If you’re considering getting married abroad but can’t decide on a single location for your big day, you may want to consider a cruise wedding. Getting married on a cruise allows you and your guests to visit multiple destinations and easily stay close to one another—plus you can all enjoy the amenities a cruise ship has to offer. So, is a cruise wedding right for you? We talked to Heather Marohl of Travel Pros in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Frank Armstrong of Cruise & Vacation Travel in Le Roy, Michigan, and Julie A. Miller of Unlimited Vacations & Cruises in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to get all the details on cruise weddings.
Think you're ready to set sail? Here's everything you need to know about cruise weddings.
What types of couples and weddings are cruise weddings best suited for?
According to our pros, cruise weddings can work for a variety of different couples and styles. However, it’s best for those who don’t mind letting go of the details and keeping things simple. “From the flowers to the music, cruise weddings tend to be simple and you likely won’t have many choices to pick from, if any,” says Heather.
In terms of wedding size, cruise weddings tend to work for smaller guest lists—but some cruises can accommodate larger party sizes. Cruise weddings also can be ideal for couples who don’t want any guests at all, and who want to combine their wedding or elopement with a unique honeymoon experience.
What are the cost differences between a cruise wedding and an “on-land” destination wedding?
“The traditional destination wedding is more costly, but you get a lot more options, more security—you are not at the whim of the sea—and you can have more people,” says Heather. “Cruise weddings, first you have to pay for the cruise itself, and then the wedding package. Some companies offer à la carte options, which can add up quickly. You will also have to pay for license fees, which vary by cruise line, per package, per location if you’re getting married on shore.”
How do cruise weddings work? Do couples typically get married on the ship or at a port?
It’s up to you. Some couples choose to get married on the ship before it departs, while others get married on land at a destination port.
“If friends and family cannot afford to take the cruise but can be at the wedding, then having it on ship prior to sailing would be the logical choice,” says Frank. “If friends and family can go on the cruise, then there is nothing like being married in a tropical garden or on the beach in a Caribbean island.”
Either way, you’ll have to take note of legal requirements when it comes to getting married on a cruise ship or on land. Some countries have residency requirements, meaning you have to reside on the island for a certain period of time in order to legally marry there—not possible if you’re just making a cruise stop. Of course, you could legally marry in your home country before your cruise and have a symbolic wedding at the port.
When it comes to getting married on a cruise ship, you’ll need to follow the laws of the country where the ship is registered. So you can easily marry on certain cruise lines’ ships, while there are others where you can’t. Be sure to do your research, talk to a travel agent who specializes in weddings, and apply for licenses far in advance.
Also note that cruises may skip ports due to weather, which can be a risk if you’re planning a wedding on land.
How long of a cruise typically works best for a wedding?
If you’re planning on combining your wedding with a honeymoon, a five to seven-day cruise will likely be ideal. “If the wedding party can sail along with the couple, then the party continues for the entire cruise and that could also be a very memorable event for all,” says Frank.
Which wedding details will a cruise arrange? What is the couple responsible for?
If you’re getting married on the ship, the cruise will typically provide a wedding coordinator with their package. “Generally, the cruise line includes the flowers, music, photographer, and officiant (this could be the captain) in the packages, though some of these might cost extra,” says Heather. “The couple is responsible for, but not limited to, registering for their marriage license, their attire, and the invitations.”
If you’re getting married on land, you’ll be responsible for arranging all of the details—and it’s recommended to hire a planner at your wedding location to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Are there any times of year that should be avoided when it comes to cruise weddings?
“This depends on the destination of your cruise,” says Heather. “The Caribbean’s hurricane season is from June 1 through November 30, so I would avoid booking during this time period as to not have to deal with any unpredicted storms. The Greek Islands generally close for the off-season. Alaska cruises have a particular set of dates when they allow cruises.”
Frank notes that holidays and the family vacation season (summer) can be quite expensive and crowded and might not be the best for a cruise wedding.
What are some popular cruise locations for weddings?
The Caribbean is most popular, but again, be aware of residency requirements before booking. St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and St. Lucia tend to be popular. But don’t limit yourself to warm-weather locations! Why not try Alaska? Says Heather: “How many people can say they got married on a glacier?”