Growing our Wedding Guest List in the Caribbean

by Terri Rice

Terri and Geoff during their vow renewals
Terri and Geoff during their vow renewals

We expected our second wedding to be a quiet experience, just for us. Instead, we found ourselves surrounded by a wonderful group of newfound friends. Our guests were our fellow passengers, gathered over the course of a Caribbean cruise, from one end of the ship to the other.  

Geoff and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal. After the long flight from Perth, Australia – applause for me, as Geoff hates long flights – we boarded our cruise ship, Grand Princess, just the two of us.

We’d never had children and none of our friends were able to come; we were contentedly alone. We figured our vow renewal would be an intimate one, presided by Captain Anthony Herriott and perhaps a few members of the crew.

But the magic of friendship, something that seems to happen naturally if you’re looking on a Princess cruise, had different plans in store. Our private second wedding was soon radically changed.

Geoff and I are friendly people. I had a career in sales and he is a builder who constantly confers with clients and contractors. Over the course of the cruise, as Grand Princess stopped from one sunny Caribbean island to the next, we found it easy to strike up a conversation here and share a joke there. These casual conversations quickly turned to fast friendships.

It happened over drinks at the poolside bar, where Geoff and I would stop most afternoons.

We selected Anytime Dining, so we were meeting a cross-section of passengers, tablemates whom were easy to befriend over dinner.   

Other friends were met at the piano bar near the Piazza, a favorite haunt of ours for after-dinner drinks and sing-alongs.

We met Chuck and Mary from Canada. Michael and Marcia from New York. Julie and Paul, John and Sandra, and Clark and Shelly, all from England. And others too numerous to name.

We met our first wedding guests over dinner. Rather than ask them at the table, Geoff and I found ourselves agreeing after our meal that they were such a nice couple  that it’d be great if they could come to our ceremony.

This little routine was replayed time and again. Before we knew it, Geoff and I invited 23 people to attend our vow renewal. Finally, we had to stop. There was the catering and bar budget to consider. It had ballooned from scant to something in a few short days on Grand Princess.

Logistics had blossomed so much that we decided to enlist the reception desk in organizing the event. The staff posted official invitations to everyone’s cabins prior to the big event.

The receptionist at the desk even remarked, “You have a lot of friends and family on board.”

When we informed her we’d just met them all since coming on board, she seemed surprised. She sounded shocked when she told us, after all the RSVPs had come in, that every one of our new friends had replied yes.

Think how remarkable it is that 23 people, all with their own precious cruise vacations to enjoy, would take the time to join us for a special moment in our lives.

In the days leading up to the vow renewal, it was fun running into our guests around the deck, by the pool and other spots on the ship. Everyone was looking forward to our big day.

The ceremony itself was wonderful. Captain Herriott was dressed in his formal attire. The atmosphere was made more beautiful by the view of the sparkling Caribbean Sea.

It all went by in a bit of a blur. I remember committing myself once again to my husband, but also to our dogs, which made everyone laugh.

Afterwards, crew members passed around champagne on trays. We’d booked an open bar and had a spread of all kinds of delicious nibbles put out for our guests. Later that night, most of our guests joined us for a fun evening at the piano bar.

The following morning at breakfast, we tiredly greeted one another. Our second-wedding guests and Geoff and I had truly bonded and were together for the remainder of the cruise.

We keep in contact with many of them and you never know, we may meet them again on the sunny seas.

A vow renewal is already a lifetime occasion in the life of a married couple. Ours was made even more joyous by the inclusion of so many delightful guests. All 23 of the people we had bonded with so deeply during our vacation on Grand Princess were part of our special day, and are part of our memories forever.

Terri and Geoff’s original marriage took place in Southampton, U.K., in a facility overlooking England’s busiest harbor. They are looking forward to a Mediterranean cruise on the new Regal Princess.