Q. My fiancé and I want to take a Caribbean cruise for our wedding and honeymoon, but we'd rather get married on the beach than aboard ship. Which islands allow that? Where do I start?
A. Most Caribbean nations and territories welcome wedding couples arriving by ship with open arms. Some, like the Cayman Islands, make marrying so easy, you don't even have to appear in person for the paperwork -- the minister brings it to you.
Each destination has idiosyncrasies, however, and the maze of required documents, residency and waiting periods can be challenging to navigate solo. Your best bet is to rely on the cruise line to help you with the legalities.
Before contacting the cruise line, have a good idea of which voyage you'd like to take. Consider your budget, the length of the trip, the ports that interest you, the size ship you prefer, the amenities and so on. Once you match your preferences to a particular carrier, request a brochure from the company's wedding department.
In addition to the cruise lines, agencies like The Wedding Experience, a Florida company that specializes in cruise weddings, can also be a terrific resource. Bon voyage!
Q. I have already chosen a powder blue Maggie Sottero wedding gown. Any suggestions for the wedding party attire color? I am getting married in January at Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour.
Since you're already thinking "out of the box" with a Bahamas wedding and a blue gown, how about setting off your dress with white for the wedding party? You could then repeat your blue (or a slightly darker version) in the details of your attendants' dresses -- hems, sashes or wraps.
For more ideas, check out threaddesign.com/press, under "Thread Weddings," and vucouture.com/weddings.html. They're both good sites for sparking ideas on design and color.
Q. I'm planning our wedding for Montego Bay, Jamaica, and worried about the expense for some of our friends. How would you word an invitation saying that in lieu of a gift, the guest's presence is requested? At the same time, I'd like to have a registry for those who will be unable to come.
Any mention of presents must never appear on the invitation. Etiquette requires that beyond setting up a registry for guests' convenience, you should appear completely unconcerned with gifts. With the exception of posting a discreet link on a wedding Web site, it's considered bad form to announce where you're registered. Most people will know to ask your mother or best friend.
You could use the same word-of-mouth method to let people know you do not expect gifts from guests traveling to Jamaica. On the other hand, this implies that you do expect gifts from those who can't make it. So I think the best things you can do is drop the whole idea of controlling your guests' gift giving.
People like to give presents. And most will figure out that if they can't afford both travel and an extravagant gift, they can give something "from the heart." And remember, if you want to be kind to guests' pocketbooks, you could easily list lots of inexpensive gifts on your registry.
If these ideas don't work for you, consider inserting a separate card with the invitation that says something like, "in lieu of a gift, please bring a favorite passage from a love poem." Or the best advice for a good marriage they ever heard. Or, if you suspect some guests might be particularly burdened by giving a gift, ask them to substitute help with some aspect of the wedding, such as arranging the flowers, managing the guest book, or making a CD of favorite dance tunes.
Q. We invited 140 people to our wedding on the Big Island next summer, thinking maybe half would come. So far, 81 say they'll be there and only 11 say they won't. I'm getting nervous. How many people from a guest list usually say "yes" to an invitation?
For a hometown wedding, most planners predict about 90 percent of invitees will attend. For a wedding away, the ballpark is 75 to 80 percent. Every situation is different, of course. But if I were you, I'd be ready for up to 90 percent since you alerted everyone well in advance and chose a great destination and a convenient time of year for vacations.
Q. I want to have our wedding in Barbados right at sunset, but my fiancée says it's impossible. She thinks we need more light for photos afterwards. How do people get around this?
You're on the right track by thinking ahead. Well beforehand, determine exactly when sunset will start and schedule the ceremony accordingly. If everyone's on the ball, you can easily catch enough shots before the last rays disappear.
Some couples prefer to hold a photo session right before the vows. If you take this route, you can make extra points by requesting a little private time for your first adoring look at your bride.