If you long to have your special day at sea, little else can compare. After all, yachts, sailboats, catamarans, and cruise ships provide unbeatable panoramic views. And what could be more meaningful for your wedding day than embarking on your greatest journey yet—marriage—on a decked-out, dynamic vessel with your closest friends and family?
But for all of their maritime magic, boat weddings can come with certain complications, especially when it comes to finding the right vendors who will keep your wedding day on course.
The exciting news? Many boat venues include vendors like caterers, wedding coordinators, and officiants. For some couples, this comes with a sigh of relief—less time nailing down moving parts, more time nailing your first-dance moves. But if you’re reluctant to step away from the helm, you’ll want to maintain the opportunity to find some of your vendors for yourself.
If you still dream of saying “I do” on deck, this guide to finding vendors for your boat wedding will help you find your sea legs. We’ll cover:
No matter how you envision it—a rollicking affair on a summer afternoon or an intimate evening under the stars—a boat wedding brings atmosphere and romance in spades. It’s easy to see why boat weddings appeal to many couples looking to optimize ambiance on their special day.
But if you’re new to the idea of a boat wedding or just beginning to think seriously about a celebration at sea, there is a wealth of factors to consider. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of boat weddings to help you determine if nautical nuptials are right for you.
Boat venues undoubtedly supply the wow factor, but it turns out they offer several other perks as well, including:
Convenience: With your perfect wedding ceremony and celebration in one location, you can skip the logistical challenges—and expenses—that come with multiple venue sites. Worried about monotony? Relocate the event as the night goes on: vows on the main deck, drinks on the aft deck, and dinner and dancing in a dazzling, indoor dining area.
Cost: It might come as a surprise given the lavish connotations that come with yachts and sailboats, but many boat weddings present as cost-cutting ventures. Thanks to the many vendor-inclusive options available across a wide range of vessels, it’s possible to secure million-dollar views (and priceless “I dos”) for much less.
Views: It’s hard to say enough about how visually stunning a boat wedding can be. Whether you’ve set sail from an island in the Florida Keys or the Boston Harbor, these aquatic venues allow you and your guests to immerse yourselves in the glory of your surroundings. Depending on your location, that could mean tropical sunsets or twinkling city lights.
Intimacy: Boats have rigid capacities, and once they leave the dock, they’re off. If you like knowing all of your loved ones are within reach for the duration of the evening, you might be suited to a soiree at sea. Also, the strict enforcement of an onboard capacity can serve as a helpful, concrete parameter if you’re struggling to set boundaries on the size of your celebration.
Are you lost at sea (or, more accurately, in a spreadsheet) when it comes to building your guest list? Zola has a free, easy-to-use guest list manager complete with sorting features that will help you put together the perfect group.
As you’re weighing the decision to have your wedding at sea, some concerns might surface, including:
The Elements: Rainy weather poses issues for any outdoor wedding ceremony. Unsurprisingly, these issues compound when your celebration is on a boat. Even if your vessel has a gorgeous enclosed space to use as a bad-weather backup, you might be in for disappointment if your captain deems the seas too rough for sailing.
Rigid Timeframes: You know your loved ones all too well—and that includes their proclivities for tardiness. As fashionable as lateness may be for on-land receptions, aquatic affairs adhere to strict timeframes. And if some of your guests are the type to dance and dash, let them know that once they come aboard, aboard they must remain.
For help communicating the expectations of your venue, Zola helps you build a free, customizable wedding website where your guests can find key details about your big day, so they’ll have no excuses for waving from the dock rather than alongside you on the deck.
Accessibility: Many boats have narrow corridors, tight galleys, and multiple sets of stairs between levels. For guests with mobility issues or those who use wheelchairs, these venues can be challenging to navigate. Don’t forget to discuss accessibility options when deciding on your dream boat.
Comfort: Too much Champagne? Possibly. Or perhaps it’s seasickness. For every seafaring bride who adores the gentle motion of the ocean, there’s a queasy bridesman knocking, hurriedly, on the commode door. Inevitably, some guests might not be as experienced on the high seas, and unexpected weather and winds can challenge even the heartiest of mariners. Put your guests at ease by stocking up on Dramamine and ginger tea. Plus, blankets and pashminas will keep your guests cozy in the face of any windchill.
Selecting trustworthy, vetted vendors can take some time and energy, but will also pay off when you can relax on your big day knowing every detail is just as you intended.
Simply defined as anyone that you pay for services, typical wedding vendors include:
Indeed, boat weddings can simplify the complexities that come with selecting vendors. After all, you might not need to worry about elaborate decor with the Statue of Liberty directly in the foreground.
Still, there are plenty of vendors to secure for your big day, starting with the venue itself: the boat. Let’s dive deep into the world of rentals and all they have to offer.
When it comes to selecting any venue for a wedding, there are many moving parts to consider. And when your venue is the moving part, it’s nearly guaranteed to feel like a high-stakes decision. From there, you still have additional pieces to lock into place.
But you might find that many charter companies actually include a crew of in-house (or on-boat) vendors, streamlining your planning process and taking out some of the guesswork.
Whether you spent a summer sailing with your grandparents or ogling the majesty of the Queen Elizabeth II in The Parent Trap, you probably have a clear picture of the many types of vessels and vibes available for your celebration, and you might have your heart set on one of the following:
When contemplating what boat is best for your big day, be sure to ask yourself:
With a clear picture of what kind of wedding you’d like to have and a list of deal-breakers, you’ll be able to decide both the type of vessel you need and the concessions that come along with it.
To streamline your celebration planning even further, let’s explore what’s available—from luxury yachts to charming riverboats. Each vessel has a singular style, but they all offer enviable amenities and noteworthy wedding packages, ranging from all-inclusive to a la carte.
This standout member of World Yacht’s New York City fleet lavishes its guests (275 seated or 500 standing) with five-star service as they take in New York City’s iconic skyline. Enjoy sweeping sunset views of Lower Manhattan, in addition to:
As with many all-inclusive options, a celebration aboard The Duchess includes a full buy-in of food and drink options for all guests. But if you and your spouse-to-be are wary of the impersonal setups or generic tablescapes that can come with other all-inclusive options, this hyper-lux venue might be tailor-made for you.
The Duchess fancies itself as a beautiful blank canvas. Wedding planning superstars are on board with your every whim, available to help you craft personalized menus, floral arrangements, and even custom cocktails.
If you and your partner are Midwestern mariners, consider taking the next step aboard Chicago’s First Lady. Dance the night away with the company of two to 200 of your nearest and dearest as you cruise the Chicago River. On the First Lady, love might not be the only thing sparkling in your eyes. If it’s a Saturday night during the summer, it might be the reflection of a fireworks show alighting Lake Michigan.
Even if you miss the fireworks, this mahogany and brass boat delights with its promise of ease, sophistication, and personalization.
If you’re drawn to all-inclusive offerings, you’ll enjoy the boat’s open bars, elegant decor, and five-star service. But if you’d like a touch of custom, too, you can take your pick of six catering options and even select a route that showcases your favorite spots in the city.
Southern hospitality and low-country views combine to make the Savannah Riverboats a spirited pick for rollicking receptions. While its capacity for top-deck ceremonies tapers out at 75 guests, the paddlewheel riverboat can hold up to 1,000 of your loved ones in its grand ballrooms.
All weddings include:
While the venue requires you to stick to their food and drink offerings, you’re welcome to bring your own cake or cupcakes aboard for a little taste of individuality.
Sailing the waters off of gorgeous Charleston, South Carolina, this yacht will likely call to you if you crave stunning 360-degree panoramic views and the amenities of traditional on-land venues. The event-coordination team takes care of nearly everything, including food, bar service, music, linens, and staff for groups of up to 150 loved ones.
Plan a sun-soaked, Southern California celebration on one of Triton Charters’ catamarans and treat up to 105 of your friends and family to an unforgettable daytime fête filled with cocktails and beer (included with rentals), epic San Diego views, dancing, and laughter from the built-in slides and trampolines.
Simple, seamless luxury awaits on one of Trilogy’s six luxury catamarans, which depart out of Maui’s Lahaina Harbor. As if the Hawaiian sunset wasn’t enough visual resplendence, Trilogy offers three decor packages:
If you’re planning an intimate sunset celebration, Trilogy might be perfect for your group of up to 50 guests.
Looking to craft your own custom micro-wedding? Search for privately owned boats on Boatsetter, and connect with owners and captains all over the world. Find vessels that meet your needs based on dates, size, and price. While you might miss out on amenities packages, you’ll gain the opportunity to savor freedom, flexibility, and each other. And isn’t that the essence of a wedding at sea?
As soon as you select your venue, you’ll begin to get a sense of how other vendors fit into your day—what’s taken care of by the charter, and where you might need a few additional services.
To find well-suited vendors for your event, you’ll want to consider the details associated with each professional on your list:
For a wedding abroad, you might want to look into having a civil ceremony at home before you go. That way you can focus on the seas you’re crossing—not on crossing Ts and dotting Is with legal paperwork.
Music: If you’ve fallen in love with an all-inclusive luxury yacht that has an in-house DJ, securing a music vendor might not be a worry. But if you have your heart set on a string quartet or a 12-person swing band, you’ll want to make sure that your boat has the performance space and capacity to fit them. Remember: Boats have strict limits on how many people, and how much weight, they can carry.
Cake: Even some all-inclusive boat venues, like the Savannah Riverboat, will allow you to bring your own wedding cake. But on small sailboats and catamarans, consider the limitations that come with small interiors. You might want to forgo a classic three-tier wedding cake and opt instead for desserts that fit the space and style of your celebration, like macarons on a Seine River cruise or key lime pie off the Florida coast.
Photographer: It’s likely that a large draw of a boat ceremony and celebration is the beauty of the setting, with panoramic ocean, mountain, and city views making an ideal background for sunset wedding portraits. While some boats provide event coordinators who can pull in photographers (or even photo booth options aboard The Duchess), you’ll likely want to select your own photographer. Make sure you’re in love with their portfolio, especially the photos they’ve shot at sea, and feel comfortable around them.
All hands on deck! You’ve got a wedding to perfect. Thanks to Zola’s wedding vendor search, you can find experienced, vetted vendors that fit the vibe, budget, and style of your special day. Zola’s comprehensive catalog of pre-screened professionals covers every corner—and coastal area—of the country.
Whether it’s to the high seas or the harbor, the call of a boat wedding can be impossible to ignore. Boat weddings can certainly feel magical, but planning a wedding at sea requires practical consideration, especially when it comes to your celebration size, venue regulations, and the comfort of your guests.
Zola’s suite of free wedding planning tools can keep you grounded as you set sail on your boat wedding journey, with:
Nautical nuptials not your thing? We know that planning for any kind of wedding can feel like navigating unfamiliar seas. That’s why we offer a wealth of pre-screened venues and vendor options for every kind of wedding. No matter where your wedding planning journey takes you, make it smooth sailing with Zola.