Here's What to Know About Planning a Cruise Ship Wedding

A woman in a wedding dress and a bridal bouquet standing with her husband at the beach
Combine your wedding with a relaxed vacation feeling and a romantic atmosphere at sea. | Author:

Once you're over the initial excitement of your recent proposal, you'll have to start planning your wedding. Maybe you're not interested in the idea of a traditional church wedding, or you're looking through your options and want something a little different. Either way, tying the knot at sea is an increasingly popular choice, and one you might be curious about. 

That said, you may not know the first thing about cruise ship wedding ceremonies. How do they work? What should you keep in mind? We'll delve into the key details you'll need to know.

Why a Cruise Ship Wedding?

You might be on the fence about planning a cruise ship wedding, as they aren't the most typical arrangement. It helps to know the benefits of a cruise ship wedding and how they differ from a standard reception. In truth, many people find that the perks of a cruise ship marriage far outweigh those of a traditional setup.

To start, cruises are often more affordable. Since entertainment is part of the package on cruise ships — and guests are free to visit the bar on their own — you won't have to spend nearly as much on music or alcohol. A cruise ship also presents a number of opportunities for fun, interesting pictures. 

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It's Best to Book in Advance

If you've asked your friends or family members for advice on booking a cruise ship, you might have heard that you'll save the most money when you book at the last second. In reality, it's better to book sooner rather than later if you're looking for the best deals.

There's a common misconception that cruise lines slash their prices as they inch closer to the departure date. However, cruise ships are likeliest to provide the best rates when they offer their first sale, and the prices tend to inflate as time goes on. Plus, those who book their cruise early on are far more likely to receive complimentary gifts and bonuses due to their advanced bookings.

Check for Wedding Packages

Two glasses of champagne standing on a wall with the sea in the background
For a stress-free and unique experience you should check for wedding packages from the cruise line. | Author: Anthony Delanoix

Not every cruise line that's caught your eye will offer onboard weddings. Fortunately, most cruise lines do. Connect with a travel agency or browse through your options online to see if there are cruises offering shipboard wedding ceremonies. Sometimes, cruise lines will offer package deals where you can plan your honeymoon directly following the wedding ceremony.

Cruises May Not Appeal to Everyone

There's a chance that a few people on your guest list are prone to sea sickness. If your cruise takes place on especially choppy water, this could spell disaster for the land-lovers in your life. While this shouldn't be the only factor to consider when you're planning a sea-based wedding ceremony, it's important to consider, nonetheless.

On your end, you may find a cruise wedding a little less intimate as well. It's not uncommon to be close to strangers during your ceremony, especially while dining or engaging in your daily activities. 

Show Caution With In-Port Weddings

Chairs decorated with flowers standing at the beach for a in-port cruise wedding
You should consider carefully planning your wedding at a certain port. | Author: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Cruises aren't a one-stop destination, which adds to the trill for most passengers. Still, that doesn't mean you should plan your entire wedding around the intended stopping points of the cruise ship, either.

Sometimes, cruises cancel in-port weddings due to unforeseen weather circumstances. From unpredictable hurricane warnings to storms that prevent ships from stopping at certain islands or beaches, there are many different risk factors at play. Don't make your entire cruise ship wedding contingent on your in-port ceremony.

Make Sure It's a Legal Wedding Ceremony

Unlike traditional wedding ceremonies that feature a clergy member or a vow master, cruise-based weddings can be a bit trickier when it comes to legally certifying your vows. If you have a wedding planner, discuss the legality of your wedding at sea before you make the commitment.

Couples will sometimes decide to finalize the legal paperwork in advance of their wedding so that they can enjoy their cruise worry-free.

Choose the Right Cruise Line

The cruise ship Celebrity Reflection leaving the port during sunset
Planning your cruise ship wedding you should choose a cruise line that fits your needs. | Author: Renata Ap

Certain cruise lines may offer a wedding package, but they aren’t all equal. You’ll want to choose the best cruise line for your specific needs. To that end, you have a long list of options, including these top five choices.  

  1. Windstar Cruises: This cruise line is one of the leading options for soon-to-be-married couples. You’ll enjoy more personal treatment with uncrowded ships and an attentive staff. 
  2. Princess Cruises: As the first cruise line to offer onboard weddings, Princess Cruises has pioneered the practice. Their experience separates them from other cruise lines. 
  3. Royal Caribbean: With help from a “romance specialist,” the cruise program administrator and other professionals, you can plan your wedding to the most minute detail with Royal Caribbean.   
  4. Norwegian Cruise Line: If you take a trip with Norwegian Cruise Line, you can opt for a harborside ceremony and get married on the ship while it’s in port – perfect for both sailing and non-sailing guests.  
  5. Crystal Cruises: Work with a Crystal Celebrations consultant to plan your dream wedding, whether you want your ceremony on a beach in Bali or the hills of Tuscany.

With so many options, which will you choose?

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Planning Your Cruise Ship Wedding

Just like any other wedding ceremony, a cruise ship wedding requires planning and forethought. If you remember the pointers above, you can map out your ceremony at sea with confidence. Have a happy voyage!

Check out these articles for more information on planning your cruise:

About the Author

Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Guides for Brides, Hotel Online and more! 

Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!