If the thought of organising a church, castle or country manor for your wedding just isn’t your thing – or if you’re looking for a low-key alternative – a cruise ship might be just the right choice. Not only is it straight-forward to organise, but getting married on a cruise ship can also be inexpensive compared to a ceremony on dry land.

Here’s how to get started.

Choose the right backdrop and cruise line

Picking out the right cruise, as well as the right line, is the crucial first step in planning a wedding onboard a cruise ship. Deciding on a budget and mapping out the cost of a cruise ship wedding will generally dictate what direction you head in. Next, you should make a list of desired destinations. A beach wedding in the Caribbean, a cityscape alongside a European river, in the Mediterranean – all are viable options. Just remember that certain destinations are seasonal, so you won’t find specific cruises hitting the seas at certain points in the year.

Cruise ships are becoming increasingly popular as wedding backdrops, so many lines offer wedding packages and coordinators to help make your big day as easy as possible. Royal Caribbean®Norwegian Cruise LineCelebrity Cruises®P&O Cruises and Cunard all offer a range of wedding packages. Princess Cruises goes a step further with designated wedding chapels on most ships, while Holland America Line offers their privately-owned island as an exclusive wedding destination.

Most packages will start at around £1,000. Some lines do offer even lower prices, but these usually only include a ceremony that consists of the bride and groom. More often than not, you’ll be given a ceremony room that’ll be decorated, plus music, champagne and some photography as part of the deal. Of course, you should always check the exact deals ahead of time.

You should also consider specifics, like whether or not you want the captain to officiate your wedding, as not all lines offer this service. It’s also important to bear in mind that these wedding packages are an additional cost to the cruise ticket itself, so you’ll want to start with knowing what your chosen cruise line offers in the way of wedding services, booking your tickets and then adding on the wedding package.

In port or at sea

Another important decision you’ll need to make – optimally before booking – is where exactly you’d like the wedding to take place. You have a range of options – you can get married in port, at your starting port before you officially set sail, or on the ship itself. What line you choose will dictate this, as well. With P&O Cruises, for example, ceremonies are conducted when the ship is at sea, owing to their ships’ Bermudan registration, which dictates they must be 12 miles offshore for the marriage to be legal.

If the idea of tying the knot on a ship isn’t to your taste but you still want to get married during your cruise holiday, most cruise lines can arrange for you to get married onshore at one of the ship’s ports of call. It’ll be down to you to arrange all the necessary paperwork with the local registrar, though.

When planning an onshore ceremony, you should keep in mind that there’s always a chance that, for whatever reason, the ship may not be able to dock at a particular destination due to unforeseen circumstances, such as the Caribbean during hurricane season. Therefore, it’s a good idea to discuss a back-up plan in the event that life throws you a curveball.

Make your guest list

When it comes to creating a guest list, weddings can be a tricky affair. This becomes doubly so with a cruise ship, as you’ll need to ensure your ship has enough space to accommodate your party. You’ll also want to consider whether or not you want your extended family on your honeymoon with you.

Bear in mind that there’s always the option to invite your family and friends to a specific port of call where you plan to have your wedding ceremony. They can even hop onboard while the ship is docked, though, since they’ll need to board after passengers have left and leave before the ship takes off again, it’ll be a time-sensitive affair.

If you do want to tack on friends and family to the guest list, cruise wedding packages are more than able to accommodate. Most come in price tiers, starting with just the bride and groom and escalating all the way up to 300 guests and beyond.

Can I get married on shore instead?

If the idea of tying the knot on a ship is not to your taste but you still want to get married during your cruise holiday, most cruise lines can arrange for you to get married on-shore at one of the ship’s ports of call. Again, it will be down to you to arrange all necessary paperwork with the local registrar. When planning an on-shore ceremony, do remember that there is always the chance that for whatever reason, the ship may not be able to dock at a particular destination due to unforeseen circumstances, such as in the Caribbean during hurricane season, so discuss a back-up plan in the event of this occurring.

Getting a marriage license

Obtaining a cruise wedding marriage license can be a little complicated, so it’s important to do your research beforehand. Where a ship is registered will determine whether she can hold a ceremony that’s legally binding. Some cruise companies will do this for you, but the majority will expect you to have organised the relevant documentation on your own. If you have any questions, your wedding coordinator should be able to point you in the right direction.

If it’s a stress-free wedding you’re after, getting onboard a cruise ship might just be the ticket. Have a look at our full list of cruise lines to get the planning underway.

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