Destination Wedding Dress Style

Despite the stereotype, a Caribbean wedding does not require a barefoot ceremony on the beach in a knee-length dress. Depending on your personal preference, and depending on where you hold the event, certain dresses may seem more practical than others, but this should never stop you from wearing the dress of your dreams.

If you have always imagined a floor-length gown with an elaborate train right on the beach, it’s your special day and no one should tell you otherwise. Just prepare yourself to deal with the heat, the possible inconveniences, and other issues that may pop up during the proceedings.

Alternately, many brides choose to embrace the Caribbean setting and make stylistic choices that reflect the surroundings and laid-back island atmosphere. Not only does this give cohesion to the setting, style, and feel of the ceremony, but it also makes the most of the place you’ve traveled so far to see. We’ve listed a few ideas for wedding dress styles below to help you consider your options.

Hem Length

Many brides choose short destination wedding dresses both for their practicality and for their more informal appearance. For a small and intimate ceremony, some consider it worthwhile to cut costs by purchasing a gown with less fabric, and therefore, a lower price tag. Not only do shorter dresses help save money, but they are also incredibly practical for ceremonies in unique, outdoor Caribbean locations, such as beaches, national parks, gardens, and so on. Mobility in these settings is important, and with no long train or hemline to drag through the sand or dirt, brides find themselves free to enjoy the lovely surroundings.

Short dresses also possess the inarguable benefit of staying cooler, particularly in outdoor settings, and help to reflect the laidback, casual atmosphere found in so many of the Caribbean Islands. Below we’ve listed a few explanations of different wedding dress lengths, but it’s important to remember that these are only time-tested guidelines. There’s no such thing as “following the rules” when choosing your destination wedding dress, and as long as you feel comfortable, the variations of length and setting remain limitless.

  • Miniskirt: The shortest of lengths, the miniskirt hits above the knee, usually around the thigh. This works well for informal destination wedding dresses, particularly for ceremonies on the beach – the miniskirt hem allows for maneuverability, the bride gets to feel the cooling Caribbean breezes, and the look sets an informal, young, and fun tone to the proceedings.
  • Tea Length: A tea-length dress falls just to the top of the shin and creates a sophisticated appearance perfect for a semiformal destination wedding. Excellent for a chic garden ceremony, a terrace overlooking the ocean, or exchanging vows on the beach, the tea-length gown is emerging as one of the most popular new styles for today’s brides.
  • Intermission: Intermission length hits anywhere between the knee and the ankle and reflects a semiformal or even casual look. The intermission length suits anything from an intimate beachside or garden ceremony to a larger, laidback hotel celebration with family or friends.
  • Knee Length: An informal style perfect for a beach wedding that just covers the knee. This fun look speaks casually and works well for a ceremony during the day in a laid-back setting.
  • High Low: This look blends the best of both worlds an intermission hem on the front with a floor-length hem in the back – into a unique semi-formal or casual look. The resulting appearance is such that the inside, longer back of the dress is visible, while the front remains short and flirty.
  • Ankle Length: This semiformal length hits just above the ankle, and works for a fun outdoor daytime ceremony as well as in a church or ballroom wedding.
  • Ballerina: The ballerina length, just like its name implies, is a very full skirt that hits right above the bride’s ankle, floating gracefully above the ground. Perfect for the bride who wants an outdoor wedding with a longer skirt, the ballerina length stays well out of the sand yet still has a semi-formal appearance.
  • Floor Length: When the majority of people hear the phrase “wedding dress”, a floor-length gown is the first image that comes to their mind. A classic style that just touches the ground, this is the dress of choice for a formal evening or day wedding. Keep in mind that these dresses include the most fabric, and might feel smothering on a tropical summer day. These elegant gowns work perfectly in a sophisticated hotel ballroom or in a church wedding, although due to their popularity, today’s brides wear them in just about any setting imaginable.
  • Train Length: Depending on how you’ve always envisioned your wedding, you may find that a train is less appropriate for your destination wedding dress and Caribbean setting. For a casual outdoor wedding, you may want to stick with none at all, or perhaps a sweeping train. Trains weigh you down and drag through anything on the ground, but they do possess the redeeming characteristic of a traditional and absolutely gorgeous appearance. Of course, for a semi-formal or formal indoor destination wedding, that cathedral train you imagined as a little girl makes more sense. Size up your venue, decide how well a train will work with the formality and tone you’ve selected, and choose accordingly!
  • No Train: Just as the name indicates, a no-train skirt remains the same length the entire way around, with no material hanging behind you. This informal look works well for most Caribbean ceremonies, as it creates a casual appearance in tune with your surroundings. This works particularly well with settings such as the beach or in a garden, where you don’t want your dress dragging through the mud, sand, dirt, water, or any possible variation of the four.
  • Sweeping Train: A sweeping train has just a few inches of fabric that flare out behind the bride, barely sweeping the floor. Perfect for an informal or semiformal affair, this look creates the perfect balance of elegant appearance without compromising maneuverability.
  • Chapel Length: Usually extending 4-5 feet from the waistline, a chapel train works well for any type of ceremony formal, informal, or semi-formal, depending on the dress style and the tone of your ceremony. Although it might be a bit of a pain in the sand or dirt, this look works well on a terrace or in an indoor venue like a church or ballroom.


A semi-cathedral works well for semiformal and formal weddings, usually with about 5-7 feet of fabric from the waistline. These trains work well in an indoor Caribbean venue, such as a historical church or building, an elegant terrace, or a ballroom, and are typically too formal for a ceremony on the beach.

  • Cathedral: Extending 7-8 feet from the bride’s waistline, these trains create a classic and very romantic look wonderful for a formal wedding. Best worn in an indoor venue, their bulk may prove difficult to maneuver through an outdoor area.
  • Royal Train: The longest and the most impressive of the trains at 9-10 feet from the waistline, this extremely formal and glamorous look does not come recommended for anywhere except a large church, ballroom, or other indoor venue brides in this type of dress need plenty of room to maneuver and spread out. Ensure that your setting is formal enough to do this style justice.
  • Simplicity: Beading, extra fabric yards, and elaborate materials are all items that rack up dollars, and buying a simpler destination wedding dress presents a great way to put the money you save back into your wedding ceremony! Not only do you save money with a simpler, shorter dress, such elaborate gowns often feel more at home in a different setting than the Caribbean. Channel the island sense of simplicity, and avoid weighing yourself down with tons of detailing for a lovely gown without the fuss much like the attitude of the Caribbean itself.
  • Color: So you’re holding your ceremony in the Caribbean, one of the most vibrant, colorful, and lively places in the world. White is obviously the traditional choice for a wedding gown, but why limit yourself to it? Try a dress in coral, sky blue, or sea green to channel the tropical atmosphere around you. If a whole new color seems a bit too extreme, consider accents try a colorful sash or a bright piece of jewelry alongside a more traditional white dress. Not only will you stand out, this is a great way to pay homage to the colorful Caribbean Islands!
  • Shoes: Let’s face it the traditional heels don’t work so well in the sand or dirt. Who says you can’t wear sandals during your ceremony? Destination wedding sandals are an increasingly popular alternative for the Caribbean, and they range from simple white flip-flops to elaborate, crystal-adorned works of art. Perfect for any destination wedding dress, they bring comfort, practicality, and casual air to your Caribbean wedding! Of course, if even sandals prove too much, lighten the atmosphere and simply go without a barefoot ceremony on the beach speaks the classic Caribbean.