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Your Wedding Onboard, A Memory Everlasting

Cruising is romantic. Although many ships host events for singles to mingle and others encourage families to bring the kids, the majority of cruise ships still succeed in catering to couples.

That's one reason cruises are so popular for wedding, honeymoon, and anniversary celebrations. These days, just about every cruise line offers something very special in those areas.

If having a cruise wedding conjures visions of being surrounded by friends and family in a beautiful setting with panoramic views, savoring fine food and drink, spending sunny days by a swimming pool, kissing on deck under starry skies, dancing till dawn, being entertained at night, exploring ports of call together, learning new sports, and shopping for great buys, you're on the mark.

The great thing about getting married on a cruise is that ships make it easy and affordable for prospective brides and grooms to have a customized wedding without driving themselves crazy over the details.

Large ships maintain an onboard wedding coordinator who can help you create the kind of wedding you want.

Typically, couples have the choice of getting married on board, when the ship is in port (only Princess Cruises offers weddings at sea, officiated by the ship's captain), or getting married at a location on shore.

Onboard Weddings

The most turnkey solution to wedding stress, an onboard wedding can take place in a ship's home port or when it is docked at another port. Couples can have a small, private ceremony or one that includes family members and friends.

Ordinarily the couple to be married and their wedding guests receive priority boarding hours before the ship sails. That allows plenty of time for a ceremony and reception onboard. While some wedding guests arrange in advance to stay on the ship and cruise with the newlyweds, most disembark after the reception but before the ship sails. Stowaways are not permitted!

Destination Weddings

Couples who plan a cruise destination wedding can have the best of both worlds. Not only do they have the fun and romance of sailing, but then they get off their ship and marry on land in a beautiful setting such as a beach, gazebo, chapel, or resort. Cruise wedding coordinators are expert at arranging these types of weddings, and scenic locations in Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Europe are especially popular.

A couple who dreams of a beach wedding and a honeymoon at sea can experience both on a cruise.

There are also uniquely memorable places to recite wedding vows. Holland America line, for example, has a magnificent private island in the Caribbean called Hawk's Cay. It contains a small, white chapel that is used for special occasions.

Cruise Weddings: Do It in Style

Just as on land, a cruise wedding can be as simple or elaborate as you want or can afford. Most basic cruise wedding packages start at under $1,000 (that's in addition to the cost of the cruise itself).

Basic packages typically include the services of an officiant, a bouquet for the bride and boutonniere for the groom, recorded music, a small wedding cake, and a keepsake certificate acknowledging the wedding.

Want something fancier or more personalized? Add-ons can include special flowers, live music, photo packages, videography, a real-time wedding webcam, and tuxedo rental. For couples who are having an off-site wedding, transportation can be arranged.

Then there's the reception: Brief affairs with sparkling wine and passed hors d'oeuvres are easiest on a budget. But since cruise ships have huge kitchens and cadres of chefs, there are many more options for a couple to entertain: A sit-down luncheon or multi-course feast for four, forty, or even four hundred are all possible.

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