February 12, 2024

15 Things You Need to Know for Your Cruise Wedding | Florida Wedding Photographer

Destination Wedding, Wedding

Are you considering a cruise wedding but don't know where to start? This post may be helpful to you! As soon as I sat down with my fiancé and we started making wedding plans we knew that a cruise wedding was what we wanted. I always imagined getting married on a beautiful beach with turquoise waters close by and soft sand underneath our feet. My husband and I had also fallen in love with cruising so a cruise wedding seemed perfect for us! However, my searches on Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube didn't leave me with a lot of inspiration. This was 2015 so you can find A LOT more inspiration out there today but I wanted to create a list to get you started! Here are my top 15 things to do when planning a cruise wedding!


Sit down with everyone who will be contributing to the cost of your wedding and settle on a budget. Make sure everyone is on the same page!


There are many cruise lines to choose from and most of them offer wedding packages! Take some time with your fiancé and look at different cruise lines, ships, and the wedding packages they offer. When considering a cruise line and ship, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you choose the best fit:

  • What port does your ship leave from?
  • How long of a cruise are you looking for? Some family members might not be able to go on a long cruise.
  • Will anyone be bringing any small children? If so, a larger ship with activities for the children is ideal.


Most cruise lines offer you an option to get married on the cruise ship or at port. For me, I knew I wanted a beach wedding so I knew I wanted a ceremony while the ship was at port in The Bahamas! How can you pass up an opportunity to exchange vows with your family and friends with those gorgeous turquoise waters as your backdrop! It was absolutely stunning and I don't have any regrets! An advantage of having your wedding ceremony and reception at port is that non-cruising family members can still attend your wedding! However, one big disadvantage to getting married at port is the weather. If your cruise ship cannot make port due to weather conditions you will not be able to have your ceremony. Make sure you look into the destination you wish to get married in because some ports have different requirements to get legally married there. Some locations require you to be there for over 24 hours (sailing in the waters counts) but some destinations have longer requirements.


The most common question I get asked when talking about cruise weddings is "should I book the ships wedding package or book everything on my own?". While the ships packages are nice and can sometimes save you some money, I recommend using private vendors! For me, the one deciding factor was a photographer. If you book your wedding through the cruise line you have to use their photographer and you will not know how your photos will turn out. You will not get to see their work before your wedding. Do they have more of a documentary style of capturing weddings or do they prefer super posed portraits? Do they edit light and airy or dark and moody? Do they have experience shooting in harsh light (most common for beach weddings) and low light situations? If you use a private photographer you will get to see their work before you decide to book them. You will get to talk to them and send them inspiration. They will even help you plan a timeline for your day!

The cruise ship wedding options can be very limited. If you have a vision for your wedding and you love planning the small details then private vendors are the way to go! You will customize everything about your day and make it perfect. From the location, wedding cake, flowers, decor, food, drinks, linen, and everything in between. Planning a destination wedding is a lot of work so find a local wedding planner in the area who will know all the local wedding vendors and will help you find the best fit.


As with any wedding (local or destination) one of the most important decisions to make after selecting your wedding date (or at least month/season) is to reserve your venue! With a cruise wedding this can be more difficult. If you wish to get married on the ship you need to find a sailing for your wedding date. Remember cruise lines will not let your ceremony be on an embarkation or debarkation day. If you would like a wedding at port you will need to find a ship that visits that port during the time frame you wish to get married. If you are not 100% set on a location then you will have more flexibility in your choice of cruise. Please remember to take hurricane season into consideration when choosing your wedding date and port.


Finding a photographer is the second significant decision you will make for your wedding. You might be thinking "Really, a photographer?" and I have to say "Yes, your wedding photographer". Think about it, after your wedding day is over you will want those memories to look at and remember that day! You need a photographer that will not only capture your wedding day but who will curate all of your portraits into a beautiful album that will tell a story from start to finish! Don't just download your portraits and let them live on your computer and social media! I have been married for 7 years and I still occasionally look back at our wedding album and smile. I remember the excitement of marrying the man I wanted to start a family with, our beautiful venue that I absolutely loved, all of the small details that I worked so hard to perfect, and seeing all of our friends and family who traveled across the ocean to celebrate with us! We don't have the flowers, the food, the cake, the champagne, my dress (I donated it to a company that makes Angel Gowns), or the linens from our wedding. All we have to remember that day is our custom cake topper, a container of sand from the beach, and our treasured wedding album!

Don't just find a photographer, but find the perfect photographer for you! There are several things to consider when finding a photographer that's a good fit such as budget, style, experience, etc. The perfect photographer for you will be there to answer any questions during the planning process and be your best friend on your wedding day. I highly recommend that you not only find someone with beautiful work but also someone that offers albums and backs up all their digitals. This way, if life happens, you will be able to contact them and they will have all of your portraits on their hard drive.


When planning a cruise wedding you will want to let your guests know your plans as soon as possible, so that they can have time to prepare or take off from work. I suggest booking your cruise one year in advance to give your family and friends time to book without fear of it being sold out. You can also call the cruse line and let them know that you will be cruising as a group. They will reserve the needed rooms close together for you. Group rates will also save your guests money on their cruise booking depending on what other promotions are being offered at the time. You can do this even if you are NOT getting married with one of their wedding packages!


When it comes to a cruise wedding there are a lot of little details that your guests will need to know. On your wedding website be sure to include hotel information, what documents will be needed to board the ship (passport or ID/birth certificate), directions to the cruise port, where to meet for the wedding, and any other information that they can find helpful. When it comes to cruise weddings, you can't share too many instructions! Make sure you also put your and your fiancé's cell phone numbers there in case they need to get ahold of you fast.


Don't plan on bringing all of the items with you on the cruise. You will be rushed and will have too many other things to think about. Send all items to your wedding planner with plenty of time to spare and they will have everything ready for you when you and your guests disembark at your wedding port. Items we sent to our planner included: customized sand dollars, the wedding cake topper, guest book, Instax camera, table numbers, arch decor, and menus. The only items we brought with us on the ship were the welcome bags for our guests (more on what was included in those below).


Make sure you know who will be helping with your hair and makeup before your wedding cruise. Most ships have a wellness spa and hair/nail services but make sure you book your appointment on the first day of your cruise. Most cruise lines will not let you book before you get on the cruise ship. On the first day of our cruise I booked an appointment and they were more than happy to open earlier and do my hair the morning of my wedding. Another option is to hire a hair stylist and makeup artist and bring them on board with you! This is the more expensive option but worth it if you have a hair and makeup artist that you absolutely love!


This is a do as I say and not as I do moment for sure! I confess, my husband and I have been on a lot of cruises and we always arrive to the city the day of our cruise departure! Please do not do this! Things happen and you will be better able to deal with any last minute incidences if you give yourself plenty of time to spare. For our cruise wedding, the wedding party, my fiancé, and myself all drove from Atlanta, GA (we didn't live in Florida yet) to Miami, FL. We left the night before our cruise departure date in three separate vehicles. It was about 2:00 AM when one of the vehicles blew a tire! Thankfully, everyone was safe and we were able to arrange for a tow truck to pick up the car and everyone piled into the two vehicles to continue on. We still arrived at the cruise terminal a few hours early but things could have definitely been worse! Once we were on the ship I learned that my mom's plane was delayed and she had to rush to the cruise terminal. Thankfully, she made it in time. I don't know how I would have felt if my mom missed my wedding. So again, don't do this! This isn't just a cruise vacation. It's your dream wedding!


Everyone wants to make sure you enjoy your sailing so it is a special time for you! Let guest services know that you are getting married and you might be surprised to find some extra bottles of champagne in your room! You might get extra dessert too! Your wedding is a big deal so let the cruise line pamper you!


Cruise lines offer so many activities for you to do with your group! Make sure you plan ahead if you would like to do any excursions and make sure those excursions are safe and age appropriate for everyone who would like to join. And remember, there are plenty of free things to do together as well!


If your wedding ceremony and reception is at port, you will need to plan ahead and book transportation from the port to the location and back. Make sure you communicate with them so they know when the ship will be arriving at the port and when the ship is scheduled to depart. Your wedding planner can also help with this! Get back to your ship early and don't cut it close. My husband and I reserved a limo for the wedding party and a private bus (with AC because it was hot!) for all of our guests. Make sure someone in the group is looking out for your guests so no one is accidentally left behind.

15: RELAX!

I should really write this one in a bigger font because it is often forgotten about! Do something fun with your fiancé. Just the two of you! Wedding planning can be insanely stressful. Take some time to relax, reconnect, and remember why you're getting hitched in the first place!

Guest welcome bags given on our cruise!