Marriages are a beacon of love and commitment, a special occasion that marks the beginning of a shared journey. Everyone dreams up their version of a perfect wedding. For some, it’s an intimate affair with 100 guests, celebrating love in a cozy, personal setting. Then some adore the vast, open seas, where the idea of a cruise wedding sparkles brighter than the ocean on a sunny day.

Ever wondered about your dream wedding cruise ship? Well, you’re not alone! Today, I will discuss cruise weddings, answering key questions like “Can you get married on a cruise ship?”, and exploring the possibilities and costs associated with saying “I do” on the sea.

Can You Get Married on a Cruise?

Yes, indeed! Many mass-market cruise lines offer the enchanting option of hosting your wedding ceremony on board. Think of a cruise ship as a floating hotel, brimming with all the amenities needed to support a dazzling wedding reception. From floral arrangements to fine dining, these vessels are well-equipped to make your dream wedding a reality.

bride touching the nose of her groom

However, not all cruise lines are on the same boat when it comes to onboard wedding options. While some luxury cruise lines revel in the romance of cruise weddings, others may not offer this service. Additionally, several lines extend their wedding packages to include ceremonies in both domestic and international ports.

This brings us to an important question: Should you exchange your wedding vows in a port or get married at sea?

Is It Legal to Get Married on a Cruise Ship?

Tying the knot on a cruise ship is not only a romantic idea but also a legally recognized option, albeit with some paperwork to consider. Whether you’re planning to say your wedding vows on the high seas or at a picturesque port, understanding the legalities is key to ensuring your day goes smoothly.

For those considering a wedding ceremony in a domestic port, like Miami, Seattle, New Orleans, or Fort Lauderdale, the process is quite straightforward. You can bring your officiant to conduct a legal wedding, much like you would at a land-based venue.

The simplicity here is appealing; it’s just like getting married onshore but with the added charm of a cruise setting.

If your heart is set on a ceremony during the cruise, a local notary public (in U.S. ports) or a nondenominational officiant (in international ports) can officiate to ensure the legality of the marriage. Cruise lines such as Princess Cruises offer wedding packages that include a legal ceremony, either conducted by the ship’s captain or a local officiant in port.

couple being romantic by the sea

For those dreaming of an at-sea wedding, the waters get a bit more navigational. With cruise ships often registered in specific countries and sailing in international waters, the legalities can become complex. For instance, Celebrity Cruises, with its ships registered in Malta, provides notary public or religious officiants as part of their wedding packages to navigate these intricacies. Additionally, opting for a Concierge Class elevates the experience with added luxuries and personalized services, making it ideal for couples celebrating their nuptials.

When it comes to obtaining marriage licenses, the requirements vary depending on whether the wedding is in-port or at sea. Cruise lines are typically well-versed in these matters, with their wedding planner departments ready to assist with information and facilitate license acquisition.

For example, marrying in the Bahamas necessitates obtaining a Bahamian marriage license, a process that can take up to 90 days. Conversely, for weddings in U.S. ports, a state-issued marriage license suffices.

Should You Get Married on Board or in a Cruise Port?

Deciding whether to have your wedding ceremony on board a majestic cruise ship or at a picturesque port calls for a bit of nautical know-how and personal preference.

Onboard weddings, especially popular during embarkation day, present a charming option. They allow non-sailing guests the opportunity to step aboard and share in your special day. This setup is perfect for couples who want to mix the joy of inviting friends and family to their wedding with the excitement of embarking on a private honeymoon voyage right after.

However, if you’re leaning towards an onboard wedding, consider this: most attendees will need to be cruise passengers. This could mean additional costs, especially in terms of cruise fare, as you might need to book and pay for their entire cruise or cabins.

couple going up a boat staircase

On the flip side, an at-sea wedding during the cruise offers a serene and uninterrupted celebration. There’s no rush of embarkation day, no missing out on fun activities or beach time at port stops.

Princess Cruises reports that 75% of its weddings are conducted at sea. But remember, these weddings often need to be held indoors due to factors like wind, rain, or limited deck space. Plus, the timing for venue rental might be restricted due to other events on board, such as other weddings.

For those envisioning something different, consider a cruise wedding in one of the international ports or on the line’s private island. This option, while potentially more costly due to all attendees needing to be passengers, offers a unique blend of travel and celebration in an exotic locale.

Whether you choose an onboard ceremony or a portside wedding, it’s about creating a day that reflects your love story and dreams. Both choices have their charm and allure, making your wedding day an unforgettable journey.

How Many People Are Allowed on a Cruise Wedding?

When it comes to the guest list for a cruise wedding, size does matter, but perhaps not as much as you’d think. The magic number for most cruise weddings is around 150 guests. This allows for a grand celebration with all your loved ones, ensuring that your special day is as inclusive as it is memorable.

couple dancing in the middle of a crowd with confetti

However, there’s a catch when it comes to non-sailing guests – those who wish to celebrate with you but not embark on the cruise itself. The limit here is typically set at about 50 non-sailing guests. This arrangement is perfect for couples who want a larger gathering for the ceremony but prefer a more intimate cruise experience thereafter. However, some cruise lines like Royal Caribbean allow a maximum of 75 nonsailing wedding guests out of the total 150 guests.

It’s important to note that these non-sailing guests are only able to join the festivities when the wedding is held in a cruise port before the ship sets sail. It’s a wonderful opportunity for friends and family to experience the excitement of the cruise atmosphere, even if just for a day.

Which Cruise Lines Offer Cruise Weddings?

If you’re envisioning your wedding amidst the serene waves and stunning sunsets at sea, you’re in for a treat. Most cruise lines offer tailor-made wedding services, each with its unique magnetism. Princess Cruises, a pioneer in at-sea weddings, offers comprehensive packages, including everything from legalities to honeymoon luxuries.

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean follow suit, providing options ranging from grand ceremonies to intimate elopements.

couple walking on the beach in a wedding outfit

For those seeking a family-friendly atmosphere, MSC Cruises offers a perfect blend of entertainment and relaxation, suitable for guests of all ages. On the other hand, Disney Cruise Line brings a touch of magic with Fairy Tale Weddings, complete with themed ceremonies and iconic character appearances, so don’t forget to pack special attire for themed nights, adding an extra layer of fun to the magical experience.

If an intimate gathering is more your style, Windstar Cruises’ smaller yacht-like ships offer an upscale and relaxed ambiance, focusing on fine dining and exploration.

Other notable names like Carnival Cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), P&O Cruises, Holland America Line, and Cunard Line also offer wedding services, each adding their unique touch to your special day. It’s worth noting, however, that Viking stands out as an exception, choosing not to offer wedding services or cruise wedding packages.

How Much Do Cruise Wedding Packages Cost?

The idea of a cruise wedding package is to offer some savvy budgeting. The cost of cruise weddings can vary widely, offering options for nearly every budget. Starting on the more affordable end, Carnival Cruises offers its Intimate Gold wedding package beginning at around USD 1,500. This package presents a blend of elegance and intimacy, perfect for those who want a memorable day without breaking the bank.

gold wedding rings on top of a calculator

Moving up the scale, Celebrity Cruises offers shipboard wedding packages starting from USD 1,495. Their packages are known for combining luxury with romance, offering a range of amenities to make your day special.

For those seeking a fairy-tale experience, Disney Cruise Line offers their Fairy Tale Weddings starting at USD 3,500. This package is designed for those who dream of adding a touch of Disney magic to their wedding day.

Princess Cruises Weddings and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) both offer their Tie the Knot and various wedding packages starting at USD 2,000. These packages provide multiple location options and amenities, catering to different styles and preferences.

Royal Caribbean takes it a step further with a range of packages from Intimately Yours to Embark on Romance, each tailored to create unique wedding experiences at sea.

P&O Cruises and Holland America Line offer their versions of wedding packages, with starting prices around USD 2,100 and USD 1,800 respectively, each providing a distinct flavor of romance and elegance.

For those looking for a classic at-sea wedding experience, Cunard Line offers packages starting at USD 3,300. Lastly, MSC Cruise steps into the arena with a variety of packages including Classic, Romantic, Deluxe, and Ocean Cay Celebration, catering to a wide range of tastes and budgets.

Should I Book My Wedding Cruise Early?

wedding ceremony on a cruise ship

When it comes to planning your cruise wedding, timing is everything. Booking your wedding date early is crucial, not just for your peace of mind but also to ensure your guests can join you on this special journey. Here are some key reasons why early booking is a smart move:

  1. Better cabin and flight access: Booking early allows your guests to choose from a wider range of cabin options and secure better flight deals. This is especially important for those who have specific preferences or budget constraints.
  2. Cost-effective rates: Early birds often get the best deals. By booking in advance, you’re likely to secure more affordable rates for both sailings and flights, making the trip easier on everyone’s wallets.
  3. Save-the-date communications: Utilize save-the-date mailings to inform your guests well in advance. This not only builds excitement but also provides them with comprehensive information, allowing them to plan accordingly.
  4. Limited wedding spots: Remember, cruise ships have limited slots for weddings each week. Early booking ensures you get the date and time that best fits your vision for your wedding day.

However, while early booking has its perks, it also comes with certain risks, particularly if you book too far in advance. Cruise ships may alter their itineraries or even withdraw ships from service, which could impact your plans.

Avoid emphasizing specific locations in your initial communications. Instead, focus on informing guests about the general sailing and the unique experience of a cruise wedding.

Conclusion: Is Getting Married on a Cruise Right for You?

Deciding whether a cruise wedding is the right choice boils down to your personal preferences and wedding vision. Cruise weddings naturally attract attention from other guests both onboard and in port. If you’re not keen on being the center of attention beyond your guest list, this might be a deterrent.

bride holding flowers in a port

If you dream of a large wedding or have specific requirements for vendors, a cruise wedding might pose limitations due to space constraints and the cruise line’s set vendor list.

For those seeking a hassle-free wedding where most details are taken care of, a cruise wedding is ideal. It offers a compact, manageable event with the cruise line handling the major aspects. Cruise weddings are perfect for couples preferring a smaller, more controlled guest list, ensuring an intimate celebration.

If privacy post-ceremony is a priority, and you’re inviting guests who are also sailing, consider the implications. An embarkation-day wedding might be a solution, allowing for a more private honeymoon experience. While shoreline events offer their unique charm, they may lack the panoramic ocean views that onboard ceremonies provide.

The decision to have a cruise wedding should align with your desires and expectations for your special day. I hope this breakdown helps you in weighing the pros and cons, leading to a choice that brings you joy and satisfaction.