The Caribbean lives in an eternal summer to the extent that most locals will live their entire lives without owning a piece of outerwear. But unfortunately, this doesn't mean we live in a sunny, beachy postcard paradise: heat and humidity make tropical weather volatile and unpredictable.
Contrary to other climates with distinct seasons, Caribbean weather comes in two flavors: scorching sunny days and humid flooding rains. You could easily experience them both in a week or even on the same day.
Hurricane Season in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean
Still, as a general rule, each year is divided into drought and hurricane seasons. And these two are getting more extreme each year, thanks to climate change.
The official hurricane season in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean ranges from June 1st to November 30th. The Caribbean can experience rainy conditions weekly during this season. Still, the historic peak is always running between August through October. September is always the month that keeps locals on edge, as catastrophic Hurricanes like to visit during that month: Hugo, Hortense, Georges, Irma, Maria, and Fiona.
Contrary to other events, hurricanes are not predictable: neither their strength nor trajectory. Tropical disturbances (or waves) form in the vicinity of Cabo Verde Islands in Africa, traveling across the Atlantic as they strengthen. They usually arrive in the Caribbean as cyclones: depressions, storms, or hurricanes. But the formation is so unpredictable that it can take hours instead of days, and they can form right before they hit the coast.
For example, Hurricane Fiona wasn't a concerning storm just the day before it hit Puerto Rico with record-breaking floods. But, once it got close to our warm coasts, it became a Category 1 Hurricane. It flooded hundreds of communities, leaving thousands of families without a home.
Should I have a wedding during the hurricane season?
September is the month the wedding and travel industry tends to close, as the risk of losses is higher. As a result, many wedding vendors take a break or travel during that month. Still, this low season produces lower, enticing costs and opens availability at highly-sought wedding venues. But at what cost? The risk of having your plans canceled by a hurricane.
You can travel during the Hurricane Season and have a fantastic experience in the Caribbean. Tropical storms and rainy days should be expected any day from June through November. Still, the risk of a cyclone in September is astronomically higher than in any other month. So if I were you, I'd avoid the tropics during September and would definitely avoid hosting a tropical wedding during September. At all costs.
I understand that Northern Summer might be the best time for your entire wedding guest list to come together to the Caribbean. So here are five tips for those brave souls getting married during hurricane season:
Track Weather - and understand its unpredictability.
Locals don't trust or use the weather app on our phones much since it is usually off. In the Caribbean, it can be sunny in the morning and rainy in the afternoon. It can be a perfect beach day on the south coast and a stormy day just 10 miles north.
Still, tracking the weather trends for your specific wedding location during the weeks leading up to —or even better, the year before— your wedding day will help you make great informed decisions on backup plans, proper clothing, and weather-related logistical arrangements.
The National Hurricane Center's website is the best place to track cyclonic activity during the season and also my web browser's home page throughout September.
Travel and Event Insurance are worth it!
Travel insurance is always a great idea when booking trips during hurricane season. Your travel insurance will help you defer some of the risks of last-minute date changes or cancellations.
Insurance companies also offer wedding insurance, but please beware that most coverages are local to the destination. For example, not all mainland-US insurance companies will not insure destination weddings in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean. WedSafe is a good place to start for liability insurance, but it does not offer cancellation coverages for destination weddings in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean.
Don't just have a backup plan. Have a GREAT backup plan.
Call it ignorance or wishful thinking: most couples don't think much about the backup plan for the ceremony. But, in tropical weather, especially during the rainy season, you must!
On my "What if it Rains?" blog, I talk extensively about how best weatherproof your wedding day in Puerto Rico. However, self-work also needs to happen to be better prepared for a wedding day during hurricane season.
Many couples envision an outdoor ceremony to the point they forget to think about backup spaces or tents in case it rains. It's a wise choice to set up and decorate Plan B, so it's equally dreamy if you don't get lucky with the clear skies.
Ideas for a rainy day wedding backup plan
Don't let Plan B go to waste, though! Instead, incorporate your rainy backup as a multi-use space during the wedding day. Here are some ideas:
- Create a convertible space that can work as a ceremony site and a photo opportunity for the first look or family photos.
- Prepare an area that can host the cocktail hour and a backup ceremony.
- Envision a convertible space that can start as a ceremony layout and rearrange later for the reception. This option is labor-intensive and the most expensive route to multi-purposing.
Find vendors you can trust. Ask the icky questions before booking.
Caribbean wedding vendors have hurricane-proofed their businesses. This doesn't mean we can perform under all conditions. Still, we know exactly what to do after that hurricane watch notification pops up on the news.
However, you need to be on the same page: ask your vendors what would happen if you can't travel in because of a storm, if you need to choose a new date, or must devise a last-minute wedding plan.
Also, please consider that last-minute changes might become tricky to maneuver because of the compounded availability of all your vendors.
Island wedding businesses tend to be smaller and busier than continental ones. It is very common that the owner also runs customer service and fulfillment duties.
Be patient, Ride it out, and be Flexible!
Suppose you prepped, planned, and prayed, but a storm is brewing anyway: what now?! We focus on safety and ride it out.
Cellphone communications and utilities might stop working during an emergency, which is understandable during extreme weather. Don't panic!
Please remember that vendors will secure their family and home first and then respond to their clients.
Some weddings, especially indoor ones with an excellent electrical backup plan, might go without a hitch. However, some might need to be cut shorter or rescheduled.
Pandemic wedding planning taught us one thing: sometimes things happen, and you must take a break from wedding planning. So take a step back, prioritize your mental health and relationship, and let your wedding team guide you as you pick your wedding planning back up.
This topic is one with a lot of complex information, so I would love it if this becomes a great conversation on the comment section. Feel free to post any questions and I'll get back to you. Stay safe, my lovelies!