards.
On Princess, Azamara, and Celebrity cruises can you be married by the captain while the ship is at sea. On all other lines, you will have to wed while the ship is in port and have an authorized officiant.
Depending on whether a couple is outgoing or not, they may not like being assigned to a large table and dining with strangers. Now that several cruise lines are more flexible about dining times and seating, that's less of a problem - and no problem at all, if you bring your guests along on the cruise!
What are some unique options for a cruise wedding?
Several cruise lines that sail the Caribbean have a private island, and these are nice, casual places to have a beach wedding. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines recently introduced its Explorer Weddings, and they can be customized to offer couples everything from a wetsuit wedding beside the Flowrider on their latest ships to a wedding atop an Alaskan glacier, where the couple is transported to via helicopter.
Are cruise weddings expensive?
The more elaborate the event and further from the ship, the more expensive it will be.
How much time does it take to plan a cruise destination wedding?
To make sure you get the cruise and cabin you want, start planning as far in advance as possible. But procrastinators can often be accommodated, too. On Carnival Cruises (check prices online), for example, a couple who books their wedding as little as 35 days in advance should be able to set everything up in time.
Any other suggestions for cruise weddings?
You can cruise and get married without having a cruise wedding. If your ship calls at Montego Bay, Jamaica, for example, you can get married at Half Moon Resort . It recently introduced an affordable destination wedding package that picks you up at the port and whisks you to the resort. It provides a marriage officer, photographer and videographer, two bottles of champagne, hors d'oeuvres for ten people, a wedding cake, and they deposit you back at the ship in time to board. And if you're traveling just by yourselves, it'll even provide two witnesses.
How can we tell cruise lines that host weddings apart?
Since every cruise line is different, potential cruise passengers can feel overwhelmed by the surfeit of choices. The following are cruise lines that I recommend for couples. These profiles can help you to distinguish one from another and choose a ship that's right for the two of you:
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Radisson Seven Seas Cruise Line
- Holland-American Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Oceania Cruises