Planning a Destination Wedding

How to Plan a Cruise Wedding

Cruise weddings have become all the rage. Thanks to exotic locations (hello, private beach in Bora Bora), significantly cheaper costs, and the unmatched beauty of the sea, it’s no wonder brides and grooms are taking notice of this destination wedding option. Of course, there are some unique considerations when it comes to getting married at sea. Here, we’ll delve into all the do’s and don’t’s, so you don’t have to worry about any of the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s when planning your special day aboard a cruise ship or at port!

How to plan a cruise weddingHow to plan a cruise wedding | Paul Gauguin Cruises

All-Inclusive or DIY?

Many cruise lines offer all-inclusive wedding packages, and one of the first big decisions you’ll make (after saying “I do”!) is whether to choose the package route or plan it yourself.

These packages typically include a wedding planner – a huge plus! Your cruise wedding planner will help ensure all the details are set, from the flowers to the more tedious elements, like proper paperwork, customs/port needs, and more. They know exactly how to plan your wedding, from securing the officiant and onboard location, to prepping decorations, bouquets and boutonnieres, ordering the wedding cake, and/or hiring a wedding photographer. As you might imagine, the all-inclusive option is extremely helpful in limiting the amount of stress and work on your end.

That said, many people dream about their wedding their entire lives. When the big day finally arrives, it’s not unusual to want to add your own personal touches, or heck, to control every little detail. You can certainly vow for the DIY option – even creating your own wedding at port, separate from the actual cruise.

There are likely to be more challenges if you do it yourself. But, if you don’t mind digging your heels in, there’s no reason you can’t pull it off! That said, going this route will require flexibility. Bad weather and missed ports are just a couple examples of how things can go awry when planning a cruise wedding on your own.

Either way, we strongly encourage you to at least connect with the event planner on your cruise. At the very least, they’ll be able to provide some tips and tricks to help you pull off your dream day!

Timeline for Planning Your Cruise Wedding

Whether your wedding is an intimate affair of just the bride and groom, or you plan to invite your entire contact list, there’s good reason to know when planning needs to take place.

Most cruise lines require either 30 or 60 days minimum in advance of booking your wedding package. That said, cruises have limited space and can book up quickly, depending on the season and destination. Many cruise lines make their rooms available up to a year and a half (even two years!) before voyage – meaning you and yours might miss out on your favorite pick if you delay.

Concerning guests, you’ll want to let them know about your plans ASAP. If you’re planning your wedding more than a year out, send along save the dates as soon as you know yours. This will allow adequate time for them to not only save money, but plan time-off from work, juggle family schedules, and more. If your engagement period is shorter, send along save the date cards via email or forgo the save the date’s and skip right to your wedding invitations. Either way, there’s no such thing as inviting guests too early!

To the bride(s) and/or groom(s), we recommend you start a wedding website as soon as you’ve decided on a cruise. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the details nailed down just yet. It’s more important to let potential guests know as far in advance as possible what you’re planning. As details come together, the wedding website will become a lifesaver. It’s an easy place to put important details like booking information, deposit deadlines, and other important travel plans. It’ll also save you the stress of continually relaying the same message to each guest.

But hey – got a sudden itch to marry your dreamboat at sea in the next couple of months? Most cruises will do everything they can do help you pull it off in time, especially if your party is small. The faster you’re trying to pull off a cruise wedding, the more attractive an all-inclusive package will be to your planning efforts!

Average Cost of a Cruise Wedding

When considering costs, cruise weddings tend to be way less expensive than land weddings. The average cruise wedding costs a cool $7,000. Keep in mind, that price tag also includes your honeymoon wrapped into a single package.

While a cruise wedding is a great option for the budget-conscious couple, they can be as elaborate as you’d like to make them. Beyond the actual wedding ceremony, you’ll have the option to splurge whenever the ship docks. Snorkeling, exploring port cities, or even renting a private bungalow for the night are all premium add-ons to your package. These luxury options aren’t necessary – but they’ll certainly add to the dreamy adventure!

Marriage Laws & Requirements

Getting married at sea can be a bit complicated, so it’s important to understand your options before booking your cruise, as they’ll vary depending on the cruise line.

Having a legal wedding at sea is somewhat difficult to pull off. Unfortunately, most boat captains can’t legally wed their passengers. For this reason, most ceremonies at sea are symbolic – meaning they’re not legally binding. The couple will need to take care of the legality of their marriage either before or after their cruise to make things official.

That said, many captains can legally marry you in a port destination. This is a bit easier to manage, as – legally speaking – they simply need to be approved by the country in which you’re docked. You will still need to make sure you have a marriage license in place for this to be official. If you decide to go this route, make sure to clear any requirements with your cruise line ahead of time so you’re not left with an unsavory surprise.

Also, don’t let the word “port” throw you off. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be getting married on a literal dock. Depending on your cruise itinerary, your port venue may be a pristine, private beach, beautiful resort venue or other exotic location.

Another option is to get married in port before the ship ever sets sails. If you choose this route, you can invite family and friends to join you for the ceremony, even if they’re not going on the cruise with you.

Other Considerations

Etiquette for Paying for Travel Arrangements

When it comes to who’s responsible for which portions of the cruise cost, etiquette deems that the bride and groom is only responsible for their own lodgings, as well as anyone in their wedding party. Beyond that, it is customary for guests to cover their own costs and fees to attend the cruise. Of course, the bride and groom will cover the actual ceremony and reception.

Keep in mind, as the marital couple-to-be, you can work with your cruise line to snag a great group rate, saving everyone money. This is another reason to start planning early!

Traveling with Wedding Essentials

Naturally, traveling with your wedding gear will make any bride a bit nervous – the dress, the favors, the rings! A few tips to keep things as simple and calm as possible:

  • If flying to your cruise terminal, do not check any essentials at baggage. This includes the dress! You’ll feel better knowing all your must-haves are safe and in sight!
  • Invest in proper packing gear. For the dress, this includes a heavy-duty garment bag. If anything is fragile, go the extra mile and get bubble wrap, packing peanuts, etc. – whatever it takes for your wedding wares to arrive safe and in a single piece!
  • Don’t pack any liquids near important wedding essentials. A busted shampoo bottle can quickly become a gooey nightmare.
  • Bring receipts for any items going through customs, if you can manage it. This can help make things smoother and ensure you don’t experience any hold-ups at customs

Wedding Gifts

Many of your guests will want to give a gift, as is tradition. However, being on a cruise makes this a logistical nightmare!

Cue your wedding website. When you list your registry, be sure to add your address and a simple request that guests mail gifts directly to you, rather than bringing them along for the cruise. You don’t want to endure a cruise with a cabin stuffed with gifts (thoughtful as they may be!) Many folks purchase gifts online anyway, so simply shipping directly to you shouldn’t be too much of an issue for anyone.

Wedding Favors

Whether you’re traveling with 5 guests or 50, you’ll want to keep your wedding favors small and easy to transport. This will make things simpler on you – as if you didn’t have enough luggage to worry about! – but also on your guests, who will certainly be coming home with their bags full of souvenirs.

You might choose to gift smaller items, such as personalized luggage tags, pieces of jewelry or DIY keepsakes. On the other hand, you could gift outside the box – for example, treating your guests to free drinks on the cruise, a group experience at port or purchasing thoughtful souvenirs in bulk once on the island. If choosing the latter option, we recommend you coordinate with the retailer ahead of time and send along a member of the wedding party to pick them up while you enjoy your day!

Choosing a Cruise Line

When it comes to selecting a cruise destination, the world is your oyster. There are dozens of cruise lines traveling the globe every week, many of which offer wedding packages. At, we have three specialty cruise partners with whom we work to plan the cruise wedding of your dreams!

They are:

Star Clippers >>

Think cruising is all about big boats, crowded buffet lines and lazing on deck during days at sea? Star Clippers is breaking all the rules and surprising guests with casual elegance, one-on-one attention and an authentic sailing experience. The fleet of three tall ships, ranging in size from 360 to 450-feet, feature soaring masts and sails to give your wedding a nautical feel. Plus, since Star Clippers ships welcome just 170 to 225 guests per sailing, you’ll get all the personal attention you deserve as the wedding couple.

Paul Gauguin >>

Do you dream of walking barefoot on Tahitian sands, slipping into the cool waters of the South Pacific or dancing under the stars in French Polynesia? Look no further than Paul Gauguin Cruises. With just one 500-foot ships accommodating 330 guests, this is the ultimate in intimate cruises. Thanks to the ship’s small size, you’ll be able to slip into small harbors and hug the coastline, which provides once-in-a-lifetime views. Even better, many itineraries include stops at private beaches in Bora Bora and Motu Mahana.

Norwegian Cruise Lines >>

For those looking for the best of everything (and who isn’t), Norwegian Cruise Lines ticks all the boxes. With a fleet of over 15 ships stopping at all the favorite hotspots in Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as Alaska, Panama, Asia, Europe and more, there really is something for everyone. Norwegian Cruise Lines also offers the best in indulgent flexibility. With their Freestyle Cruising philosophy, you can choose from elegant three-course meals and casual burgers and take in award-winning musical, comedy and acrobatic shows.

Interested in speaking with a Certified Destination Wedding Specialist? Get started here and we’ll pair you with an expert who can help answer all your questions about planning a cruise wedding!

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