Love. It translates into all languages, has no permanent destination, and is a common bond shared worldwide. Now more than ever, people are sharing the love. One out of every five couples is getting married somewhere other than home.
Why are destination weddings so popular? Lots of reasons.
Exotic locations are romantic. Friends and family can gather together to share an adventure. Or couples are looking for an intimate “couples only” experience (while saving money along the way). Whatever the reason, business is booming.
Bernadette Smith is the author of several books on LGBTQ weddings and runs 14 Stories, a company that helps plan LGBTQ weddings across the globe.
“We love planning destination weddings, as it’s a unique way to show off the diversity of our world,” she said.
She elaborated that couples should consider destinations with large LGBTQ populations, like “Puerto Rico, the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao and of course, Provincetown, Massachusetts.”
Some things to consider: Most destination weddings are inside the U.S. and cost an average of $225 per person. Outside the continent, you’re looking at about twice that.
Overall, you may save money, as the average number of guests drop from 141 to 86 for destination weddings. It can also cost little more than the trip itself if you want a couple’s-only getaway. Top locations inside the continental U.S. are Florida, California, and of course, Nevada. Outside the continent, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean top the list.
When considering a location for a same-sex wedding, you’ll need to do a little research. Jamaica is the most popular Caribbean location for Americans. Not only is same-sex marriage illegal there, engaging in homosexual behavior is also against the law. Mexico is another popular destination location, but not all states perform same-sex marriages. Hawaii, on the other hand, enthusiastically caters to LGBT weddings.
Equal marriage is legal in most Western European countries. Bigger cities like London, Paris, and Madrid offer many same-sex wedding tourist packages. Litizia* is a fiery Italian redhead who says she and her partner of 18 years plan to take advantage of her country’s recently-passed civil union law as soon as the newness of it wears off.
“At the moment, reporters and paparazzi are showing up at every ceremony,” she said.
Like many countries that have legalized same-sex unions, public opinion isn’t always on their side. Her wife-to-be is a police officer and, even in the cosmopolitan city of Florence where they live, they fear a publicized wedding.
Litizia still recommends Italy as a destination for LGBT weddings, “especially in Tuscany, my hometown, in Venetian lagoons, or in Milan.”
Besides the beauty, “Big cities are very open-minded with a lot of young people walking hand-in-hand.” It’s also bringing in more tourist dollars and opening up new business with new services for LGBT people, such as wedding planners and travel agencies.
In South America, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Colombia offer legal marriage for everyone. The Argentine capital of Buenos Aires is competing with the Colombian capital of Bogota for LGBT wedding dollars.
“We must be a friendly city that recognizes diversity in every way,” Tatiana Pineros said.
Tatiana is the director of Bogota’s Institute of Tourism and the only transgender government official there. She told the Colombian newspaper El Tiepo, “If we get people to know the wealth of the city, we will increase their sense of belonging.”
Not all South American destinations are taking the same approach. This year’s election in Brazil is laced with candidates using homophobic slurs and comparing gay people to pedophiles.
The South Pacific is a bit tricky. Hotels on some not-so-gay-friendly islands are trying to cash in by advertising same-sex wedding packages that don’t include legal ceremonies. LGBT marriage is legal on islands that fly U.S., French, and British flags – like Guam and Tahiti. And New Zealand is a gay-wedding mecca.
South Africa is the only African nation where same sex marriage is legal. In Asia, equal marriage is legal only in the small British territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. While Taiwan is currently considering a measure to legalize it, many Asian and African countries remain staunchly anti-gay. These are definitely areas to research before planning any type of same-sex ceremony.
Marriages legally performed and valid abroad are also legal in the U.S.
Requirements vary from country to country. Some require blood or medical tests and documents such as birth certificates and valid passports. Ask if the documents need to be translated into the native language. Some countries also have residency requirements. These are usually 24 hours, but some are longer, like France’s 40 day residency rule.
While queer couples need to be more cautious and research destinations more carefully, there are plenty of places that welcome everyone. It’s not where you marry, but whom you marry that matters most.
*Litizia’s last name is withheld to protect her privacy