Destination Weddings: Choosing Your Destination Dress

Photo by Laura Doss

No doubt you'll want to start shopping for your wedding dress right away, but choosing one for a destination wedding is a little different.

Pick your location first. Your dress should blend harmoniously with the setting. Weddings in tropical destinations should have a more casual feel. You don't have to wear a sundress, but a beaded satin ball gown on the beach would strike the wrong note. If your ceremony is seaside, forgo both the long train, which will accumulate sand, and the cathedral veil, which can become unruly in the ocean breeze. Stick with styles that feel tropical or beachy, like slip dresses, mermaid shapes, or even layers of wild ruffles (even though you're not going formal, you can still be ultra-festive). The same principle applies to weddings in country and rustic mountain settings -- bypass glam sequins and royal wedding-style poufs in favor or fabrics and lines with elegant simplicity.

But if you're walking down the aisle in a medieval chapel or a European castle, a more formal look involving yards of rich fabric and intense embroidery will suit the old-world setting.

If the cut that looks best on your body feels too formal for your destination look for other ways to tone down the dressiness.

Respect the tone and time of the ceremony. A featherweight dress in not appropriate attire for a candlelit ceremony in a centuries-old church, even if the church happens to be in the Dominican Republic. And if you're getting married in a garden at noon you may need to relinquish your fantasy of elbow-length gloves and a mile-long veil, even if the garden is on the grounds of a fancy five-star hotel.

Remember the weather. Select a fabric that will be comfortable to wear in your destination's climate. Are you headed to a steamy tropical paradise? Choose lightweight materials like airy silks that breathe, such as chiffon, organza, charmeuse, or crepe, and avoid heavy weaves like satin and brocade. Fabrics that wrinkle or pucker are poor choices if it's humid, as is heavy beading, which weighs a dress down. Are you getting married at the top of a ski slope on New Year's Eve? Reverse those rules: Choose a weightier fabric and pair it with a cashmere wrap or a fur stole.

Will it travel? Before you purchase a massive swagged ball gown with a cathedral train, consider how you'll get it to your destination. Avoid lost-luggage issues by carrying your dress with you. Some fabrics (linen, satin, and organza, for example) wrinkle severely when packed; upon arrival, you may need a professional to press or steam your dress. Soft fabrics like lace, silk chiffon, or charmeuse are easy to pack.

Flatter your figure. Regardless of where your wedding takes place -- on a beach or in a ballroom -- you need to choose a style that flatters your figure. Try on a variety of silhouettes (sheath, A-line, Empire waist) to find the one that plays up your assets and makes you feel gorgeous. If the cut that looks best on your body feels too formal for your destination -- for example, you really like a strapless bodice with a full skirt -- look for other ways to tone down the dressiness. Choose a matte fabric free of beading or other ornamentation, and exchange the tiara for a simple hairstyle. On the other hand, if you feel most comfortable in an unadorned sheath but your destination calls for something fancier, dress it up with eye-popping jewelry.

Remember your accessories. The dress is just the base of your wedding day look -- your accessory choices can transform the feel of your outfit. A dramatic necklace or chandelier earrings can make a simple dress more spectacular. A long veil can make a slip dress look more traditional during the ceremony. And the right underpinnings are essential to ensuring your gown doesn't slip, twist, or reveal the wrong parts.

Before you go... Call the airline in advance to inform them that you'll be carrying on your attire (this notice is especially important if your dress is oversize). There may be an extra fee, but it's worth it. Once you board the plane, ask the flight attendants to place your outfits in the closet in the first-class cabin (even if you're not seated in first class -- don't worry, everyone will indulge you since it's your wedding).

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