Hurricane Season Weddings in the Caribbean

Hi everyone! I wish I had a dollar for every bride who didn’t want to get married in the Caribbean during hurricane season — I’d make a mint. In fact, almost every bride asks about what the weather will be doing during whatever time they’ve chosen to get married, and they’re usually surprised when I say it’s safe to get married in Vieques pretty much every time of year.

Historically, in the past 30 years, very few big hurricanes have whomped Puerto Rico, and even fewer have caused serious damage on Vieques. I’m no meteorologist, but my basic understanding of the way it works is that storms are always looking for a larger land mass to hit as they cross the water. Fortunately for Vieques, we’re a tiny little island, and most hurricanes shoot above us or below us on their way to the bigger island.

What are the chances of a hurricane making a direct hit on any Caribbean island during any given hurricane season? Nobody knows. It seems like whenever they call for a bad hurricane season, we end up relatively unscathed. And when we least expect it, we get storm after storm. So what does that mean for somebody who is considering an “off-season” destination wedding in the Caribbean? It means you’re taking about the same chance as somebody in the Northeast United States who plans a wedding at home in the winter. The odds of your guests having travel problems due to hurricanes are about the same as your guests getting stuck because of a blizzard. If you’re not the kind of person who would take a risk by getting married someplace it might snow, then you probably shouldn’t plan a Caribbean destination wedding between August and November.

Of course, what’s the best time budget-wise to plan a destination wedding? Hurricane season! That’s the best time to get good airfare rates, the best time to ask for hotel discounts, and the best way to get the venue you want if you’re planning with less than a year’s notice. You have to be a bit of a gambler, but no more so than any northern bride in the snowy season. You could purchase wedding insurance or recommend your guests purchase travel insurance if you’re really nervous about it, but I don’t push it. That’s one of those things I tell brides to decide for themselves. It could be a total waste of money, or not.

The reality is that there is a very, very slim chance you’ll have any weather problems if you decide to get married in some parts of the Caribbean during hurricane season. Some islands historically get whacked every year. Some don’t. You have to do your homework and see what makes you feel most comfortable. My wedding guests didn’t have any problems with the weather while they were on Vieques for my Labor Day wedding in 2004, but some of them had a rough time getting back home afterward because of hurricanes that were beating the heck out of Florida and the gulf. It screwed up flights, especially for people who were changing planes anywhere in Miami or Atlanta. Those who were flying direct to Washington, Chicago, New York and farther didn’t have any problem at all. And everybody made it back within a day or two, even though it was a hassle for them.

Maybe I’m biased because I had my wedding in Vieques during hurricane season, but I’m an advocate of off-season weddings. The islands are less crowded, the airports are more sane, the beaches are deserted, and it’s usually cooler in Puerto Rico in August than it is in Washington, DC. But you have to make your own decision. Weigh your options, look at your budget, check out of the history of hurricanes on the island you’re considering and then make an educated decision.

Happy Wedding Planning!

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