Posted by: gardner310 | February 9, 2010

Weddings at Sea

I am stealing this article because it has a wealth of information for anyone thinking about a wedding at sea.  Thanks to Carolyn and Erica.  Being a bit biased toward Holland America which is not mentioned, I can say that they do a nice job on their weddings as well, especially if you would like to marry on Half Moon Cay in the wedding chapel.  Beautiful spot.  Hope these details help with some decisions.  You can call me for assistance in booking the wedding and the guests.
There’s good news for couples who want to get married in a beautiful location without the hassle of planning a formal, sit-down dinner for 300 of their closest friends. Many cruise lines now offer a variety of services to help you plan a shipboard or shoreside ceremony, which, of course, will be combined with a romantic cruise honeymoon.Planning a cruise wedding can be as easy as making one call. Just dial and — poof — in-house wedding coordinators will begin arranging the ceremony, menu, cake, flowers and music. Some will even help you to obtain wedding licenses or provide invitations. And it’s easy to let them handle all the extras — from tuxedo rental to hair and spa appointments.An onboard wedding can be a great value, as well. Prices start at about $1,100 (the sky’s the limit), on top of the cost of the cruise. Typically, onboard weddings are held in a ship’s chapel (if one exists), a lounge, the library or a boardroom. While the members of the wedding couple must be passengers on the cruise, most lines with full-service packages include an option for land-side guests to come onboard for a couple of hours.

Married folks can also get in on the fun with onboard vow-renewal ceremonies — a perfect way to celebrate on your anniversary trip.

Weddings and vow renewals at sea can, indeed, be the ultimate in romance. But, before you book your cabin, remember these tips:

If you want to get married at sea by the captain, you’re limited to only a handful of cruise lines, due to legal limitations that are based on ships’ countries of registry. New to the “can officiate” list are Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, whose ships are now registered in Malta. Princess Cruises‘ captains are also able to marry couples at sea; its ships are registered to Bermuda.

Note: Disney Cruise Line captains can lead wedding ceremonies onboard or at Castaway Cay. However, the actual “legal” marriage (and paperwork signing) must occur in the cruise terminal before the ship sets sail — not terribly romantic.

For the most part, it’s the big-ship, mass-market cruise lines that have embraced full-service weddings. Some, such as luxury operators Crystal Cruises and Cunard, don’t allow onboard weddings. Others — mostly in the high-priced, luxury category, like Seabourn — don’t have a problem with your wedding or vow renewal plans, but it’s strictly a do-it-yourself deal.

Weddings have become so popular on some ships that Carnival and Royal Caribbean both levy surcharges for certain times of the year.

Cruise-ship weddings may not be for everyone. If you’ve always dreamed of picking out each flower yourself or getting married in your hometown in front of 300 people, you may not be happy with this simple approach. And, getting married legally while at sea is complicated, so plan to have your ceremony on the ship while it is in port.

Weddings in ports of call can be fabulous, but what happens if the ship has to cancel the call? Consider very carefully ports that require ships to tender; Grand Cayman, for instance, can be a highly unpredictable site, as winds often hamper tender operations, causing cruise ships to skip stops at the island. For the same reason, we do not recommend planning a shoreside wedding at a Caribbean locale during hurricane season.

And while many brides start planning their dream nuptials a year to a year-and-a-half in advance, don’t jump the gun by planning land-based, post-cruise celebrations too early. Couples have been bumped from their wedding cruises — due to full-ship charters after they booked — forcing them to reschedule everything.

Check out our picks for the best cruise options for weddings.

Princess Cruises

Why? Princess is a prime choice because, of all the lines offering shipboard wedding options, it offers the best combination of features, services and facilities. Princess’ Weddings at Sea packages are available on all ships, but only Caribbean Princess, Crown Crown Princess, Coral Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Golden Princess, Grand Princess, Grand Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sapphire Princess and Ruby Princess have dedicated wedding chapels.

Package Details: Princess offers three wedding packages. The “Tie the Knot at Sea” package, for $1,800 plus a $450 license fee, includes use of the onboard wedding chapel, a candlelit ceremony officiated by the captain, use of a wedding coordinator, live music, two floral arrangements, rose bouquet for the bride, groom’s boutonniere, the services of a photographer and a selection of prints, wedding cake, Champagne and two keepsake flutes, and a keepsake wedding certificate. The “Tie the Knot Harborside” package — ranging from $1,300 to $2,000, plus licensing fees up to $500, based on destination — includes priority check-in and boarding for the couple and guests, onboard wedding ceremony performed by a non-denominational officiant, wedding coordinator, recorded music, silk floral arrangements, bouquet and boutonniere, photographer and one included print, wedding cake, Champagne, and a keepsake certificate. The “Tie the Knot Ashore” package — ranging from $1,800 to $2,200, plus licensing fees up to $500, based on destination — includes a beach or garden ceremony, transportation for the couple, officiant, wedding coordinator, bouquet and boutonniere, photographer and one included print, cake for two, Champagne, and a keepsake certificate. Receptions, photography packages, and enhanced ceremony options are available at extra cost.

Coolest Quirk: Not only can your ceremony be conducted at sea by the captain, but the line has also installed state-of-the-art technology that allows you to broadcast the ceremony live, via Web cam, to friends and family on land. Some Princess captains are pretty romantic; on one particular cruise over Valentine’s Day, the captain casually announced he’d conduct vow renewals for anyone who wanted them, and about a half-dozen couples showed up.

Vow Renewals: Princess’ “Renewal of Vows” package costs $205 per couple and includes a group ceremony, an orchid bouquet and boutonniere, a commemorative certificate signed by the captain, a bottle of Champagne, two souvenir Champagne glasses and a framed photo of the ceremony. The “Deluxe Renewal of Vows” package, at $485, adds a few extra amenities, such as breakfast in bed and a 30-minute spa visit.

Celebrity Cruises/Azamara Club Cruises

Why? Until recently, the only North American line that was able to host at-sea weddings, officiated by its captains, was Princess, whose ships are registered to Bermuda. Celebrity created new options for engaged cruisers when it re-registered its ships in Malta (except for Expedition), where new regulations permit legal marriages at sea. Azamara’s two ships are registered in Malta, as well.

Package Details: Celebrity and Azamara put brides and grooms in touch with “The Wedding Experience,” a wedding planning organization that handles weddings onboard cruise ships (as well as destination weddings). Packages begin at $2,500 and include the captain-led ceremony, an event coordinator’s services, live music, photography services (photographs sold separately), cake a bouquets and boutonnieres. Weddings can take place in an indoor location or outside on deck. For an additional fee, Celebrity passengers can also arrange shoreside weddings.

Coolest Quirk: Couples also get some romantic extras, such as chocolate-covered strawberries, bottles of Champagne, Champagne flutes, fresh floral arrangements in their staterooms and rose petals on their beds on their wedding nights.

Caveat: Licensing and regulatory fees are not included, and the number of wedding ceremonies performed on each sailing is based on the captains’ availability. Azamara and Celebrity recommend that couples book their wedding packages in advance to allow time for the processing of marriage licenses and legal documents; all legal documentation must be completed and submitted no later than 10 weeks prior to sailing.

Vow Renewals: Both Celebrity and Azamara offer vow-renewal packages. The “Aisle to Isle” option — at $475 — includes the services of a precruise event manager, an official, recorded music, Champagne and cake for two, a certificate, a rose and matching boutonniere and one hour of photography services (photos sold separately). The $650 “True Love Knot Renewal” throws in some photos (including one signed by the captain), Champagne flutes, an upgrade to a bouquet and breakfast for two delivered to the stateroom.

Disney Cruise Line

Why? It’s a fun and quirky choice — particularly for second-wedding folks who have young kids — and Disney offers a low-stress, low-hassle package.

Package Details: Disney’s “Cruise Collection” wedding package is available on all cruises out of Florida. Packages start at $2,500 and include a Florida marriage license, bridal bouquet and boutonniere, the services of a wedding official, a solo musician (typically a pianist), Champagne toast, two-tier wedding cake with keepsake topper, a special wedding gift and Disney wedding certificate, $100 onboard credit for the wedding couple, in-cabin Champagne and strawberries, and dinner for two at Palo, the alternative restaurant on Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. The assistance of a wedding coordinator in planning the wedding is also included.

Coolest Quirk: Dress-steaming is included in the package price. We love it, too, that you can opt for a ceremony on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. (But remember our advice about hurricane season.)

Caveat: Beyond the cake and Champagne, Disney’s wedding package does not include a reception or other services for wedding guests, though an appetizer/open bar reception is available at an additional cost. You can invite additional guests to your wedding ceremony, but events with more than eight guests need to request special permission and incur an extra cost. Note that, if the couple is married onboard, the captain or a ship officer will preside over the ceremony. But, the legal marriage must take place on embarkation day, while the ship while is still docked in Florida. If the marriage occurs on Castaway Cay, it’s performed by a Bahamian official, but the couple will be legally married before the ship departs.

Vow Renewals: A renewal of vows package is available for $1,500 per couple for an onboard ceremony or $2,500 on Castaway Cay. It includes all the amenities of the wedding package, except the marriage license.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Why? Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend and Carnival Miracle have onboard chapels, though you can buy Carnival’s wedding packages on any of the ships in the fleet.

Package Details: Carnival offers three wedding packages. The “Just for the Bride & Groom” package starts at $1,195 and includes an official civil ceremony with a bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, a Champagne toast with keepsake flutes, a wedding cake with cake topper, prerecorded wedding music, a decorated bridal aisle and a photographer (prints are extra). The “Welcome Aboard” package costs $1,635 and includes all the aforementioned amenities, plus a cocktail hour with an open bar and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, a traditional two-tiered wedding cake and coffee service. The “Deluxe Romance” package starts at $1,795 and includes all of the above, plus a 90-minute reception and an ice carving. Prices for packages and marriage licenses — which are extra — vary, based on the port in which the ceremonies are performed. Videography services, live music and tuxedo rental are also additional. Shoreside packages are available in certain ports, such as Key West, San Juan, Grand Cayman and Barbados.

Caveats: Plan ahead, if possible; weddings are available only when in port (including embarkation ports), and there’s a maximum of three allowed per day. Additional surcharges apply for certain months — May and June, in particular — as well as holidays.

Vow Renewals: Carnival offers vow renewals, starting from $385, including a shipboard ceremony performed by the captain, a Champagne toast, flowers, wedding cake, photography services and recorded music; up to eight guests are permitted. A deluxe package, starting at $735, adds a one-hour reception with an open bar and hot and cold canapes; it allows up to 20 guests.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Why? NCL offers a vast array of options, which can turn basic packages into full-blown extravaganzas. And their newer, designed-for-Freestyle vessels — such as Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Jade and Pride of America — feature a wide range of restaurants with easily available romantic dining for two.

Package Details: NCL offers two basic packages — “Onboard Aisles” for shipboard weddings and “On Shore Aisles” for those held on land. Both packages are available in a wide range of ports — including, but not limited to, embarkation ports — in the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

“Onboard Aisles” starts at $1,850 per couple. The package includes priority embarkation for the couple and their guests (if the wedding is on embarkation day); snacks and refreshments in the couple’s stateroom upon embarkation; a ceremony, conducted by a local, civil official; prerecorded music; a wedding coordinator; a basic bouquet, and matching boutonniere with one bloom; professional photography service for one hour; one 8 x 10 photo; a personalized slideshow to view and order photographs and gifts; a wedding cake; one bottle of private-label Champagne; and a keepsake certificate.

“On Shore Aisles” packages start from $2,450 for picturesque weddings in Florence, Rome, Venice or in a colonial chapel in New Orleans. The package includes the same amenities as “Onboard Aisles,” except for the priority boarding and in-cabin snacks. It also includes private taxi transportation for the bride and groom to the wedding location in port.

Marriage licenses are extra in all cases, and prices vary depending on local authorities.

In addition to the basic packages, there is a huge range of a la carte options, including spa and beauty services (not available on embarkation day), flowers (including custom orders), live music, photography and videography, transportation to and from the ship or wedding location, tuxedo rentals, and a wide variety of wedding receptions — from cold hors d’oeuvres with an open bar at $29 per adult to a full, sit-down luncheon at $48.

Caveat: An extra wedding coordinator, at $150, is required for every 25 guests above the first 25.

Vow Renewals: The “Affirmation Aisles” vow renewal package starts from $550 and includes the same amenities as the “Onboard Aisles” package.

Royal Caribbean International

Why? Royal Caribbean’s program rivals NCL’s in terms of variety, with one extra plus: its coordinators will also arrange shoreside ceremonies at various ports of call. Royal Caribbean is also the first line to offer adventurous shipboard and destination weddings through its sub-program, Explorer Weddings. Best ships to aim for are part of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-class series, which includes Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.

Package Details: There are three levels of Royal romance. The “Shipboard Duet Package,” starting at about $1,995, is the most basic and includes an onboard ceremony, photography, recorded music, a bouquet and boutonniere, chocolate-covered strawberries and Champagne. The “Shipboard Harmony Package,” from $2,295, allows for a few more extras, including a Champagne breakfast in bed and nicer flowers in the bride’s bouquet. The third option is a shoreside wedding. With prices starting at $2,295 (but varying more widely, based on the shoreside wedding site), this package includes roundtrip transportation to the ceremony site, an onshore ceremony (typically on a beach or in a garden), wedding official and coordinator, bridal bouquet and groom’s boutonniere, certificate, wedding cake, sparkling wine and the services of a photographer.

Receptions are not included in the price of the ceremony, but several options are available. They include a formal wedding lunch at $48 per person, a buffet with bar service for $48 or hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and bar service for $32. There’s a 25-person minimum for the lunch or buffet and a minimum of 16 and maximum of 50 guests for hors d’oeuvres. Other add-ons include entertainment, cake and ice carvings.

Booking an Explorer Wedding adds an adventure component by combining exotic-destination cruises with themed weddings or vow renewals. Swap nuptials, for example, on the FlowRider (on Freedom, Liberty or Independence of the Seas), the ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall or ship’s golf course — or on top of an Alaskan glacier, in a rainforest, mid-air in a hot-air balloon or in a medieval castle. Packages include the wedding ceremony and official, wedding coordinator, ceremony music, a bouquet and boutonniere, sparkling wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, a keepsake Explorer Weddings marriage certificate and use of a photographer. Onboard Explorer Weddings start at $300, plus the cost of one of the traditional onboard wedding packages. Shoreside Explorer Wedding packages start at $2,595.

Coolest Quirk: The aforementioned shoreside ceremonies, which run the gamut from the simply scenic (a beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico) and the funky (a winery in Santorini, Greece) to the exotic (a ceremony atop a glacier in Juneau, Alaska).

Caveats: Watch out for a la carte charges that can add up. For instance, couples that want to plan a Royal Romance wedding less than 45 days from sailing pay an extra $250 late fee. You’ll pay $150 for a wedding coordinator if you have an onboard reception, and wedding parties of more than 25 guests require an additional wedding coordinator for another $150. Weddings on Voyager-class, Freedom-class and Oasis-class ships (which have chapels) have become so popular that there is also a $100 surcharge for shipboard wedding ceremonies on those vessels (Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas). Beyond that, an additional $100 surcharge applies to weddings and vow renewals scheduled in May, June, September or October. Holidays — such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve — are subject to a $200 surcharge.

Vow Renewals: The “Royal Encore Shipboard Vow Renewal” package, $595, includes a shipboard ceremony performed by your ship’s Cruise Program Administrator, recorded ceremony music, bouquet and boutonniere, keepsake certificate, chocolate-covered strawberries, sparkling wine and use of a photographer. The “Labadee Shoreside Vow Renewal” package, $695, includes a ceremony on secluded Dragon’s Point Beach on Royal Caribbean’s private island, as well as the aforementioned sparkling wine, strawberries, flowers and certificate.

P&O Cruises

Why? P&O’s ships have different clientele — and knowing who you’re sailing with definitely comes in handy when planning an event as important as your wedding. Arcadia and Artemis are child-free (nobody under 16 allowed onboard), while Aurora, Oceana, Oriana and Ventura do allow children.

Package Details: Beginning at £699, the “Weddings at Sea” package includes the ceremony venue, ceremony conducted by the ship’s captain, floral arrangements for the ceremony, music, certificate, Champagne, a professional photographer to capture the big day, an onboard wedding coordinator, invitations and thank you notes. Brides and grooms receive VIP treatment, starting with a bottle of champagne, flowers and fresh fruit, delivered to their cabins on embarkation day. Licensing fees will cost an additional £249. Other services — like the cake, wedding album, Champagne breakfast in bed, reception parties/dinner, videography and spa and salon services — are not included, and pricing is available upon request.

Coolest Quirk: You can book a shore excursion — like a gondola ride in Venice or snorkeling in the Caribbean — to personalize your day. (Keep in mind, though, that the cruise line cannot guarantee your request.)

Vow Renewals: For £250 per couple, the “Vow Renewal” package includes a ceremony conducted by the captain, an iced celebration cake, a bouquet for the “bride,” a matching buttonhole for the “groom,” Champagne and a professional photographer during the ceremony. Gifts given to the couple are two Champagne flutes, a silver-plated frame, a portrait photo of your choice and a certificate signed by the captain.

–by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief. Updated by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor



  1. Beach weddings are unforgettably magical moments.
    Mine was themed Weddings Koh Samui
    and until now it still brings meaningful happy tears tears…
    The beach setting is guaranteed to leave you starry-eyed.

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