Family Vacation Tips

How To Plan A Family Wedding Cruise

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 9, 2015 3:24:32 PM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

 DSCN0107-2.jpgCruise destination weddings are one of the hottest trends in travel.   Couples simply need to decide on a date, their favorite destinations and the style of event they prefer. The rest will handles of by their travel professional and the cruise line. Couples avoid all the stress of having to deal with reception halls, catering contracts, florists, multiple deposits and all the planning that quickly turns into a full time job.

Did we mention affordable?...

According to The Knot, the average cost in 2015 for a traditional wedding ceremony and reception costs an average of $30,000.00.  Cruise wedding packages vary by cruise line and the included amenities but usually start around $1,500. 00. The wedding package cost would be  in addition to the cost of your cruise.  A basic wedding package this includes the services of a cruise line wedding planner, the ceremony, wedding cake, flowers, champagne toast and photography.

Putting group buying power to work for you means the more family and friends you invite to join you on your cruise, the more benefits you'll earn which can save you even more....

  • Free cabin for the bride and groom
  • Possible suite upgrades for the couple
  • Free open bar cocktail party
  • Free banquet room for your celebration
  • Preferred embarkation (check in) for your group
  • On board credits for your guests
  • Welcome aboard gifts for all of your guests

In addition, depending on the number of guests, group buying power can also offer benefits and freebies when it comes to flights to get to your ship, pre-cruise hotel stays and even shore excursions while visiting different exotic port of call.  Couples must choose and deposit their specific cruise and establish any group contracts before any wedding ceremony details  or reservations can be created.

Typically couples will be required to place a small deposit for their own cruise cabin initially but no large deposits are necessary.  Guests are responsible for their own deposits and payments. With enough advanced planning, payment plans can even be created for your guests to make the experience even more affordable.  Of course there are couples or parents that may wish to pay the way for some or all of their invited guests and this can be easily arranged by your travel agent. Your travel professional will help negotiate group rates and help you understand and meet payment deadlines so that neither you or any of your guests take any financial risks.

We DID mention family and friends...

One of the greatest benefits of a cruise destination wedding is that couples can relax and simply enjoy their own event.  Cruise ships offer a huge variety of dining, activities and entertainment to insure that each and every one of your guests has a fabulous time regardless of age.  Family friendly ships offer kids camps ranging from toddlers to teens with completely supervised, age appropriate fun from morning until night. This means adults are free to enjoy a cocktail, relax in the adult pool or indulge at the spa. Every ship at sea offers dining choices from the casual and fast to the elegant foodie's paradise. The entertainment choices range from sports and competitions, comedy and music to Broadway style shows. There are luxury ship and budget ships, big ships and small ships but the best ships are the friendships and camaraderie that will be enjoyed by you and all of your guests.

Cruise ship weddings are extremely flexible which mean they can easily cater to the wishes, needs and traditions of so many different couples.  Most cruise ship weddings actually take place while the ship is docked in port. Very few cruise lines will allow ceremonies to occur while the ship is sailing at sea.  This offers couples many different options.

  • Invite your guests to join you for a ceremony and celebration while the ship is docked at home port. Afterwards your guests will return home while you and your spouse sail off into the sunset for a romantic honeymoon.  This is a great option for couples who would also like to have their ceremony performs by local clergy without added expenses. It also helps with elderly family members that may not be fit to travel but must be in attendance.
  • Same as above with all or some of your guests joining you on board the cruise for a fun filled weddingmoon
  • Have your destination wedding ceremony performed while docked at an exotic port of call with either a local celebration or an on board event to follow.

The choices an options here are only limited by your imagination and budget but again, there are ways to put group buying to work and still create the event of your dreams.

So now that you've decided that a cruise wedding is the right choice for you, how do you get started?   Here are some tips that will make your life even easier....

Choose your Date - Deciding on the "big day" can be tricky. It can often be a delicate balance of sentimentality and practicality. Bear in mind that cruise rates are determined by supply and demand. Cruise rates are also influenced by the "season" in a particular destination. Cruises during the December Holidays or spring break will be more expensive and may not have group space available.  Talk it over with your travel agent who can offer suggestions and compromises.  If your dream is to be married in Alaska, this will NOT happen during the winter months. If the couple are parents then it will be important to select a date when their children are off from school. A good suggestion is to select a first, second and third choice when it comes to the "big day".  This will give your travel professional more options and can also offer some leverage when negotiating on your behalf with the cruise lines.

Select the Ship - So many great cruise options and only one wedding!  This is probably the most difficult part to planning a cruise wedding. Just like every bride and groom has their own personality, so do cruise lines and specific ships.  Your dream may be an exotic Tahitian cruise with an intimate guest lists aboard a luxury ship.  Maybe you both come from large families and need the the services and amenities offered by a mass market, family friendly cruise line that offers budget cabins to luxury suites. Maybe the two of you have completely different wish lists.  A good exercise is for each of you to separately write down a "top 10" list for this event and present it to your travel planner. Your travel agent can use this tool to narrow down the best options that hit as many of your wish list items as possible. This will help you to easily focus and make the best decisions.

Save the Date! - If possible, try to plan  and deposit your cruise 18-12 months in advance.  This will certainly help you get the best rates for yourself and your guests. In addition, you'll get the best availability when it comes to the type of cabins you and your guests prefer. This may be of particular importance if your guests list includes families who may need family suites or adjoining rooms as these are always the first to sell out.  Advanced notice will also give your guests plenty of time to request vacation days, apply for passports and even set up an affordable payment plan.  Many cruise lines limit the number of groups they allow after a certain point prior to sailing.

It's YOUR Day - Family members and friends may want to add their opinions and agendas into your wedding plans. When it comes to travel and event planning, outside advice, preferences and suggestions normally create roadblocks and hard feelings. Of course you want your guests to be comfortable and happy. Trust in the fact that cruise ships do this for all sorts of passengers every day. Often the people with the strongest objections to cruise ships have never experienced a cruise.  Your wedding is the start of your new life together and this entire event is a celebration of that fact.

Trust and Use Travel Agent -  Once you've picked the date, the sailing and the ceremony step back, relax and let your travel professional do the rest. Give your travel agent your guest list and let them handle everything. Let's face it, that's why you've hired them in the first place.  Trust in their professionalism so put their knowledge and expertise to work for you.  They are far better equipped to handle questions, objections and preferences of your guests. Let them do all the hard work, be the bad guy if necessary, handle logistics, deal with the cruise line and make you look like the hero.  This is their full time job, it shouldn't turn into yours.

In closing if there is one final warning that we can offer is to be prepared...your wedding may not be a once in a lifetime event - What?

So many of our brides and grooms return to us reporting they have had the "time of their lives". Wedding guests are left wanting more.  The feeling that families have after experiencing a event like this is wonderful and they want to do it again and again.  We're proud to say many of our past event wedding guests want to turn their cruise experience into an annual event.  Many of the cruise lines offer even more perks to groups have have previously sailed with them - so why not take advantage of a good thing? Don't be surprised if your guests are on board for your first anniversary cruise too!

I Want To Plan A Cruise Wedding





Topics: Family Destination Weddings, family group travel, Family Cruises

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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