Everyone’s idea of a dream wedding destination is different. For some, it’s the most ornate cathedral in town. For others, it’s the simplicity of their own backyards. And then there’s you, dreaming of having your wedding in the middle of the ocean.
Whether you imagine exchanging “I do”s on the deck of a cruise ship or on at a tropical destination where the ship ports, you basically want a destination wedding. You’ve also probably found that these faraway ceremonies require a bit more thoughtful planning than their at-home counterparts, but don’t be discouraged: the work is worth the reward if you’re walking down the aisle at the wedding of your dreams.
To make the task a bit easier, we’ve put together the following five tips to help you plan your destination wedding, wherever the ship may be headed.
1. Consider the Time of Year and the Ports of Call
If you’re a veteran cruiser, you already know when hurricane season is. Most of the time, of course, it’ll be sunny and beautiful, setting the ideal backdrop for your ceremony. However, from June to November, the Caribbean islands are particularly susceptible to storms that could all but cancel your destination wedding.
To be safe, make sure you schedule your wedding outside of the traditional hurricane season. And, to that end, try and choose ports known for having stable weather. Grand Cayman, then, shouldn’t be your number one choice of location: winds can stop tender boats from making it ashore even when there’s not a hurricane on the forecast, and you don’t want something as unpredictable as this to ruin your ceremony plans.
2. Budget for Yourself and Guests
Many destination wedding planners find that their expenses are just the same as if they exchanged vows at home. This is especially true if you live in a larger city, such as New York or Chicago, where venues are sought-after and expensive.
But it’s not just you who’s going to have to shell out money to attend your wedding: your guests will have to travel, find accommodation and make it to the ceremony, too. For that reason, you’ll have to do some serious math to decide if your cruise ship wedding is even a possibility in the first place. Add up travel to port, the cost of the actual cruise and any additional expenses you might foresee.
In the end, though, your guests will likely be willing to shell out a little more than they normally would to attend your destination wedding, since they get a vacation out of it, too. If the cost ends up being a reasonable one, you can expect plenty of your friends and family to RSVP with a “yes.” Just give them as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision about attending.
It’s also important to be understanding when guests can’t attend because finances are tight. In order to give everyone time to plan and pay for the trip, give them plenty of advance notice before the big day. This is especially true for your bridal party, who will have to pay extra to travel, buy a dress, get primped, etc.: don’t be disappointed if people have to turn you down, especially if they’re open and honest in their reasoning for doing so.
Photography: Pink Light Images
3. Enlist On-Board Help
Unsurprisingly, you’re not the first person to dream of getting married on a cruise ship. Countless weddings and vow renewals have taken place with the sea as a backdrop. But the newlyweds haven’t planned these events all on their own: they’ve had crews waiting on board with open arms, and, in some cases, top-shelf champagne.
It will make your life much easier to enlist the help of cruise ship wedding planners, who know exactly what it takes to put together a ceremony on the ship or at the port. You’ll have to put lots of trust in them, too, since they’re on-board and able to see your nuptials coming together and you might not be. However, their experience with countless cruise-ship brides before you should be a comfort as you work together to plan a wedding thousands of miles away.
4. Make Sure the Marriage is Legal
No matter how beautiful the ceremony is, the “I do”s you share on board might not be technically legal. Every country has a different legal requirement for couples who want to wed: in Turks and Caicos, for example, you have to reside within the country’s borders for 24 hours prior to your nuptials.
A wedding planner can, of course, help you sort out the legality of your ceremony; some ships will perform the legal ceremony before leaving port, though you can schedule your actual ceremony for later in the voyage.
5. Start ASAP — But Be Flexible
When it comes to planning your cruise ship wedding, it’s best to start as soon as you know that’s what you want. However, if it’s more than a year out, proceed with caution: some cruise ships end up bumping brides- and grooms-to-be after their ships are chartered out, for example, thus rendering all invitations and reservations invalid.
So, do your planning within the year in which you tend to marry, but once you’re within that timeframe, don’t delay! Get a dress that suits the island vibe, choose the wedding party’s outfits, find out which parts of the wedding you can customize.
Once that’s all done, all you have to do is show up to your port on the big day with the ones you love most, slip into your gown and take the most important walk of your life. The fact that it’s on a cruise ship will make your day all the more special — and all of your planning will prove itself more than worth it.
Happy Wedding Planning!
Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here.