The rules of attire for destination wedding in tropical climates are very different from what your traditional etiquette guide suggests your guests should wear for a wedding back home. Depending on where you're getting married, and what time of year, it could 90-plus degrees with unbelievable humidity, even if the destination is absolutely gorgeous. While you want the whole group to look great in photos, you don't want to lose anybody to heatstroke.
Guests who are used to the normal "rules" of what to wear for weddings find themselves baffled when it comes to planning their wardrobes for tropical bashes. Over the years, we've narrowed things down and created some definitions, all of which can be found online if you're desperate.
Requests for specific attire are mostly aimed at the gentleman, to be perfectly honest. Ladies will generally show up wearing whatever the season's fashions dictate— from sequins to maxi dresses— but the boys need some basic instructions. Especially if they're single and packing for themselves. At more remote destinations, they may not have the option of emergency shopping.
I've planned more than 500 weddings in the Caribbean, and only about five of them have been black-tie, requiring guests to wear tuxedos in addition to the wedding party. It's hot, it's miserable, and if your wedding ceremony and reception venues aren't inside in air-conditioned spaces, forget about it. It's just cruel. If that's what you've got in mind when you picture your wedding guests, you should be planning on a temperature-controlled wedding venue.
Instead of black-tie, or black-tie optional (which means you can wear a dark suit instead of a tux), consider one of the following more popular destination wedding attire options:
This means that all of the gentleman must wear a coat and tie. Usually, this would mean suits, and you may see some linen and seersucker getups that are very stylish. But as long as they're wearing a coat and tie for the ceremony, they're within the parameters. Don't expect to see anybody wearing a jacket or tie after about 15 minutes of the reception if your events are outside.
Island Cocktail Attire
By far the most popular for my brides and grooms. This one means no jackets and no ties, but also no jeans, no shorts, etc. Trousers and a dressy shirt (short sleeves are fine but it should have actual buttons top to bottom— no golf shirts) are perfectly acceptable.
Shorts and golf shirts are fine, no t-shirts or tennis shoes. This level of attire also requires the female guests to dress down a bit, too. Consider a cotton sundress or silk lounging pajamas in lieu of a cocktail dress.
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.