While many people opt for a traditional wedding setting, my husband and I wanted to do something intimate and fabulous- We wanted a destination wedding. Having our wedding on a massive cruise ship was just icing on our red velvet cake. We have a pretty non-traditional relationship, and this suited us perfectly. We got married aboard a cruise ship out of Tampa in November 2013. For those who are considering a cruise ship wedding, here is a little about our experience that may help you in planning yours:
Consider using the cruise line to help plan
Using the Carnival cruise line wedding package was the absolute best decision for us in terms of planning and directing the wedding. We utilized their wedding planner, wedding officiate, recommended florists, chefs, DJ, and photographer. We even utilized their tux rental services, which delivered and picked up the tuxes to our room before the wedding and at the end of the cruise. We were able to customize and upgrade packages how and where we wanted. While I’m a Type A planner, I’m also a pretty stress-free person. The Carnival team was attuned to all of my wishes and really gave me a stress-free wedding day that was everything I imagined.
Consider where you want the ceremony
After much deliberation, we decided to get married on board a Carnival ship in the chapel. Weddings happen on the first day of the cruise (usually before everyone else boards). Thus, you and your wedding party will be the first on the ship. Getting married on the ship provided us a beautiful venue where we could control weather and allow guests that could not cruise with us that week to board for the wedding and reception and disembark the ship prior to setting sail for the week. Depending on the size of your wedding party and number of guests, the cruise line will provide you with different options around the ship that will fit your needs.
Other options for cruise weddings are getting married at one of the ports. We considered getting married at Dunns River Falls in Jamaica or on the beach in Cozumel, but ultimately having friends and family that weren’t cruising with us was important. If you have a very small wedding party, and all of your guests are cruising with you, I would absolutely consider a specific destination for your wedding.
Consider where you want the reception
Similarly, depending on the size of your wedding party and number of guests, you will be offered a number of locations around the ship for your reception. If you purchase a wedding package through the ship (Carnival requires you to if you want to be married ON the ship), they will have everything set up for you and ready to go. Our reception was held in one of the night clubs and it was fabulous. The DJ did an excellent job, and the lighting and food was superb. We opted for an open bar and extended reception (the package only came with an hour and we needed much more time). Keep in mind, the reception won’t be able to go too long as your non-sailing guests will have to disembark before the ship leaves the port. Thus, your reception will typically be cut off at 2-3 hours max, depending how early you start and what time the ship sets sail.
Let your bridal party and stylist board early with you
The bride is the first of the wedding party to board the ship. You will be encouraged to come with “hair and makeup ready”. If you can get this done- good for you. I brought my hair and makeup stylist on with me, who also attended the wedding. This worked perfectly as I had an extra hour to get ready while my guests boarded and made their way to the wedding chapel. Because I had purchased the unlimited beverage package for the reception, all of their drinks (mimosas, etc.) prior to the wedding were free. If you want pictures getting ready, make sure to tell the wedding director to have the photographer visit your room! Otherwise, the photographer will meet you at the wedding chapel.
Get your music to the DJ
We provided our DJ with specific songs that we wanted during the reception, along with how we wanted to be introduced. The DJ was wonderful and kept the reception moving along. Because the time moves quickly, this is so important! Guests have to be OFF the ship before departing- whether your reception is over or not! So, ensuring that the wedding ceremony and reception move along is a MUST.
Because it’s your WEDDING, make sure that you are getting the photographer to take as MANY pictures of you before, during, and after your wedding as possible. A few days into the cruise, your wedding photographer will contact you for a private viewing of your wedding pictures. You don’t have to buy all the pictures, but you will be able to pick your favorites. We ended up spending an additional $500 to purchase a Canvas and the digital images from our wedding, which was important to us. You can decide if and how much you want to spend, but be prepared for this bill.
A cruise wedding was an amazing experience for us, filled with memories that will last a lifetime. We loved celebrating our love with our close friends and family and Carnival really did an amazing job in making sure that it was beyond anything we could have dreamed of. If you are considering a cruise wedding, a strongly encourage you to check out Carnival’s wedding packages.