Once you, the lovely bride, choose the beautiful Caribbean Islands for your ceremony location, it's time to begin planning for the all-important matter of the wedding dress. But this isn't just any wedding dress - it's a destination wedding dress for one of the most gorgeous, laidback, and sought-after locations in the world, and that means taking a few things into account before shopping.
You're heading into paradise, a land of white sand beaches and sunsets that melt over crystal blue waters, beautiful gardens filled with vibrant flowers and palm trees, and historical ruins sprinkled throughout old sugar plantations. The Caribbean is a celebration of the outdoors, and you may find yourself in some unconventional settings with constant summer-like temperatures. And of course, your dress needs to travel easily and look fabulous when you get to your island of choice, as well as work with your venue. Below, we've offered a few tips on what to consider when choosing the best possible destination wedding dress, so you can create wonderful wedding memories in style and comfort!
The Destination Wedding Venue
The first step when shopping for gowns is to consider your setting. From simple town hall ceremonies to elegant ballrooms to full-on beach blowouts, the sheer amount of choices in the Caribbean may seem overwhelming. But once you manage to narrow them down, it's time to start thinking about the type of dress that fits best with your chosen surroundings.
The most important thing here is using common sense. Will your ceremony take place in a rugged, private location difficult to get to but full of great scenery? In that case, the last thing you need to deal with is a long elaborate wedding gown. Perhaps you choose an indoor hotel facility or a terrace, in which case you can afford to have a fuller train or a longer veil, without the risk of dragging it through the sand or dirt. Will the ceremony take place in air-conditioning, or in the warm Caribbean air? Is there a predominate color or feel to your venue that might clash with a certain style of dress? Take a long hard look at your venue (ask or search for pictures if you can't travel there beforehand) and imagine what a perfect and practical dress for that environment would look like.
Of course, no rules exist saying that you need a certain type of destination wedding dress for a certain type of venue - some choices are just more appropriate than others. At the end of the day, a bride should do what makes her happy. A dress that matches the venue, however, brings a sense of cohesion to the entire affair, which is something definitely worth considering before an impulsive purchase.
The Destination Wedding Dress Fabric
When choosing your destination wedding dress, keep in mind the flight and the temperature once you reach the islands. With warm weather averaging between the 70's and 80's, you'll want a lightweight fabric that packs and transports easily without wrinkling, and that stands up in the tropical heat. Wedding fabrics like silk, charmeuse, chiffon, and organza compose beautiful and stylish dresses that won't weigh you down, and are popular choices for destination wedding gowns!
The most expensive of the fabrics, silk is great for destination weddings because it packs wonderfully and remains wrinkle resistant, even after long flights. It's also hard to tear, and dries quickly (perfect for weddings taking place close to the waves.) This smooth, soft, and lustrous fabric makes for an elegant and lovely destination wedding dress.
Lightweight and usually made of silk with a satin finish, charmeuse drapes easily to create a perfect simple-yet-elegant destination wedding gown. Lightweight and durable, the fabric packs and wears well even after a long flight and feels soft and satiny to the touch. The front appears semi-lustrous while the back remains dull. You might commonly find charmeuse in draped, loosely fitting tops or dresses.
An extremely light and delicate fabric made from silk or synthetic fibers (such as polyester or rayon), chiffon often acts as a detail or accent to wedding dresses combined with other materials. Because of its transparent nature, designers often either layer the fabric or use it to enhance an under skirt layer.
Chiffon feels rougher to the touch than satin or charmeuse, but flows and has a delicate floating appearance unmatched by other fabrics. You might find chiffon used in scarves or dress overlays.
A crisp and stiff fabric traditionally made from silk, and more recently synthetic fabrics such as rayon or nylon, organza feels slightly stiff to the touch but still flows, perfect for wedding gowns. Sheer and lightweight, it works well for Caribbean destination wedding dresses that need to breathe in high temperatures. Frequently layered because of its sheer appearance, dresses often feature organza in sleeves, skirts, or detailing.
The Destination Wedding Dress Style
Despite the stereotype, a Caribbean wedding does not require a barefoot ceremony on the beach in a knee-length dress. Depending on your personal preference, and depending on where you hold the event, certain dresses may seem more practical than others, but this should never stop you from wearing the dress of your dreams. If you have always imagined a floor-length gown with an elaborate train right on the beach, it's your special day and no one should tell you otherwise. Just prepare yourself to deal with the heat, the possible inconveniences, and other issues that may pop up during the proceedings.
Alternately, many brides choose to embrace the Caribbean setting and make stylistic choices that reflect the surroundings and laidback island atmosphere. Not only does this give cohesion to the setting, style, and feel of the ceremony, it also makes the most of the place you've traveled so far to see. We've listed a few ideas for wedding dress styles below to help you consider your options.
Many brides choose short destination wedding dresses both for their practicality, and for their more informal appearance. For a small and intimate ceremony, some consider it worthwhile to cut costs by purchasing a gown with less fabric, and therefore, a lower price tag. Not only do shorter dresses help save money, they are incredibly practical for ceremonies in unique, outdoor Caribbean locations, such as beaches, national parks, gardens, and so on. Mobility in these settings is important, and with no long train or hemline to drag through the sand or dirt, brides find themselves free to enjoy the lovely surroundings. Short dresses also possess the inarguable benefit of staying cooler, particularly in outdoor settings, and help to reflect the laidback, casual atmosphere found in so many of the Caribbean Islands. Below we've listed a few explanations of different wedding dress lengths, but it's important to remember that these are only time-tested guidelines. There's no such thing as "following the rules" when choosing your destination wedding dress, and as long as you feel comfortable, the variations of length and setting remain limitless.
The shortest of lengths, the miniskirt hits above the knee, usually around the thigh. This works well for informal destination wedding dresses, particularly for ceremonies on the beach - the miniskirt hem allows for maneuverability, the bride gets to feel the cooling Caribbean breezes, and the look sets an informal, young, and fun tone to the proceedings.
A tea length dress falls just to the top of the shin, and creates a sophisticated appearance perfect for a semiformal destination wedding. Excellent for a chic garden ceremony, a terrace overlooking the ocean, or exchanging vows on the beach, the tea length gown is emerging as one of the most popular new styles for today's brides.
Intermission length hits anywhere between the knee and the ankle, and reflects a semiformal or even casual look. The intermission length suits anything from an intimate beachside or garden ceremony to a larger, laidback hotel celebration with family or friends.
An informal style perfect for a beach wedding that just covers the knee. This fun look speaks casual and works well for a ceremony during the day in a laidback setting.
This look blends the best of both worlds - an intermission hem on the front with a floor-length hem in the back - into a unique semiformal or casual look. The resulting appearance is such that the inside, longer back of the dress is visible, while the front remains short and flirty.
This semiformal length hits just above the ankle, and works for a fun outdoor daytime ceremony as well as in a church or ballroom wedding.
The ballerina length, just like its name implies, is a very full skirt that hits right above the bride's ankle, floating gracefully above the ground. Perfect for the bride who wants an outdoor wedding with a longer skirt, the ballerina length stays well out of the sand yet still has a semiformal appearance.
When the majority of people hear the phrase "wedding dress", a floor length gown is the first image that comes to their mind. A classic style that just touches the ground, this is the dress of choice for a formal evening or day wedding. Keep in mind that these dresses include the most fabric, and might feel smothering on a tropical summer day. These elegant gowns work perfectly in a sophisticated hotel ballroom or in a church wedding, although due to their popularity, today's brides wear them in just about any setting imaginable.
Depending on how you've always envisioned your wedding, you may find that a train is less appropriate for your destination wedding dress and Caribbean setting. For a casual outdoors wedding, you may want to stick with none at all, or perhaps a sweeping train (just a few inches of material that brush the floor.) Trains weigh you down and drag through anything on the ground, but they do possess the redeeming characteristic of a traditional and absolutely gorgeous appearance. Keep in mind that many trains bustle, so if you absolutely cannot live without one, it won't drag behind you for longer than the ceremony. Of course for a semi-formal or formal indoor destination wedding, that cathedral train you imagined as a little girl makes more sense. Size up your venue, decide how well a train will work with the formality and tone you've selected, and choose accordingly!
Just as the name indicates, a no train skirt remains the same length the entire way around, with no material hanging behind you. This informal look works well for most Caribbean ceremonies, as it creates a casual appearance in-tune with your surroundings. This works particularly well with settings such as the beach or in a garden, where you don't want your dress dragging through mud, sand, dirt, water, or any possible variation of the four.
Sweeping Train (Brush Train)
A sweeping train has just a few inches of fabric that flare out behind the bride, barely sweeping (or brushing) the floor. Perfect for an informal or semiformal affair, this look creates the perfect balance of elegant appearance without compromising maneuverability.
Usually extending 4-5 feet from the waistline, a chapel train works well for any type of ceremony - formal, informal, or semiformal, depending on the dress style and the tone of your ceremony. Although it might be a bit of a pain in the sand or dirt, this look works well on a terrace or in an indoor venue like a church or ballroom.
A semi-cathedral works well for semiformal and formal weddings, usually with about 5-7 feet of fabric from the waistline. These trains work well in an indoor Caribbean venue, such as a historical church or building, an elegant terrace, or a ballroom, and are typically too formal for a ceremony on the beach.
Extending 7-8 feet from the bride's waistline, these trains create a classic and very romantic look wonderful for a formal wedding. Best worn in an indoor venue, their bulk may prove difficult to maneuver through an outdoor area.
The longest and the most impressive of the trains at 9-10 feet from the waistline, this extremely formal and glamorous look does not come recommended for anywhere except a large church, ballroom, or other indoor venue - brides in this type of dress need plenty of room to maneuver and spread out. Ensure that your setting is formal enough (and contains long enough of an aisle) to do this style justice.
Beading, extra fabric yards, and elaborate materials are all items that rack up dollars, and buying a simpler destination wedding dress presents a great way to put the money you save back into your wedding ceremony! Not only do you save money with a simpler, shorter dress, such elaborate gowns often feel more at home in a different setting than the Caribbean. Channel the island sense of simplicity, and avoid weighing yourself down with tons of detailing for a lovely gown without the fuss - much like the attitude of the Caribbean itself.
So you're holding your ceremony in the Caribbean, one of the most vibrant, colorful, and lively places in the world. White is obviously the traditional choice for a wedding gown, but why limit yourself to it? Try a dress in coral, sky blue, or sea green to channel the tropical atmosphere around you. If a whole new color seems a bit too extreme, consider accents - try a colorful sash or a bright piece of jewelry alongside a more traditional white dress. Not only will you stand out, this is a great way to pay homage to the colorful Caribbean Islands!
Let's face it - the traditional heels don't work so well in the sand or dirt. Who says you can't wear sandals during your ceremony? Destination wedding sandals are an increasingly popular alternative for the Caribbean, and they range from simple white flip-flops to elaborate, crystal-adorned works of art. Perfect for any destination wedding dress, they bring comfort, practicality, and a casual air to your Caribbean wedding! Of course, if even sandals prove too much, lighten the atmosphere and simply go without - a barefoot ceremony on the beach speaks classic Caribbean.
The Destination Wedding Reception Dress
A rising trend with brides is the reception dress, a simpler, more comfortable gown that you slip into after exchanging vows. This lets your entire wedding party see you walk the aisle in your fabulous first gown, but then allows you to relax and enjoy freedom of movement during your Caribbean reception. This works particularly well for brides who fall in love with an elaborate or slightly less practical gown for their setting. Highlight the beautiful dress of your dreams, and then relieve the temperature and confinement with something less constricting! However, ensure that your reception dress mirrors the formality and tone of your wedding - if you throw a black-tie affair and later appear in a casual, short-skirted number, your guests may start to wonder if they overdid their own attire. The main idea here is increasing your comfort for things like socializing, dancing, and eating, which doesn't necessarily mean slipping on the most relaxed and low-key white dress you can find.
Trashing the Dress (Destination Wedding Style)
After your destination wedding comes to an end, you're left with a trip full of wonderful memories and the dress of your dreams. What to do with it? Instead of wrapping up the gown and hiding it in your closet, why not consider a more literal version of "embracing the Caribbean"?
Trashing the dress refers to an edgy type of post-wedding photo shoot in which the bride "trashes" her beloved gown on the principle that she'll never wear it again. Not only is this symbolic of her commitment to the groom, it's a fun and unique way to let off steam from the stress of wedding planning. Some brides choose to spray paint their gowns for an unexpected and colorful effect, while some pose in unique locations. The point of a trash the dress session is to get dirty and take creative photos, be it laying on the ground, climbing up a tree, covering yourself with spray paint, or almost anything else a bride could dream up. And the Caribbean, with its many beaches, parks, and resort areas, lends itself perfectly to this emerging trend. Take a swim in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea or your resort pool, fully clothed in wedding garb. Hike through a historic sugar plantation without fear of smudges or tearing - that's the point. The wedding is over, you're with your partner for life, and why not start the honeymoon with a bang? Many sessions end with beautiful and completely unexpected poses, as well as a sense of liberation from the couples' many hectic months of planning. Although this practice may not suit the tastes of every couple, it certainly provides an alternative endnote for a lovely Caribbean destination wedding dress, as well as a chance to m