With so many sunny days, beautiful beaches, and easy-going vibes—not to mention its proximity to the Eastern half of the U.S.—the Caribbean is a perennially popular choice for destination weddings. Invited to a wedding somewhere in the Caribbean? Here are four essentials that every wedding guest needs to know.
Leave the High Heels and Dress Shoes at Home
"San Pedro is a beach destination, and the ambience of our property can be summed up as 'barefoot elegance,'" says Javier Williams, guest services director and wedding coordinator at Victoria House in Ambergris Caye, Belize. In the 21 years he's served as wedding coordinator, he's found that most ceremonies take place on the beach, which he adds is typical of the Caribbean. Sandals, either dressy or casual depending on the dress code, are perfectly acceptable.
Always Check the Wedding Website First
"The biggest complaint I hear from couples is that all of the information is on their website, but guests still ask them questions," says Cartagena-based wedding planner Gina Castillo-Alvarez of Team Bride. On top of all of the planning for their destination wedding, Castillo-Alvarez notes that couples put a lot of extra effort into organizing everything from travel details and packing tips to local spots to visit and a full itinerary, and all of this gets shared on their websites. Make sure to check there before reaching out to the bride and groom with additional questions.
Make Sure Your Passport Is Ready to Go Well in Advance
With the exception of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, which are all U.S. territories and therefore don't require a passport for travel, every other destination in the Caribbean does require a valid passport, so don't wait until four weeks out to double-check that your passport hasn't expired since the last time that you used it, or to file an application for one. If you need to renew or submit a passport application—information for both can be found on the State Department's website—start the process at least three months in advance, just to be on the safe side.
Prepare for the Sun, and Perhaps the Bugs
It goes without saying that the sun in the Caribbean is more intense than anywhere in North America, so pack plenty of sunscreen—as in, full-size products. This is not the time to try to get by with only travel-size liquids and gels so you can carry on your suitcase, unless you don't mind paying gift shop prices (which sort of defeats the purpose). "You don't want to be the one that looks like a lobster in all of the wedding pictures!" says Castillo-Alvarez, who also recommends packing mosquito-repellent bands, which are good for several days. And it never hurts to pack some spray insect repellent and also an anti-itch relief cream or product—just in case the no-see-ums, or sandflies, strike.