My BIG FAT cruise-ship WEDDING

Wedding

You’ve met your dreamboat, so why not get hitched on the ocean wave – and bring your loved ones too? BY FRAN GOLDEN

Taking my son’s arm I made my way up the flowered  aisle. As I glided in my Badgley Mischka gown past our nearest and dearest towards my handsome groom,  I tried not to spoil the picture by looking up. But it wasn’t easy, because ranged above me in tiers of theatrical balconies were a thousand strangers, waving and cheering. Most of them in shorts and flipflops.

For David and me, getting married on a cruise ship had seemed Wedding at Sea the natural choice. After all, we’d met at sea – two journalists on assignment – so what could be nicer than surrounding ourselves with friends and family for a spot of warm-weather togetherness? Princess is among the lines that offer at-sea weddings, and a cruise from Florida to the Bahamas on Regal Princess, their newest, 3,560-passenger ship, felt like a perfect fit.

In our minds we’d pictured a modest ceremony in the ship’s chapel. But since we are both writers, the cruise line spotted a promotional opportunity and asked if we’d mind a slight change of venue – to the ship’s three-storey Piazza Atrium.

And from there it just sort of snowballed. There would be a string quartet, a balloon drop during our first dance and a notice in the daily newsletter that all passengers were invited. Captain Edward Perrin – soon to be the star of ITV’s The Cruise – would officiate, and British opera singer Annette Wardell, who happened to be on board, offered to do an aria. By the time I heard that Captain Stubing from TV’s The Love Boat – aka actor Gavin MacLeod – was also on the ship and would like to play a part, it was a case of, “Sure, why not?”

Princess Cruises makes wedding planning super-easy. Once you book – group rates are available if you reserve enough cabins – its “Tie the Knot” programme puts you in the capable hands of Royal Ocean Events, who organise some 1,000 cruise-ship weddings each year.

Our coordinator/fairy godmother held my hand throughout, via email, phone and text, and the whole process was virtually stress-free. She politely made suggestions and was patient with my usual response of “Huh?” (as in, “What flavour of cake do you want?” Me: “Huh?” Or, “Have you thought about flowers for the flower girls?” Me: “Huh?”).

For the record, we had one tier of carrot cake and another of red velvet covered with white frosting, and the flower girls (David’s granddaughters) carried rose-topped wands to match my hand-tied ivory rose bouquet. Wedding

Our family and friends had responded surprisingly well to the idea of nautical nuptials – only my sister-in-law asked if I had lost my mind – and we had guests from as far away as London (paying for their own flights and cruise fares).

Early in the planning process we had to apply for a marriage license in the country where the ship is registered – in this case Bermuda. Our coordinator led us through the process, including the requirement that our banns be
published in a Bermudan newspaper. There was also a stipulation that Captain Perrin recite official Bermudan wording at our ceremony, though we added our own vows and readings (thank you, Capt Stubing).

One of the best things abut a cruise-ship wedding is that all the expertise you need is likely to be on board already. With florists, caterers, bartenders, hairdressers and photographers you have a floating creative team at your service, as long as you’re willing to pay. So photography and video were arranged, hair and make-up appointments made, and we booked a five-course wedding luncheon for our party in the ship’s Italian restaurant – a steal at $25 per person – added unlimited wine (from $16 per person) and prepared to let the wedding speeches flow.

By the time my son escorted me down the aisle, our dream wedding had turned into a truly glamorous affair. And when it was all over, after we had signed our names to a wedding certificate bearing the ship’s coordinates, we were able to shed our fancy clothes and relax with our loved ones for the rest of the cruise. What more could a bride ask for?

TOP TIPS FROM THE BRIDE AND GROOM

Fran

  • Start off by checking with your friends and family. Make sure the important folks are willing to join you at sea.
  • Save yourself a lot of hassle and get a travel agent to handle everyone’s cruise and air bookings.
  • Listen to your wedding planner. She’s the expert, can see the big picture and will work out the details.
  • Take your wedding dress on the plane as hand luggage. Then you know it can’t get lost.

David

  • Weddings go by so fast. Take it slow and embrace all the hoop-la.
  • Treat yourself to something different, such as a visit to the ship’s spa for a beard trim, facial or pedicure. Don’t let the ladies have all the fun.
  • Get to know the folks on the other side of the aisle. Your best friends may be aboard, but there’s no better opportunity for schmoozing with your new family.
  • If you have never been on a cruise before, try one now. Book a short trip so you will know what to expect during your wedding sailing.