A guide to weddings at sea

30 Sep 2019

Weddings aboard a cruise ship are becoming an increasingly popular alternative option for a destination wedding

Words: Mike Pickup

Finding the stress and expense of organising a wedding a little daunting? Then why not combine a hassle-free wedding and luxury honeymoon and get married at sea?

Cruise lines have dedicated people both on shore and on board to make sure everything goes to plan. Once you have decided what you want you can relax and look forward to a romantic, hassle-free start to married life, and it’s far more popular than you may think. One major cruise line organises over 1,500 weddings a year, so they’ve had plenty of practice; and with packages starting at less than £2,000 it can be a real money saver too.

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The basics will include bubbly, a cake, a photographer, flowers for the bride and a buttonhole for the groom. In addition, some cruise lines allow the bride and groom to take an extra suitcase each on fly cruises. Others may offer a honeymoon breakfast in your petal-strewn cabin, while some provide souvenirs such as champagne glasses or silver frames for your wedding photos. To make it even easier, each cruise line also has its own special brochure where you can select any extras you want.

Weddings, performed by the ship’s captain, take place when the ship is in international waters so the wedding officially takes place in the country where the ship is registered. It may take a short while for your official wedding certificate to reach you from there but you will be given a commemorative one on the day, a lovely reminder of your special occasion, and there is no need to register your wedding back in the UK.

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Ships sail all the oceans so choose your own location. Maybe a cruise to Hawaii sounds enticing, or the exotic Far East perhaps. A popular choice is the iconic transatlantic voyage between Southampton and New York on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. You can sail both ways or sail one way and fly the other and spend a few days in the Big Apple. If you are planning some retail therapy, then fly out and sail back as the captain won’t care how many suitcases you bring home or what they weigh.

If you haven’t cruised before, forget any pre-conceived ideas about boring days spent gazing out to sea. Cruise ships often spend daylight hours in ports and sail at night, so each morning you wake up with an exciting new destination to explore.

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On board, enjoy luxurious spas, a wide variety of activities and, at night, Broadway-style entertainment in superbly equipped theatres, or romantic movies under the stars on deck. Then there’s the food. With great quality and variety, often available 24 hours a day, you need to be careful you don’t embark as a passenger and disembark as freight. 

While most major cruise lines offer weddings, a few offer only wedding-style events or renewal of vows, so if you want to disembark as husband and wife, first check it’s a legally recognised wedding that’s on offer. 

Images: a selection from Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity cruise lines

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