I am long overdue sharing my story about our cruise wedding. My hubby and I were married on February 18, 2019 aboard the Liberty of the Seas via the Vows at Sea wedding package. Overall our day was great. We loved getting married on a cruise and would do it again. That said, there were several hiccups that were not deal breakers but annoyances that I will forever remember.
Why did we choose to cruise?
My hubby and I started to plan our wedding in January 2017 after we had gotten engaged in October 2017. We were living in Boston and frustrated by the high cost of venues in MA. My hubby (Jim) has been a lifelong Disney fan so after flirting with doing a Disney wedding (too expensive) and a Disney cruise wedding (still too expensive) we settled on a cruise on a regular line. I had grown up cruising with my parents as a kid and had always enjoyed it. Prior to our wedding, Jim had never been on a cruise
Why did we choose Royal Caribbean?
We chose Royal Caribbean because they can perform legal at marriages (vs. symbolic) unlike some other cruise lines. We've both always loved the ocean, so we decided on the Vows at Sea package.
How did we get started?
First, we narrowed down the week we wanted to cruise. We have a lot of friends who are teachers, so we chose February vacation week. After we nailed down a week, we did picked a few different ships/itineraries we wouldn't mind doing. I completely nerded out here and a did a full-on cost vs. benefits/features analysis on each ship. After settling on a few different cruises, we called the Royal Events Line and were able to get them to confirm that the date we wanted to get married was available. This was slightly stressful because they can't offer a lot of info and someone could very well call after you and book the date. We ended up choosing the Liberty of the Seas (LOS) because it had been re done a couple of years ago and boasted features like water slides, ice skating, and the Wave Runner. We also loved their chapel- very small and intimate as well as bright and sunny. At the end of the day it came to cost, we got a lot of the "fun stuff" you see on ships like the Allure and Oasis on the LOS but for WAY less!!! As soon as we booked the cruise, we called Royal Ocean events back to lock in our date. They emailed us the Contract and Credit Card authorization forms which we were told to fill out and email back in order to reserve our date. They will hold your wedding date for 72 hours while they wait for these forms back. After they process the paperwork/charge you you are assigned a wedding coordinator who will reach out to you. They estimated that this would take 2 weeks. In reviewing my emails, we sent the paperwork in on Jan 19 and someone reached out to us on March 12 (7 weeks vs. 2 weeks). I'll call this hiccup 1.
Once you have a coordinator then what?
Well honestly, not a whole lot. This was probably one of the easiest weddings to plan. Ever. We had a call with our coordinator to review the paperwork. The paperwork is about 10 pages long and relatively straight forward. Our biggest concern through everything was the food. We have severe food allergies in our group, and it was my top priority to make sure no one would get sick (more on that later). We were assured that the food allergies would not be a problem. The paperwork wasn't due until 90 days before we cruised so we had lots of time to fill it out and took our time doing so. The paperwork contains everything you need from the details of your ceremony and wedding party, to food, booze, and music.
So, what did you do in the meantime?
I mostly focused on getting save the dates out, setting up a group with a travel agent, booking our guests, and then the traditional wedding things like buying a dress/tux, bridesmaid dresses, getting invitations out, etc. We ended up not bringing any decorations with us- we felt comfortable with what RCCL had on board. I worked with a shop on Etsy to create silk flower bouquets. RCCL only offers roses on day 1 or 2 of your cruise and I am not a fan of roses plus they are SUPER expensive. I paid less than $450 for 6 bouquets, 6 boutonnieres, and 2 corsages. I am happy to share the shop with anyone interested. During this in-between time, we not only went through one but TWO coordinators at Royal Ocean Events. To say the turnover is high is an understatement. They request all communications to be kept together in 1 threaded email and I understand why! After we submitted our final paperwork (selections and marriage license) they processed everything. The selections went to the boat and the marriage license to the Bahamian government. We received confirmation before we left that our papers had been approved by the Bahamian government before we left which was reassuring.
OK- fast forward to our paperwork being submitted and us leaving/boarding for our cruise.
We booked a suite and would do the same thing all over again. We ended up sailing with 30 guests and it became our hub and central meeting point. There are no bridal suites/getting reads rooms on board so having the suite served as the perfect location for my bridal party and I to get ready. On the day we boarded the ship, we found a letter in our room from our on-board coordinator asking us to meet him at 4:30PM to review the details of the day. The name of our onboard coordinator was Leonardo (Leo). Prior to boarding we were told that some coordinators will announce the names of the wedding party entering while others won't because of their varying degrees of the English language. It's up to their discretion. Fortunately for us, Leo was a real pro who had done this many times. If you end up with Leo you are in good hands! I decided that I wanted to hair salon to do my hair, so I had an appointment for a haircut on embarkation day and explained that I was getting married the next day. I shared photos of what I wanted my hair to look like and we were off and running with no issues! The planners will tell you that the ships spas don't officially do make up and to be prepared to do your own. It all depends on if they have people on board who have makeup artistry skills- they don't hire makeup artists but will have hair stylists who are also trained to do make up so it's not a guarantee. I was fortunate and when I made my hair appointment, they confirmed that they could also do my makeup! This was honestly the biggest relief of the entire experience.
Day of the wedding timeline
6am- Hubby and I are wide awake, so we get up and get breakfast
9am- I have my hair appointment at the spa
10am- I have my make-up appointment at the spa
11:15am- I finish hair and makeup and head back to our suite to get ready with the rest of my bridal party
12:30pm- Photographer arrives to take "getting ready" photos. They will do this for you if you ask on your selections. There's an additional charge of $150 for this because they need to hire a second person to be in the room. Prior to my arrival they had been doing ready getting photos with my hubby in a second room and this is where hiccup 2 happened. There was never a second person who showed up to accompany the photographer, so they were late getting started. In the end it was Leo who was the second spotter for my hubby. When timing got tight to the start of the ceremony he left and left us alone with the photographer. With the exception of the bridal party and I all guests were asked to be present for 12:30pm
12:50pm- They call for my bridesmaids and I to start heading to the chapel
1:00pm- Ceremony starts on time
1:09pm- We were officially married at sea by 2nd in command Autun
1:30pm- We head to Olive and Twist for our reception
Overall the ceremony is pretty uncomplicated and quick. We chose to say traditional vows and do a ring exchange. We also had my hubby’s father say a blessing before we kicked everything off. We were done and had all the paperwork signed in 20 min.
This is where we had most of our issues. We opted for 3 hours of open bar so that drinks would already be poured and waiting for our guests when we arrived at 1:30pm after the ceremony. Hiccup 3. They did not have enough staff to handle the amount of drinks our guests were looking for. To start it was only 1 server and guests were unable to get drinks up at the bar. After hubby complained they brought on a second server and the whole process became much faster. We found out early that the DJ for whatever reason did not have our music for our dances (first, mother/son, father/bride). In the forms you indicate the songs and they will provide them for the day of. Fortunately, we had Wi-Fi and were able to download them quickly. This was hiccup 4. In addition to the drink/music hiccups, we also had a hiccup with the food. I exclusively ordered food that was gluten free due to severe allergies with several of my guests. I cannot tell you how many times I cited the need for the labeling of all ingredients on the food not only to the pre-cruise planners but also the planner once onboard. I was assured every time that they would be able to accommodate us with no problems. One of the appetizers was marked as gluten free and then served on normal gluten filled crackers. Hiccup 4. No one got sick because we are all very diligent in checking our food and could tell by the way it looked that it was not gluten free. When I asked the planner to double check with the kitchen, he told me everything was gluten free before checking. I asked him to check again and this is when he confirmed it was in fact not gluten free. Overall the food was very good- my advice is if you have food allergies to contend with, check on everything with a careful eye. I do have to give them props for the cake- they made us a 3-tier cake (included in the package) that was entirely gluten free and had multiple flavors in it. After ~45 min at our ceremony we left to take photos around the ship. We took photos for ~1 hour -1.5hours. We’re so glad we have the photos we do but everything felt rushed and we missed most of our ceremony which is our one regret.
I was surprised how easy this process was- big props to Royal Ocean events here. We sent our paperwork in in the fall and found out at the start of the new year that they’d been accepted by the Bahamian government. We received our marriage license about 8 weeks after our wedding. One hiccup with the license was that when we submitted the paperwork, I hadn’t had my birthday yet and we had also moved. Prior to the license being issued, they asked us to confirm all the data and I brought these 2 things up. They said that they had passed the info along, yet the marriage license still arrived with my incorrect age and address on it.
Guest Gift Bags
I didn’t give our guests gifts at the wedding, but I did give everyone “welcome onboard” bags that had cruise must haves. The bags contained pens, post it notes, Dramamine, Excedrin, electrolytes, downy wrinkle releaser, shout wipes, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen.
I found some basic ideas online from past brides but created my own. Happy to share! I included info on the itinerary, wedding day info, and general cruise info.
How was our planning experience?
Overall, the planning experience was pretty painless compared to some of the past wedding reviews I've read using Royal Ocean events. I've always been a planner and to say I was nervous about the entire experience would be an understatement- especially after all the negative things I'd read about Royal Ocean events. Minus the few issues which we were able to resolve quickly everything ran pretty seamlessly. This is a great option If you are relatively relaxed. For someone who needs to be involved in every decision, the process can be hard because there is so little communication and high reliance on planners sending the right information over. If I had to do it all over again, we would still choose to get married in the same fashion. My advice would be to be really tight with your paperwork and know what you want. Don’t be afraid to be a pain and reach out for updates when you want them. I didn’t go crazy with decorations and focused my energy on dresses, gifts for the wedding party, invitations/STDs, flowers, welcome letter, and guest gift bags.
Mulligan Wedding Welcome Letter FINAL.pdf