Planning a cruise wedding can be quite simple when compared to a land based one. Its really a matter of deciding the date, destination, budget and the type of cruise wedding you’d like to have. Some of the things you won’t have to plan for are selecting caterers, reception halls, churches, etc. But we’re sure you wont miss the planning headaches of a regular wedding.
A wedding cruise is also a great value when compared to a traditional land based ceremony. The average at-home wedding costs a little less than $30,000 whereas a cruise based wedding will be around $7,000. It’s no wonder that almost 2500 weddings are happening on cruise ships.
Aside from the cost, another key advantage is that a cruise wedding turns into a honeymoon with multiple destinations without ever having to unpack. If your friends and family end up joining, it becomes a vacation for all.
Start your planning by answering the question below.
What Kind of Wedding Cruise Are You Planning?
Wedding packages are available from Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Regal, and Royal Caribbean. To learn more about wedding packages and prices, read the article “What do individual cruise lines offer for wedding cruises.”
There are four main types of wedding cruises that can be planned based on your budget, family size, and your own preferences. The choices are:
1. Just the two of you
2. At the port of departure with friends and family attending
3. Getting married aboard the cruise ship with friends and family
4. Getting married at a port of call
Just the two of you
If it’s just the two of you getting married onboard a ship, then the planning is really very simple. Research the different wedding packages that the cruise lines have to offer first. Make sure to research destinations as well. Remember that the cruise price is separate from the wedding package and you have to pay for both. Princess, Carnival, and most of the big cruise lines have wedding packages that will start as low as $700.00 all the way to $20,000. Once you have decided on the date, and destination, book the cruise first and then add on a wedding package.
At the departure port with friends and family attending
You can have a wedding reception onboard the ship at the point of departure. Your wedding guests can choose to travel with you on the cruise or disembark before the cruise gets going. Every cruise line has different rules regarding how many people can attend the wedding that aren’t sailing. If you expect a lot of folks to be sailing with you then make sure to get group rates from several cruise lines at least a year in advance.
Getting married aboard the cruise ship
There are very few cruise lines that will let you get married onboard the cruise ship. Princess is one of them. Most cruise ships will insist that you get married onshore ahead of the cruise and have a sort of “mock” wedding onboard. You can also choose to get married at one of the ports of call.
Get married on an island during your cruise
You can also plan wedding on one of the ports of calls during your cruise. You can either hire a cruise ship planner to help with the arrangements or look for a wedding planner that specializes in destination weddings. With a little help from Google, you should be able to find many wedding planners that can help. Just make sure you select someone who has done a destination wedding at the port of call that you are interested in.
Planning a wedding cruise requires some simple steps that don’t necessarily have an order but they all have to be done. If you are planning the whole thing yourself(and we’re assuming you are), then you should give yourself at least a year to get things done comfortably. You can plan a great wedding cruise in less time, but it won’t necessarily be on the date you want or to the destination of your choosing.
So let’s get started.
When do you want to sail?
Deciding on when you want to sail depends on many factors including your preference, your destination, and your budget.
The first question you want to ask yourself is whether there is a specific date or time period that you want to sail in. For example, a lot of couples choose to tie the knot on the anniversary of when they first met. Others choose to get married during high season due to the weather.
Choosing a date will also depend on your destination. If you’re looking to get married on a cruise to Alaska, it’s not going to happen in December since there are no cruises going there in the dead of winter. Every destination has a high season, a low season, and shoulder months (These months are the beginning and end of high season when rates aren’t as high and the ships aren’t as crowded). For a list of the best seasons to go cruising, read “What is the best season to cruise with a group?”
Where do you want to sail? For how long?
Choosing a destination seems harder than it actually is. Start with the most you (and your guests) will pay for the cruise and select a season to travel. That will eliminate quite a few destinations. Research the remaining destinations and select one.
Remember to take into consideration how long your guests can travel and how much they can afford to spend. If the cruise is to Europe or Australia (We’re assuming you’re in the USA), the airfare and the cruise will be unaffordable for most. For a wedding cruise, we would pick a 5-7 day cruise since that is long enough as a vacation but short enough to be affordable for most of your attendees.
Once you have decided on the destination and the dates, get group cruise rates.
Get group rates for cruises
Getting group rates for wedding cruises can be easy or difficult. You could individually call every cruise line and try to negotiate rates or you could let one of our professional cruise specialists take care of it, free of charge. All you have to do is fill out our group cruise rates form and our group cruise specialists will get to work. We will make the phone calls and research the best deals so you don’t have to. Once we have quotes from several cruise lines, we will present their offers in an easy to understand format so you can decide on a cruise ship with confidence
Why book as a group?
There are many benefits to booking your wedding cruise as a group. In addition to lower group rates, you may also get the following based on how many people are cruising with you.
- Free room for the bride and groom,
- All your guests will be seated together for dinner (This is a big deal and you may want to insist on this one)
- Free banquet room to host your wedding
- Onboard credit to spend on the ship,
- Group check-in
- Free cocktail party
- And welcome gifts for all your guests.
Booking as a group does not require you to place a large deposit down. Anyone sailing with you is responsible for their own deposit and final payment to the cruise.
Decide on a cruise ship
If you fill out the form described above, you will get cruise rates from several cruise lines. The offers will include any additional perks of traveling as a group. Comparing the ships will require some additional questions, some of which are mentioned below.
- Do you want to go with a brand named ship like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or Princess? We would recommend it since they do many weddings on cruises and have full departments dedicated to group travel.
- Will the cruise line be able to accommodate the number of wedding guests at the port of departure? Some cruise lines limit the amount of non-sailing guests so it’s best to know what that limit is.
- If you are looking to have a destination wedding, what kind of services is the ship willing to offer? Some cruise lines have their own private islands (Disney, Holland America)
- Does the cruise line even offer wedding packages?
- Are the activities onboard going to be enjoyed by your family and friends? Many cruise lines have activities that are geared to certain age groups or interests. Make sure you know what there is to do onboard before you finalize.
- Can you get married onboard or do you have to have the wedding at port? On a ship like the Grand Princess, the captain can marry you at sea.
- What times are still available to get married?
- What rooms are still available for a reception?
- Is the bridal suite still available?
The Devil’s In The Details
Once you have booked a wedding cruise, it’s time to start taking care of the littel details. One of the first things you should work on is trying to get as many people aware of your wedding cruise as possible. Giving people advance notice will increase the number of people that will join you on the wedding cruise.
Save The Date Cards
You can make these yourself or you can get some made on a website like Vistaprint.com. They even offer a service where you can upload everyone’s addresses and they will mail out the cards too. Alternativly, the cruise line that you booked your wedding with will also have an option where they send out save the date cards. Some offer the service for free and others will charge for it.
In the cards, make sure to include details on how to book the wedding cruise or where they can find additional information about it (Such as a wedding website).
Here is a sample save the date card.
Expect resistance from several family members and friends about joining you on the cruise. Don’t worry too much. As more and more people sign up, even the initial skeptics will turn and join the ranks of those who are going to join the party.
Create a wedding website
Setting up a website is simple nowadays. Many companies offer wedding websites that are easy to set up and the cost is minimal. Just Google the term “Create wedding websites” and you will get some good results.
Before you decide on a company, make sure the wedding website will have
- A forum that your wedding cruise guests can chat back and forth
- A poll so you can ask your guests any questions
- A way to easily update your guests by posting information
- A list that updates who is coming and who is still holding out. This is a powerful tool and a great influencer.
Once you set up a website, make sure to include details of how to make group cruise reservations, what the deposit is, and when payments are due etc.
Select a photographer
When selecting a photographer, it really comes down three choices. You can hire your own, get a family member to be one, or get a wedding cruise package that includes one.
Hiring an outside photographer to attend the cruise will cost more money but it will afford you the freedom to take pictures in any location, anytime.
Having a family member take pictures is the cheapest option and one that many opt for. The pictures are candid and less staged but no less memorable.
Getting a photographer as part of a wedding package is as good an option as any. While the number of photographs may be limited due to cost, they will be of high quality. Plus the photographer is familiar with the ship and knows the best place and time to take wedding pictures.
Set up registry – Ask the cruise ship if they offer registry services. If they do, then your guests can buy you excursion, onboard massages, and even pay for your cruise.
Marriage license – Make sure you get a marriage license ahead of time. Apply for it well ahead of time so you have it. If you wait too long, you may not get before you board the ship.
Wedding package details – If you selected a wedding package, then you need to decide on the colors of your wedding, flowers, food, music and even photographers.
Invites – Make sure to send out official invites once you have all the details as far as when the wedding will be. If your wedding is taking place at the port of departure, then the actual reception will take place during the early part of the day (Usually between noon and three).
The Dress – Select your wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses and tuxedos. Cruise lines do offer rentals as well if you do not want to lug the clothes around.
About a month before the actual departure, make sure to call the cruise line to finalize all the details. Reconfirm how many people are attending the wedding and how many you are expecting to cruise along. Make sure to be detailed about times, places, and any costs and tips.
Planning a wedding cruise, while not difficult, can be time consuming at the beginning. Deciding on the where, when and the how is the hardest part of the process and we hope that with the tips above, we have made it a bit easier. Once you have set up the wedding cruise itself, the rest is fairly straightforward. We hope you enjoy the cruise and if you feel the article helped you, then please share it with others.
What should you do next?
Start planning your wedding cruise by taking a look at our cruise wedding packages.