How to Get Married on a Boat and Where to Do It

Getting married on a boat is one of the most unique wedding experiences for you and your guests. Here's how and where you can plan your boat wedding.

By Jennifer Prince

How to Get Married on a Boat and Where to Do It
Photo by Pretty in Pink Boat Wedding in Charleston

The First Look ✨

Whether you grew up spending summers boating with your family, or you simply want to do something unique for your big day, consider getting married on a boat. Any boat, from sailboats to yachts, can serve as your wedding location. With a bit of pre-planning and finding just the right fit, you can set your wedding afloat by getting married on the water.

Things to Consider Before Getting Married on a Boat

See if anyone on your guest list gets seasick.

Yikes! The last thing you want on your wedding day is for your guests—or worse, you or your partner—to feel nauseated as you say your I dos. So, do a quick poll of friends and family to see if anyone gets seasick. If so, ask if they are willing to take anti-nausea medication beforehand. You can even include the question on your wedding invitations to make sure that no guest is forgotten.

Decide if your ceremony, reception, or both will take place on board.

Just because you love the water doesn’t mean that you need to commit to everything being at sea. For example, ceremonies require less space than a reception. Therefore consider holding your wedding ceremony on the boat and having a reception when you get back into port.

Prepare to cull your guest list potentially.

Not many boats will hold a guest count of 200 for both a ceremony and reception. As a result, you may have to pare down your list of attendees. Another option would be to have your ceremony on the boat and host your wedding reception on land. That way, you can have an intimate wedding and invite all of your guests to the celebration afterward.

Think through the logistics of your wedding day.

Sailing vessels differ from traditional wedding venues, so look at the space with a trained eye. Consider where you will get ready and how you will enter for the marriage ceremony. Work with your wedding coordinator to determine floor plans for your ceremony and reception. Also, think about the logistics of needing to rent chairs, tables, and place settings if the boat doesn’t provide them.

Have a solid backup plan for inclement weather.

Although rain is traditionally good luck on the wedding day, precipitation can hinder an outdoor wedding. However, getting married on a boat has a whole different set of concerns. High winds and rough waters can prevent a vessel from leaving port, even if there is no threat of rain. So, prepare by having a well-thought-out contingency plan to offer peace of mind to everyone involved, from the bride and groom to the officiant.

Consider your overall guest experience.

Yes, your wedding day is all about you getting married. However, your guest experience should be a high priority. Consider details such as wheelchair access and restroom locations. Also, plan a few highlights, such as a sunset champagne toast or a photo booth that shows off the stellar view. Another thoughtful gesture is to have light blankets available if it gets chilly on board.

Where to Get Married on a Boat in the US

Aberdeen, Washington

Fans of Captain Jack Sparrow may be a bit disappointed that Johnny Depp won’t be on board. However, you can charter the ship used in one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. The Lady Washington holds 45 passengers, but, due to its popularity, it should be booked six months or more in advance. History buffs will enjoy time on this vessel, which is a replica of a 1787 ship.

Brunswick Islands, North Carolina

For couples craving a genuinely intimate wedding, Endless Summer in Southport is the way to go. This vessel will take a total of six passengers sailing along the Lower Cape Fear. “It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had operating the boat,” says Owner and Licensed Captain Cap’n Jim. “It brings loved ones together, and I just really enjoy doing that.” Another option for a larger wedding is to hire Calabash’s Atlantic Star, which holds up to 130 guests.

Chicago, Illinois

Explore Lake Michigan aboard the Sophisticated Lady as you say your vows. A couple and their 47 guests can cruise while viewing the Chicago skyline. The vessel’s staff is also ready to help recommend and secure vendors to make your big day as flawless as possible. You can purchase a wedding package that includes catering services to make things extra convenient.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Yachting is impressive; however, renting one for your wedding doesn’t have to break the budget. “My go-to on the water venue is Sun Dream Yachts,” says Wedding Planner Keith Willard. “There are so many brides that dream of having their wedding on a yacht that heads into the sunset for an unforgettable experience.” The fleet of 150-passenger yachts is air-conditioned, which Williard said is a must for summertime Florida weddings.

Mesa, Arizona

If you prefer inland waterways, head to Saguaro Lake to wed on The Desert Belle. One hundred forty-nine passengers can view the beauty of Mesa’s stately canyon walls and desert vistas as they ride. The vessel has been cruising the lake for over 50 years. Additionally, a big perk is their dockside wine bar, where you can host a post-cruise reception for your guests.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Get married on a boat in Victorian style on the Creole Queen. Complete with a paddle wheel, the ship’s captain can perform your ceremony. Plus, couples have a designated wedding planner to ensure the success of their big day. An open-air deck and several dining rooms are available to host your wedding and reception.

Rockland, Maine

Sail on a 19th-century vessel that’s fully equipped to handle your special day. The Maine Windjammer Association is a collection of sailing ships docked in Rockland and Camden. The captain can perform the ceremony, and the onboard chef can cater and make your cake. Have an effortless wedding while your guests enjoy views of coastal Maine.

San Francisco, California

Escape with views of Alcatraz and get married aboard a vessel through City Cruises. Have an event for two to 1,200 onboard a private charter. “You get sweeping views of the Bay along with iconic landmarks, specifically the bridge and Alcatraz Island, that make an experience on the water unique,” offers Polly Lugo, associate director of sales, event coordination at City Cruises. Imagine the memories you’ll make as you and your guests view San Francisco’s sites from the water.

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

Another inland option in the mountains of Virginia is the Virginia Dare. The vessel holds up to 70 guests and has been hosting events on Smith Mountain Lake for over 30 years. “What makes it special is that it’s their venue,” says Garret Meyer, owner and president of the Virginia Dare. “When they have a wedding on the boat, the boat is theirs, and we customize every single thing we do to their event.”

Getting married on a boat in the US can be quite a memorable experience. After a bit of careful planning and finding a suitable vessel for your style and guest count, having your wedding ceremony, reception, or both on the water provides gorgeous views and significant moments for you and your attendees.

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