As of this writing, 16 countries, 17 US states, and the District of Columbia all allow for legal same-sex marriage. Getting married in Britain has its charms, but when compared with tying the knot atop a glacier, next to a volcano, or on some Scandinavian hillside, it’s hard not to dream of the possibilities. We’ve chosen our 10 favourite destinations that are not only romantic and beautiful, but also make it easy to be married on site.
Iceland legalised same-sex marriage in June 2010, and just 16 days later then-prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir – the world’s first openly gay head of state, no less – married her partner. It’s no surprise, then, that the Icelandic LGBT scene is so welcoming. You’ll have plenty of breathtaking backdrops to choose from for the ceremony; from the world-famous Blue Lagoon, to being surrounded by mountainous glaciers, or standing by any of Iceland’s myriad thunderous waterfalls. While the country at large is considered pricey, the vistas are truly unlike anything the rest of the planet has to offer.
9. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver has a thriving LGBT community for you to celebrate among, and is essentially the gay Vegas of nuptial destinations. The real draw though, is the incredible Canadian scenery, a collage of seas and snow-topped mountains that will (literally) take your breath away. For the adventurous among you, nearby village Whistler lies nestled in the shadow of Blackcomb Mountain, and makes for either a winter Christmas card-esque retreat, or stunning summer honeymoon location. It’s a world-class ski resort in the colder months, or makes for magnificent mountain biking in the warmer ones.
8. Boston, Massachusetts
Back in 2004, Massachusetts became the first US state to legalise gay marriage. Since then, the state has seen thousands of happy couples flock to the cobbled colonial lanes of it’s capital, Boston. It’s easy to see why: the picturesque Paul Revere-era churches, ocean views, and world-renowned oyster houses all make for an unforgettable experience. With 13 years of practice, the city is abound with gay wedding planners and justices of the peace, as well as fancy boutique hotels that regularly host cozy same-sex weddings.
7. New York, New York
Find yourself walking down the aisle atop a skyscraper (the Rockerfeller Centre offers exactly this service), or in the middle of Central Park Zoo. True, you’ll need a budget almost the size of Trump’s maniacal ego, but the idea remains: anything goes in New York City. The whole district is iconic for it’s restaurants, for Broadway’s theatres, and for the gay neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village and Chelsea. You’ll never be lacking in things to do for post-wedding celebrations.
6. Queenstown, New Zealand
Located just off serpentine Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Queenstown is known for it’s daredevil sports, and is New Zealand’s most popular resort area. The town is the birthplace of bungee jumping, and while offering an array of all-too-high venues to fall from, newly-weds can also test their courage (and possibly their recently-made vows) by trying their hand at whitewater rafting, jet boating, and even skydiving. The town is also host to ‘Gay Ski Weekend’ in early September, which is winter in the country, and sees a large uptick in folks getting hitched during the event.
Complete with white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoons and grove after grove of coconuts, Tahiti is the exotic island paradise that eclipses your gayest dreams. Let’s set the scene: you sleep in your own thatched private bungalow, and when you look down you’re met with the blue ocean shimmering through the glass floor. Tropical fish are dotted through the water, lazily swimming back and forth. You head outside, straight onto the beach, where you get married by the open ocean, with nothing but blue sky and bluer sea for miles around.
You might also find yourself crossing paths with rae-rae, cross-dressing people who are a highly respected and integral part of the culture, as they have been for eons.
4. Cape Town, South Africa
Known as Africa’s gayest city, Cape Town is also one of the most beautiful. Packed between flat-topped mountains and the lower tip of the Atlantic ocean, the scenic destination is filled with exotic activities, surrounded by sylvan vineyards, and gay neighborhoods (gayborhoods, anyone?) such as De Waterkant delight and entertain. Where else in the world can you go penguin-spotting or shark-cage diving in the morning, and get married in the afternoon? You can go full-on David Attenborough and add hippos, giraffes, and elephants to the list by extending the trip into a safari honeymoon.
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
One of Latin America’s gay capitals, Buenos Aires is as progressive as it is seductive. Immerse yourself in the opera at the Teatro Colón, visit Eva Perón’s grave, or pop down to the San Telmo street market, where you can observe the slick kicks and flicks of the Argentine Tango firsthand. There are several avenues to choose from to learn the suave dance, but what better than coinciding your visit with the Queer Tango Festival? Held annually in late November, the festival draws masters from all over Latin America to demonstrate their prowess on the specially erected stages, and classes are taught for free in open-air squares. Gay-friendly neighborhoods Retiro, Barrio Norte, Palermo Viejo and San Telmo are all dotted with cosy guesthouses and sultry cafés to while away the warm afternoons in, before hitting the party streets of Festívo for the renowned nightlife.
2. San Francisco, California
For more than half a century, San Fran’s Castro District has been at the heart of American gay culture. The city offers an unparalleled amount of hotels, bars, shops, and exquisite eateries that cater to the scene. Located right on the western edge of the US, the rainbow flag flies higher here than anywhere else in America. The nightlife is a real highlight here, and the Golden Gate Bridge makes for undeniably enviable wedding photos.
As of December 2013, same-sex couples were able to join the procession of couples taking the plunge in Hawaii’s perfect sand, sea, and palm tree paradise. No better place on this list has the idyllic, laid-back honeymoon built straight into the destination. Indulge in celebratory cocktails while lounging in beachside hammocks, then cool off in a waterfall plunge pool. Fulfil your Brokeback Mountain dreams and take a horse ride with local cowboys. Hawaiian culture, combined with generations of diverse populations living together harmoniously, results in a chilled-out, no-one-looks-twice atmosphere. Islands O’ahu, particularly in the Waikiki area, and Maui, are gay havens, with a plethora of beaches and resorts catering to LGBT and straight couples alike.
Bonus Marriage Hotspots
The following are a selection of LGBT wedding destinations, though unlike those above, one partner will need to be a resident of the locale.
- The Netherlands
The Netherlands broke new ground for the rainbow flag by becoming the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001, adding to the long-list of activities available in the country that most-other places in the world wouldn’t even consider legalising. Amsterdam is the jewel in the crown, and the centre of the LGBT action. Explore the tangled web of glistening canals fronted by tall, gabled buildings; check-out the raunchy red and blue light districts; and engage in any number of the other only-legal-here entertainments.
Near-by Belgium became the second country to allow gay weddings, and the Medieval city of Bruges can’t help but enchant like something straight out of a fairy tale. Add the fruity beers and world-famous chocolate, and the charming land becomes a spellbinding pick.
Continuing the pattern, Spain was the third country to legalise same-sex unions. Imagine siestas by day, fiestas by night, and as many olives and sangrias as you can fit in between. Barcelona is awash with colourful churches and nearby seaside town Sitges is the gay capital of the country, with a blazing nightlife as hot as the sizzling mediterranean sun.
The nation is known for it’s romance, from it’s fine wine and cheeses, down to the very language they speak. Explore glorious renaissance architecture, neverending vineyards, or take a trip into ‘Gay Paree’ itself (it earned the name for a reason).