Saturday,  February 4, 2023  10:33 pm

Getting married at sea: a guide to wedding cruises

Getting married at sea: a guide to wedding cruises
Ming Tappin

Ming Tappin is a cruise industry expert and is the owner of Your Cruise Coach.

When agents receive inquiries for destination weddings, they generally reach for a resort wedding in Mexico, Hawaii, or on a Caribbean island. Here’s a question - have you considered offering a wedding cruise?

Getting married on a cruise ship has certainly gained popularity over the last decade. Speaking from personal experience - I was married on a cruise ship myself - a shipboard wedding takes the stress out of planning, leaving the bride and groom to anticipate and enjoy the special day. Gone is the need to search for an officiant, a venue, banquet hall, photographer, selecting a menu and finding entertainment to appease everyone - even the honeymoon is taken care of at the same time!

A one-stop wedding shop

Twenty years ago, weddings were conducted in the ship’s library with a simple set-up. In recognizing the potential of this target market, many ships today have actual chapels with proper pews, and some even have live cameras to broadcast the special occasion to family and friends who are not able to attend.

A full range of wedding packages are available, from a quick elopement for two to a grand celebration for two hundred. Add the inclusive value of cruising and the port-hopping opportunity, and a shipboard wedding certainly has great appeal.

Cruise weddings are booked through the cruise line’s in-house wedding planning department, or a contracted third-party wedding planner that specializes in cruise weddings. A non-denominational officiant will conduct the ceremony, but the rest is up to the couple.

Photography and videography services, wedding cake, flowers, and reception can be as simple or elaborate as their budget allows. And with today’s cruise ships featuring innovative amenities, wedding photos can depict the newlyweds on the surf simulator, zipline, rock climbing wall, skating rink, or all of the above!

Weddings can be conducted at the embarkation port, in destination, or at sea. Ceremonies held on embarkation day allow non-sailing guests to attend the wedding and reception, and disembark before the ship sails. This is a popular option if the ship is sailing from the couple’s home city.

Weddings can also take place at a port of call on the cruise itinerary. The ceremony can be held at a quaint chapel, a secluded beach or any other feasible location (how about atop a glacier in Alaska?). Weddings at sea are conducted by the ship’s captain. The latter two options allow friends and family to enjoy a fantastic cruise vacation while being with the couple on their big day.

Regardless of where the wedding is held, proper paperwork is required for the marriage to be legal. The wedding planner will inform the couple of all legal requirements, assist in obtaining all necessary documents and book the wedding officiant.

What agents need to know

Your role as a travel agent is to work with the couple to choose a cruise ship and itinerary. When qualifying, discuss the size of the wedding party and guests, the scale of the wedding, and what shipboard atmosphere and amenities they are looking for.

Group rates and special amenities are available to larger parties - a group is eight double staterooms but almost all cruise lines guarantee group rates back to cabin one should it fall short. Your cruise line business development manager can also help you promote the wedding group with marketing pieces or bonus amenities.

Once deposited, the couple will work the wedding planner for all wedding arrangements, saving you from any Bridezilla moments!

During the cruise, the wedding group will be looked after by the ship’s group coordinator who will take care of all details and coordinate arrangements for the big day.

If it is a large wedding group, the travel agent can suggest escorting the group to provide additional assistance. All in all, arranging a shipboard wedding today is a cinch for the agent and the clients.

Most recently, Carnival Cruise Line announced they will pay commission on wedding packages - a first in the industry. So, the next time your client asks for a destination wedding, consider offering one on a cruise ship.

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