In addition to endless “What airport do I fly into?” and “How much do flights cost from my home airport?” questions, many guests want to know what to pack for a destination wedding in The Bahamas. Ever since I created my detailed packing spreadsheet the day after we got engaged, I’ve been planning to write a post not just for my guests, but for anyone attending or planning a Caribbean destination wedding in the future. Here’s Part 2 including some of my favorite travel pieces! And check out Part 1: Luggage, for tips on some of the best bags out there.
If you’re anything like me, you fall into packing extremes.
Generally, I either pack way too much and cram in enough shoes for every possible situation, or I try so hard to pack light that I forget important essentials like toothpaste and a hair brush. I haven’t found a middle ground just yet, so I’m working through that!
I’ve found that destination weddings are particularly challenging to pack for, because you’re never quite sure how dressy the big event will be. Technically, it’s just about the only type of wedding you can get away with going shoeless, but what exactly does beach formal mean? Or dressy casual? Or resort wear? All the confusion can lead to overpacking, which leads to exorbitant baggage fees. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
For an outdoor wedding, especially in October, you have to pack for every potential weather situation. On the beach, it might be baking hot, there could be swarms of gnats or it could be chilly with a cold wind whipping you in the face for the entire ceremony. There’s no way to know in advance what you’re in for, but it helps if you can prepare for every circumstance — without overpacking.
So how do you bring enough clothing for potentially fancy/not fancy, cold/hot weather and the possibility of insects at an outdoor wedding?
The Most Bang for your Buck: Functional, Multipurpose Attire
Multifunctional wardrobe pieces are ideal because you can wear them exploring during the day and dress them up with jewelry for dinner at night. ExOfficio is one of my favorite brands for this very reason. They have functional dresses that can also transform into skirts, and many offer BugsAway technology – an interwoven insect repellant – something I can promise you’ll need if you spend any amount of time in the Caribbean. ExOfficio pieces are always comfortable and lightweight, but even better, they usually conceal some secret trick, like the insect repellant, cooling technology or SPF. My future hubby wears their insect repelling Lumos Hoody often while he’s fishing & loves it.
To keep everything looking pressed and fresh, I leave a travel-size bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser in my suitcase. Ironing is the last thing you want to think about when transitioning from beach day to wedding night, so it’s a worthwhile addition to the permanent packing list.
The Cornerstone of Caribbean Packing: The Swimsuit!
Swimsuits are one item you can never have enough of in the Caribbean. I find that I pack way too many dry land outfits for beach vacations, when in reality I spend the majority of time in a bikini in the ocean anyhow. Swap out a few pairs of shorts for a couple extra bathing suits to open up space in your bag. (BTW I bought the most epic shark bathing suit for wedding week – what do you think?)
You also will likely need a colorful cover-up or two. Sarongs are ideal because you can use them as a beach towel, scarf or casual dress and they’re super lightweight to pack. And if you don’t already have one, chances are you can pick one up easily at a gift shop near your Caribbean hotel. I also like to pack Salt Life’s cotton dresses, as well. They work as cover-ups or just casual I’m-here-for-the-rum explorations.
The Shoe Dilemma
Shoes take up so much room in a suitcase, and heels and wedges can be quite heavy! If I’m being honest, once I’m on island time, flip-flops and flats are all I end up wearing anyhow. Tieks ballet flats and Sanuk yoga slings are my go-to casual travel slip-ons. I’ll probably bring one pair of wedges for the rehearsal dinner, but I’m going barefoot on the beach for the ceremony and then wearing a new pair of romantic blush Tieks for the wedding. No heels for this dancing queen. It’s just not practical!
Accessories are the easiest way to look chic but still pack light. You can dress up any casual clothes with a necklace or fancy updo. I’m sticking with beachy pieces for wedding week and bringing my Helen Ficalora Scallop Seashell Necklace and a few one-of-a-kind glass pendants I picked up from Elements Bonaire. I’m still on the hunt for wedding day earrings and maybe some sparkly starfish hair clips. (It’s not absolutely necessary to stick within the beach niche for jewelry, but it’s kinda fun to go full mermaid once in a while!)
In case my island hair stylist and I don’t see eye-to-eye on what my wedding day ‘do should look like, I am packing a Scunci Hollywood Roll hairband. It takes less than a minute to create a really pretty boho updo, so that’s my backup wedding hair plan. I take the Hollywood Roll on every trip to go from ratty travel hair to a more sophisticated look.
Lots of people forget to bring a big bag to cart a book, magazines, bottle of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, floppy hat, towel and whatnot to and from the beach. A good beach bag can take the place of your usual carry-on, just be sure to get one with a zipper on top so your goodies don’t fall out (or get swiped like mine did in Athens!).
Don’t Wear White.
Unless otherwise indicated, it’s expected that beach wedding attire is more relaxed than it would be at other venues. Sundresses are great for the ladies, and for guys, light fabrics like linen work well. Suits & ties usually aren’t necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to ask a member of the wedding party (not the BRIDE, she is BUSY) in the weeks leading up just to make sure you’re choosing from the right part of your closet. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to show up in jorts if everyone else was wearing seersucker suits?!
Happy packing =)
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