It’s time to sail the open seas and what better way to do it than to have your wedding on a cruise. Verses running around town to check out dozens of venues, could you imagine looking at dozens of beautiful destinations?
Places like Glacier Bay in Alaska, Budapest or Durnstein, Austria, and St. Petersburg, Russia are among the top cruise ship destinations.
A wedding at sea on the open water as the sun sets simply cannot be beat. For the couple who loves an adventure and wants to use a cruise to tie the knot, this might be the best consideration. But before you start planning your wedding on a cruise, there are a few pros and cons you need to consider. Planning a cruise wedding does come with its share of logistical challenges that land-based weddings do not have.
What are the pros and cons to cruise ship weddings?
Cruise Ship Wedding Pros
I’ll breakdown what you need to know before you decide to host your wedding on a cruise ship. From which cruise line to pick, what is included in a cruise wedding, to not having enough time at port. The best advice is to make sure you ask the right questions before committing to the idea.
Photo: Alonso Reyes
Cruise Ship Weddings Offer Some of the Most Beautiful Backdrops
While there are plenty of great land-based wedding venues, it’s hard for them to stand up against Boracay White Beach in the Philippines. Not all weddings require tons of flowers, draping and lighting. An outdoor ceremony at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world will impress anyone. I can promise you that your bank account will thank you for allowing your surroundings to set the mood.
What Are The Benefits of a Pre-Sail Ceremony?
For couples who want to invite friends and family who are not actually going on the cruise, this is a great option. Guests not a part of the cruise can board the ship before the ship sails. This allows the couple to have their wedding ceremony and have an after party before guests have to leave. This works well for couples who don’t want a wedding reception and want to use the cruise as their honeymoon.
A Variety of Onboard Activities
Photo Tim Gouw
Most cruise ships come with a daily schedule of activities for you and your guests to choose from. This aids in making your wedding trip more of an experience. You can go full throttle on Carnival’s first coaster at sea. Princess Cruises offers Rio’s Carnival onboard and other festivals around the world depending on where you sail from. Carnival even offers a Serenity Adults Only Retreat.
Even if you want to relax after your wedding, most ships have spas, lounges, fitness classes, and other low profile activities. I recommend checking out what each ship offers to better align with your adventure needs.
Cruise Ships Are All-Inclusive
When planning a wedding the #1 thing you’ll consider is how to keep your wedding budget in check. Most ships offer you the essentials that are included in the cost. This includes, food, beverages, entertainment, transportation, and hotel services. Some may argue that because a ship doesn’t include alcohol that it is not really all-inclusive. If you are looking for a truly all-inclusive cruise ship, consider:
1. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
2. Crystal Cruises
3. Silversea Cruises
4. Seabourn Cruise Line
5. Viking Ocean Cruises
Stay Within Your Wedding Budget
By now I’m sure you have heard how out-of-hand wedding budgets can get. The beauty of having your wedding on a cruise ships offers you full visibility of what things costs. Why is this different from land-based weddings? Weddings on land can fluctuate. Your guest count can go up, you might need more flowers, you now want a dance floor wrap. There are many variables that can increase the overall cost of your wedding when at home.
Should you have a cruise wedding, you’ll know the price ahead of time. Unless you add on miscellaneous items while on-board you can expect this to be a flat fee. A few things that are not normally included in your cruise fee are airfare and excursions.
Cruise Lines are LGBTQ Friendly
You can find a variety of cruise lines like Carnival who offer weddings for same-sex couples. Carnival launched its Bermuda weddings in 2018. Cunard also welcomes LGBTQ couples on their three ships.
Here Are the Cons to Cruise Ship Weddings
Quick Port Visits
Photo Dallin Hassard
If you decide to have your wedding ceremony while at a port, understand that the port calls may only be a few hours. The standard port call is somewhere between five and nine hours, However, there are some cruise lines that focus on immersing you into the destination. This allows you to be there overnight or even a couple of days. Either way you need to factor in how long is your trip, the time it takes you to get off the ship, set up and get ready for your ceremony.
Getting married legally at sea is complicated
The process of marrying overseas can be time-consuming. Legalizing a wedding in a foreign port can also be tricky. You want to be sure that your documents will remain valid in your country. In some cases, you might need to do the legal paperwork before or after your cruise wedding.
A few other requirements you might encounter are:
1. Blood tests
2. Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry
3. Documents translated into the language of the country you will be married in
The State Department offers more details to consider when trying to have a legal marriage abroad.
Cruise Ship Weddings Come with a Small Guest Count
If you are the type of couple that is looking for a celebrity wedding with a 3000 roses hanging installation, you might not be happy with the simplicity of a cruise wedding. Are you looking to invite 300 guests to you wedding? Understand that more people will decline your cruise wedding than if it was on dry land. Cruises are not for everyone and many fear being surrounded by so much water.
For destination weddings, you can expect about 50 percent of your invitations coming back as a NO. Although cruise ships can be an advantage, they still come at a higher price point. Because of this, many guest will decline your invitation.
Be Mindful of Cruise Surcharges
Cruise weddings are on the rise and cruise lines have taken notice. Many cruise lines now levy surcharges for certain times of the year. This means you’ll pay more if you want your wedding on Valentine’s Day or in May and June. If you are having your wedding on a new ship, you can expect to pay a surcharge for that too.
Don’t Count on the WiFi
The internet has become a big part of our lives. Americans check their phones 80 times a day, says the New York Post. The problem is that many cruise ships still do not offer WiFi to meet your online needs. This can be frustrating to any couple who wants to share their wedding with family and friends back home.
For the ships that do offer Wifi, it is not free. Pricing still remains high as internet connections at-sea cost millions. Some cruise lines are finding alternatives. Carnival does offer a social media package at $5 a day since it doesn’t require a log of bandwidth. Other cruise lines offer packages by the minute or megabyte. Disney and Royal Caribbean charge 35 cents per MB.
Will My Fiancé and I Be The Only Ones Getting Married on The Cruise Ship?
Are you the type of couple who wants a private wedding? If so, a cruise is not going to offer you this. Additionally, understand that you may not be the only couple getting married on your ship. While getting married on land does offer you being the only couple getting married at the venue that day, this may not be the case on a cruise. Also remember that other couples might want the same time as you. How long your ceremony takes will determine if you can have a sunset wedding or not.
Most couples who are repeat cruisers will find getting married on a cruise ship as the best choice to make. Others might be up for the thrill, but need to do more research to make a decision. Whichever end of the spectrum you lean towards, understand that being flexible is vital. While it may be hard to remove what you’ve seen at land-based weddings from the process, it’s important to be as educated as possible.
Consider hiring a Cruise Ship Wedding Planner or a travel agent that is familiar with what cruise weddings involve. When it’s all said and done, wedding cruises are a good option. The open seas, the food options, beautiful destinations, and entertainment all make for a beautiful story to be told. With careful planning and an open mind, you can truly have the wedding of your dreams.