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A wedding, whether it is your first or fifth, can be the best, and the most stressful, experience of your life. Except, of course, if you choose to tie the knot at sea. When getting married on a cruise ship, you’ll have a host of professionals trained to accommodate your every need during your cruise wedding. From cakes to tuxedos, accommodations to the reception hall, you won’t have to go off-board for anything. Unless of course you choose to have your reception on shore. In which case, the amenities come to you.
Imagine saying your vows on the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, on a hillside vineyard in Italy, or on the snowy-white glaciers of Alaska. The possibilities are endless.
There are a few stipulations when getting married on a cruise ship. First, the captain generally does not marry the couple (except with Princess Cruises). A wedding officiant will be provided by the cruise line for that purpose. Second, cruise weddings take place while in port, not while at sea. You can choose to get married on board when in port or at a selected location on shore. Finally, the bride and groom must be sailing on the cruise in order to get married on it. Your guests can, however, board the ship for the wedding without sailing on the cruise.
Many cruise lines provide cruise wedding packages and coordinators to make sure that your day is special and runs smoothly. Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International, all provide wedding packages for couples sailing on their ships. Crystal Cruises and Cunard Line do not allow weddings on their ships. The cost of tying the knot at sea ranges from $900 to $2,400 and generally includes transportation to and from the port, wedding facilities, wedding officiant, wedding coordinator, ceremony music, flowers for the bride and groom, cake, champagne, photographer, wedding album, and dinner. Many will also arrange spa and hair appointments, as well as tuxedo rentals. Of course, each line has their own packages. Read below for information on the most popular cruise lines and their wedding options.
PLEASE NOTE: Prices provided on this page are general indicators of wedding package costs. They are provided to give a general indication of costs for couples in the early stages of planning their weddings. Stated prices are not guaranteed and do not include taxes.
For those looking to celebrate a special occasion, Carnival offers a variety of packages designed to suit every need. Wedding ceremonies are performed by a wedding officiant before the ship sets sail and Carnival provides a photographer who takes pictures both during the ceremony and the reception. These photos are available for purchase during the cruise.
The basic cruise wedding package is for eight guests (including bride and groom) and includes the ceremony, bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, bottle of sparkling wine, wedding cake, wedding music, and photography service. This package is priced starting at $750, prices vary depending on the port. The other wedding packages offered by Carnival add to the basic package with a combination of wedding luncheon, open bar, champagne, and the accommodation of up to 20 guests. These packages range in price from $1,050 to $1,450. Guests may wish to add a videographer, tuxedo rental, additional food and beverage service, or live entertainment.
Holland America Line
Holland America Line offers a variety of packages for those celebrating weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions.
Holland America’s wedding package is called Anchors Away. It includes the ceremony setup, personal wedding coordinator, personalized wedding ceremony, bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, wedding cake, champagne, and a cruise album. This package starts at $1,295 USD.
Renewal of Vows
Holland America Line’s renewal of vows package is priced at $99USD and includes flowers in your stateroom, renewal ceremony with hors d’oeuvres and beverages, as well as a photograph and photo album.
The basic celebration package includes flowers in your stateroom, champagne, a special dessert in the dining room, framed photograph, and special recognition. This package is $79USD. You can add to this package with amenities like a dozen roses, a pair of terrycloth bathrobes, a special chocolate pillow gift, couple’s massage, and a guaranteed table for two in the dining room. The price for the more elaborate package is $410 USD.
If your special occasion is of a romantic nature, Holland America has a romantic package that provides you with flowers, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, a framed photograph, $25 in casino chips, and an aromatherapy massage. This package is priced at $169 USD.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Lines gives passengers a variety of options when planning a wedding on one of their ships. Wedding packages range in price from $1200 USD to $2,399 USD and can accommodate anywhere from eight to twenty five guests.
Norwegian’s basic package will accommodate a maximum of eight guests (including the bride and groom) and includes the wedding officiant, wedding music, keepsake marriage certificate, ceremony location, wedding cake, champagne, and a photograph package. The photograph package provides the bride and groom with twelve portraits, a mini-album, and two 8″ by 10″ selected portraits. You can add to this package with such amenities as additional guests, a one-hour, open bar reception with hors d’oeuvres, additional champagne, additional photographs, a two-hour sit-down lunch with wine, and live music.
Anniversary and Honeymoon Package
Whether you’re looking for a deluxe package with all the fixings or a small combination of some simple luxuries, Norwegian Cruise Line can accommodate your needs. With prices ranging from $79 to $329, the basic package includes champagne and strawberries, canapes in your stateroom, photograph, and romantic dinner for two in the bistro with a complimentary bottle of wine. The most deluxe offer gives couples champagne and strawberries, spa wrap, massage, breakfast-in-bed, a formal portrait, and a romantic dinner for two in the bistro with a bottle of wine.
Princess Cruises offers customizable cruise wedding packages that include everything from bouquets and wedding cake to portraits and tuxedo rental. You and your Cruise Consultant can work together to create the package that suits all of your wedding needs. One special bonus with Princess is that your wedding ceremony will be conducted by the captain of your ship.
Renewal of Vows
The basic package costs $205 and includes the ceremony, bouquet, boutonniere of orchids, commemorative certificate, a bottle of champagne with engraved champagne glasses in your stateroom, and a framed portrait of the ceremony. For an additional cost, the package can be upgraded to include champagne and breakfast-in-bed, two Princess terrycloth robes, a thirty-minute massage or facial per person, and a visit to the bridge while the ship is in port.
Celebrating a birthday, promotion, or graduation? Do it in style on a Princess ship. Princess Cruises offers a variety of packages for people celebrating something special. The most basic package includes a bottle of champagne, framed formal portrait, hors d’oeuvres delivered to your stateroom, and breakfast-in-bed with champagne. All for $135 per couple. Passengers can add to that package with amenities like Princess terrycloth robes, spa visit, a visit to the bridge, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Prices range from $135 to $430 per couple, depending on the package.
Royal Caribbean International – Weddings
Royal Caribbean offers seven wedding packages ranging in price from $1,095 to $1,595.
Duet, the simplest onboard package, includes the wedding coordinator, wedding ceremony, wedding officiant, ceremony music, bride’s bouquet of roses, groom’s boutonniere of roses, wedding cake for four, photographer, one wedding photo, wedding certificate keepsake, and champagne. Additions that are made for other packages include more wedding photos, larger bridal bouquet, champagne and breakfast-in-bed for two, round-trip transportation to the port in a chauffeured limousine, and chocolate-covered strawberries in the couple’s stateroom.
These packages can be enhanced to include live music, videography, beauty appointments, tuxedo rentals, wedding invitations/announcements, wedding reception, and marriage license processing. Ask your Cruise Consultant about the cost of these additions.
For weddings on shore, Royal Caribbean includes many of the same amenities found in the Duet package, but adds indigenous wedding flowers, escorted transportation to and from the territorial court and ceremony site, local wedding cake, and secured, marriage license documents.
Renewal of Vows
If you would like to renew your vows on a cruise ship, you can do so for $400. Your vows can be renewed in the wedding chapel (if there is one) or in a designated spot on board. This cost includes the ceremony, ceremony music, bouquet for the bride, boutonniere for the groom, keepsake certificate, wedding cake for four, photograph, and champagne.
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Why on earth would anyone want to throw a smaller wedding? In these days of over-the-top celebrity weddings and spending enough on a wedding to put you in debt for years to come, you don’t hear much about small weddings. But they are making a comeback, particularly for those brides who prefer a more personal, intimate atmosphere. That’s why I wanted to share some small wedding ideas with you in this article.
First, though, let me clarify a few things. A small wedding does not mean an informal wedding, or a simple wedding, or a cheap wedding (though obviously, because the guest list is dramatically reduced, there can be significant savings). It simply refers to the size of the guest list. Instead of inviting your best friend’s great aunt from Pittsburgh, the guest list and wedding party are confined to a small circle of close relatives and friends. How small? Often as small as only ten to fifteen people.
Beyond sharing the most important day of your life with a small, intimate group of friends, a small wedding allows you the freedom to focus on those areas of the wedding that are most important to you and might otherwise have been out of your reach.
For instance, a smaller wedding makes a destination wedding far more practical than a large wedding. A destination wedding is exactly as it sounds … the wedding is held out of town, at a setting that meets the interests of the bride and groom. Las Vegas is a destination wedding. A theme park, such as Disney World, is a destination wedding. There really are few limitations … a mountain lodge, a beach house, a bed and breakfast, a ski trip, etc. When the wedding party and guest list are small, a destination wedding becomes much easier to achieve.
But what if you’d like to keep things simple?
The reception for a small wedding can be held in the intimate, comfortable setting of a family member’s home. It can be held at the favorite restaurant of the bride and groom. It can be held out doors at a favorite park, or in the backyard of your best friend. With these more intimate weddings, your options are nearly unlimited.
You also have more leeway in your food choices. If this is an important area for the wedding of your dreams, then catering or dining out at a fine restaurant are far more likely to fit within your budget. But you may equally enjoy a potluck or a buffet or even an afternoon of hors d’ourves. A smaller wedding allows you the freedom to pursue the wedding you really want for yourself.
Small Wedding Ideas
Here are several unique small wedding ideas that can make your wedding day memorable for the rest of your life:
1. Since the whole idea behind an intimate wedding is to share the day with close family and friends, consider making your own wedding favors. For instance, a homemade goodie basket of cookies, breads, and candies. Or personalized CDs created with the music that you and your loved ones enjoy. The point here is to make your wedding favors as personal as possible.
2. How about having your guests sign and write a personal sentiment on a tablecloth? Then, at a later date, you can have the signatures and sentiments permanently embroidered into the tablecloth as a family keepsake.
3. Make your own wedding invitations, personalizing each one with a special sentiment. You can design them completely from scratch, choosing the paper you want, adding dried flowers or bows, or even adding your own background image if you’re talented in this area (or know someone who’s talented).
4. Instead of the usual reception activities, try activities that you know your guests enjoy. For instance, if your family and friends enjoy board games, run a tournament with the winner taking home a gift basket of games. Or try a scavenger hunt, or a softball game, or a trip to a local movie theater.
The idea behind a smaller wedding is to share your special day with only a few special people. Since the size of the wedding party and guests is easily manageable, small weddings ideas often allow you to pursue the wedding of your dreams when otherwise it wouldn’t be possible. Whether it’s a fancy, elegant wedding or a few close friends sharing a common interest, the choice is yours. Make your intimate wedding a wedding that you’ll never forget.
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When I was 12 or 13, I remember being the hostess at my cousin’s wedding. One of the first things that I saw when I walked into the reception hall was this beautiful wedding cake. For years, I dreamed of a fairytale wedding cake just like hers. The cake was tall, separated by columns with a few tiers, although I can’t remember exactly how many there were. At the top of the wedding cake were the bride and groom, and on the side were the bridesmaids and groomsmen standing on staircases that led to the top. The staircases were also connected to smaller cakes that adorned the side and underneath the cake was a fountain. I think many brides remember the era of the big cakes with all kinds of special decorations on them. I just stood there amazed and looked at her beautiful wedding cake decked out in the colors of the wedding and dreamed of the day that I would cut into my own wedding cake that looked just like that. That cake was probably the second most admired part of that wedding.
As brides, we want that reaction to our wedding cakes as well. We want people to mill around it and admire the creation that is a symbolic of a couples new union. We have dreams of hearing those “ooh’s” and “ah’s” and the conversations about the décor, the colors, and the height of the cake. The right wedding cake should take the breath away of all your guests, and make them anxious to take a bite.
The wedding cake is one of the major elements of the wedding day. Because it is such a big purchase, much time and purpose needs to be dedicated into making the perfect cake. If you have never planned a wedding before, you may have a hard time figuring out where to start. Well, by the end of this article, I hope that you will have a clearer understanding about what you need to create that wedding cake of your dreams.
The Shape Basics
First, let’s focus on the different shapes of most cakes. The shape of your cake is very important because it can affect the number of people that can be served and the price as well.
Round: This is the traditional shape of most wedding cakes and is still widely used by most brides. Because the shape of the round cake is the most simplistic, it is usually the least expensive; plus it’s usually easier to decorate.
Square: The square wedding cake is, usually, used by brides that want to break away from the traditional round cakes; but at the same time, they still have the look of a basic wedding cake. The square cake can be more expensive because it may require more labor. Oftentimes, the baker has to cut the sides of the cake to make them look sharper and neater.
Heart: For those eternal romantics, this is the cake shape for you. Again it may be a bit more labor intensive depending on how it is to be frosted and decorated. It’s also important to keep in mind that the amount served from this shape may differ from that of other shapes.
Mad Hatter: This is for the couples that really want to have a more whimsical & fun feel to their wedding cakes. These cakes are usually uneven & slanted shaped. This is for the bold couples that are not afraid to be different. Instead of the traditional wedding décor, these cakes are usually decorated in bold colors and patterns.
Hexagon: This is a cake with six sides. This is another shape that is growing in popularity because it is a deviation from the traditional round wedding cake. Again, the price of this cake is more expensive than that of a round cake because of the time it will take the baker to cut and frost these cakes, but the finished product can be absolutely breathtaking.
You basically have two different types of icing – butter cream and fondant.
Although there are a variety of recipes for making butter cream icing, it is usually made with butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla. It has a thick but creamy texture that is easy to cut through. For a bride on a budget, butter cream icing is a great way to go because it is usually cheaper than fondant. It can also be used as a filling for your cake as well. A downside to butter cream is that it can melt in hot settings, so if you are having an outdoor soiree, butter cream icing may not be your best option.
Fondant is made from sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. It is very elastic in texture. With fondant, you can literally roll it out with a rolling pin. Because of its strength and elasticity, many bakers use it for unique architectural designs. It can be shaped and molded into many different designs. Fondant is usually more expensive because it is more labor intensive.
Your Dream Wedding Cake
One of the things that you may have been thinking about since you got that rock on your finger is what your wedding cake will look like. If you are anything like me, you have already flipped through the wedding and bridal magazines and even looked at the pictures on the wedding websites in order to get an idea of what you want.
I think a great way to figure out what you want in your cake is to think about your personality and what you like. Do you like for things to be grand and theatrical? If so, you may want a tall cake with lots of decoration. Are you planning a small wedding reception with a few friends and family and think that a huge cake for 200 is ridiculous? Maybe you want something simple in stature and design. Your personality should be key in deciding what you want. When thinking about my wedding cake, I just thought about my style when it came to decorating and how I dress. I don’t like for my house to look cluttered. I want everything neat and in its place. When choosing clothes, I tend to stay away from crazy patterns; I like a well-put-together classic, yet modern look. So knowing that I liked things to look sleek sophisticated, and clean, an intricate design for my wedding cake isn’t something that I am interested in. I decided that my dream cake would have three tiers with white frosting and the cake decoration will follow suit.
Another good way to figure out what kind of cake you want is to think about the theme of your wedding. Think about whatever motifs you will sprinkle throughout the wedding, the cake should reflect this as well because it will be a focal point in the reception. If you are having an urban sophistication theme, should you really get the grand cake with the tons of flowers flowing from it? Maybe not, however, a cake of this magnitude may be great for a garden theme. So once you pick your wedding theme, your cake will take its shape (no pun intended).
Money Saving Tips
As you may have noticed, certain small details can really raise the price of your wedding cake. One of the most important things to keep in mind, when choosing a cake, is the amount of people that you plan to serve. Part of your price depends on the number of guests that you will have. This is one reason why cutting the guest list can always bring down budget costs. This is especially true if you are paying for a cake that has pricing that is based on the slice. For instance, if you have a cake that is $1.50 per slice and you are inviting 300 people, your cake without any décor will be $450. So one way to keep costs down is to keep the guest list as small as possible.
Another way to keep costs down when it comes to your dream cake is labor. The more intricate your cake decoration details are the more your costs will increase. If you want a 4-tiered cake with a lace-like pattern, understand that someone must do that pattern which can take hours to recreate. Certain patterns, piping, or detailed frosting designs can take a lot of time and work. Remember, this labor increases your price. So, if you want to keep cost down, make the decorations simple.
Fresh flowers on the cake always bring cost downs. As brides, we are completely intrigued by the gum paste flowers that are edible and beautiful. I mean, they look like the real thing and they mimic every detail of the real flowers. Because they do, these beautiful details cost. If you decide to decorate using fresh flowers instead, your décor can still be as breathtaking without the exorbitant prices.
Ribbons are a simple way to bring your wedding colors into your wedding cake design. This way you can decorate your cake without raising the price. Because my tastes are quite simple, I love the idea of putting a thick beautiful ribbon around the cake and pinning it with pearl pins. This is a very simple way to decorate and the pearl gives a look of sophistication to the cake as well. Again, using ribbons instead of icing as a decoration choice can make for a beautiful wedding cake without the large price.
Go to the grocery store. Every visit to the grocery store is like a visit to your cake baker. As I begin shopping at my local grocer, I always see beautiful wedding cakes staring at me. These are cakes that are designed by the grocery stores in-house staff. The quality of the cakes on display is a true testament of the level of talent these bakers have. Who at your wedding will actually say, “This is a terrible cake because it came from the grocery store”? People in the wedding industry, along with many other socialites, will make you feel that a grocery store wedding cake is a cheap cake that will taste bad and is bad for your guests. Don’t listen to them. Every cake that I have had from a grocery store has been delicious, and many of the guests, at weddings that I have planned, have said that the cakes were delicious (and they had no ideas that it came from their local grocery store). Many grocery stores will work to match your colors as well as your decoration needs. They are even willing to set up cake tastings with you, and some even have faux layers to offer!
Have a fake cake. Many brides are doing it to get the drama of a beautiful wedding cake without the price. They will have a faux cake, and in the back is a sheet cake cut up for the guests. This is a brilliant idea for brides on a budget. Bakers can do faux cakes because many of their store displays are fake cakes. This is not something that a baker may offer, but you can always ask. If you want, you can have it where only part of the cake can be fake. This way you can still have the cake cutting experience.
Stay simple with flavors. My mom wants chocolate. I love carrot. He likes red velvet. His mom has to have almond. Getting a cake with a variety of flavors sounds grand, but more than one flavor can make the cost rise. The most inexpensive flavor is probably, the simple white or yellow cake. Some bakers will increase the price depending on what flavor you choose or if you choose more than one flavor, so this is a good thing to keep in mind. Again, you must ask yourself, will your guest really have a bad night because the cake was simply yellow? I have never been to a wedding where I was just sorely disappointed because of the flavor of the cake. I am usually taken by the wedding cake’s appearance anyway.
It’s very important to keep in mind that, simple shapes equal less money. Wedding cakes are works of art, and more and more bakers see themselves as artists pushing the limits and making wonderful edible masterpieces. So, if you want a cake shape that is hard to ice or decorate, you will have to come out of pocket to pay for it. Round cakes are the cheapest and the easiest to decorate. Whereas, frosting a heart shape cake may take more time and care, and most importantly money!
Time To Meet Your Baker
Before you meet with the baker, you need to have a sure idea of what you want in a wedding cake. If you don’t, going to the baker or any other wedding vendor, for that matter, can make your budget grow in a matter of minutes. As an example, think about buying a house. You don’t usually go house hunting unless you have a good idea of what your buying budget is. You have to know “how much house you can afford”. The same thing applies to planning your wedding and meeting with your baker. Make sure you have a firm idea of what your budget is and what it can get you before making any visits, because the first thing you will see before you even meet the baker are the beautiful wedding cake displays, which can carry you into another world.
Make sure to shop around. I do think it is appropriate to visit with at least 3 bakers. You want to be able to shop around for the best deals that you can find. So, don’t be so eager to book the first person that you talk to. Meet with them. Check out their websites. Do some research. Ask for references. I was planning on meeting and booking with one particular wedding baker because their prices were perfect. When conducting research for my clients I always check with the Better Business Bureau. And in this case I found out there were 2 negative complaints related to this vendor concerning their product and delivery. Research – Research – Research!
Make it clear with the baker what your budget is upfront. That way you all know what you are working with. You can sit and taste all the cakes that you want only to find out that they are way above your price. Knowing what the budget is up front helps you and the baker to find something within your price range and it saves everybody time.
Ask questions. Don’t be quiet while the baker makes arrangements for you. Make sure all that you want can be accommodated. That is the only way you will get what you want. Here are some questions you can ask the baker.
o How are your wedding cakes priced?
o Can you customize a wedding cake or do you just work with certain styles?
o What are your different cake flavors and fillings?
o What type of icing do you use? Fondant? Butter cream?
o Are there any extra fees that are not included with the base price?
o Does the price listed include the top tier?
o How far in advanced will my cake be made?
o Who will be the actual one baking my cake?
o Do you have a cake-cutting fee?
o How do you deliver the cake?
Get everything in writing. When talking to the baker, make sure that everything is in the contract. If you want the delivery to be at a certain time and the baker agrees, make sure it is in the contract. This can also include who is actually baking and decorating your wedding cake. Make sure it includes all pricing and what should happen if you cancel. All details should be in the contract. This way there will be no confusion about anything on your big day, which helps cut out unnecessary stress. It also helps to go over the contract a few days to a week before the wedding with the baker to make sure that everything you want will be handled. Happy Cake Hunting!