Love Boats: Setting Sail On Your Wedding Cruise

by: Michael Kabel

Probably most couples dream of a honeymoon cruise to an exotic port of call. With the growing availability of cruise lines, thousands of modern couples are taking that dream into their real-life wedding each year. The major cruise lines offer vacation-wedding packages to hundreds of ports of call, including destinations throughout North America, the Mediterranean, Central America, and the Caribbean. And it goes without saying the trip is a two-for-one deal, and couples get married and honeymoon at the same time.

Planning a wedding cruise package is fairly easy if you allow the cruise line to take over the planning of the details. But keep in mind it's also necessary to apply for and file the appropriate marriage license paperwork in the destination where you'll actually be wed.

Most wedding cruises are package deals.

The major cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Disney, and others, treat wedding events aboard their ships much as they would any other formal occasion. Their skilled staffs are trained to stage onboard wedding receptions for any number of guests.

Most offer wedding packages that include decorations, catering of food and drinks, and other incidentals. Some, such as Carnival, advertise their all-encompassing wedding arrangements and specialize in making the bride's planning experience as convenient as possible.

The wedding ceremony itself.

Depending on which vessel you choose to travel aboard, there may also be an onboard wedding chapel. Some couples prefer to get married on the deck of the ship, with the port of call as a backdrop behind them.

Some cruise lines offer wedding excursions that take you within the destination itself. Various wedding packages offer, for example, excursions into a Tuscany garden, a rooftop in Venice, the top of an Alaskan iceberg, or a private Caribbean beach. The packages vary by cruise line and price.

Keep in mind that the ship must be docked at the time of the wedding ceremony, or the couple must be on land – in other words, a wedding on the high seas isn't possible. But it's only sufficient for the ship to have reached its port of call for the wedding to take place.

Making the connections to get your cruise wedding started

Couples interested in a cruise wedding should first contact either a travel agent, a wedding planner, or the cruise line itself to inquire about wedding package availability as well as cruise times and dates.

The price range for wedding cruise packages varies just like weddings on land, and depend largely on the wedding couple's wishes. On the other hand, couples may choose to use money otherwise spent on a giant wedding celebration with many guests to embark on a wedding cruise instead.

If getting married in an American port of call, you can often apply for a marriage license from its state by mail or sometimes online. Contact the Department of Vital Records for the state in question to get started. For international weddings, consult with the cruise line itself or with the United States State Department for details and travel advisories.

The guests and passengers on a wedding cruise

Remember that cruise ship weddings tend to be rather small, if only because most potential guests lack the wherewithal to come along. Still, if planned enough in advance some guests may be able to attend.