Sunday's New York Times devoted its Practical Traveler column to this topic, Saving by Tying the Knot at Sea. The pitch here is that couples can save money over a lubberly wedding ashore, and combine it with the honeymoon. But Michelle Higgins does a great job of touching on the potential obstacles couples can encounter.
While cruise lines advertise their weddings at sea as a straightforward package, there are other unique considerations couples must contend with when planning a cruise wedding. For one, only a few cruise lines — Princess, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises — have captains who can legally perform the ceremony. These lines have ships registered in Bermuda and Malta, which recognize marriages in international waters. So couples who choose to be married at sea with Celebrity, for example, will receive a marriage license from Malta.
Most other shipboard ceremonies take place in the port on the day of departure. This allows a local officiant to perform the ceremony and guests who don’t plan to sail with the couple to come aboard for the wedding and leave before the cruise embarks. Also, while it’s possible that a ship will need to skip a port of call for weather or other reasons, it’s unlikely the cruise will change the embarkation port.
Even if there are no glitches, choosing a port of call to be married in outside the United States can be tricky as each has its own legal requirements. Some destinations, like Belize and St. Maarten, require couples to undergo a waiting period of 3 and 10 days respectively to process an application. Others like the Cayman Islands have no residency requirements. “Honestly, we think you should just go to City Hall first,” said Carley Roney, editor in chief of theknot.com, a wedding Web site, which lists marriage license requirements for popular destinations.