For newly engaged couples just starting to hash out their wedding plans, the season’s arctic temperatures mean a tropical destination sounds mighty tempting. But this isn’t akin to asking your loved ones to squander a summer weekend in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; think of it as a fantasy-come-true for everyone involved, with welcome cocktails by the pool and morning yoga on the beach. Just try and use common sense by giving yourselves enough time to plan, keeping the guest list to a low roar and choosing a spot people can reach without undue hassle.
Here are five tropical islands fit for a dreamy destination wedding—and a beautiful gown to go with each locale.
Overwater bungalows, black pearls and the best baguettes in French Polynesia make Bora Bora a choice refuge for tech titans with deep pockets. Weddings on this lagoon-rimmed island are small, sensual and usually barefoot. In fact, many brides opt to make their ceremony entrance via outrigger canoe.
What to wear: Galia Lahav crafts this season’s sexiest goddess gown from figure-hugging chiffon with pleats, midriff cutouts and a sheer bodice embroidered with silk flowers and edged with crystals.
Platinum beaches, rum shops and afternoon tea by the pool allure vacationers who come in search of civilized villa life. While wedding parties can take advantage of some of the Caribbean’s best nightlife, including open-air dance clubs and plentiful street eats, ceremonies tend to be traditional, with restored plantation houses ranking among the most popular venues.
What to wear: Striking a classically romantic note, Lela Rose embroiders a dramatic flounced bodice with graphic petals, then lets the crepe gown fall in the simplest A-line.
Double rainbows, surfer’s beaches and artisanal mai tais have turned Maui into a favorite for honeymooners. But the family-friendly island also specializes in wedding ceremonies with traditional Hawaiian touches, including plumeria leis, conch shell blowers, hula dancers and wedding feasts that often include a whole roasted pig.
What to wear: Marchesa Notte gives a flattering A-line silhouette thanks to the ultra-feminine treatment with lattice ruffled texture and lace detailing on the tulle skirt.
Eco-spas, virgin jungles and undisturbed beaches call to adventurous types who come to explore the volcanoes and ride zip lines above the rainforest crown. Even the poshest resorts give weddings a rustic-glam spin, with packages that offer shaman blessings and farm-to-table menus.
What to wear: Costarellos uses lavishly appliquéd silk lace flowers to embellish a ballgown with a deep V neckline; the vibe is befitting the boho bride who wants to take the fairytale route.
While plenty of tourists come to this island for the unlimited drinks at swim-up bars, real Jamaicaphiles embrace a more authentic party scene: raffish beach saloons, jerk joints and reggae clubs. Small hotels in the funky east end provide weddings with Blue Mountain backdrops, but the western resort town of Negril is the spot for romantic sunset ceremonies.
What to wear: Danielle Frankel’s sportswear-inspired ensemble suits the fashion-forward beach bride, with a lace racer crop top and an inner-corseted lace skirt.
Rachel Leonard was the Fashion Director of Brides Magazine for 18 years—the first employee at Condé Nast to make the jump from advertising to editorial. Rachel is currently the Editorial Director for The Bridal Council, and can be followed on Instagram @_rachelleonard.
A marketing executive currently living in Arizona, Sally Kilbridge spent more than 20 years as an editor at Brides Magazine. She indulges her love of travel and romance on her website, destinationw.com, a definitive guide to destination weddings.