Top Tips for Planning a Cruise Ship Wedding

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and get married on a cruise ship, you may think you can mark off choosing the wedding location from the to-do list. However, choosing the right ship is just step one! Let’s look at a few more top tips to help you  plan your cruise ship wedding.

2 paper boats in the water with red hearts

Where to get married on a cruise ship

Larger cruise ships and luxury liners offer various options to fit the environment you are looking for on your high seas wedding. Depending on the size and design of the ship, there are many different options to fit every style and guest list. You may opt to tie the knot at one of these spots:

  • An elegant lounge on board the ship
  • On a sweeping open deck with vista views
  • An open atrium with built in onlookers to shower you with attention
  • An on-board chapel

ceremony alter on Pensacola beach sand

Love the idea of a cruise ship wedding, but not the idea of a cruise?

Opt for a land based ceremony

Then perhaps a wedding ceremony on dry land is the perfect answer. Your guests can walk the plank to join you on the ship while it is docked, and partake in a nautical wedding (minus the potential for seasickness). Some cruise lines also allow a wedding to take place on private islands or in ports of call along the cruise’s scheduled route. These are all excellent options if you’re hoping to plan a truly unique destination wedding.


Who marries you on a cruise ship?

When getting married on land you usually have two options when it comes to finding someone willing to perform the ceremony:

  1. An ordained member of the clergy
  2. A justice of the peace

Of course, once you take your nuptials into open waters the options change. Many people believe, thanks to some dramatic and romantic Hollywood moments, that captains have the power to perform marriages on board their ships. This is a debatable statement as it largely depends on the laws governing the ship and the body of water it happens to be in.

If you’re thinking of having a legal ceremony on board a ship, you will want to check ahead with the captain or company to learn about how they choose to handle the legality issues.

Many couples choose to have the license signed before pushing out to sea, and having a purely ceremonial service on the water. Of course, if you are feeling adventurous, having a friend perform the ceremony is always an option.

Certain states offer online ordination services that can legally equip anyone, even those outside the law and clergy, to perform weddings. As long as you check with the legal aspects of the area you will be married in, there are no limits on who you can ask to unite you and your significant other.


Livestream viewing ability on board a cruise ship

With the help of modern technology, you don’t have to worry about leaving your important guests behind on land. No matter where you decide to sail off into the sunset, your loved ones around the globe will be able to keep up with the celebration through a live streaming service.

Invest in the idea of using Facebook live, Periscope, or any other live streaming service to set up live video/audio coverage of your festivities. This ensures that your destination wedding is still the inclusive event you want it to be, no matter the location.


Price of a normal wedding vs cruise ship

Weddings are fairly pricey events. Even showing up at the courthouse steps comes with its share of fees and expenses. Don’t be surprised that planning your unique cruise ship wedding that there will be some interesting financial hurdles to jump before achieving the perfect on the water event.

In a recent survey conducted by theknot, they polled almost 13,000 couples who got married in 2016. Result: the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was over $35,000!

If you’re having the ceremony and reception on board a cruise ship, the fees can go down or up depending on the style of wedding you’re dreaming of.

Many commercial cruise lines offer on-board chapels and wedding services for fees upwards of $1,000. That could be much less than paying for a more elaborate venue on land, but there are other factors to consider.

If you plan to have your ceremony out on the water, you will need to factor in the price of each guest’s ticket plus meals, entertainment, and other expenses. It’s possible to plan an affordable ocean wedding, but having a small guest list and a modest ceremony definitely helps.

That being said, it’s equally possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a luxury event on the open water!


What happens if the ship cancels a certain port?

You never want it to happen, but sometimes an unforeseen event strikes on your most important day. As with any planned event, it’s best to take whatever precautions you can with making sure the weather, environment, and any other relevant factors are all aligned for your benefit.

Don’t worry, you won’t be stranded at sea!

Celebrity Silhouette ship parked at sea
Celebrity Silhouette

Even the most careful planning can’t always keep your wedding safe. This is why it’s always important to check on the cancellation policies for your event. Have a back up plan in case of emergency so that you and your guests never have to worry about wasting time and money, or missing out on the special event.

What can go wrong?

With a cruise ship wedding, there is the possibility that a certain port may no longer be available to you once you arrive. This could be due to military conflict, weather, diplomatic issues, etc.

If you plan on having your ceremony in a certain port of call along the way, it may help to have a back up plan organized with the cruise line. If it is part of the contract, some cruise lines will offer a ceremony on the ship as a backup plan should they be at fault when if comes to canceling a port of the cruise route.

This would be something to discuss with your contact at the cruise ship company beforehand if you think it might come up as an issue in the future.


Best time of year/season to get married on a ship

The best time to get married is always up to the bride and groom along with the type of wedding they dream of hosting.

I hear you saying, “Well that doesn’t really answer the question!”

You might prefer the striking glaciers of the waters of Alaska to the tropical beauty of the Bahamas. Or perhaps you have your heart set on jetting around the Mediterranean and stopping off ata few choice ports of call.

disney cruise leaving Vancouver
Disney cruise departing Vancouver, Canada

While most people think of romantic island destinations when talking about cruise ship weddings, there are many options north of the equator that provide dramatic and romantic destinations.

The best time of year will depend on the area of the globe you want to sail.

Typically, summer is considered peak season for weddings no matter where you sail. Spring and fall are also perfect times to take to the water, as long as the region you are in is not subject to seasonal weather patterns. For instance, you would not want to plan your wedding for the Caribbean during hurricane season.

Honeymoon Cruises! Click Here.

How to choose

The best process for picking the time for your wedding is to first decide on the location and then move on to choosing the appropriate time for that spot. Once you know where you want to go, you can better decide on a time that fits your idea of the perfect wedding weather.

Of course, always be prepared for things to go a bit differently than you planned. At the end of the day, you want to plan a wedding you will enjoy despite any weather complications.


Legal requirements for getting married on a cruise ship

As with a wedding on land, there are certain legal requirements and documents you will need to have a valid and legally recognized ceremony. At the very least, you will need photo identifications, such as a valid passport. It varies by company and country, but often you will need to have a pre-prepared marriage license with you to show the validity of the ceremony.

The captain, or someone else, must be certified and able to marry you. That’s the biggest hurdle to cross when planning the legality of your cruise ship wedding.

You will also need to make sure that the location is considered in your planning. If you are in port, the laws of that port city will be the regulations to follow. This could mean having to research international laws and being prepared to navigate foreign government regulations depending on your location.

At sea, the options are also limited. Some companies allow captains and other officials to obtain legal certification to perform marriages on board, but it is always smart to call and check with your cruise line ahead of time. Often, you will need to verify your documentation with the local authorities once you reach land.


Wedding guests don’t necessarily need to be passengers

Does the idea of being at sea with hundreds of your closest friends and family make you feel a little seasick?

It may interest you to know that it’s possible to have a cruise ship wedding without bringing everyone along as you sail away into married life.

Popular cruise lines will often allow wedding parties to invite guests on board for certain parts of the wedding, such as the ceremony and reception. Your guests would then be able to disembark before the ship sets out into open waters.

Sounds like an easy fix, right?

Remember, if you choose this setup you will still need to pay for the event, entertainment, and your own tickets aboard the cruise.

Your wedding guests don’t have to spend the money to be a passenger and you still have the benefit of friends and family attending your unforgettable ceremony.


Wedding packages and bundles may not be flexible

One benefit to having your wedding on board a ship is that it narrows down some of the more complicated aspects to planning a grand event. Forget about having to worry about parking, hotel rooms, outside entertainment options, etc.

Many cruise lines offer specified wedding packages that are structured as bundles to include specific services for different levels of expense. Because of this, your choices can be more limited than if you were having the ceremony on land.

Maybe this doesn’t matter a whole lot to you. However, if you are a detail-oriented bride or groom, that lack of ultimate control might just sink your ideas for the perfect wedding. Be sure to explore various packages to find one that fits your budget and your fantasies.


Thanks for taking the time to read a few of our top tips to make your cruise ship wedding a fantastic one! Love & lavender sure wish we could join you on the high seas.

Bon Voyage!









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