If you like big boats and you cannot lie, consider a wedding on the water!
For a wedding that’s nautical in every sense of the word, there’s no better venue than a boat. Here’s pretty much everything you need to consider before committing to a buoyant bash, including:
- 8 PROs and CONs of Getting Married on a Boat
- 6 Tips for Planning a Boat Wedding
- 23 Questions to Ask a Boat Wedding Venue
- PRO: One Venue for Your Entire Event.
Your entire wedding can take place on board, so you won't have to worry about the logistics and extra expense of transporting everyone from the ceremony site to the reception. Embark upon your marital voyage with an open-air top-deck ceremony, followed by cocktail hour on the second deck, and a sit-down dinner in an elegant, enclosed dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows. Pretty dreamy, right?
- PRO: All-Inclusive Packages.
Many boats offer all-inclusive packages with everything from an on-site wedding coordinator to the catering, bar, and cake, as well as linens, china, and flatware. Some even offer a house DJ, along with an onboard lighting and sound system. And oftentimes the ship's Captain is also a licensed officiant! Plus you can relax, knowing that the professionally trained (and uniformed!) marine crew, Maitre’d, bartenders, and service staff are there to make your day flow seamlessly.
- PRO: Affordability.
A wedding on the water is a cost-effective way to tie the knot. Whether you reserve a private room or charter an entire boat, many vessels offer a variety of package options to fit your budget. And since lots of them are all-inclusive, you naturally get more bang for your buck.
- PRO: Vows with a View.
Thanks to picturesque harbor, coastal, and skyline views—not to mention the possibility of a stunning sunset—getting married on the water is a visual treat. You'll have some fab wedding photos, and your guests won't soon forget that panoramic ceremony backdrop. Plus, if timed right, you can exchange vows during the infamous golden hour, or serve cocktails to your enthralled guests as the sun slips below the horizon.
- CON: Potential "hidden" fees.
Although boat weddings are typically budget-friendly, there are some potential fees unique to watercraft you'll want to be aware of. Ask the boat charter company about any additional charges you may incur for things like docking, fuel, service fees, taxes, and gratuities, as well as possible permitting or port expenses.
- CON: Limited space.
Unless you reserve a pricey mega yacht, you'll most likely need to scale down your guest list. Boats have restrictions on how many passengers are permitted on board. You'll want to ask the boat charter for a vessel that's large enough to safely accommodate your guest count.
- CON: Strict regulations.
Along with capacity limits, many boats have other constraints ranging from décor restrictions (like no open flames) to departure time! Fashionably late guests could literally miss the boat and be stuck at the pier as your wedding sails away. Build some cushion into the start time you list on your wedding invitation to ensure everyone's present for an on-time departure.
- CON: You're stuck on board.
Consider your guest list before committing to a wedding on a boat. For example, doctors on call who may need to leave at a moment's notice won't exactly be able to! Unless your boat is docked, you'll be on the water for several hours. The good news is, many boat charters partner with water taxis to take people back to the dock if necessary, and there are even water ambulances in case of emergency.
- Inquire about wheelchair accessibility ahead of time.
Some vessels have limited wheelchair accessibility, so if you want a wedding ceremony on the top deck you'll need to consider any elderly or disabled guests. Many boats also have quite narrow corridors, winding staircases, and doors with high thresholds, so keep any guests with mobility issues in mind when choosing your boat venue.
- Prepare for the possibility of seasickness.
In most bay or harbor cruises, the water is calm enough that seasickness isn't an issue. Plus, guests always have a view of the land which tends to minimize the queasy factor. However, in case any of your guests are prone to getting seasick, you'll want to be prepared. Consider adding some information to your wedding website on ways to combat seasickness, and have some ginger tea, ginger ale, or ginger candies on board.
- Create a wedding website to highlight additional details about the day.
Include a suggested dress code that can stand up to the wind and water (e.g. "nautical attire"), along with a note about the anticipated weather. Depending on the forecast, suggest bringing sunglasses or sunblock, and remind guests that they may need a sweater or coat. You should also give your women attendees a heads-up about the vessel itself (e.g. steep staircases) so they can opt for wedges or flats instead of stilettos!
- Have a bad-weather contingency plan.
If you have your heart set on an open-air wedding, we know you don't want to entertain the idea of rain or too-strong winds on your wedding day. But with a wedding on the water, you must be ready for inclement weather! Talk with your coordinator about a "Plan B" interior space—just in case.
- Discuss photo ops with your photographer.
Depending on the size of your boat venue, there may be limited space for formal photos. It might be a good idea to take "first look" or bridal party photos in a separate location before embarking on your wedding voyage.
- Consider hosting other wedding-related events on a boat.
If you're not fully convinced that a wedding on the water's for you, consider hosting your engagement party, bridal shower, rehearsal dinner on one! You'll get the nautical experience of a boat event without the full commitment of hosting your entire wedding on board.
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Besides everything we've covered above, here are some questions to ask that are specific to boat or yacht venues (and here's the full list of Questions to Ask a Wedding Venue for reference):
- Are there changing areas for the bride, groom, and/or wedding party on board? Or should we arrive fully dressed and ready to go?
- Can we do a rehearsal on the boat before the wedding day?
- When can we set up for our event?
- How many hours are included in the boat rental fee?
- Will we have exclusive use of the boat during our party?
- Can my event last longer than the scheduled cruise time?
- Does the boat follow a particular cruise route or does it stay docked?
- What happens if there's inclement weather?
- Can we bring in our own décor? If so, are there any restrictions?
- What is the dress code/appropriate attire?
- Can we use our own caterer/cake maker/DJ?
- Are children permitted on board?
- What kind of food is served? Can you accommodate specific dietary needs?
- Are animals allowed on board? (In case you want your furbaby to be your ring bearer!)
- Are gifts allowed on board?
- What happens if a guest needs to leave early?
- Will my mobile phone work on the water?
- Is there heating and/or air conditioning on the boat?
- Are ample life preservers on board?
- Where will my guests park? Is it close to the departure site?
- Are there nearby accommodations for overnight guests?
- Is the gratuity included for the crew?
- Can we host our rehearsal dinner aboard the boat?
Disclaimer: We're referring to boat weddings in the U.S. in this article. If you're looking to wed on board a cruise ship in an exotic locale, be sure to check the country's legal requirements first!
Related articles around the web:
- Cruise Ship Weddings: How to Tie the Knot on the High Seas | BRIDES
- 55 Ways to Get a Little Nautical on Your Wedding Day | Brit + Co
- We're On A Boat Wedding Ideas | Wedding Chicks
Are you nautical by nature? We got you, boo.
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