We've all seen or heard how intense and frenzied planning a wedding can be. So, what can you do if you want to get married in a beautiful location but don't want to tackle the challenge of putting together a formal, sit-down dinner for 300 of your closest friends? Many cruise lines offer a variety of services to help you plan a shipboard or shoreside ceremony, which, of course, will be combined with a romantic cruise honeymoon.
Planning a cruise wedding can be as easy as making one call. Just dial, and poof! In-house wedding coordinators will begin arranging the ceremony, menu, cake, flowers and music. Some will even help you to obtain wedding licenses or provide invitations and thank-you notes. And it's easy to let them handle all the extras -- from tuxedo rental to hair and spa appointments.
An onboard wedding can be a great value, as well. Prices start around $795 (the sky's the limit) on top of the cost of the cruise. Typically, onboard weddings are held in a ship's chapel (if one exists), a lounge, the library or a boardroom. But larger ships can offer offbeat ceremony spots aboard a carousel or on a rock-climbing wall. While the wedding couple must be passengers on the cruise, most lines with full-service packages include options for wedding guests to come onboard for a few hours for the event.
Married folks can also get in on the fun with onboard vow-renewal ceremonies -- a perfect way to celebrate on an anniversary trip.
These nine cruise lines offer a variety of ceremony options and price points for anyone looking to plan a cruise-ship wedding or vow renewal. Before you sign on to a wedding at sea, make sure you've read our 9 Things to Know When Planning a Cruise Wedding.
Package Details: Princess offers three wedding packages. The "Tie the Knot at Sea" package, for $1,800 plus a $466 license fee, includes use of the onboard wedding chapel, a candlelit ceremony officiated by the captain, use of a wedding coordinator, live music, two floral arrangements, a rose bouquet for the bride, groom's boutonniere, the services of a photographer and a selection of prints, wedding cake, Champagne and two keepsake flutes, and a keepsake wedding certificate. The "Tie the Knot Harborside" package -- ranging from $1,700 to $2,800, plus licensing fees up to $500, based on the destination -- includes priority check-in and boarding for the couple and guests, an onboard wedding ceremony performed by a nondenominational officiant, a wedding coordinator, recorded music, silk floral arrangements, a rose bouquet and boutonniere, a photographer, wedding cake, Champagne and a keepsake certificate. The "Tie the Knot Ashore" package, ranging from around $2,000 to $4,900, includes a ceremony at a beach, garden or even at a glacier in Alaska, transportation for the couple, an officiant, a wedding coordinator, a bouquet and boutonniere, a photographer, cake for two, Champagne and a keepsake certificate. Receptions, photography packages and enhanced ceremony options are available at extra cost.
Coolest Quirk: Not only can your ceremony be conducted at sea by the captain, but the line also features state-of-the-art technology that allows you to broadcast the ceremony live, via Webcam, to friends and family on land. Some Princess captains are pretty romantic; on one particular cruise over Valentine's Day, the captain casually announced he'd conduct vow renewals for anyone who wanted them, and about a half-dozen couples showed up.
Caveat: Depending on the destination, licensing fees can add an additional $500 to a "Tie the Knot Ashore" package.
Vow Renewals: Princess' "Renewal of Vows" package costs $226 per couple and includes a group ceremony, a bouquet and boutonniere, a commemorative certificate signed by the captain, a bottle of Champagne, two souvenir Champagne flutes and a framed photo of the ceremony. The "Deluxe Renewal of Vows" package, at $500, adds a few extra amenities, such as breakfast in bed and a 25-minute massage or facial.
Why? Celebrity captains can perform ceremonies at sea (except on Xpedition). The line's fleet of ships offers a pleasant mix of fun and luxury, leaving the happy couple and their guests with plenty to do before and after the big day. Celebrity also offers such extras (for a fee) as a welcome reception, bridesmaid tea party, and cigar and cognac party to set the tone for the wedding cruise.
Package Details: The "Celebrity Weddings" program offers onboard ceremonies and destination weddings. The "Nautical Nuptials at Sea" package begins at $2,500 and includes a captain-led ceremony, an event coordinator's services, live music, one hour of photography (photographs sold separately), cake for two, Champagne, a bouquet and boutonniere, plus additional romantic turndown amenities post-ceremony (see Coolest Quirk). Couples can also arrange shoreside and in-port shipboard weddings, presided over by an officiant instead of the captain. Both in-port shipboard weddings (starting at $2,195) and shoreside weddings (starting at $2,895) include all of the "Nautical Nuptials" features, except for the turndown services; shoreside ceremonies also include transportation to the ceremony site.
Coolest Quirk: Couples who book the "Nautical Nuptials at Sea" package get some romantic extras, such as chocolate-covered strawberries, bottles of Champagne, Champagne flutes, his-and-hers robes, fresh in-room floral arrangements and rose petals on their beds on their wedding nights.
Caveat: Licensing and regulatory fees are not included. (A wedding license is $700, for instance.) Also, the number of wedding ceremonies performed on each sailing is based on the captains' availability. A $100 surcharge is in effect for May, June, September and October weddings. Couples should book their wedding packages in advance to allow time for the processing of marriage licenses and legal documents; all legal documentation should be completed and submitted about 10 weeks prior to sailing.
Vow Renewals: The "Aisle to Isle" vow-renewal option -- at $475 -- includes the services of a pre-cruise event manager, an officiant, recorded music, Champagne and cake for two, a certificate, a rose and matching boutonniere and one hour of photography services (photos sold separately). The $650 "True Love Knot Renewal" option is officiated by the ship's captain and throws in some photos (including one signed by the captain), Champagne flutes, an upgrade to a bouquet and breakfast for two delivered to the stateroom.
Package Details: Disney's "Cruise Collection" wedding package is available on all cruises out of Florida. Packages start at $3,000 and include a Florida marriage license, bridal bouquet and boutonniere, the services of a wedding coordinator and officiant, a solo musician (typically a pianist), Champagne toast, two-tier wedding cake with keepsake topper, a special wedding gift and commemorative Disney wedding certificate, $100 onboard credit for the wedding couple, in-cabin Champagne and strawberries, and dinner for two at Palo, the line's adults-only alternative restaurant, found on all Disney ships. The package can accommodate eight guests, plus the couple.
Coolest Quirk: Dress-steaming is included in the package price. We also love that you can opt for a ceremony on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. (Packages start at $4,000.)
Caveat: Beyond the cake and Champagne, Disney's wedding package does not include a reception or other services for wedding guests, though an appetizer/open bar reception is available at an additional cost. You can invite additional guests to your wedding ceremony, but events with more than 10 guests require special permission and incur an extra cost. Note that, if the couple is married onboard, the captain or a ship officer will preside over the ceremony. But, the legal marriage must take place on embarkation day, while the ship is still docked in Florida. If the marriage occurs on Castaway Cay, it's performed by a Bahamian official, but the couple will be legally married before the ship departs.
Vow Renewals: A renewal of vows package is available for $3,000 per couple for an onboard ceremony or $4,000 for one on Castaway Cay. It includes all the amenities of the wedding package for up to eight guests, except the marriage license.
Package Details: Carnival offers three wedding packages. The "Just for the Bride & Groom" package accommodates up to eight guests, including the bride and groom, and starts at $1,195. The package includes priority check-in, an official civil ceremony with a bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, a Champagne toast with keepsake flutes, a wedding cake with cake topper, recorded wedding music, a decorated bridal aisle and a photographer. (Prints are extra.) The "Welcome Aboard" package accommodates up to 20 guests (additional $22 fee for each additional person), costs $1,635 and includes all the aforementioned amenities, plus a cocktail hour with an open bar and hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, a traditional two-tiered wedding cake and coffee service. The "Deluxe Romance" package starts at $1,795 and includes all of the above, plus a 90-minute open-bar reception and an ice carving. Prices for packages and marriage licenses, which are extra, vary based on the port in which the ceremonies are performed. Videography services, live music and tuxedo rental are also additional. Shoreside packages also are available in certain ports, such as Key West, San Juan, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and Barbados.
Coolest Quirk: We like the free and easy-to-use online gift registry that makes it easy for guests to contribute to a couple's destination wedding. It provides couples with a wedding Web site, blog, e-mail wizard, photo album and Facebook/Twitter uploaders.
Caveats: Plan ahead, if possible; weddings are available only when in port (including embarkation ports), and there's a maximum of three allowed per day. Additional surcharges apply for certain months -- May and June, in particular -- as well as holidays.
Vow Renewals: Carnival offers vow renewals, starting from $450, including a shipboard ceremony performed by the captain, a Champagne toast, flowers, wedding cake, photography services and recorded music; up to eight guests are permitted. A deluxe package, starting at $850, adds a one-hour reception with an open bar and hot and cold canapes for up to 20 guests.
Why? Norwegian Cruise Line offers a vast array of options, which can turn basic packages into full-blown extravaganzas, and its ships feature a wide range of restaurants with easily available romantic dining for two.
Package Details: Norwegian offers three wedding packages. Its "Symbolic" ceremony, starting at $1,600, is performed onboard while at sea and is officiated by a ship officer or staff member. The "Harborside" package, starting at $1,795, allows couples to be married onboard at select ports of call. Packages are available in a wide range of ports in the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean and Bermuda. And the "Destination" weddings start at $2,395 and offer a range of exotic onshore locations to hold your nuptials: a glacier in Alaska, a bay in St. Thomas, the sands of Bermuda and more.
The "Symbolic" package includes a wedding coordinator, bridal bouquet, boutonniere, 6-inch cake, recorded music, bottle of sparkling wine and keepsake certificate. Because captains can't legally perform marriage ceremonies on Norwegian ships, you'll need to get married ashore and bring your official marriage certificate with you.
The "Harborside" option adds priority embarkation for the couple and their guests (if the wedding is on embarkation day).
The "Destination" package adds roundtrip transportation for the bride and groom to the wedding location in port and Champagne instead of sparkling wine.
Marriage licenses are extra in all cases, and prices vary depending on local authorities.
In addition to the basic packages, there is a huge range of a la carte options, including spa and beauty services (not available on embarkation day), flowers (including custom orders), live music, photography and videography, transportation to and from the ship or wedding location, tuxedo rentals and a wide variety of wedding receptions -- from cold hors d'oeuvres with an open bar at $37 per adult to a full, sit-down luncheon for a minimum of 25 guests at $52 per person.
Coolest Quirk: Couples can add a conch shell aisle ($250 and up) or fresh rose arch ($700 and up) to shoreside ceremonies. They can also purchase invitations, save-the-date invites, customized message boards, wedding program fans and other extras.
Caveat: An extra wedding coordinator, at $150, is required for every 25 guests above the first 25.
Vow Renewals: Norwegian offers two vow-renewal packages: a standard at $299 and a deluxe that costs $499. Both options include sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries in your cabin, choice of bouquet of flowers or $50 onboard credit, bottle of sparkling wine and celebration cake for the ceremony, commemorative certificate, dinner for two at onboard French restaurant Le Bistro and an 8x10 portrait. The deluxe package adds an invitation to tour the ship's bridge, canapes in your stateroom and an engraved frame for your portrait.
Why? Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of wedding packages, including an option to get married at sea with your ship's captain or first officer officiating a ceremony that includes special nautical vows. (A new marriage act in the Bahamas, where the line's ships are flagged, allowed Royal Caribbean to begin conducting legal weddings at sea in early 2013.)
Package Details: The line's "Royal Romance" program offers three avenues to tie the knot. The "Paradise Shipboard" option starts around $2,995. It's the most basic and includes priority check-in for you and your guests, a wedding coordinator, onboard ceremony with an officiant, one hour of photography and 20 8x10 prints, recorded music, a bouquet and boutonniere, and sparkling wine. The "Paradise Destination" option, also from $2,995, lets the couple get married onboard the ship or at a number of exotic locales -- such as on a glacier in Alaska, alongside a waterfall in Hawaii or ancient ruins in Greece -- while their ship is in port. This package also allows for a few more extras, including a wedding cake for the couple and nicer flowers in the bride's bouquet. "Royal Romance at Sea" allows the couple to get married in the open waters, with the captain or first mate conducting the ceremony. The package, starting at $3,995, includes upgrades like a live soloist, bridal bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed white roses, fresh flowers for your stateroom, a bottle of Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in the cabin on the wedding night and dinner for two at an onboard specialty restaurant.
Receptions are not included in the price of the ceremonies, but several options are available. They include a formal wedding lunch at $48 per person, a buffet with bar service for $48 or hot and cold hors d'oeuvres and bar service for $32. There's a 25-person minimum for the lunch or buffet and a minimum of 16 and maximum of 50 guests for hors d'oeuvres. Other add-ons include entertainment, cake and ice carvings.
Coolest Quirk: The shoreside ceremonies run the gamut from simply scenic (a beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico) and funky (a winery in Santorini, Greece) to exotic (a ceremony atop a glacier in Juneau, Alaska).
Caveats: Watch out for a la carte charges that can add up. For instance, couples who want to plan a Royal Romance wedding less than 45 days from sailing pay an extra $250 late fee. You'll pay $150 for a wedding coordinator if you have an onboard reception, and wedding parties of more than 25 guests require an additional wedding coordinator for another $150. Weddings on Voyager-class, Freedom-class and Oasis-class ships (which have chapels) have become so popular there is also a $100 surcharge for shipboard wedding ceremonies on those vessels. Beyond that, an additional $100 surcharge applies to weddings and vow renewals scheduled in May, June, September or October. Holidays -- such as New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve -- are subject to a $200 surcharge.
Vow Renewals: The "Renewed Romance" vow-renewal package, starting at $595, includes a ceremony onboard or at one of Royal Caribbean's private beach sites performed by your ship's Cruise Program Administrator, recorded ceremony music and keepsake certificate. Photography, drink and cake services can be added a la carte.
Package Details: Beginning at £825, the "Weddings at Sea" package includes the ceremony venue, ceremony conducted by the ship's captain (the civil service is legally recognized under Bermudian law), floral arrangements for the ceremony, music, commemorative certificate, Champagne, a professional photographer to capture the big day, an onboard wedding coordinator, invitations and thank-you notes. Brides and grooms also can choose to receive V.I.P. treatment, starting with a bottle of Champagne, meats, cheeses, pastries and fresh fruit delivered to their cabins on their wedding day.
Coolest Quirk: You can book a shore excursion -- like a gondola ride in Venice or snorkeling in the Caribbean -- to personalize your day. (Keep in mind, though, that the cruise line can't guarantee your request.)
Caveat: Licensing fees will cost an additional £375. Other services -- like the cake, wedding album, Champagne breakfast in bed, reception parties/dinner, videography, and spa and salon services -- are not included, and pricing is available upon request.
Vow Renewals: For £295 per couple, the vow-renewal package includes a ceremony conducted by the captain, a cake, a bouquet for the bride, a matching boutonniere for the groom, Champagne and a professional photographer during the ceremony. The couple also receives two Champagne flutes, a silver-plated frame, a photo of their choice and a certificate signed by the captain.
Why? Holland America offers a variety of ships and itineraries worldwide, extra amenities when a minimum number of staterooms is booked and cool in-port offerings like on-site ceremonies at a glacier in Juneau. The line caters to a mature, sophisticated clientele, making it attractive to older couples looking to wed. Almost all of Holland America's ships have dedicated chapels.
Package Details: Weddings for couples only (no guests) start at $795 for a simple onboard ceremony for two for North America and Caribbean sailings. That price includes priority check-in for the bride and groom, an on-site wedding coordinator, an officiant and a keepsake wedding certificate. The line also has three additional wedding packages with increasingly stepped-up amenities. The "Anchors Away Shipboard Wedding" package starting at $1,395 adds a bridal bouquet and matching boutonniere, a single-tier wedding cake, an elegant table with flowers and linens, a bottle of Champagne, photography services and one 8x10 photo, a commemorative photo album and recorded music. Shipboard weddings take place on the day of sailing, prior to departure in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Key West, Halifax, New York, San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver. In Key West and Halifax, the price is $1,695; in New York, the price goes up to $2,495. The "Rembrandt Shipboard Package" ($1,895) -- available in Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver -- offers all the amenities of the "Anchors Away" package, but it adds 10 5x7 photos and transportation for the bridal couple via chauffeured limo to the pier the morning of the wedding (within a 10-mile radius of the port). And, the line's "Royal Dutch Deluxe Package" for $2,595 ups the offerings of the Rembrandt package with a more elaborate bridal bouquet, a bottle of premium Champagne, an additional 20 5x7 photos, a floral arrangement in the stateroom, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of Champagne at turndown, and a 30-minute massage for two. The package is available in Fort Lauderdale, Seattle and Vancouver.
For those who want to wed on Holland America's private island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay, the $1,900 package includes a Bahamian wedding officiant, the marriage license fee, a copy of the marriage license, a tropical bridal bouquet and matching groom boutonniere, chocolate-dipped strawberries set up on a table with linens and fresh flowers, a bottle of Champagne, recorded ceremony music, a photographer and one 8x10 photograph, a commemorative wedding album and a keepsake wedding certificate.
The line also offers packages for destination-based weddings in various ports of call, including a two-hour event on Cockle Shell Beach in St. Kitts, starting at $2,150, or one atop a Juneau glacier for $2,975.
Coolest Quirk: The line offers special wedding extras when at least eight staterooms are booked for a destination wedding through its Group Advantage Program. The bride and groom get a free stateroom upgrade and a commemorative wedding cake for 16 guests. The entire group gets lunch at Pinnacle Grill (Holland America's upscale alternative restaurant), a private wine-tasting and chocolate-covered strawberries, plus a bottle of in-room Champagne. We also love the destination wedding options with packages for events atop a glacier in Juneau or among lush tropical foliage on a sacred pond in Hawaii.
Caveat: If more than eight non-sailing guests attend the onboard wedding, some form of reception must be booked. Weddings in Half Moon Cay are not available from September to mid-November. The line levies a $150 surcharge on package prices for sailings from December 24 to January 4 and February 11 to February 18. There's a $100 surcharge for weddings in May and June.
Vow Renewals: Holland America's vow-renewal package includes a corsage for the bride, invitations, a 10x7 candid photo sheet, dinner for two any night at the Pinnacle Grill and a post-ceremony celebration with music, Champagne, wine and hors d'oeuvres. The cost is $120 per couple and $13.50 per guest (for celebration only).
Why? Cunard can offer you a "Royal Wedding at Sea" onboard any of its ships: Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth. At the end of 2011, the line changed its vessel registry from the United Kingdom to Bermuda, thus allowing it to have its captains conduct wedding ceremonies at sea. You'll enjoy the typical unique luxury and elegance afforded passengers aboard a Cunard cruise. Only this time, you can expect to be even more pampered because of your special occasion.
Package Details: The wedding package starts at $2,500 (plus a $575 license fee) and includes an onboard wedding coordinator, fresh floral arrangements for the ceremony, bridal posy and groom's boutonniere, 8-inch cake, traditional wedding music (recorded), ceremony conducted by the captain and a commemorative wedding certificate.
Coolest Quirk: Cunard busts open the bubbly for the happy couple. Its package includes a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and a bride and groom's Champagne breakfast in bed. You could even upgrade to a Champagne and caviar breakfast in bed.
Caveat: Weddings can only take place on sea days and on cruises lasting at least seven days. Additional cake, floral, photography and reception services are available for a fee.
Vow Renewals: Cunard offers a renewal of vows onboard any of its three ships for $490. The package includes a bouquet and matching boutonniere, bottle of Champagne, service conducted by the captain, single-tier cake, photographer, one portrait of the ceremony, silver-plated photo frame, pair of Champagne flutes and a commemorative certificate.
--updated by John Roberts, Cruise Critic contributor