Tropical destination weddings are an excellent option for those who want to keep the guest list small and spend much of the wedding weekend outdoors. Typically, only the family members and close friends of the couple will attend, making the ceremony more intimate and opening up possibilities for activities throughout the weekend.
Resorts often have multiple options that cater to everyone, from those who prefer to snorkel, water ski or swim all day, to those whose ideal vacation entails a fruity cocktail (or two) while relaxing on the sand.
Having all of your guests in the same location can also lower the stress of coordinating transportation options between hotels and the venue, and allow everyone to enjoy the bar without worrying about driving home.
Many resorts, particularly those in southern Florida and the Caribbean, offer wedding packages that include an onsite officiate, assistance filing your marriage license, and handling many of the logistical details (i.e., setting up and breaking down chairs, catering, etc.). One possible downside of this option is that you’ll have to share space at the resort with other hotel guests, so, if you’re aiming for complete privacy, ask the resort coordinator or concierge about options to keep the ceremony and reception to just you and your guests.
If you want to skip the resort option altogether and get married on a public beach, check to see if you’ll need to obtain permits ahead of time. Though certainly not mandatory across the board, larger or more logistically sophisticated ceremonies may be the catalyst that requires them.
Beach Wedding Considerations
While many couples love the idea of getting married on a beach, it is important to think about the weather when selecting a date and location. Hurricane season technically runs from June 1 to November 30 in the Caribbean, which encompasses more than half of the wedding season. If you plan to get married during this time, it’s important to come up with a contingency plan in case the weather is less than ideal on your wedding day.
Be sure the resort has the space to accommodate guests indoors for both the ceremony and the reception. Most places typically have indoor space for this type of situation, since they’re familiar with the need for a contingency plan.
If you get lucky and your wedding day is bright and sunny, there are other items to consider. Mid-late afternoon ceremonies offer the best backdrop for photos; unfortunately, this is also the hottest part of the day.
Provide sunscreen and insect repellant in the welcome bags, and hand out cold towels and water before the ceremony – your guests will thank you and be able to enjoy the event instead of swatting away mosquitos and dabbing at their brows.
Remind folks to stay hydrated, as well, by passing out water. Unless you are having a dry wedding, drinks are available around the clock at resorts. People tend to let loose more when they are on vacation, and the combination of too many cocktails plus heat can lead to dehydration. You don’t want to spend half of your wedding taking care of Uncle Morty because he got into the tequila too early in the day.
It is also important to keep the weather in mind for the dress code, both for the bridal party and your guests. If you’ve always dreamed of a formal wedding where everyone is dressed to the nines, it may be difficult to ensure everyone still looks that way halfway through a tropical outdoor ceremony.
Aim for warmer colors and cooler styles that allow your bridal party and the guests to look nice but still be comfortable. Additionally, keep the high heels to a minimum – neither the bride nor her guests should spend the rest of the night nursing a sprained ankle instead of jamming out on the dance floor.
Make sure that your invitations reflect that you expect your guests to be comfortable.
Sandals or wedges are great alternatives, and you’ll probably change into them later anyway. If your wedding date is during the offseason when it can get a bit chillier at night, provide blankets or shawls for your guests to use as they sit around the fire pit on the beach.
Hair and Makeup
Hair and makeup are two staples of every wedding day. Depending on your personal style, you can employ almost any combination, be it an updo with a full set of fake eyelashes and lipstick, or an easy “downdo” with minimalist makeup and the bronzed glow of the sun.
If you prefer a more glam look, and it’ll be hot during the ceremony, use a setting spray to keep makeup from sweating off. Keep an emergency kit nearby or with a bridesmaid for touch-ups throughout the night.
If your skin is prone to breakouts, use oil-absorbing sheets, which will keep sweat from getting trapped in your pores and mixing with layers of makeup.
Traditional Is Not De Rigueur
While some brides prefer traditional wedding accessories, a tropical destination allows you to mix things up a bit. Try starfish or sand dollars in the bouquet or as part of your hairstyle. Use bright, unique flowers native to your wedding location rather than traditional roses or lilies.
Give your bridal party sandals and sunglasses to wear during the ceremony and for photos. Skip the veil – the combination of wind and sand will require you to spend more time pushing it out of your face than focused on your vows.
Hang paper lanterns from palm trees for the reception. Include tropical flavors in your signature cocktail and the cuisine. Use local items, like shells, coral and sand, in your centerpieces or to decorate the cake.
Have guests leave “messages in a bottle,” with marriage and life advice. Make the little things evoke the feeling that embodies you as a couple and the place where you chose to begin your lives together.
The most important thing to remember when planning a tropical wedding is to be flexible. We haven’t yet mastered how to control the weather, and travel can always be fraught with difficulties, no matter where you’re headed. Even if your flight is delayed a day, half your guests don’t make it because of a hurricane, you have to move the party indoors, and they run out of umbrella garnishes for the mai-tais, remember that what really matters is you’re starting a new and exciting journey with the love of your life, and you’ll have a fantastic story to tell your grandchildren when they ask about your wedding day.