As more and more brides look to hold their weddings in such far-flung locales as Half Moon Montego Bay in Jamaica, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the biggest question they face is: How do I pack my dress, which is yards of lace and silk?

The answer increasingly is that they don’t. Instead, bridal designers are seeing a surge in demand for lighter-weight gowns that are less fussy and for dresses that can as easily be worn for a cocktail party or a wedding on the beach.

Some say the travel industry jump-started the trend after Sept. 11, 2001, when it was desperate to get Americans back in the friendly skies. Others say the start dates from 1996, when the late Carolyn Bessette and John F. Kennedy Jr. tied the knot on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. Her Narciso Rodriguez-designed slipdress reset the standards for wedding gowns.

Wedding planner Marci Blum said, “People are trying to create one-of-a-kind experiences. That is very hard to do with a one-night event, especially in New York where people are jaded. Taking them to the Amalfi Coast or to Turks & Caicos is not only a bonding experience but a lasting memory.”

Interest in destination weddings at La Samanna in St. Maarten has been so strong that the resort has hired a full-time wedding planner. The Half Moon Montego Bay, a resort in Jamaica, has seen a 100 percent jump in bookings for destination weddings. But out-of-town “I do’s” aren’t limited to the surf and sand.

At Keswick Hall, a 48-room estate on 600 acres in Charlottesville, Va., wedding parties can book all or some of the property. As part of a new “Expressly Yours” program, a couple can present the country estate as their own manor house complete with personal photographs throughout the public rooms, bridal teas in the drawing room and bachelor parties in the snooker room.

Ursula Hegewisch, designer of Wearkstatt, a bridal firm here, said, “People automatically think barefoot on the beach. But destination weddings can be very grand weddings — a villa in Tuscany or a beautiful home in San Miguel.

“Destination is definitely a trend that is gaining momentum. There’s a tremendous amount of planning that is taken off your hands because a destination wedding is not as large as one would be in your hometown. It also keeps the costs more contained by combining the wedding and the honeymoon. People also enjoy being able to spend more time with their guests.”

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