Did you know that 10 to 25 percent of all weddings take place away from home? Never slow to catch on to a trend, cruise lines are going all-out to promote cruise weddings — both aboard ship and ashore in some exotic port. Thousands of couples have taken the plunge at sea, often citing the ease and convenience afforded. For starters, you can have a wedding and then sail off on your honeymoon, and there's no travel time wasted between the vows and the celebration. Best of all, you can leave all the legwork to the cruise line's wedding planners and crew.
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Standing on ceremony
Susan Breslow-Sardone, author of "Destination Weddings for Dummies," says a cruise-ship wedding is the easiest kind of destination wedding you can have, but you will still have to hire a company that specializes in cruise weddings to help you arrange the ceremony. That's because the actual ceremony will almost always take place in port (Princess Cruises is the only cruise line that enables captains to marry couples at sea), and the requirements of the port's jurisdiction can be complicated, especially if it is overseas. A good cruise-wedding service provider like The Wedding Experience can help you obtain a local marriage license and find a member of the clergy or other official to perform the ceremony pretty much anywhere in the world — and ensure that you are legally married.
Couples can also marry in their U.S. port of embarkation before the cruise begins. That way the guests can come aboard, enjoy the service and reception, and disembark before sailing. Alternatively, friends and family can come along for the cruise, if the couple so desires.
Most major cruise lines offer wedding services and wedding packages in a wide range of budgets that appeal to all kinds of couples. Most lines offer such amenities as candlelit wedding chapels, photographers and videotaping, bridal bouquets and flowers, wedding cake, wedding announcements, and champagne toasts with keepsake flutes.
The cost of a shipboard wedding ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands. There are a lot of options available, so it's important to work with the cruise line's wedding planner to design a package that suits your dreams and your budget. The ceremony itself can take place aboard ship in a public space or, on some ships, in a wedding chapel; shore locations can be pretty much wherever you please — on a Caribbean beach, in a European villa or on an Alaskan glacier.
Some cruise lines offer special ways to wed. Princess Cruises offers a live "Wedding Cam" to couples exchanging vows in their shipboard chapels; the cameras can stream video over the Internet to family and friends who cannot make the ceremony. Couples sailing on Tahiti itineraries aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Paul Gauguin can have blessings performed by native women at their ceremony. Disney Cruise Line offers a secluded spot for weddings on its private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay. On some cruises, Windstar Cruises sets off a fireworks display after an onboard wedding as the ship sails out of Venice. And, for something completely different, Royal Caribbean offers adventurous couples the chance to wed while surfing on its shipboard FlowRiders — or underwater during a Caribbean snorkeling trip.
Less stress, more romance
Cruises have always offered a romantic honeymoon experience and because they are nearly all-inclusive, they offer an incredibly convenient way to celebrate. Newlyweds can dine on their private verandah at sunset, enjoy chocolates and champagne in their staterooms, watch a romantic movie, stroll under star-filled skies on deck, or go for a pampering couple's massage in the ship's spa. On a cruise ship, there is a romantic opportunity around almost every corner.
Kansas City, Mo., resident Tilley Williams says the best thing about getting married on her Princess cruise was that she didn't have to do anything once the cabin was booked.
"We filled out a few forms, chose our vows, music, cake, and flowers and then Princess did the rest," she says. The ship's wedding coordinator even made spa appointments and suggested some fun shore excursions.
"It was all so relaxing," Williams says. "I got a much-needed makeover — hair, nails, facial, makeup — the works — then walked a few hundred feet back to my cabin, put on my wedding dress and headed up to the chapel with my fiancé. It doesn't get more convenient than that."
A cruise-based wedding is really a fun and thrilling way for couples to start off life together. Add the convenience of having everything all in once place and professionals who take care of your every need, and it's a great way to keep a wedding rosy and thorn-free.