Tips for Choosing the Best Wedding Gown for a Tropical Wedding

Hello everybody! I’m a destination wedding planner, so I’m supposed to know everything about the best way to get married in the Caribbean, right? So do me a favor, learn from my mistakes — don’t repeat them!

I got married on Vieques several years ago in a $5,000 Richard Glasgow silk designer wedding gown with a train. Big mistake! I almost melted. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the dress looked fabulous on me (if I do say so myself), but I was miserably hot from the very first moment I put it on. And because I’m not a perfect size 8, I had to wear one of those scary foundation bras under the dress (usually referred to as an iron maiden by those who have worn them), and that added another layer of clothing. Again, I looked fabulous — but I was so uncomfortable that it really took away from the joy of my wedding day.

I’m not a complete idiot — I didn’t choose a formal silk wedding gown for Vieques. I was having a 300-person black-tie reception at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, one week after my ceremony in Vieques, and I planned to wear the same gown to both affairs. Therefore, I had to buy a gown that was appropriate for the dressier of the two events. That was the compromise I made with my mother to be allowed to get married on Vieques instead of in my hometown.

My husband fared much better than I did in this deal because it would have just looked plain silly for him to wear a tuxedo for a sunset wedding in Vieques. Oh sure, he wore black tie back in DC for the big reception, but on Vieques, he was cool as a cucumber. He wore a light, khaki-colored Brooks Brothers suit with a traditional Guayabera shirt underneath. No tie. After the ceremony and the pictures, he left the suit jacket at the hotel before we headed out to the reception. I’d also had the forethought to order two identical white Guayabera shirts for him, so when the pictures were finished, he took off the sweaty one he was wearing under the jacket and put on a fresh, clean one to wear for the remainder of the evening. Value of the extra shirt: $30. Value of being clean and cool for the reception: Priceless.

Our groomsmen were similarly attired in matching khaki pants with white Guayabera shirts (slightly different from my husband’s, but not noticeably so). No jackets. No neckties. They had to suck it up and don tuxes for the DC reception, but that was at the very air-conditioned National Press Club so nobody minded.

My bridesmaids did a little whining about their dresses, but not too much. I chose a strapless dress from designer Mori Lee with a pink floral pattern on a white background. Probably sounds atrocious to you, but they were actually gorgeous. I know for a fact that a couple of the girls had the skirts shortened to tea length and wore them for summer weddings the next year. Again, the dresses had to work at the black-tie reception, so they were floor-length and a light poly-satin. But they were cool enough and islandy enough to look absolutely beautiful at my wedding.

If I had gotten married on Vieques and not had a reception in DC, I would have worn a much simpler gown. It would have been made of something like a breezy organza, and it wouldn’t have had a train.

When you begin shopping for a wedding gown for the Caribbean, first take a look through the wedding pages of department store websites. Several of my bridal clients have found really pretty dresses at Real wedding dresses, but simpler styles, lighter fabrics and a variety of lengths. And significantly less expensive than what you’re going to pay if you go into a local bridal boutique looking like a dear in headlights. Do you want to have some pics taken with your feet in the water? Or your groom holding you in the water? Then don’t buy a silk gown that will be ruined by sea water. You have a long night ahead of you after the ceremony and the photos.

Now let’s talk about wedding veils. I’m not even going to describe the one I wore — suffice to say it was exquisite and had sentimental value. It was also an enormous nuisance. With that said, think short and light. And for God’s sake, do not choose anything with a blusher veil (that veil you put over your face for the first half of the ceremony). Yes, it may look romantic, but it will make you miserable. It’s HOT and STICKY in the Caribbean. Even if you luck out with a nice breezy day, that veil is going to stick to your face like toilet paper to your shoe in a public restroom! At the very least, you will smudge your carefully applied makeup and stain your veil. In the worst case, you’ll see an entire print of your made-up face on the back of your head once you flip over the veil. Not elegant at all.

Let’s review — if you’re getting married in the Caribbean, choose a cool, breezy wedding gown or sundress. Remember that your choice of dress will dictate what the rest of your wedding party will have to wear. Choose your attendants’ attire carefully or they may not speak to you after the wedding. And be realistic — if you put the guys in jackets and ties, they’re going to take them off as soon as the pictures are done anyway and then they’ll all just look sloppy.

Next week we’ll tackle the subject of choosing flowers, or alternatives to flowers, for your bouquets and centerpieces. So be sure to check back here for some great ideas and good advice.

If you’ve got a question that’s been driving you nuts, feel free to email me directly at If it’s something that might interest other bridal couples, I’ll try to work it into an upcoming blog.

Happy Wedding Planning!


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