Becky Hart | Jan 26, 2024
Destination weddings are perfect for same-sex couples. For starters, they let you go where you can celebrate in peace and love. To heck with your hometown if it doesn’t recognize or accept same-sex marriage. Plus, there’s less emphasis on maintaining traditions when you take the wedding party to a new locale. Destination weddings give you greater freedom to decide what the ceremony involves and who to invite, which might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Planning a destination wedding, regardless of who the couple is, has some extra complexities compared to a hometown ceremony. Add to the list of requirements the need for your location to also be LGBTQ-friendly, and you have even more factors to consider. That’s why we’ve compiled our best advice for how to plan a gay-friendly destination wedding. And we're sharing a few of our favorite destinations for saying “I do” and celebrating your honeymoon.
Some same-sex couples decide to host their ceremony at the destination of their dreams but do the paperwork in their hometown. Others do both at the same time in the same place for legal reasons. Tying the knot where it’s legal obviously can help remove some obstacles and maybe increase the odds that you and your guests will be accepted.
Human Rights Campaign maintains a list of countries where marriage equality is legal.
You probably already know this, but remember that there are some countries where it’s illegal simply to be homosexual, regardless of whether you want to marry. You can cross those countries off your wish list right off the bat.
Regardless of the legality of your ceremony, it’s important to choose a destination where you and your guests will feel welcome. This could be a location with a reputation for being gay-friendly. Or it could be somewhere you vacation regularly and so you know how locals react to your PDA.
Some couples have found that while a city is welcoming to same-sex couples, resorts and vendors might be a little slower to embrace you.
The best ways to figure out if a venue, caterer, florist, photographer, or whoever you hire is open to working with the LGBTQ community is to be forthcoming. Ask if they’ve worked with same-sex couples in the past.
Visit their website and social media sites. If they include images of same-sex couples on their site or as part of their portfolio, that could be a sign in your favor. You don’t have to immediately eliminate them from contention if you don’t see pictures of same-sex couples, though. If you like their work, it’s worth a conversation.
If the idea of vetting vendors or putting yourself out there to total strangers overwhelms you, consider hiring a wedding planner with experience coordinating same-sex ceremonies. They likely already know who the gay-friendly vendors are. And if they don’t, they can be an excellent intermediary for finding that information.
LGBTQ-friendly travel agents can also help you plan your honeymoon so you can spend quality time with your partner doing what you want in a place where you’ll be safe and welcome.
If you want your wedding to be the ultimate party, consider timing it with a Pride celebration or other LGBTQ-friendly event. You’ll be surrounded by a supportive community, not to mention the cities that host these events will typically be prepared to accept you and your business. Just remember that hotel reservations might be hard to come by with the influx of visitors.
The following destinations had legalized same-sex marriage as of December 2023.
Canada is generally considered one of the most tolerant countries in the world; however, remember that there may be regional differences in how LGBTQ-friendly communities are. Vancouver, in particular, has a reputation for being among one of the cooler West Coast cities with thriving gay communities.
If your wedding mood board is a mashup of nature and metropolitan delights, look no further than Vancouver. You’re right on the water, nestled in the mountains, and surrounded by some of the most diverse culture and cuisine you’ll find in Canada.
Sportier couples will also appreciate being a 90-minute drive from famous skiing in Whistler. Vancouver’s location just across the U.S. border and a major airport make it easy to get to as well, a definite plus when you’re hauling an entire wedding party abroad.
Iceland’s isolated geography historically has led to the country hanging on to traditional mindsets. Even an Icelandic woman marrying a non-Icelandic man caused a bit of a crisis during and after World War II when American servicemembers outnumbered native men on the island. So while it took Iceland a minute to take steps toward marriage equality, it made up for lost time in a hurry. The prime minister married her partner shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in 2010.
When your wedding vision calls to buck tradition and go for mind-blowing scenery, you need to get married in an ice cave. Go during the right time of the year, and you might even have the Northern Lights as a backdrop.
A few words of wisdom, though: hire a professional planner as this terrain can be tricky. They’ll help you scout a location that is both beautiful and safe. Also, if cute shoes are a must or you stress when plans don’t go as expected, stick to a more typical ceremony in a city like Reykjavik. Ice cave weddings can be more dependent on weather than many other outdoor events since your venue could literally be melting away.
Argentina was one of the first Latin American countries to legalize same-sex marriage, and Buenos Aires in particular has gained the reputation as an open-minded mecca. Grand and colorful architecture makes for a beautiful backdrop for any wedding.
When the ceremony is over, there’s plenty of things to do in Buenos Aires. You and your guests can be entertained by the variety of theater, music, and culinary masterpieces. Argentina is renowned for its tango and even hosts the Queer Tango Festival each summer (that’s the Southern Hemisphere’s summer).
South Africa’s constitution made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal in 1996, reportedly becoming the first in the world to do so. Transgender people can also change their gender in South Africa’s population registry and get updated passports to reflect their identity.
That being said, there is still noticeable discrimination outside major cities and in certain communities. That’s why if you choose South Africa as the site for your destination wedding, Cape Town is probably your best bet for a welcoming reception that makes you and your guests most comfortable.
It’s hard to decide where to start your exploration of Cape Town. Table Mountain — there's a cable car to the top of this World Heritage Site — offers epic views in all directions, including out over the ocean. The Cape Point Nature Preserve is not only stunning, but also home to wildlife like seals and birds. Groot Constantia, the oldest wine estate in the country, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden are worth a visit in their own right, and they also proudly offer wedding packages.
San Francisco is the obvious destination for an LGBTQ-friendly wedding, but don’t sleep on the East Coast. Boston has a revolutionary history, and that extends to marriage equality in the 21st century. Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage nearly 20 years ago. They’re no stranger to the game, and a simple Google search for “gay weddings in Boston” gives you a list of LGBTQ-friendly vendors for everything from venues to caterers to photographers.
Boston is a great spot for your destination wedding if your tastes lean toward the more traditional. Cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, hotels with vintage touches, and an all-around historical ambiance permeating the city will give your wedding a more classic touch. Boston is also a great jumping-off point for nearby locales like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
This small town on the banks of Lake Michigan makes our list on the recommendation of one of our team members who recently married her wife at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. We’ll let her explain what makes it so special.
“This quaint lakeside haven not only stole our hearts but also left an indelible mark on our journey as a couple,” she said. “What transpired was beyond our wildest dreams — a community that not only welcomed us but embraced us with open arms. From the heartfelt cheers that resonated through the air to the unexpected gifts from generous store owners, every moment was a testament to the power of inclusivity.
“In Saugatuck, diversity isn't just acknowledged; it's celebrated. My wife and I have navigated various reactions throughout our journey, but the warmth and acceptance we experienced in this town were unparalleled. It was a powerful reminder of the profound impact inclusivity can have on individuals and communities alike,” she said.
“The genuine support we received has inspired us to shine a spotlight on Saugatuck and its incredible businesses. These establishments didn't just provide products; they shared in our joy and became a part of our story.”
The Caribbean isn’t generally known for its gay-friendly attitude, and several islands still criminalize sex between people of the same sex. However, Curaçao has been building a reputation as perhaps the most LGBTQ-friendly Caribbean destination. This small island north of Venezuela has a growing Pride festival, and although same-sex couples can’t get married in Curaçao, the country does recognize foreign same-sex marriages.
Curaçao is an unexpectedly safe destination for hurricane season, so if you want the Caribbean getaway without worrying so much about storms, this is your spot. It’s one of the region’s so-called ABC Islands, which fall outside the hurricane belt.
When you’ve had enough lounging on the beach, head to the water for some world-class scuba diving or snorkeling. And when it’s time to refill your energy reserves, prepare for a treat. Dishes are an eclectic mix of Dutch, Afro-Caribbean, Venezuelan, and Indonesian flavors.
Marriage equality was legalized in Costa Rica in 2020. Costa Rica is a great place if you want to disconnect and unwind in nature. The country has a reputation for sustainability, and its ecolodges are among some of the best in the world.
The best time to visit Costa Rica is from December to April before the rainy season starts. However, if you do choose to go in the summer, you’ll find some incredibly lush rainforests and fewer crowds. That might be exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to quality time with your new spouse.
Ecuador can be a place of extremes, perfect for the couple who wants to start their married life with some adventure. It’s a mountainous country, meaning you’ll be celebrating at high altitudes. Head to Chimborazo volcano and you’ll be closer to the sun than anywhere else on earth (you can thank elevation and equatorial bulge for that).
Keep going along the Avenue of Volcanoes to Tungurahua. All that lava heats up water underground, creating perfect conditions for natural hot springs. You’ll also see everything from glaciers to tropical rainforests.
Travel in Ecuador is relatively inexpensive unless you add a trip to the Galapagos Islands, about 600 miles from the mainland. The Galapagos are an item on many people’s travel bucket lists, but we’ve heard varied reviews. For everyone who says it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we know someone else who said it was overrated. That being said, if you have the time and resources, it’s definitely worth at least considering.
You might already know about Mykonos’s gay party scene. If that’s how you want to live it up on your honeymoon, go forth and conquer. Don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to just one island, however. Greece, as a whole, is considered by some to be one of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe. Tourism has helped that attitude.
When you're ready to venture off the beaten path, look to Pelion, a peninsula in Thessaly. You’ll find romantic, stone-built villages and plenty of coast for swimming and relaxing. If, for some reason, you tire of beaches, you also have Mt. Pelion and hiking. The area is small enough that you won’t find many organized excursions, but there’s still plenty to occupy your time … if you need it.
Denmark has hygge. The Netherlands has gezellig, their version of being cozy and in-the-moment. What better way to celebrate your marriage than basking in the present with your partner? Slow down in Amsterdam and enjoy walking or biking the canals, smelling the tulips, and contemplating art by masters like Van Gogh.
When you’re ready to venture away from Amsterdam, consider Geithoorn, Kinderdijk, or Texel Island. Geithoorn is known as the “Venice of the Netherlands,” but the village’s canals aren’t the only thing worth noting. Check out the Weerribben-Wieden National Park nearby.
Kinderdijk boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site in its mill network. If you can’t stand to leave the Netherlands without seeing a few windmills first, Kinderdijk is where it’s at. Finally, Texel Island is off the coast north of Amsterdam. You’ll find sand dunes, a wildlife sanctuary, and panoramic views of the North Sea from the Texel Lighthouse.
One more note before you pack your bags: remember who’s who and what’s what. The country is known both as Netherlands and Holland. The citizens and official language are Dutch.
Everyone wants the fairytale, but many of those stories have a few bumps before the happy ending. You and your guests can protect the money you spend for your trip if you have to cancel or end your trip early when you purchase travel insurance. If the destination wedding is in another country, you’ll also want travel medical insurance, since domestic health insurance usually doesn’t cover you overseas. Seven Corners proudly covers individuals, couples, and families in all forms.
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