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Yes Captain, I Do

May 22, 2012 By: Susan Young


Kayaking in Hobart Bay
Princess Cruises’ “Love Boats” have long been associated with romance and weddings at sea.


Tying the knot at sea just got easier. On April 29, Barry and Denise Maloney of Lancashire in the United Kingdom were married by Captain Kevin Oprey on the Queen Mary 2 as it sailed the North Atlantic en route from Southampton to New York. It was Cunard Line’s first wedding at sea.

Can’t all captains marry people at sea? The answer is no. The legality—or not—of a marriage at sea performed by a captain is all about the “ship’s flag.” Essentially, marriage is regulated by the laws of the country where the ship is registered. For example, Bermuda and Malta are among the few countries that have such a law allowing captains to marry guests at sea.

Getting married onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth as they’re sailing the world’s oceans is now possible because the luxury line just dropped its U.K. registry and re-flagged its ships. All now fly the Bermudian flag and are registered in that country.

To maintain exclusivity and control the process at sea, Cunard will allow only one wedding per day on each ship; couples may choose either 11 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. Ceremonies will also take place on days at sea. Cunard will assist the bride with the services of an onboard wedding coordinator so the couple’s wishes can be met on everything from hairstyling, makeup and manicures in the spa, to the wedding ceremony itself, as well as photography and video, and a post-nuptials wedding reception.

Cunard’s new Wedding Package includes a ceremony conducted by the ship’s captain, traditional wedding music, a White Star Bellman to escort the bride, floral arrangements, Veuve Clicquot Champagne and a wedding cake. Priority check-in and luggage delivery are among the many other perks. The line’s Wedding Package is priced at $2,500, plus a $575 marriage license fee. Other extras and customized services may be added as part of Cunard’s “Finishing Touches” program.

More Weddings at Sea

For agents and their clients, Cunard is the latest big-ship line to roll out the wedding-at-sea welcome mat. Most cruise lines offer a selection of wedding packages or options for cruise guests who want to get married on a ship at dock in a port, or off the ship within a port destination. Few, though, offer weddings at sea in international waters, due to their flag status.

For decades, thousands of couples have gotten married at sea onboard the Bermudian-flagged “Love Boats” of Princess Cruises. The line offers Weddings at Sea packages on all ships. On many ships, the bride and groom may tie the knot in a dedicated onboard wedding chapel; if the ship has no chapel, the ceremony is usually performed in one of the onboard lounges.

Using Princess’ “Tie the Knot at Sea” package, a wedding couple will receive the services of a wedding coordinator as well as a candlelit ceremony with pre-recorded wedding music and officiating by the captain. The package also covers two floral arrangements, a rose bouquet for the bride, boutonniere for the groom, services of a photographer and/or videographer, a 16-by-20-inch wall portrait, a nine-inch wedding cake, bottle of champagne with keepsake flutes, and a keepsake wedding certificate. The cost for this package is $1,800 plus a $455 license fee and any witness fees.

Princess is also able to tap into state-of-the-art, Web-cam technology so it can broadcast a wedding chapel ceremony “live” to interested family and friends at home. Even those close to the couple, but not able to sail, may watch and be a part of the wedding.

Getting into the wedding-at-sea business more recently are Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. Both re-flagged their ships to Maltese registry and now marry couples at sea on all ships except Celebrity Xpedition.

Both lines refer couples wanting to marry on their ships to “The Wedding Experience,” a wedding planning group. A “Nautical Nuptials at Sea” package for either line begins at $2,500, exclusive of licensing and regulatory fees that are separate. The package includes a captain-led ceremony, services of an onboard event coordinator, live music, one hour of photography (the photos themselves are extra), a wedding cake, champagne, bouquet and boutonniere, plus such romantic amenities as rose petals on the bed on the wedding night and chocolate-covered strawberries. Licensing and regulatory fees are additional from the package price.

Celebrity Reflection, setting sail later this year, has a new feature that will appeal to some couples planning a wedding at sea. The ship will feature an entirely new, 2,853-square-foot, multifunctional space on Deck 4 that can serve as a spacious ballroom or conference area, or be divided into smaller areas. It can accommodate 220 guests in the ballroom or conference layout, 96 guests in a banquet layout, or 64 guests each in small classroom-size layouts. The entire area will be equipped with four 70-inch LCD TVs, installed such that each individual space is equipped with one of them.

Plan Well in Advance

Some other lines, including P&O Cruises, also offer weddings at sea. Advance planning is critical. Cruise lines advise that couples book the wedding packages well in advance. One reason? The number of ceremonies that are performed on each cruise may be limited by the captain’s schedule, especially in popular months, such as May, June, September or October.

Still, the options for sea-based weddings are more robust than last year, given Cunard’s entry. A wedding at sea can be highly affordable, compared with similar land-based choices. So, when clients want to say, “Yes captain, I do,” open the bubbly to celebrate and then put them in touch with the right cruise line so they can begin planning their dream wedding at sea.



Princess Cruises’ Love Boats
Cunard’s first wedding at sea, April 29, aboard Queen Mary 2; From left: Newlyweds Barry and Denise Maloney with Captain Kevin Oprey.


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About the Author

Susan Young
A veteran of 100-plus cruises, Susan J. Young, is senior contributing editor for cruises – covering ocean, river and niche cruises for Travel Agent and

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By Susan Young | May 22, 2012
Cunard joins a growing number of cruise lines that perform nuptials onboard.