In a unique wedding on an international cruise spanning multiple countries – touted as the first of its kind – the former Miss India Seattle 2016 Meenal Drock, and Aman (only first name given) tied the knot in a ‘Wedcation’ aboard the ‘Genting Dream Cruise’, which made its way through islands in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, as traditional Indian Hindu wedding ceremonies were conducted.
Drock, an Indian American, explained the planning, strategy and challenges of the cruise wedding to News India Times. She explained that she did the entire wedding planning for one year and also acted as choreographer for the wedding.
“The wedding ‘mandap’ was set up on water body on the cruise ship with ocean in backdrop while it sailed after following ship’s fire guidelines and policies,” Drock wrote of the wedding.
Drock was born and brought up in Mumbai and has native roots in Rajasthan. She met Aman, of Punjabi origin, 9 years back in New York when she was pursuing an MBA degree.
After being in a live-in-relationship with him for three years, Aman moved to Canada and Drock stayed in Seattle for her career. After spending five years in a long distance relationship and travelling back and forth between Canada and the US, she introduced a new concept: “Live in Relationship with family”.
Drock moved into her boyfriend’s family before getting married.
“It is better to know the family before hand, make all adjustments necessary before you tie the knot as marriage is just not between two souls but you are also marrying the family,” she said of the arrangement.
Here is how she explains the concept behind her unique ‘Cruise Wedding’:
“Like every other girl, I always dreamt of doing a grand luxury wedding that would be exceptional and make me memories for life. When I found my soul mate and he proposed to me, I had at least 20 different ideas in my mind on how I would want my wedding to look like. At first, I thought of doing a traditional Indian wedding in Udaipur or Jodhpur palaces which are famous wedding venues in Rajasthan. My other options were doing a wedding in my home city, Mumbai. Both of us lived in USA for 10 years and then we have been living in Canada, so our friends were mostly from USA & Canada area while our relatives were from India. Choosing a wedding destination in USA/Canada was an option but it would have taken a lot of time for relatives to file tourist visas and travel all the way for our wedding. So we had ruled out getting married in USA/Canada.
“Getting married in India in today’s date in a palace or in metropolitan cities like Mumbai where you could book a Marriott style hotel would easily cost approx. $50,000 for 500+ guests. If the wedding had to happen in India, then our total guest list would easily be total of 800 guests. So our costs for 800 guests would be approx. $80,000. If the same wedding is upscale which includes luxury décor, exceptional wedding theme and catering then the wedding cost could easily double up.
“Both of us had the same thought process that we needed a wedding where we would only like to have an intimate guest list of approximately 150 people where both of us know every individual attending and at the same time we needed all of our guests to enjoy a vacation with us on our wedding.
“So yes, we needed a destination wedding but we were looking for a unique concept never tried before. If we did a destination wedding in Cancun or Hawaii or any resort in Thailand, we would have ended up spending a lot of time and effort in decorating the resort. Our main idea was that we needed our major wedding ceremonies to be within two hours and we needed guests to enjoy vacation rest of the time. Due to this, we needed minimal décor which could be set up within one hour and could be torn apart post event in one hour.
“The idea behind restricting to two hours is that both bride/groom and families can enjoy to the fullest for that two hour ceremony and then they can spend the remaining day in vacationing with guests. As a bride, when I searched for Wedcation themed weddings (Wedding + Vacation), I could not find much search results. The fact that there were not many search results told us that the Wedcation theme of the wedding was unique and that we were in the right direction. The next big thing for us was to select where the wedding will take place and what would be the unique concept. He (Aman) knew I love cruises so he came up with the brilliant idea of doing a unique cruise wedding in a commercial cruise that carries 3000 passengers.
“Couples have done yacht weddings or 1 day cruise weddings but very few couples have done weddings in a 4 to 7 days cruise. I went on the internet to get ideas on how cruise weddings are done and all of the results that came up were mostly about American weddings done on cruise ships. That wasn’t helpful as Indian weddings are different and tend to have 3 to 4 ceremonies each day with Indian traditional decor. After plenty of research, I found that Genting Dream Cruise would make my dream come true.
According to Drock, there’s not much information available online on cruise weddings and most of the blogs talking about cruise weddings are catered towards American brides.
She said: “To my surprise, there were 0 results and there was no information on how to do an Indian Hindu traditional wedding on cruise ships. I decided to take this challenge and went ahead planning for this first ever unique Indian Rajasthani wedding on cruise ship and if it were to be successful as per our plan, I promised to pen this down to lay out all the steps I went through to help other couples. I had decided that I will be the planner for my wedding as I loved planning events and spending on an event planner was expensive.
Drock has written a blog on cruise weddings at https://drockz.com/drockztv.
Here is an overview of her important checklist and step-step process for a cruise wedding:
1) Her first step was finalizing cruise room booking cost and splitting that between groom and her family. In destination weddings, guests are expected to bear their own flight expenses and airport transfers etc.
2) Her next high priority item was creating a guest list, sending digital invites and keeping a deadline for getting final headcount confirmations before booking cruise rooms.
3) Choosing vendors locally from Singapore itself as local vendors are cost-effective. She also did vendor negotiations by giving them cross publicity offers as vendors were getting to build their portfolio by working with her profile and a unique wedding. SilverStar Decor, an event decorating company from Singapore took in charge of décor for all of their ceremonies on the ship. The bride selected her vendors from Singapore to save the cost of flying vendors from USA or Mumbai. Her hair and makeup was done by celebrity hair and makeup artists Gayathri Menon from Singapore and the video/photography was done by Vividcine Productions. Her cruise travel consultant and advisor was Nandini Gupta.
4) She selected the main bride/groom outfits and jewelry from Mumbai, India. Her main outfits were from Kalki and groom’s outfits were from Manyavar. Her outfits for extended events were from RainbowBC, Canada. Her wedding jewelry was from Aanya, Mumbai and floral jewelry was sponsored by Pearls & Petals, Seattle. Their diamond rings were from Lakhewale jewelers in Canada.
5) She loves dancing so it was important for her to have a powerful Sangeet Dance Choreography. Flare Dance Co. by Disha Kat from Canada did choreography for main dances. Since she likes to choreograph too, she took care of few dance performances with her limited bandwidth.
6) Every successful ceremony is due to the DJ & production. To make it easier on the DJ, she created playlists in advance and gave them spreadsheet highlighting what needs to be played when. She highly recommends to keep an excel sheet ready if you need to set an ambience your way.
7) Before heading to her wedding cruise, she celebrated her ‘Haldi Mehendi’ and other extended events in US and one of her main events were her bachelorette party. She selected her bridesmaids and bachelorette party theme six months in advance so that everything works as per the plan. Her bachelorette theme was ‘Victoria’s secret angels’ where all of her friends were Maid of Honors with white wings and she wore a black wing. She believed that every friend of hers made a difference in her life and so everyone deserved to be Maid of Honor, so her Vegas bachelorette party had no bridesmaids. She selected bridesmaids on the cruise to go with the regular convention.
8) Final program run down and baggage packing. Since she did not want to take the risk of losing her baggage on convertible belts or having it mixed up in flights, she carried her main outfits and jewelry in cabin and she highly recommends it. She advises that “especially if it is a cruise wedding, you cannot take the risk of losing your baggage as cruise will not wait for you.”
She added: “Advantage of a cruise wedding is that you can have a shorter guest list as fewer guests will spend their own money on flights etc. to travel for your destination wedding. This indicates that mostly people who are closer to you and wouldn’t afford to miss your wedding would be there and that is what you care about. Another advantage is that cruise has 24×7 food that has a wide variety of cuisines which means that you don’t need to figure out catering for your entire wedding. If a guest feels hungry anytime, they are free to go on any of the restaurants available on ship serving food which is inclusive of the cruise package. The biggest advantage is that cruise stops on different destinations, so you get to see other countries and vacation along with your wedding fun.
“Disadvantage of a cruise wedding is that cost of booking approx. 100 guests could be more expensive that what you would end up paying for inviting 700 guests in conventional wedding. But the headache of managing 700 guests is far beyond. In conventional wedding, you will have to figure out catering menu for each of your event as well as if it is destination wedding then you need caterers to take care of breakfast, lunch and dinner. So you end up figuring out at least 9 types of meals. And more than that, managing event décor on land is very expensive.”
Drock added: “I would highly recommend the bride and groom to consider cruise wedding as an option as the experience is unforgettable.”