Not every bride who chooses to get married in the tropics wants to get married on the beach. Caribbean weddings don't necessarily involve beach ceremonies, unless the bride and groom want to have their toes in the sand when they exchange vows.
I literally ask every new set of clients the specific question: "Do you want your feet in the sand?" when we first start planning, so I can direct them to the most appropriate venues with the best beach access. The fact of the matter is that brides and grooms who don't require a beach ceremony have a lot more venue options than those who are committed to standing on sand.
You might ask why brides and grooms would go to the trouble of having a destination wedding if they're not going to get married on the beach. The answer is that couples who don't want the actual wedding ceremony on the beach still want to have a tropical destination wedding experience — meaning sun, palm trees, great weather, and fun pre-wedding beach activities for all of their guests — but they're looking for a more traditional venue for their actual wedding. Or just someplace without sand.
But why don't all island brides and grooms choose to get married on the beach? Sometimes, it's all about the shoes. Seriously. Many of my brides have chosen not to set foot on the sand on their wedding day because they wanted to wear gorgeous, high-heeled wedding shoes that they wouldn't be able to walk in through the sand. Really, they want to wear the amazing shoes for the dancing and pictures at the wedding reception, but if they have the dress hemmed to the right length for the shoes, they can't walk in it without tripping if they go barefoot, or wear a flat sandal, for a beach ceremony. Because the shoes are more important to them than the sand, they avoid the beach.
In my case, it was all about my dress. I chose to get married on the terrace of a boutique hotel overlooking the water because I was planning to wear my silk wedding gown again a week later at a formal reception back home, and I'd been warned not to risk getting the hem of my dress wet in the water. But I've encountered plenty of women with no plans to immediately re-wear their gowns who wouldn't even consider dragging their skirts through the sand.
Some couples skip the beach ceremony for very practical reasons. They think it will be too hot for some guests, or they have elderly VIP guests who would struggle to traverse the sand with all the guests watching them.
Many of the most stunning wedding pictures I've seen have been from destination wedding venues high up on the side of a hill, looking down on a crystal blue sea. These couples are able to incorporate the stunning beach into their wedding photos without having to stand in the sand.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.