I have been wanting to write a post about our Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea for a few months. In August, Laurence and I got married at sea aboard the Cunard Queen Mary 2 ship as we sailed from New York City to England. We had struggled for a few months to decide on a wedding location given that we have different nationalities, residences, and family and friends spread out across the world. We already wanted to do a transatlantic cruise aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 as a way to get to the UK and once we booked this, we decided to also hold our wedding here. We were married by the ship’s captain, Captain Kevin Oprey, about halfway between the United States and England while sailing on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a wonderful experience for us, but a wedding at sea is not for everyone though. We’ll share our thoughts on things to know before you plan your wedding at sea (whether with Cunard or another cruise company), what arrangements are available aboard the Cunard Queen Mary 2, and share details about our own Queen Mary 2 wedding.
Things to Know Before you Plan your Cunard Wedding at Sea
Before deciding on a cruise ship wedding, it is good to weigh the pros and cons of a wedding at sea against your other options. Many of the pros and cons are similar to those of a regular destination wedding; however, there are some that are more specific to a cruise ship wedding. Once you decide you want to do a wedding aboard a cruise ship, you should then decide whether one of the Cunard ships is the best fit for you and your wedding party or if another cruise line may be better. You’ll also need to ensure that your preferred cruise line is able to provide a wedding ceremony that will be legally recognized in your home country. We’ll provide information based on our own research and experiences to help you decide whether a cruise ship wedding is a good choice for you and all the basic information for planning a Cunard wedding at sea.
Is a Wedding at Sea a Good Fit? What are the Pros and Cons of a Cruise Ship Wedding?
The first thing you want to make sure about is whether a wedding at sea is a good fit for you and your partner. If you want to have wedding guests, you’ll also need to take them into account when planning your wedding. Below is a list of pros and cons based on our experience and these are not specific to Cunard but apply to cruise ship weddings in general.
Cruise Ship Wedding Pros
- The wedding packages on cruise ship are set up to be as easy and hassle-free as possible. The couple typically just needs to book the cruise, book the wedding package, fill out some paperwork, and make a few decisions about on-board wedding arrangements prior to the cruise. Then most other aspects (depending on your package) will be handled by dedicated cruise staff concerning obtaining the wedding certificate, booking the venue, catering, decorating, flowers, music, photography, etc. This is great for couples who don’t have a need to attend to every single detail of their wedding ceremony and celebration.
- Couples typically only need to provide 4 months or less notice to book a cruise wedding package which is less time than is needed to book popular wedding venues in many places.
- The cost of a wedding package on most cruise ships along with standard cruise fares for two is less expensive than the average American or British wedding.
- Getting married aboard a ship is a unique and romantic venue option. It may be particularly special for those couples who love ships, travel, and/or cruising.
- You can get married by a captain on most cruises!
- There can be great photography and videography options on cruises as you have access to so many locations on the cruise ship, both interior and exterior venues. Depending on your cruise, you may also be able to take wedding and honeymoon photos at exotic port of call destinations throughout your cruise.
- For most couples, holding a wedding aboard a ship or at a cruise ship port of call also means that they have a built-in honeymoon so there is no need to book a separate honeymoon trip. You also have a special reason to cruise again to celebrate anniversaries.
Cruise Ship Wedding Cons
- The biggest deal breaker for most couples is that a cruise can really limit the number of people who are able or willing to attend the wedding. Many people are not willing to travel for a destination wedding, may not have the available time to complete a full cruise, or may not be able to afford the cruise costs. Cruise weddings also requires advanced planning by guests in terms of booking travel, booking the cruise, and getting needed travel documents in order.
- The legality of a wedding at sea can be tricky, so please consult all the Terms and Conditions of the provided wedding contract and consult legal advice in your home country before booking if the legality of the ceremony is important to you.
- The cost of a wedding package on most cruise ships is much less expensive than the average American or British wedding; however, when you factor in travel costs, optional extra add-ons, and the cruise fares it can be quite costly for some couples. There are definitely more budget-friendly options out there when you consider in the United States you can elope at a courthouse or town hall for about $100 in most states.
- One needs to plan ahead at least 3 months for most cruise ship weddings to ensure that all legal paperwork is taken care of, so this is not a last-minute elopement option.
- It can be very difficult to have a religious ceremony at sea, especially a Catholic ceremony. Even though many cruise ships have a chaplain or priest aboard for chapel services, they are typically unable to conduct a wedding at sea. With determination and planning, couples on some cruise lines have brought their own religious officiant and/or chosen to get married in a church/religious building at a scheduled port of call to ensure it complies with religious regulations.
- Most wedding at sea are not legal for same-sex couples so options are much more limited in terms of cruise companies and cruise ships.
- A wedding at sea is probably not the best idea for those who have never taken a cruise before. Some people love cruising, some people absolutely hate it. Your wedding is not the best time to find out you fall in the latter camp.
- A wedding at sea or destination cruise wedding is set up to be as easy and hassle-free as possible for the couple; however, this also means that your choice of venues, catering options, flowers, ceremony length, etc. are limited. There are typically pre-set options for most wedding aspects and there are not infinite possibilities as there might be if you are planning your own wedding on land. Last minute changes are often not possible and the wedding coordinator is limited to resources available on the ship. Those who would like to attend to all aspects of their wedding may think twice about booking a cruise ship wedding.
- Weather and cruise schedule changes can really impact a cruise wedding so be sure to have a back-up option if you are choosing either an outdoor on-board venue or particularly a venue at a port of call. For instance, if bad weather cancels your port of call at Cabo or St. Thomas you will want to have a solid back-up plan discussed with your on-board wedding coordinator. Also know your options in the unusual situation that your cruise or wedding is cancelled or altered by the cruise company.
- The wedding couple is stuck on board a ship with a lot of strangers and their entire wedding party for the duration of the cruise (although a couple of cruise lines offer fly-in packages so guests can meet you at a port of call). So if you have wedding guests, make sure that you are OK with the idea of spending your honeymoon with all of them. Also the rest of the people on board the ship are paying to have a good time on their cruise and won’t necessary care that it is your wedding or honeymoon cruise, so don’t necessarily expect special treatment from other passengers (be appreciative when you get it though!).
Is a Cunard Wedding at Sea a Good Fit?
Cunard is not the only the only cruise company offering weddings at sea, and there are many other cruise lines offering to perform legal wedding ceremonies so you should definitely explore your options before making a choice, especially if you have not cruised with Cunard before. Here is a Cruise Critic post that lists many of the cruise lines that offer weddings at sea, and honestly most cruise lines offer wedding packages because it is a valuable source of revenue. It is good to specifically look at what is actually included in the wedding packages as some include a lot of extras and some only include more basic things. I think that Cunard has become a choice for couples who like more traditional venues and experiences, for those who are a bit older, and for those wanting something a bit more formal with Old World style. Most couples getting married on Cunard ships, like its passengers, are British or American. We loved the cruise and our wedding, but I think some couples would find the Cunard ships a bit “stuffy” and too traditional as many offerings are geared to older guests. Younger couples may find cruise lines like Carnival a better fit, couples with children may consider Disney, those wanting to get married in an on-board chapel might consider Carnival or Princess, and same-sex couples looking for a legal ceremony might check out Norwegian. Many of the other cruise lines offer destination weddings packages that include a wedding ceremony in one of the cruise ports of call for those wanting to get married off of the ship, such in the Bahamas or Caribbean. Cruise wedding packages tend to range from about $800 to $4,000 with Carnival and Holland America offering some of the most budget-friendly packages.
Which Cunard Cruise Ship is the Best Fit for me?
There are currently three Cunard boats doing weddings on board: Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and the Queen Mary 2. All three ships are built to remind travelers a bit of the Golden Age of travel and all have a traditional British elegance with modern fixtures. All also have class-based dining, meaning that where you dine is based on your cabin type. All the ships offer the same wedding package, although the wedding at sea package is more expensive aboard the Queen Mary 2 (currently about $600 higher).The cruise staff told us that the Queen Mary 2 performs the most weddings. The Queen Mary 2 is the oldest and most traditional and the newer ships are a bit more modern. I would check out photos and information on the Cunard website as well as independent photo and cruise reviews, such as those on Cruise Critic and other cruise websites, for each of the three ships and look at photos to see which one might best suit your preferences. Size may also be important depending on whether you’d rather be on a huge cruise ship like the Queen Mary 2 or a smaller one like the Queen Victoria or Elizabeth. Out of the three, the Queen Mary 2 is the largest (capacity: ~2,620 passengers) and oldest, Queen EIizabeth is the second largest (capacity: ~2,092 passengers ) and youngest, and Queen Victoria is the smallest (capacity: ~2,014 passengers) and was launched in 2007. The cruise itineraries are obvious a large factor in deciding which to choose and the schedules for each boat change each year, and they each offer cruises in locations around the world. If you are thinking of a transatlantic crossing, the Queen Mary 2 is the only ship that does these regularly and was specifically designed for these crossings although the other two tend to do these every so often as well. All three boats tend to do a world cruise each year or two, which you can join for the full tour or for portions of it.
Are Weddings Available on all Cunard Cruises?
No, but weddings are available on the majority of voyages aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Wedding ceremonies performed are a civil service conducted under Bermudian law and can only take place when the Bermudian flagged ship is on the high seas and is conducted by either the ship’s captain or deputy captain. This is why you must be on a cruise sailing that is at least 7 nights in duration and weddings can only take place on sea days. The latest Cunard wedding brochure should list which sailings allow weddings or you can call Cunard to find out.
Is a Wedding at Sea Legal?
The short answer to this is that a wedding at sea may or may not be legal for you, it depends on the terms of the wedding, the residency and nationality of the bride and groom, and in which country you want it to be recognized. Now, speaking only of the Cunard weddings the wedding ceremonies performed are a civil service conducted under Bermudian law. The Cunard weddings at sea are designed to be recognized as valid by Bermuda, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the United States, Canada, and Germany; however, there are a number of requirements you need to ensure you meet that are specified in the Cunard Terms and Conditions. Prior to booking, Cunard can provide a sample copy of the Wedding Certificate the couple will receive after their marriage so that they can use this to get legal advice. However, the burden to find out if the marriage will specifically be valid for a particular couples’ circumstances is on the bride and groom, and Cunard can not and will not provide any direct legal advice. It is highly recommended that you consult a local marriage attorney to determine if a Bermuda civil wedding at sea will be recognized. Cunard can arrange (at your request and for an additional fee) for apostilled (certified) copies of the Wedding Certificate (issued by the Registrar General in Bermuda after the marriage ceremony) that may be needed to apply for a certificate of recognition, or similar, in a couples’ home country after the wedding. For United States residents, note that marriage laws and recognition can vary state by state. Note that religious ceremonies are not possible (only civil) and that same-sex marriages are not currently legal under Bermuda law. However, renewal of vow ceremonies (with or without religious content) and civil partnership services are also available on Cunard ships that are not legally binding.
A few Additional Notes about Cunard weddings
Here are just a few things we didn’t know at the time we booked our Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea. Most you find out in the planning process, but just to let you know as it may not be obvious on the website or by reading the brochure.
- The ceremony is quite standardized in that it must follow Bermuda civil law and so it cannot for instance include any religious content, there are specific phrases that need to be said by the captain and by the couple, and one cannot write one’s own vows (there are 10 options you can choose from though to say when exchanging rings). However, couples can include readings (of non-religious content) and chose up to three pieces of their own music. Couples are responsible for obtaining and providing all copies of the readings, sheet music, and/or music CDs. The ceremony is also quite short, 20 to 30 minutes. Two witnesses are required during the ceremony, and you can designate your own wedding guests or Cunard staff will witness the wedding at no additional charge.
- There are two potential times on each available wedding date that you can book (currently 11:00am and 3:30pm); however, Cunard will only schedule one wedding per day. So this guarantees that you will not be sharing your wedding day with another couple. However, there may be another wedding, or several, taking place during your cruise.
- This depends on the Captain’s schedule and the timing of your wedding ceremony, but many wedding couples are invited to attend a dinner at the Captain’s Table (with either the Captain or Deputy Captain) at some point during their cruise. This cannot be promised but the wedding planner will try to facilitate it if possible during your cruise.
- The day after our wedding ceremony, we received a commemorative certificate, a copy of the ship’s log book, and some other memorabilia from our wedding at sea. However, these are not legal documents, and you will not receive a legal certificate during your cruise as the paperwork is processed and the marriage is registered in Bermuda and then the marriage certificate(s) are mailed to you. It can take 8-10 weeks after the cruise for these to be received by mail, so take this into account if you need the certificate for anything.
What about Renewal of Vows, Civil Partnership, and Same Sex ceremonies?
As noted above, Cunard also offers renewal of vows packages and commitment ceremony packages that are specifically designed for those not looking for a legal ceremony. These are for those who want to renew their vows or have a non legally binding civil ceremony. They are also more flexible in that one of the renewal of vow formats can contain some religious content if the couple choses and these ceremonies can also include same sex couples which is not possible with the legal Bermuda civil wedding ceremonies. These are less expensive than the wedding ceremonies ($600 to $800 for renewal of vows; $2,000 to $2,500 for commitment ceremonies), require less notice (2 months for commitment ceremonies; only 2 weeks notice or less for renewal of vows), and require less paperwork. It is possible to even book a renewal of vow ceremony once you are on the boat although this obviously depends on availability. Vow renewal ceremonies could even be planned as a surprise for your partner. Note that booked weddings and civil ceremonies are given precedent over renewal of vow ceremonies in terms of date choice as the weddings are more limited in terms of when they can legally take place.
What is Included in the Cunard Wedding at Sea Package?
The Cunard Royal Wedding at Sea packages are the same for the three ships, although the choice of venues will obviously differ. Consult the latest wedding at sea brochure or call Cunard for the specific details. But as of the 2015-2016 brochure, the following is included: a wedding ceremony venue, wedding ceremony conducted at sea by the Captain or Deputy Captain, two fresh floral arrangements for the ceremony room, pre-recorded wedding music, commemorative wedding certificate, bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne, wedding invitations and thank you cards for your wedding guests, services of your pre-voyage and on-board wedding coordinators, White Star Bellman to escort the Bride to the ceremony room, ironing services for bridal outfits, and priority check in, luggage delivery and disembarkation. Current prices are $2,800 to get married aboard the Queen Victoria or Elizabeth and $3,400 for the Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea. A wide arrange of extra services (e.g., wedding lunch and/or dinner, wedding bouquet, spa treatments, wedding cake, photography, ice sculptures) or upgraded services (e.g., live music instead of pre-recorded) are available to add to your wedding package.
Where can I find out More about Cunard Weddings at Sea?
First you can find lots of information on the Cunard ships and upcoming cruise itineraries on the Cunard website. For wedding-specific information, you can check the latest information on the Cunard special occasions website (U.S.) or Cunard special occasions (U.K.) (note that the website will re-direct depending on the country you are ). Here are links to the latest brochures: 2015-2016 Cunard Wedding at Sea brochure, 2014-2016 Cunard Commitment Ceremony brochure, or the 2015-2016 Cunard Renewal of Vow brochure. For further information or to book your ceremony, you should contact Cunard wedding staff directly by phone during business hours: +1 800 728 6273 (USA) -or- +44 (0)843 373 0305 (UK, Europe) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org (USA) -or- email@example.com (UK, Europe). Before you book, I highly recommend taking the time to set up a call with a member of the Cunard wedding team or sending them an email to ask all the questions you have and go over any details you are concerned about.
More about Cunard and the Queen Mary 2?
If you choose to book a wedding with Cunard, you might want to read up on the illustrious history of the company as Cunard just celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2015. For those who choose a wedding aboard the Queen Mary 2, I highly recommend reading a bit about her history (and that of her predecessor) before your cruise. There are several books written about the Queen Mary 2 which has a great history, and reading about it can make you feel a bit more connected to the ship. These books can also make for good reading during the cruise or as a nice welcome gift for wedding guests.
What you Need to do before a Cunard Wedding at Sea?
- First note, that you cannot arrange a Cunard wedding at sea at the last minute. The brochure we had said that booking and payment is due at least 120 days before to the departure of the voyage (this is still the case in the 2016 Cunard Wedding Brochure). However, when we booked we were told that full payment is due at least 90 days in advance of cruise departure date. So you will need to have a date booked and the full balance paid at least 90 days in advance but plan on 120 days to be safe. The sooner you book obviously the better chance you have of getting the date and cruise you want.
- Once you are certain you would like to book, you need to decide on which cruise ship and which sailing is the best fit (having a back-up is a good idea). Then contact Cunard Wedding staff to see which dates and times are available for a wedding ceremony aboard that specific cruise.
- You need to book your cruise. You can do this with the assistance of your wedding coordinator, book it directly via Cunard by phone or online, or through any third-party cruise seller such as Priceline Cruises or a travel agent.
- As soon as you book the cruise and have your voyage confirmation number, you should secure your wedding date. Cunard will allow you to put a courtesy hold on the date temporarily or you can book and pay the 25% wedding package deposit directly.
- The 25% deposit of the full amount of the wedding package is due upon booking. You will need to pay the full amount of the wedding ceremony package and license fees at least 90 days in advance.
- All the paperwork is requested to be completed at least 90 days in advance (120 days is highly recommended) to ensure that all the legal arrangements can be made for your marriage. Some of the forms are necessary for legal reasons and the other is the Planning Form which will go over all the details for the actual ceremony (venue, flower choice, chosen vows, readings, ceremony order) as well as any extras you would like to request. If you or your partner have been married before, you’ll need to provide copies of divorce decrees, death certificates and/or deed poll certificates if applicable (must be in English or translated).
- If you require additional wedding certificate copies or apostille documents (additional fees apply), request these as soon as you book your wedding in the Planning Form.
- The last step is deciding on all the so-called finishing touches or extra services you would like to add that are not included in your wedding package. So these may be things like a flower bouquet for the bride, a wedding cake, a plate of canapés for the reception, photography services, or a spa package. You’ll also be asked to specify any readings (of your choice), wedding music (your choice if you provide a CD), vows (you can choose from a list), and other ceremony details. You can also specify things like your preferred type of flowers and which room you’d like the ceremony to be held in. All requested additional services and extras will need to be paid for before your cruise (except spa services). Although we were able to add some things quite late in the planning process these were obviously subject to availability, so it is better to request things on your Planning Form than to try to add things later.
- Cancellations made by the wedding couple (not Cunard) can incur heavy cancellation fees and you will at the very least lose the 25% deposit fee. Changes can also incur fees and all changes are subject to availability so try to be as sure as possible about wanting a wedding at sea and about your chosen wedding package, date, and cruise ship.
- If you are traveling outside your own country, you and your partner will likely need to have a valid passport (and visa if necessary depending on your nationality) to travel to whatever countries are included on your voyage (e.g., for us this was the USA and United Kingdom). You may also need to put in your passport information at the time of booking depending on the company you book through. If you have a passport, make sure that your passport expiration date is at least 6 months past the date that your cruise ends. You will also need to ensure that all wedding guests also have the proper passports and visas to join you on the cruise. Note that there are some legal loopholes for cruises departing and returning to the same port (e.g., Caribbean cruises to and from the U.S.) that do not require a passport, but it is recommended that you have one anyway in case of any emergencies.
Arrangements on Board for your Queen Mary 2 Wedding
Most of your arrangements will be made prior to your sailing with your pre-cruise wedding coordinator; however, you will meet with your wedding coordinator and go over all the details and make any needed changes once you arrive on board the ship. Note that the following is written from the point of view of a couple who got married specifically on the Queen Mary 2, but most of the information should be similar for those planning a wedding at sea aboard the Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth as well.
Boarding and Disembarkation
As part of the Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea package, the wedding couple receives priority check-in, boarding, luggage service, and disembarkation privileges. Be sure to let Cunard staff know that you are a wedding couple when you arrive at the cruise terminal, and once past security you can get in the priority check-in line. At disembarkation, you will probably be included in the first group although you can disembark at any time once disembarkation begins. Make sure that before disembarkation you receive the correct priority luggage labels that correspond to the color of the first group on the list of disembarkation groups (on our cruise this was a light blue). Based on our experience, there are many Cunard staff members who are NOT aware that bridal couples are given priority status for boarding and disembarkation. Wedding guests must board and disembark based on their stateroom category and do not receive any special privileges.
Once on board, your Wedding Coordinator will arrange a convenient time to meet with you to go over the details of your wedding plan and ensure everything runs smoothly. The wedding coordinator will be a dedicated person that can help you with all arrangements and will answer any questions you have once you are on board the ship. He or she can help with everything from understanding the ceremony order to helping you book wedding day spa services to helping organize the wedding reception to making sure your disembarkation goes smoothly. The wedding coordinator can also act as a witness for your wedding if you do not have any weddings guests. In our case, our wedding coordinator was the Captain’s Secretary which I assume is the case for most Cunard weddings.
Choice of Wedding Venues on Queen Mary 2
On each Cunard ship, there are typically 2-3 rooms that are possible wedding venues. In the case of the RMS Queen Mary 2, the two most typical are The Boardroom and the Atlantic Room. The Boardroom is located through a door accessed through the Commodore Club and is a small classically furnished room that is typically recommended for wedding parties of 10 people or fewer. If you choose this venue as we did, your reception will be set up just outside in a corner of the Commodore Club as The Boardroom is quite small. In the Commodore Club, a small area was set aside for us for our reception. The Atlantic Room is a larger, semi-circular room that has a lot of windows along one side, provide sea views and can accommodate approximately 30 guests. The Atlantic Room is the place where most of the card games, particularly bridge, seem to take place during the cruise. If you have a wedding party with more than 30 guests, then another venue will have to be arranged. We know that at least one couple had their wedding ceremony in the large Winter Garden (although this room is going to be remodeled and called the Carinthia Lounge in summer of 2016). We had difficulty finding adequate photos of these rooms before our cruise (do ask the wedding coordinator pre-cruise to send you what they have), so we are sharing some below to help future couples considering a Queen Mary 2 wedding venue. Also see our wedding photos toward the end of the post for a view of the Boardroom decorated for our wedding.
There was no formal wedding rehearsal set up, although you will go over everything with your on-board wedding coordinator and be given a copy of the ceremony wording before your big day. You can of course arrange with your wedding coordinator to try to set up a wedding rehearsal, but it will not likely include the captain who keeps a very busy schedule. Note that you will have all copies of readings printed out and all the ceremony wording is said by the captain and you just have to repeat it. We did not do any sort of rehearsal but we did read over the ceremony order and wording a couple of times before our ceremony and everything went fine.
Wedding Day Ceremony Arrangements
You will have made many of the arrangements with your Cunard wedding planner prior to the cruise, and then all the arrangements will be talked about and confirmed with the on-board wedding coordinator after you arrive on the ship. A time will be scheduled for when the groom will go up to the ceremony room, and also a time when the Cunard bellman will arrive at the cabin door to escort the bride to the ceremony room. The best man or groom generally brings the wedding rings, and you or your guests can bring along any wedding readings. Once you are there, the room will have already been arranged and decorated, the photographer will be there, and all the wedding staff (captain, wedding secretary, person in charge of music). Your guests will also be asked to arrive about 15 minutes before the ceremony. Basically there is very little you need to do except get ready, bring the rings, and make it up to the ceremony room on time. After the ceremony, there will be a few documents that the bridal couple, captain, and wedding witnesses will need to sign and date. Then there will be a brief champagne toast that includes the captain and Cunard staff witnesses, and then you and your wedding guests are free to do as you wish. Most couples opt to have a cake and perhaps some canapés after the ceremony for the reception and these can be requested to be ready as soon as your ceremony ends or these can be brought later if you’d rather have them before or after your wedding lunch or dinner. If you book a photography package, your photographer will then accompany you after the ceremony and reception to various locations around the boat for photos. Many people also arrange a wedding lunch or dinner for themselves and their wedding guests on their wedding day. Your wedding coordinator will be available all day if you have any questions or encounter any problems.
Food and Catering
Most of the food and catering options are given in the wedding brochures and can be noted on the Planning Form and will be confirmed with your on-board wedding coordinator. These can include a special wedding lunch or dinner for you and your wedding guests, a special champagne afternoon tea, a wedding cake, or just wedding day chocolates. It should be noted that if you plan to have a wedding meal in one of the ship’s restaurants, it will depend on the size of your wedding party and your choice of venue about whether or not a) you can get exclusive access to an area and/or b) whether you will be provided a special menu. If you have special requests or would like help in making reservations for the on-board speciality dining restaurant, you can discuss these with either the wedding staff prior to the cruise or with your on-board wedding coordinator.
As noted, you will receive copies of the ceremony service order, a commemorative wedding certificate, a copy of the ship’s logbook, and some other memorabilia from the wedding coordinator the day after your wedding. These are great keepsakes, but they are not legal documents. After the cruise ends, or once it makes a port stop if you are on a longer cruise, your documents will be mailed to Bermuda where the marriage is registered and then the Registrar General in Hamilton will issue marriage certificate(s) and mail them to you. It can take 8-10 weeks after the cruise for these to be received by mail, so take this into account if you need the certificate for anything.
Our Experience: Our Cunard Queen Mary 2 Wedding
After getting engaged, we had no real idea of where we wanted to get married. We had toyed around with California (where we lived at the time and got engaged), France (where Laurence’s parents lived), Ohio (where Jess’s parents lived), the UK, (where many of Laurence’s childhood friends lived), the Seychelles (where Laurence spent a few years of his childhood), or Italy (where we met). We kept coming back to two issues: 1) we were not citizens or residents of the same country which presented an issue in some of these places and 2) that there was no place on earth that we were going to be able to get that many of our family/friends to gather since they were spread out across the world. Our decision to get married on board the RMS Queen Mary 2 came after 5 months of going back and forth about where we should hold the wedding. Jess has been wanting to do the Cunard Queen Mary 2 transatlantic cruise for years and we decided to book the cruise from New York City to Southampton, so it ended up making a lot of sense to just do the wedding during the sailing. We also decided not to invite anyone to the wedding as it would be too inconvenient and expensive for most, and we also selfishly wanted to have the time to ourselves. We decided to set up a later non-legal ceremony to take place in Venice a few months later for those who wanted to attend our wedding. Below gives you a snapshot of our Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea experience.
Before the QM2 Cruise
We had already booked our 8-night transatlantic cruise from NYC to Southampton online and we found the best deal on Priceline Cruises. Be sure to check your options and consider the inclusions of each offer (often they include on-board credit, room upgrades, and cash-back rebates) as they can vary quite a bit based on our experience. Prior to booking, we had already been in touch with one of the Cunard wedding coordinators via email and knew that several dates for a wedding were still available and decided about a week later to bite the bullet and put a courtesy hold on a date. We then booked it and paid for the full wedding package a few days later (we booked about 93 days in advance). We chose for an 11:00am ceremony as we thought it would give us less time to be nervous rather than a 3:30pm one, and more time to spend celebrating that day. Once it was booked, we were then asked to fill out several forms by our pre-cruise wedding planner named Velma. She helped answer all our initial questions regarding the booking, paperwork, ordering an apostille, and deciding on the venue and additional add-ons for the wedding. She was great and fairly quick in communicating with us by email and phone.
Arrival On Board the Queen Mary 2
At the New York City cruise terminal, we arrived just a little before our given time for embarkation and went through the security check. We were not sure what line we should be in for our priority access so we asked, and it was clear that the person we asked was not aware that wedding couples were provided with priority access and seemed to just indicate where we should be given our stateroom class which was a Britannia-level Balcony stateroom. But another woman came and helped us and directed us to the Priority line and we had the same issue again when actually boarding. It definitely helped that we were carrying my wedding dress bag as a staff came over again and helped us, but you may need to be persistent if you want to receive priority check in and embarkation. We had a similar experience at disembarkation in not being provided with the correct luggage labels at first. This was not that big of a deal to us but it was a small annoyance. One great thing about a wedding aboard a Cunard ship is that there is not real luggage allowance on the ship so it was not a problem that we had several pieces of luggage and the wedding gown to check-in.
Once on board, we checked into our cabin and waited for the rest of our luggage to be delivered and met our stateroom steward, Joue, who was very nice. We found our wedding bottle of Veuve Cliqout champagne already waiting for us in the mini-fridge as well as the half bottle of champagne given to all guests on board. We also later found a note from our on-board wedding coordinator, Jevasha, saying that she would like to meet us the next morning at a provided time and place to introduce herself, confirm wedding arrangements, and answer any questions. So we had the evening to enjoy the ship’s bon voyage ceremony, explore the ship, and have our first dinner on board.
The next morning we met Jevasha and were very reassured as she was punctual, organized, and very friendly. We went over the ceremony, confirming which vows we’d chosen, the order of the ceremony, wording issues, order of readings, who would serve as witnesses, and such. We provided her with copies of our readings and a music CD since we had chosen to provide our own music. We also went over food arrangements and the wedding venue choice. We had actually chosen the Atlantic Room based on our pre-cruise wedding coordinator’s suggestion, but Jevasha suggested we might be more comfortable in the smaller and more intimate Boardroom since it was just the two of us and we both agreed after looking at the two options so the venue was changed. We also mentioned that we may want to book hair and make-up services the morning of the wedding, and Jevasha actually led us down to the on-board Canyon Ranch Spa Club to have a consultation. Later that day, we received a copy of the ceremony wording from Jevasha to review and initial that the wording and names were correct as written, and we then sent it back to her. She also sent us a letter that included the agreed upon times in terms of when we’d each be ready at our stateroom the next morning, hair and make-up appointments, who was escorting whom, and our wedding day dinner confirmation. These were very helpful reminders to have typed out in one place!
An Unexpected Surprise: Dining at the Captain’s Table
We were surprised to receive an invitation requesting that we join Captain Kevin Oprey the following evening for dinner in the Britannia Restaurant. We had not expected this and Laurence was particularly impressed by the honor of being invited to the Captain’s table. We of course phoned and accepted the offer. If you have been on the Queen Mary 2, you’ll probably recognize the Captain’s table as the 10-seater round table placed in the center of the bottom level of the Britannia Restaurant. In addition to Laurence and I at the Captain’s table, there was Captain Kevin Oprey, the captain’s secretary Jevasha (also our wedding coordinator), a marine artist name Robert Llyod who specializes in painting ships and his wife, a chaplain and his father who the captain knew, and a couple who frequently cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2. The food appeared to be the same as that being served in the restaurant that evening except instead of one dessert, we each had a plate that included all three. There was also unlimited free red or white wine. We both enjoyed the experience and got to talk a little to the Captain, although he was always seated a bit away from us, although he does switch sides of the table after the main course. His love of the sea and ships was very clear and he comes from a long sea-faring family background. We also had a nice conversation with Robert Lloyd and his wife and got to know a bit more about Jevasha. Overall, it was a very nice touch to be invited to the Captain’s table for dinner. Most couples who get married aboard the Cunard ships do get invited for dinner with the captain or deputy captain if it can be arranged, although this cannot of course be guaranteed or promised. Getting married, is however, the best way to get an invitation to a Captain’s dinner we were told, haha. This was a lovely way to spend the dinner before our wedding and it was nice to have met the captain before the ceremony.
For those who are curious, invitations to the Captain’s table are generally given to wedding couples, regular Cunard cruisers, those of special interest to Cunard (such as Mr. Lloyd who Cunard commissions for artwork quite often), first time cruisers, and those of special interest to the Captain. These also only take place on formal evenings and typically during the second dinner seating. The Captain also dines in the Grill Suite dining rooms during the trip and usually the Deputy Captain or First Officer will also have at least one hosted table during the cruise.
Our Experience: Our Queen Mary 2 Wedding Day
We woke up around 7:30am, as Laurence had a massage appointment booked and I had a hair and make-up appointment at 8:00 am. I had initially intended to somehow do my own hair and make-up, but luckily Laurence’s wonderful best man and his wife had given us a spa credit which we used for the hair, make-up, and Laurence’s wedding morning massage. This credit came in so useful and future couples may want to consider asking friends and family for shipboard credit ahead of the sailing so that they can use it for wedding preparations, spa treatments, food, drinks, etc. during the cruise. Friends and family can also purchase and arrange for specific gifts to be delivered to the bridal couple’s stateroom (wine, flowers, teddy bears, bathrobes, chocolates, etc.). It was very comforting to have someone handle my make-up and hair and the stylist did a very nice job, much better than I would have ever been able to accomplish on my own. After the spa, we sort of hurriedly got ready in our stateroom. Laurence was pretty practiced at getting into his tuxedo at this point as he’d worn it the night before for dinner, but my dress was a bit more tricky with all its layers, laces, and hoops. Laurence had to help lace it up and this took a bit of time, but we were just finishing this as Imogen, the lovely Social Hostess during our cruise, came to our stateroom at 10:45. She came to escort Laurence to the Boardroom and she also helped with securing his boutonniere since his tuxedo jacket did not actually have a buttonhole in the right place. Note that we actually just grabbed some live flowers from our stateroom for both the boutonniere and to make a small bouquet (cheap we know!). I then used the next 10 minutes to do last touches and put on jewelry before the bellman, Ryan, came to escort me to the Boardroom at 10:55am. The bellman comes dressed up in the formal White Star uniform of red hat, red jacket, black pants, and gloves. You normally see the bellman in their red uniforms only for embarkation, special formal events, and disembarkation as the bellman also serve other roles on the ship (Ryan was also an assistant buffet steward).
It was quite an interesting walk from the stateroom to the Boardroom with the bellman as you attract a lot of attention and it was a bit difficult to try to manage a puffy dress in somewhat narrow corridors. I was trying to keep my arm on his arm as he escorted me but I was really needing to also manage my dress as we walked. We also had some interesting comments along the way as one man very clearly thought the bellman was the groom and so was congratulating him. Others wanted to stop us and ask questions. But we duly arrived to the Commodore Club and the bellman posed as both the ship photographer and Laurence took photos of us together. Then the bellman took leave after a couple of minutes and the ceremony music began, Laurence took his place, and I walked down the very short aisle. The room had been rearranged and was tastefully decorated with flowers and bows, and a small table was set up in one corner for the document signing.
The wedding ceremony itself seemed both really long and really short at the same time. It starts with the Captain saying a bit for the Introduction, and then Laurence and I took turns doing our own readings. I started crying twice during the ceremony and so tissues had to be handed over which caused a brief interruption at one point. We then did the vows and exchanged our rings; Laurence accidentally put my ring on the wrong hand as noted by the Captain and this has to be corrected. Then the Captain said a bit more and it was over with a kiss! The whole ceremony part lasted only about 20 minutes. Then a further 5 minutes or so for the signing of the register and various documents. In the room during the ceremony, there were our two Cunard witnesses, Jevasha and Imogen, a woman who was in charge of the music, a staff photographer, the Captain, and ourselves.
Then there was some posing for photos in the room for both the Cunard photographer as well as for Laurence in the ceremony room and with the Captain. But we were quickly encouraged to move out of the room to join the Captain and our witnesses for a quick champagne toast and some canapés, as we could take more photos later as the Captain needed to return to the Bridge before noon. There was a table set up in the Commodore Club just outside the door to the Boardroom and a server was on hand to help serve the champagne and food. After the toast, we learned that we were also invited to blow the ship’s noon whistle on the Bridge. The staff left us to enjoy our champagne and canapés we had ordered (there were so many that we had many of them wrapped up and sent to our room to enjoy later in the afternoon), but then Jevasha returned about 5 minutes until noon to escort us to the bridge.
One of the great things about being invited on the Bridge is the excellent and unique views of the ship and sea that you can only get from this vantage point. It was also interesting to chat with a few of the staff members and one showed us how we’d just recently passed the spot where the RMS Titantic had sunk in 1912. Luckily we had a much better sailing than the ill-fated Titanic! We were asked to do the noontime whistle, and a staff member guided me in pressing the right button. We actually made a bit of a mistake as the person asked to show me had just started and have never blown the whistle before, but all got corrected and we didn’t do any permanent damage! After this, the Captain started his daily announcement and during it he announced our wedding and said that we had blown the ship’s whistle. There is a viewing gallery where people can see The Bridge and there were cheers from those in the gallery for us which was very sweet.
We then left to take photographs around the inside of the ship. There were many great locations from the Grand Staircase, the hallways, the Queen’s Room dance floor, in front of Illuminations, in the Winter Garden, and our own stateroom balcony. By the way, Laurence actually set up a tripod to film and taking photos during the wedding and then took almost all our wedding photos afterwards. You can read more about him photographing our wedding (both of them) on his blog.
After photos, we decided to have afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room. Afternoon tea is served every day on the Queen Mary 2 complete with scones, tea sandwiches, and pastries, but today happened to be a special afternoon tea as it also included a live band and a tea dance. So we were encouraged by many other guests to get up and have our first dance, which we reluctantly did. After a bit of awkward swirling as it was hard to manage too much with my dress, everyone seem satisfied that we’d had a first dance and we were let off the hook. We were lucky that one nice couple, who had also been at the Captain’s table with us the prior night, took photos and later emailed them to us of our dance. Throughout the entire day, we were often stopped by fellow passengers who wanted to congratulate us, wish us luck, or compliment my wedding dress. This actually would continue for the rest of the cruise as so many people saw us in our wedding clothes that we had people coming up to congratulate us until the final day on the ship. We were also lucky in that we were the only couple getting married on our particular voyage. The attention was very sweet and made us a feel a bit like we had about 2,000 wedding guests at times! Several couples came up to us and said that they had gotten married at a Cunard wedding or that they were celebrating an anniversary or honeymoon onboard. People keep to themselves a lot on the Queen Mary 2 voyages so I think it was because of our wedding that we actually got to meet so many people.
We then went back to our stateroom for a bit of a rest, before going out a bit later for a last session of photos. This time we tackled doing outdoor shots which I had vetoed earlier due to the wind. It was still windy and as expected, my hair got more and more messy and out-of-place as the minutes went by, and my dress more dirty as we wandered around outside. But we got some great photos and it was a memorable time together.
After sunset, we went back to our stateroom to change out of our wedding clothes and head to dinner. I decided not to risk getting food or wine on my dress, especially since I knew I needed to wear it again. We had booked a late dinner at the Todd English restaurant which was the speciality restaurant onboard the Queen Mary 2 (this is going to change in 2016 after the ship’s refit). Our experience at dinner was great as the service was wonderful, the food was good, and the staff made us a specially decorated dessert for our wedding. A great ending to our Queen Mary 2 wedding day! We also had 5 more days aboard the ship to celebrate.
In the days that followed on the cruise, Jevasha continued to be in touch and sent us our commemorative Queen Mary 2 wedding certificates and such. An interesting thing about the commemorative wedding certificate and the log book entries is that not only do they note that we got married on board the Queen Mary 2, but also the latitude and longitude of the ship at the time of our ceremony! We had not purchased any of the photography packages (as Laurence decided to shoot the wedding himself) but we met with the wedding photographer a few days later who got in touch to show us the photos he took and we decided to just purchase one print from the ceremony to give as a gift. We also were provided with priority disembarkation, although as noted we had to request this twice as we were provided the wrong luggage tags at first. Then about 6 weeks following the wedding, we received our legal marriage certificate and the apostille document we had ordered by mail.
What Could Have Been Better about our Queen Mary 2 Wedding
We had very few complaints about our Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea. Overall, it was an absolutely wonderful experience for us both, expertly handled by our wedding coordinator Jevasha. However, there were a few things that were a bit annoying or disappointing. The first was that we found out that many of the Cunard staff are not aware that wedding couples are given priority boarding, baggage delivery, and disembarkation. We had to ask for this at the port when we were checking in and we could tell that some staff thought we were in the wrong line as we had a standard balcony stateroom. Then upon disembarkation, we kept being provided the wrong baggage labels even after going to the desk in person and explaining our situation. Staff seems to generally just take into account your stateroom type. However, this was easily fixed by persistence and we could have just told our wedding coordinator.
The second was similar to the issue with the priority status in that our cabin steward, although great, did not seem to be aware that wedding couples were given complimentary pressing of their bridal outfits. Admittedly, in my case, I asked only that morning as my veil was quite wrinkled after my hair appointment, but our cabin steward did not seem to be aware it was a complimentary service. So this is something you will want to talk to your steward about the first day on board the ship to make sure that any wedding-related pressing services are taken care of before your wedding day and that you will not be charged.
A more general complaint was that for the cost, the Cunard wedding packages have fewer inclusions compared to those offered by other companies at the same and even lower prices. We were both a bit surprised and disappointed that our Cunard wedding package did not include a bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, or any type of wedding cake as these had been included in earlier Cunard wedding packages. These three things are very common inclusions in other cruise wedding packages, and many of the packages by other companies also include some photography prints, live music, and other inclusions at this price level. We both felt that Cunard could have at least included the bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, and a small wedding cake as these are not very costly to them to provide as part of the package. However, these items are all, of course, available to add on at an additional cost.
Overall Thoughts on Our Cunard Queen Mary 2 Wedding at Sea
We are both very happy that we did both the transatlantic cruise and very happy that we decided to book the Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea. The more traditional Queen Mary 2 was a great fit for me and we loved the elegant furnishings and decor, and Laurence loved that there were so many beautiful photography locations. I love that the ship has such a Golden Age of travel feel to it, and as other cruisers can tell you there is really no other ship out there quite like the QM2. The fact that most things were pre-arranged and we didn’t have a hundred decisions to make was a great fit for us as we didn’t have a lot of particular visions regarding the ceremony, flowers, venue, etc. We also did not regret our decision to do it alone as it was very freeing actually to just have the ceremony and time to ourselves during the cruise and not worry about the happiness of wedding guests; however, we did have a second ceremony for family in Venice a few months later. We felt we were in good hands the whole time and everything went quite seamlessly and everything was done in great style during the ceremony and the reception. None of this would have been possible without the assistance of our pre-cruise coordinator Velma and especially Jevasha, our on-board wedding coordinator, who was fabulous, easy to get in touch with, and very helpful and friendly. Imogen also deserves special mention as she was so lovely to us during our wedding and the cruise in general, as does Captain Oprey for officiating, making our wedding special, and for inviting us to join the Captain’s Table and to come to the Bridge. We know this would not be a good fit for all couples, but for us it was the right decision. Overall, the Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea ended up being a perfect fit for us as it required little planning on our end, our different in nationalities did not present any difficulties, it allowed us to get married on the Atlantic Ocean in between our home countries of the United States and England, it was different and romantic, and it fit our travel-filled lifestyle.
What do you think about getting married on a cruise? Would you consider a wedding at sea? For anyone considering a Queen Mary 2 wedding or wedding on other Cunard ship, please feel free to ask us any questions you may have and we’re happy to try to answer them!