By David G. Molyneaux, editor
ABOARD REGAL PRINCESS, IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS
My grand wedding at sea began as a simple affair. Both of us had earlier marriages, and we planned to keep things small and private. We talked of sneaking off to tie a nautical knot on a cruise ship, quietly, with a minimum of fuss and fanfare.
None of that was to be, except for the cruise ship.
Instead, we were married a few weeks ago in a ceremony fit for royalty.
On one of the newest and fanciest cruise ships, the British captain of the Regal Princess performed the ceremony in the Grand Atrium in front of dozens of family and friends, and hundreds of cruise passengers who snapped pictures in a series of flashes like paparazzi at a celebrity gala. CLICK for media coverage
The story about how our wedding morphed from simple to grand began at about 8,000 feet in the mountains of Peru on Thanksgiving Day and Hanukkah, which coincided in 2013. Fran Golden and I were traveling in the ruins of Machu Picchu when I asked her to marry me, and she said “yes.”
Planning a sea wedding for hundreds
As our extended family began to buzz about a wedding, suddenly we were not alone in the planning process.
We each have two children, with spouses, whom we wanted to get to know one another. We have three siblings; they all wanted to come.
Among my five young grandchildren, my son’s three little girls giggled about being in a wedding with sparkling dresses, flowers, and music. They envisioned themselves as flower girls, with primping and pomp, like in the movies.
A destination wedding was appealing, but travel distances and timing were issues. When we mentioned a three-night weekend November cruise from Florida into the Bahamas to family and friends, requests for invitations began to mount from Ohio, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia, California, Florida, and London.
In the spring, Princess Cruises, which sails several ships to the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale, put us in touch with its wedding planners, and we were on our way.
The business of performing weddings on a cruise ship is growing and, according to one estimate, will top 1,000 ceremonies aboard ships during 2015.
Princess Cruises is 'The Love Boat'
Princess Cruises, the wedding leader, has taken smart advantage of its image as the line that provided the ships for the old and popular syndicated TV show, “The Love Boat.”
With its program, Tie the Knot, Princess coordinated cruise cabin purchases for our wedding guests and arrangements for such things as flowers, wedding cake, and pictures Click for information about planning a wedding
Royal Ocean Events, under contract with Princess, assigned a wedding planner, overseeing preparations, including Fran’s makeup and my beard trimming on the ship, the ceremony and a reception luncheon for our family and friends following the nuptials.
A marriage license from Bermuda
A Bermuda ship registry allows Princess captains to perform legal weddings at sea.
But first, we needed a marriage license. Bermuda is serious about its marriage laws. We were guided through a process that included filling out legal forms about our personal lives and recording a notice in the Royal Gazette.
On October 11, readers in Bermuda could see and respond to our public notice, “Any person knowing any just cause or impediment why this marriage should not be allowed should enter caveat forthwith in the office of the Registrar of Marriages.”
No such caveats were entered.
One of the highlights of choosing a three-night cruise for our wedding was that our family and friends had nearly two days before the ceremony to socialize and relax around the ship and during a port day at Princess Cruises’ private beach complex in the Bahamas. This was such a joy for Fran and me, watching people who have been meaningful in our individual lives meet and get to know one another as part of our new joint community.
I'm getting married in the morning
On Saturday, a sea day, a crowd began to gather about 9:30 a.m. at the railings of the three decks that encircle the atrium floor on Regal Princess.
Travelers on the 3,560-passenger ship had been invited in that day’s Princess Patter, which is delivered daily to each cabin. No doubt, some were drawn by the opportunity to watch a wedding of “two award-winning travel writers” and to participate in the champagne toast by the Regal Princess captain, Edward Perrin.
Others may have come to hear opera singer Annette Wardell, who sang from “Romeo and Juliet.”
Or, perhaps they gave up their morning for a reading of an Apache blessing by Gavin MacLeod, the actor who played Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat.” MacLeod, who was sailing on this voyage with the other cast members from the former TV show, had offered to read, and we were happy to have him join our ceremony.
By 11 a.m., the atrium was packed. My son, Miles, and I waited with the captain, as my three grand-daughters – Kate 10, Lauren 7, and Bethany 3, with fingernails and hair ties matching their dress colors -- walked down the aisle, each carrying a rose wand. Then came Fran’s daughter Erin and niece Sasha, followed by the bride, escorted by her son Eli.
The Captain was charming. He read a poem, led us in vows and an exchange of rings. We said our “I do’s” and danced to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” performed by the ship’s string quartet.
For the record, the ceremony was at latitude 25degrees43.3’N, longitude 076degrees23.1’W.
Imprinted in my mind is a wedding image: We walk through a sea of bright blue and white balloons that are falling from the atrium ceiling three decks above. My wife, Fran, is glowing in a 1930s curly blonde actress hairdo, and I am beaming, looking up at a throng of clapping well-wishers.
A canvas blowup of this photo now sits in our Cleveland apartment.
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com