Today's cruise ships come with built in chapels
for weddings at sea.
Weddings at a port of call can also be arranged,
including transportation for the group.
The sky is the limit with wedding themes and
photo ops onboard.
Our own wedding day in Miami, 20 years
Destination weddings have become a huge trend in recent
years. More and more couples are looking for innovative ways and exotic locales
to tie the knot, inviting families and friends to share in the moment. Much has
been written about weddings held at resorts on sunny isles, with palm-fringed
backdrops and shoeless guests on white sand beaches. But weddings at sea
haven’t been as prominently featured and I would like to weigh in on this
subject in this week's column, with some personal experience of my own.
20 years ago my husband and I were married on a ship in
Miami. As you know I am an avid cruiser, so when it came to planning our
wedding, a cruise was a no-brainer for us. We were married onboard the ship
before it sailed, then our families and friends joined us on a wonderful
Onboard ships in 1995, the only wedding venue was the
library. The room was decorated with 2 waist-high styrofoam pillars topped with
silk flower arrangements. Banquet chairs were placed in the room to seat
guests. My taped wedding march was played on a ghettoblaster sitting in the
corner of the room. But it was oh so glamorous at the time!
Today, many ships have specially built chapels with
proper pews and decor, some even come with webcams so that the wedding can be
broadcast to those at home who aren't able to join the cruise. The Captain has
also been given the power to conduct weddings which can be performed while the
ship is at sea. This was not possible back in my day.
Trying to capture the wedding market, each cruise line
has extensive packages to suit the bride and groom. The sky is the limit really
- customized flowers, cake, photography, elaborate receptions and banquets can
all be arranged for the perfect day. All arrangements are made through
professional wedding planners either contracted by the cruise line, or are part
of the cruise line's own in-house department.
If the couple still wishes to have their wedding on a
beach, arrangements can be made to have the ceremony take place during a port
of call, complete with transportation for the group and all pertinent details
catered to. No matter where the nuptials take place, wedding planners ensure
the couple is aware of the legalities in obtaining all the necessary papers.
I still remember the only 3 decisions we had to make for
our wedding: the colour of the ribbon on my bouquet, the flavour of our wedding
cake and the colour of the icing flowers on the cake. Everything else from the
justice of the peace, photographer and reception was taken care of. Whether
simple or elaborate, the best part is that the marrying couple makes all the
arrangements with the wedding planners directly, thus sparing the travel agent
from Bridezilla moments.
With weddings naturally come group travellers, typically
multi-generational families and friends who may be new to cruising. It is a
wonderful way to introduce new cruisers to the experience who otherwise might
not have sailed. And of course, every anniversary milestone presents a future
opportunity to get the couple (and the group) back for more cruises. We had a
group on our 10th anniversary cruise and will have another one this year for
our 20th. Again, it's all about turning your clients into annuities by securing
their future business.
If you are an agency selling a lot of destination
weddings, I encourage you to look at cruise weddings. A cruise might be more
complicated to sell than a land vacation, but the guest satisfaction is so much
higher. Cruise lines have dedicated web pages or microsites on their wedding
programs and Business Development Managers are available to help - including
hosting consumer nights to provide potential participants with details and
handle questions. With TCs, group amenity points and high commissions, you will
be on your way to more lucrative groups by selling weddings at sea.
Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’
experience in the industry and has sailed on 36 cruises and counting. Based in
Vancouver, Ming is Owner of Your Cruise Coach Consulting.