Wedding Planning: Price comparisons

Welcome back, friends! If you were here on Monday, you read about how we were given the idea to get married on a cruise, rather than a more “traditional” venue on land. If not, go ahead and click that link and see a silly photo of the people who suggested the whole thing.

Today I’m here to walk you through my early-stage planning process by helping you see how we determined which cruise line to give our money to. I looked at four cruise lines in my quest to find the right one.

Carnival
Royal Caribbean
Norwegian Cruise Line
Princess Cruises

Color coded for your convenience.

Now let’s dive in!

Where do you start?

It all starts with a budget.

The fiance and I sat down and talked it over when we started planning. We knew we wanted to keep the wedding and cruise combinatoin to around $8,000 and have the other wedding expenses clock in at around $2,500. Having a tighter budget was a call we knew we needed. This meant that we would definitely be making some tough choices down the line but it was a choice we were willing to make.

After all, this cruise as a whole would give us all more memories than a single $1,600 designer wedding dress ever could.

Got your budget? Great! Let’s move on.

How large do you want your celebration?

Do you want a more intimate affair, or would you like a large party on the high seas? The size of your group will greatly impact your cost across the different cruise lines out there. Some lines have minimum numbers of people that you will pay for, regardless of the actual size of your wedding depending on the package you pick.

It can really look like a lot of options, and I will cover those more in the next few paragraphs. But for now simply pick a number for your guest count.

We decided on a 75 person headcount on the ship. That’s going to be our max. Many family members aren’t able to travel for health or financial reasons, and we understood that. We’re going to host a BBQ back home for those family members about a month after the wedding.

What Kind of wedding experience do you want?

And I know that you may have a few more questions now. So here’s what information I can give based on the questions that I had after compiling that info the first time.

  • At sea weddings are when the ceremony is performed while the ship is in motion, water on all sides. In some instances for some lines the Captain can perform these ceremonies. For other lines, this is not the case.
  • Dockside weddings are those held on the ship while the ship is in port, either at the departure point or at a destination. These can offer a little bit more in terms of options so don’t discount them.
  • Destination/ashore weddings are just that; ceremonies performed on land at a port of call on your cruise. Prices and license fees can vary greatly for these so be sure to get all necessary information from your wedding planner.
  • Embarkation day weddings are held on the ship before it initially leaves the port from which the cruise sets sail. These are very popular because this allows for guests who are not sailing to attend the ceremony and reception.

Now we’re moving on to those wedding packages I was talking about.

I’m going to break these down by cruise line. I’ll link to their brochures so that you can get a lot more information there.

Carnival:

  • Intimate Ceremony Starting at $1,450 – Up to 10 guests (including couple), private venue, 15-20 minute ceremony, officiant provided, two-tier cake, service and gratuity included.
  • Grand Ceremony Starting at $1,850 – Up to 50 non-sailing guests, no maximum on sailing guests, private venue, 15-20 minute ceremony, officiant provided, two-tier cake, service and gratuity included.
  • Carnival Classic Starting at $2,400 – One hour reception to follow ceremony, 20 guests minimum (including couple), up to 50 non-sailing guests, no maximum on sailing guests, private venue, 15-20 minute ceremony, officiant provided, two-tier cake, service and gratuity included. Open bar and both hot and cold hors d’oeuvres included in price. Roughly $40 per person over 20 guests.

Royal Caribbean:

  • Vows at Sea Starting at $3,850 – Up to 50 guests (including couple), additional $250 per 25 guests over 50, private venue, onboard coordinator, officiant provided, three-tier cake.
  • Embark on Romance Starting at $5,600 – Up to 50 guests with the ability to host non-sailing guests, private venue, officiant provided, three-tier cake, dinner for couple at a specialty onboard restaurant.
  • Intimately Yours Starting at $1,950 – Up to 10 guests, , private venue, officiant provided, two-tier cake.

Note: Ceremonies do not come with receptions included in the prices. You have to select those a la carte.

Norwegian Cruise Line:

  • Wedding at Sea Starting at $2,200 – Ceremony performed by the captain, bistro dinner for two, bottle of house wine, bottle of sparkling wine, bottle of prosecco, one hour of photography.
  • Symbolic Ceremony at Sea Starting at $1,800 – Pre-written vows, onboard coordinator, simple bouquet and matching boutonniere, 6 inch round cake, one bottle sparkling wine, champagne toast, one 8×10 framed photograph
  • Harborside Wedding price varies per port – Priority boarding, allows non sailing guests, pre-written vows, onboard coordinator, simple bouquet and matching boutonniere, 6 inch round cake, one bottle sparkling wine, champagne toast
  • Destination Ceremony price varies per port – Pre-written vows, onsite coordinator, simple bouquet and matching boutonniere, 6 inch round cake, one bottle sparkling wine, champagne toast

Note: Ceremonies do not come with receptions included in the prices. You have to select those a la carte.

Princess Cruises:

  • Tie The Knot at Sea Starting at $3,000 – Venue in either Chapel or Library, Candlelight optional, Captain as officiant, onboard coordinator, two fresh flower arrangements, four 8×10 photographs, bottle of wine, breakfast and dinner for two, keepsake champagne flutes.
  • Tie The Knot Harborside price varies per port – Priority check in for bridal party, officiant provided, onboard coordinator, pre-written vows, 9 inch round cake, bottle of sparkling wine.
  • Tie The Knot Ashore Officiant provided, coordinator, pre-written vows, simple bouquet and boutonniere, bottle of sparkling wine, cake for two, transportation to and from location for couple.

Note: Ceremonies do not come with receptions included in the prices. You have to select those a la carte.

Wow, that was a lot of info.

With all of that under my belt, I sat down and I crunched our numbers. A disclaimer: These numbers are all going to be specific to the ports I chose for our cruise, so there will be some variation should you price your own.

What I priced was a 20 minute ceremony, followed by an hour long cocktail style reception for 75 people, with basic photography and DJ services. When booking a cruse wedding, you also have to consider the cost of the bridal room, so I priced a balcony room in similar locations on each ship, with amenities that I enjoy.

cruise comp for blog

Since my max budget for the ceremony, reception, and cruise costs was $8,000 I can easily count Norwegian and Royal Caribbean out of my personal journey. Don’t discount them for yourselves based on my opinion though. Those of you that like a little more swank in your day to day, you would absolutely adore RC ships. They are gorgeous, and you will feel like a movie star.

As you can see, Princess came in as the lowest cost for the options I wanted for the ceremony, but not for the cruise. The ceremony also didn’t include things like food or drink, I had to choose those extra. Which isn’t terrible but I had to consider that their prices per person additional aren’t 100% clear just for research.

Carnival ended up winning out for me here. I felt like I was getting the most bang for my buck, and I’ve cruised with them before so I knew what state the ships were in when I chose to book.

What we ended up ultimately booking was an Embarkation Day Carnival Classic wedding with reception.

So in my next post in just a few days I’ll break down some specifics of what I chose for my personal wedding and why! See you soon guys!

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