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Looking for a memorable, stress-free wedding? Then get married at sea, says Mike Pickup

If you’re planning a civil wedding but want a bit more pizzazz than a register office ceremony, then look no further than a wedding at sea

Getting married on a cruise is a great way to combine a luxury honeymoon and a stress-free wedding, and it will create memories that will last a lifetime.

Cruise ships sail all the oceans, so you have a great choice of where to get married. How about the Caribbean, or perhaps the Pacific on a journey to Hawaii; maybe the Indian Ocean or cruise to Alaska? 

The iconic transatlantic voyage between Southampton and New York on Cunard’s elegant Queen Mary 2 is a popular choice. You can sail both ways, or fly one way and cruise the other. If you’re planning some serious retail therapy in New York then fly out and cruise back. Unlike the flight out, on the return journey the captain won’t mind how much luggage you bring with you. It’s not unusual for passengers to buy an extra suitcase in New York and fill it with bargains.

If a number of friends and family are sailing with you, most cruise lines will offer a discount on group bookings, and you can often set up a group code which will allow guests to book the type of accommodation they want. If it’s just the two of you, then a couple of the ship’s senior officers will be honoured to act as witnesses. 

Weddings at sea are growing rapidly in popularity. Cruise lines have dedicated staff both on shore and aboard ship to ensure that everything goes smoothly, it’s something they do very well and they’ve had plenty of practice. One major cruise line organises around 1,500 such events in a normal year. 

Whilst many cruise lines offer the more familiar Renewal of Vows ceremonies, marriages are a different matter from a legal point of view.

A wedding at sea, performed by the captain, can take place if the ship is registered where such ceremonies are legally permitted, perhaps Bermuda, Malta or the Bahamas. The ceremony will be scheduled for when the ship is in international waters, so in effect the wedding takes place where the ship is registered. It may take a short while for your formal wedding certificate to reach you, but you will receive a commemorative one on the day.

However, your wedding will be perfectly legal and recognised in the UK. According to the gov.uk website “Your marriage should be recognised in the UK if you follow the correct process according to local law – you won’t need to register it in the UK.” 

So, what can you expect for your big day?

Wedding packages are, of course, additional to the cost of the cruise. Basic packages cost from around £1,200, dependent upon the cruise line, and packages vary between cruise companies. There are also optional extras. The basic offerings typically include the wedding venue, the marriage ceremony, flowers for the bride, buttonhole for the groom, a photographer, a bottle of bubbly and a cake. The venue could be inside or on deck, and you should have a choice. 

Brides on Cunard will be escorted to the ceremony by the famous White Star Bellmen in their scarlet uniforms, and if you book a fly cruise with P&O, the bride and groom can take an additional suitcase of 5kg each, plus the bride will be offered a free pressing service. 

Princess Cruises has a special Tie the Knot at Sea offering and it may be possible to broadcast the event to friends on shore via a webcam. The bride will have a bouquet of red roses and the couple will receive gifts of champagne flutes and an unframed canvass print from the event. 

On Royal Caribbean the bride can expect white roses, a wedding cake and a number of photo prints. In addition there’s breakfast in bed on the morning of your choice, dinner for two at a speciality restaurant and a Couples massage. Sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises’ package includes live music plus rose petals on your bed at turn-down, two bathrobes and chocolate covered strawberries

Optional add-ons may include a special romantic dinner for two or, for a larger group, maybe book the ship’s disco for the evening.

Cruise lines offering weddings include Princess, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Cunard, and some ships in the P&O fleet. So, just book the cruise, pick the items you want from the events menu, then sit back and look forward to a luxury, stress-free wedding and honeymoon.

For more detailed information contact the cruise lines direct or a cruise and travel agent.