Romantic. Scenic. Exotic. International destination weddings can offer everything from a beachside ceremony at sunset to early-morning safari nuptials. But be forewarned. Some of the world’s most popular wedding destinations for Americans are also some of the most dangerous places for people in the LGBTQ community. So, before saying “I do” to a foreign location, it’s a good idea to check in on the queer-friendly rules in that locale.
If you’re looking to tie the knot in South America, it’s a good idea to do your homework. This is because the laws don’t always match up with the sentiment. LGBTQ marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Colombia. Both Brazil and Colombia are trying to break into the same-gender wedding business by offering destination packages. But, surveys show neither is very queer friendly. Some areas are downright dangerous.
Buenos Aires isn’t just considered the Paris of South America; it’s also considered the LGBTQ capital. If it’s romance you want, the particularly progressive Argentine town hosts the seductive Queer Tango Festival every November. Queer-friendly areas include San Telmo, Retiro, Barrio Norte, and Palermo Viejo.
For a more quiet, intimate affair, you might consider Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo. The laidback port city offers beaches and captivating colonial architecture. It’s also a ferry ride away from Buenos Aires.
If you’re looking to get married in Central America, several states in Mexico have legalized same-gender marriage. But, again, do your homework before you go. Resorts often offer all-inclusive wedding packages, and if you’re planning to stay at the hotel the entire time, you should be fine. However, walking hand-in-hand down many of Mexico’s streets is a dangerous proposition.
When it comes to the Americas in general, the further north you go, the better the prospects. Canada was the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage, and Vancouver is like the gay Vegas for destination nuptials.
The Caribbean is the number-one destination wedding location for Americans. Again, be careful. Popular islands like Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia still have anti-gay laws on the books and can be very dangerous for LGBTQ people. Other islands are welcoming to the LGBTQ community but still haven’t legalized equal marriage.
Curaçao, for instance, has the most prominent LGBTQ tourism campaign in the region. They even offer LGBTQ wedding packages. Only problem? It’s not legal for same-gender couples to marry there. If you’re looking to actually wed, all U.S. and French territories offer equal marriage. So do some independent islands.
Perhaps the most queer-friendly island is one a lot of people have never heard of. Saba was the first Caribbean island to make marriage legal for everyone, and several dive operators offer special outings for gay and lesbian travelers. The island is the smallest of the Netherlands Antilles and is known for its ecotourism that offers hiking, biking, and diving.
For drinking, gambling, and beaches, you might consider its next door neighbor of St. Martin. You can get married there, too, if you go to the French side of the island. St. Maarten–the Dutch side of the island–hasn’t yet legalized same-gender marriage.
What’s not to love about Europe? There’s a little bit of everything there and lots to choose from. Currently 29 of the 50 countries recognize LGBTQ marriage. The first, and perhaps most friendly, tend to be the countries in the north. The Netherlands became the first country to legalize it in 2001. It’s also legal in most popular western European countries like France, Germany, and Spain. Don’t expect to get married in most eastern European countries, though. Most are still behind in same-gender legislation.
Two years ago, Ireland became the first European country to legalize LGBTQ marriage by popular vote, ushering in a new, more liberal period.
One of the most popular LGBTQ destinations is the European country known for its northern lights. When Iceland legalized same-gender marriage in 2010, their prime minister became the world’s first openly lesbian head of state to marry her partner.
In Africa, choosing a country to marry in is easy. That’s because it’s only legal in one country. And given how homophobic much of Africa is, it’s surprising how welcoming South Africa is to same-gender couples. Cape Town often makes the top ten lists for international gay wedding destinations. There are several bohemian “gayborhoods,” including De Waterkant, which is known for its gay-friendly and gay-owned businesses, restaurants, hotels, and bars.
You’ll have to wait a while if you want to get married in Asia. Taiwan is set to become the first Asian country to legalize LGBTQ marriage, but it likely won’t happen until next year. In 2017, its top court ruled the existing law banning same-gender marriage was unconstitutional. The court gave the country two years to rectify that. With elections slated for later this year, actual legislation isn’t expected until 2019. Also, be aware that public perception is not in step with the new ruling. Most people surveyed do not support equal marriage.
In Australia, we are seeing the opposite situation. While most people there have supported queer marriage for some time, conservative lawmakers have held up a push to legalize it. Last year, Australians were finally allowed to vote on it, and after most approved it, lawmakers passed it. You can now be married anywhere in the LGBTQ-welcoming country.
New Zealand is still most people’s top choice for same-gender weddings in the South Pacific. It was not only the first country there to legalize equal marriage; it has become a major destination, especially in early September, when the annual Gay Ski Weekend attracts lots of couples.
Territories of the U.S., France, and Britain recognize same-gender marriage, but culturally, don’t expect to be welcomed with open arms. Some hotels on island nations like Tahiti and Fiji advertise LGBTQ wedding packages. Just be aware, many of the locals see homosexuality as a “western perversion.”
Forget it. Not only is equal marriage banned in the Middle East, homosexuality in general is illegal in more than half of the countries there. Five punish LGBTQ activity with death.
But, with so much of the world now welcoming same-gender couples, there are plenty of international destinations from which to choose.