Is a tropical sun-drenched beach in your wedding future? Are you going to get married someplace warm while it's freezing cold back home? What do you picture yourself wearing, as you head down that coconut-framed aisle?
There are no rules that say you have to wear a less-formal wedding gown for a beach wedding ceremony, and I have seen plenty of brides in full ball gowns and Cathedral-length veils on the sand. If that is what you want to wear, by all means, do it!
When I got married in Puerto Rico, I planned to wear my gown a week later for my black-tie reception at the National Press Club back home in Washington, DC, so I never considered wearing something less formal for my island wedding. I wish I had. I nearly melted on Labor Day weekend in the tropics in a heavy, formal, silk gown.
Destination weddings offer brides a host of dress options because nobody is following the Emily Post etiquette rules of "what time, what length" that technically apply at home. You're not getting married in a church so there are no rules about how much skin to show.
Before you go dress shopping for a destination wedding gown, consider the following five things:
1. Look for lighter fabrics.
Gauzy chiffon and organza give you a little air, and weigh less than polyester-silk or satin-silk gowns. And they'll float in the breeze you hope will blow on your wedding day.
2. Do you really want a big train on your wedding gown?
If you like the visual of something spilling out behind you, would a veil suffice? The dress doesn't get any lighter after you bustle it, it just gets shorter. And if you dance the night away, you have 50/50 odds that your bustle will break and the dress will get in your way later in the evening.
3. Remember that most bridesmaid dresses in bridal boutiques are also available in white.
Not only do they cost a fraction of a "wedding gown," but there are many more length options to consider. They come in a variety of lightweight fabrics, in addition to the traditional heavy ones.
4. The bigger the dress, the harder to transport.
Whether you're shipping it ahead or hand-carrying it on the plane with you (NEVER CHECK A WEDDING GOWN IN YOUR LUGGAGE), a massive dress with many layers will cost more money and frustration, and will require more steaming and ironing at the destination.
5. Big expensive gowns cost a fortune to clean, especially if they're 100 percent silk.
It will cost you upwards of $500 to have your dress treated at a good dry cleaner who will package it up for you to store afterwards. Floaty dresses made of cotton and polyester, on the other hand, may even survive a dip in the Caribbean for a "trash the dress" photo shoot if that's something you'd like to do.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.