Marriage equality is becoming the way of the world, and it has LGBTQ couples thinking globally for their wedding plans.
Wedding bells are ringing for same-sex couples around the globe. Now that 26 nations are now pronouncing that “love wins,” many a betrothal is followed by an even more daunting question: Where to get hitched? The world map shows marriage equality dominating the Western Hemisphere and Europe, though countries like South Africa and New Zealand are in the mix too, with Taiwan, Mexico, and several Eastern-European nations expected to join the party soon. Of the wide variety of unforgettable destinations, here are the top spots for international weddings, along with some local tips. (Just be sure to do your homework on each country’s latest marriage laws for foreigners.)
In 2015, Ireland surprised the world by becoming the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote—an achievement befitting the country’s welcoming spirit. Dublin is an ideal city for an LGBTQ-friendly ceremony, with venues for a range of budgets. However, couples seeking true Irish grandeur should head west to County Cong’s Ashford Castle, a marvelous, 83-room hotel with fine restaurants, lounges, expansive grounds, and spa. But for couples, the real draw is a former boathouse that’s now the Hideaway Cottage, where honeymooners retreat to the privacy of their own gardens and lakefront, complete with private dining and 24-hour concierge service.
It’s famous for design ingenuity and progressive ideals, and since 2009, Sweden has been a top contender for destination weddings when it adopted a gender-neutral marriage law. Stockholm offers fabulous hotels and other cool venue choices (ABBA Museum, anyone?). But for those who want to go the extra-memorable mile, consider the ICEHOTEL. Located in Jukkasjarvi above the Arctic Circle, the hotel is open year-round, and its perch on the Torne River makes a terrific spot for a ceremony no matter the season. Of course, most will plan an ICEHOTEL winter wedding for the bragging rights alone, with the added bonus of potential Northern-Lights spying.
The newest country to the matrimonial party arrived in late 2017, when Australia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage after a hugely successful public referendum. The challenge now is zeroing in on the perfect spot for a down-under destination wedding. Sydney and Melbourne are obvious choices thanks to their vibrant queer communities and urban glamour. But whether a couple prefers a cosmopolitan or rural locale, they’d be wise to check out Sydney-based Equally Wed, an online resource of LGBTQ-friendly venues, services, entertainers, and other professionals keen to help craft a perfect affair.
Argentina was the first Latin American country to establish marriage equality back in 2010. Since then, LGBTQ travelers have fallen for this broad-minded country, especially its capital city. Buenos Aires appeals for its beauty, history, and gastronomy—and since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, an October or November wedding brings fresh blooms and warmth, without the North American spring-wedding craziness. Check out the gay-friendly Faena Hotel in the chic Puerto Madero neighborhood for waterfront views and a choice of event spaces, each offering a positively romantic, Argentinian atmosphere.
When Iceland legalized same-sex marriage in 2010, then Prime Minister Jóhanna Siguroardóttir and her partner were among the country’s first couples to marry under the new law. So marrying there is, in a way, continuing Iceland’s legacy of acceptance and celebration. Foreigners can enlist the fabulous help of lesbian-owned Pink Iceland, which specializes in gay wedding and honeymoon planning. The company helps streamline any size ceremony, from the logistics and gender-neutral marriage paperwork, to accommodations and finding the perfect glacier or quaint wooden church for a backdrop.
The Caribbean region has been slow to embrace marriage equality, but the French territory of Martinique stands out as a top tropical spot for full legal ceremonies. The island is among the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, offering lush forests, sandy beaches, and incredible Creole culinary culture. Thanks to its heritage, Martinique islanders speak French and spend euros, and they welcome couples to the isle’s gay-friendly shores. (Bonus: There’s even a new nonstop Norwegian Air flight from New York’s JFK Airport.) In June 2017, the island hosted its first-ever Pride, organized by Le Petitbonum restaurant owner Guy Ferdinand (aka Chef Hot Pants) in the beach town of Carbet—so expect more good gay things to come to this compact island.
Canada was an early arrival to the same-sex wedding reception when it instituted marriage equality in 2005. As the fourth country to do so, the famously friendly Canucks have enjoyed a long stretch of destination weddings for all. For a particularly Canadian style, head to the maritime province of New Brunswick to tie the knot at the Algonquin Resort, the classic seaside retreat of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. The Algonquin is proudly gay-welcoming, has both lovely indoor venues and sprawling manicured gardens, plus a wedding there means you’re forever part of this hotel’s 135-year history.
South America’s largest nation began welcoming homosexual nuptials in 2013, building on a civil-union law instituted in 2004. While the big cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo may seem like obvious choices for celebratory occasions, another, more intimate option awaits. Trancoso is an off-the-radar beach town in Bahia that’s home to two LGBTQ-friendly hotels. UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa offers both beach access and a central spot in the historic Quadrado (town square). There’s also Estrela d’Agua, a casual beachside resort with bungalows, suites, and dreamy open-air gathering spaces to enshrine a bit of coastal nature in every wedding memory.
Considering that same-sex civil unions were happening as of 1999, it took France longer than many expected when it finally established marriage equality in 2013. But then, when the local wine and cheese is so good, perhaps certain shortcomings can be overlooked. Today, couples are enjoying a spectrum of Gallic celebrations, from cosmopolitan Paris to Bordeaux wine country, and beyond. Better still, a ceremony in Nice, Cannes, or another Mediterranean city could take place on the French Riviera, with an equally lovely honeymoon conveniently attached—perhaps aboard a Scenic Cruise up the Rhone River to delicious Lyon.
WHERE: South Africa
In the categories of uncommon and unforgettable, same-sex couples may find South Africa’s affordability and progressive style appealing, not to mention its stunning landscapes. The nation was the fifth to recognize same-sex marriage back in 2005, and its long coastline and sunny climate tempts couples year-round. Cape Town’s luxurious 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa is built partly into Table Mountain, and overlooks Oudekraal nature preserve from its outdoor garden—tailor-made for a gorgeous open-air wedding venue.
Though civil unions are legal, full marriage equality has not yet arrived across Mexico. But 12 states have legalized it, including Jalisco on the Pacific coast. That makes gay-friendly Puerto Vallarta prime territory for a breezy wedding on the beach, at a posh resort, or at a venue that offers both. Almar Resort is the city’s only “luxury LGBTQ” beachfront hotel, and can host large or small ceremonies in its big, open-air banquet hall, especially with the help of its in-house wedding planner—who will ensure all goes as smoothly as white ocean sand.
One of England’s most exciting gay hubs is Manchester, where the Gay Village occupies a central area on the city map, and the LGBTQ Heritage Trail leads visitors to important civil-rights locations around town—including the Alan Turing Memorial and other points that are both somber and celebratory. Such a storied history makes this a proud place to tie the knot. To incorporate some of that culture into your own nuptials, check out Hope Mill Theatre, a historic, gay-operated space that hosts both off-Broadway shows and beautifully staged weddings.
When it comes to destination weddings, few make a statement like New Zealand. Same-sex couples have enjoyed planning affairs among the country’s scenic locales since marriage equality bells began to ring in 2013. Fortunately, there are great local planners to help unpack the practical details, like Auckland-based Lavish Events, which will help sort out New Zealand’s statutes as well as guiding the way to venues in town, or perhaps in a lovely country lodge on nearby Waiheke Island.
Americans don’t often get the chance to marry in a castle, but just across the border, Toronto’s Casa Lomo welcomes couples to its Gothic Revival edifice to mark their special occasions. Canada is an especially congenial country for a destination wedding, and Ontario capital’s is the go-to city for some of the continent’s best food, wine, and culture. All of that sophistication makes for a memorable retreat in the heart of Midtown, where getting hitched inside the Casa Lomo’s banquet hall or in its landscaped gardens invites same-sex couples to feel like kings or queens for a day.
If you’ve always wanted a wedding that’s so far away you may as well stay for an extended honeymoon, Bora Bora may be just the ticket. It’s northwest of Tahiti and part of French Polynesia, so LGBT couples have been getting hitched there since 2013 (under French law). Planners at GayDestinationWeddings.com know the ropes and help navigate the logistics of a South Pacific ceremony, as can the gay-friendly wedding coordinators at luxury resorts like the St. Regis, InterContinental, or Four Seasons.
Spain is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. Many of its big cities host annual Pride events, as well as LGBTQ film festivals, music festivals, and cultural celebrations. In 2017, WorldPride went even further, helping to solidify Madrid’s place as a European queer capital. And since Spain was the third nation to institute marriage equality way back in 2005, it makes sense that couples would want to tie the knot there. Sitges, just south of Barcelona, is an enchanting locale that’s a prime spot for nuptials thanks to its prime coastal spot, and legacy of artists who long ago established the town as a free-thinking creative hub. These days, resorts like Dolce Sitges offers LGBTQ-specific wedding coordination that lets couples mark their big day with a dose of Iberian elegance.
Liberal leanings of Germany aside, it took the country a while to put marriage equality on the books. But it finally did so in 2017, when it morphed the longtime “registered life partnerships” law into a more egalitarian statute. Same-sex couples began planning ceremonies immediately across Germany’s gay-welcoming regions, from the romantic natural spas of the Black Forest, to the vineyards of the Rhine Valley, to vibrant cities like Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne. The small city of Bayreuth in Bavaria, however, offers the romantic air of history, arts, and a small gay community, all within the serene landscape of central Germany.
The Middle of the Ocean
While many cruise lines happily host weddings at sea, not all are able to offer legal same-sex ceremonies due to local laws in the countries where their ships are registered. Engaged couples looking for an onboard ceremony should make sure their nuptial plans and paperwork are squared away before embarking. But in 2017, Celebrity Cruises made a splash by announcing that same-sex marriages performed on its ships are legally recognize—because most of Celebrity’s fleet is registered in Malta, where marriage equality became law in October 2017. The cruise line has ship captains as wedding officiants, while its wedding coordinators will arrange all the trimmings of a smooth-sailing soiree.