Until recently, getting married aboard ship was a symbolic exercise in commitment. To seal the deal legally, couples were required to tie the knot on dry land either before or after the cruise.
That changed in 2012 when the Bahamas passed the Marriage Act, which permits marriages in international waters outside the 12-mile territorial limits of any nation. A number of Royal Caribbean ships are flagged in the Bahamas, which allows the line to offer legal nuptials aboard ship.
Royal Caribbean offers a Romance at Sea package that includes the ceremony, flowers, a freshly baked cake and music. It’s free when the wedding party books 12 or more staterooms on a cruise of five days or longer.
Another option is exchanging vows at a stop along the cruise route. The setting might be a house of worship in a bustling port city or an unspoiled tropical beach.
“I was on a tour in Greece and a wedding party went off to ancient Olympia to get married,” Gravett says. “How cool is that?”
Couples also can say “I do” at port before they set sail, then bring the wedding party on board ship for a reception. The upside is the cost, an average of $5,000 compared to $28,000 for nuptials at a venue on terra firma, according to the Wedding Experience, a Florida-based firm that specializes in cruise weddings.
The downside is that the reception likely will be short, no more than three hours, because guests need to disembark before the ship sails. Also, the guest list might max out at 50 people, though the largest ships can accommodate 150 well-wishers. Some lines don’t allow couples to bring their own live music or a professional photographer.
Celebrity offers open-air weddings on the deck of ships in port, with couples exchanging vows under a billowing white canopy. On Princess, chapels are equipped with webcams so newlyweds can share their joy with friends and family at home.