Long Distance Planning
Many gay and lesbian couples opt to travel abroad for their nuptials, and for great reasons. For one, it’s nice to get away, and what better time to see romantic locales than your wedding? A long-distance wedding means fewer guests (many won’t be able to afford it; many won’t want to travel), which is a plus or a minus depending on your goals.
If you’re planning a long-distance, same-sex wedding there are a couple of things you need to work out. Most important, the destination has to be gay-friendly (and not just in a “yes, we like our homos as long as they don’t hold hands” sort of way). If you’re not familiar with the country where you’d like to marry, I suggest visiting the IGLTA website. You can search the country for gay-friendly hotels, and you can also find information on the destination itself. IGLTA has travel agents too—if you have any gay travel doubts, go through an agent.
Second, some couples think because, say, the Netherlands offers same-sex marriage, you can run off there, get a marriage license, and come back to New York as legal newlyweds. It’s not quite so simple, of course, but if you do want a legal marriage abroad, check out that country’s requirements. I don’t cover legal marriage—our “Legally Yours” columnist is in charge of that area. However, for a quick overview on legal gay marriage abroad, I strongly suggest Evan Wolfson’s wonderful Freedom to Marry site. Their section on international laws is exceptional.
On to the good stuff: As gay marriage takes off, so do gay-friendly weddings abroad. I recently took a trip to Curacao, and spoke at length with their tourism and hotel boards about gay weddings. Curacao is a perfect example of a Caribbean island that is accessible and extremely gay-friendly. They cater to gay tourists, and many of their hotels will jump at the opportunity to host your wedding. There isn’t a single gay bar on the island, but I made a point of hitting nightspots with other gay men and women. We saw several same-sex couples peacefully co-mingling with heterosexuals; you know, the way things should be everywhere.
Kura Hulanda Hotel (and separate Lodge) offers full-service gay-wedding planning at both locations — one is like a small, quaint village; the other is a beachfront paradise. I’ve stayed at both locations, and they are Caribbean treasures. They’ll provide the locale (beach, restaurant), flowers, minister; the whole nine yards. What they can’t do is offer you a legal marriage. (Adding to legal confusion, same-sex marriage is legal in the Netherlands; same-sex marriage in Dutch Curacao is not.) Kura Hulanda, it should be noted, was the first hotel on Curacao to join the IGLTA. Curacao itself is a beautiful, unpretentious island with great restaurants, wonderful diving, and an eclectic, European flavor.
Almost every wedding couple I’ve met, gay or straight, has specific ideas about their weddings, and that’s difficult if your planner is in another country. Kura Hulanda will not dictate your wedding, and their staff is open to customizing wedding packages. But other locations? I spoke with wedding planner Danielle Bobish of Curtain Up Events in New York about what you need to know when planning a long-distance gay wedding. Her advice is as straight as your ceremony is not.
“Make sure whoever is planning your wedding is willing to give you the wedding you want, not the one they want,” she says. “Weddings abroad are often very different than traditional American weddings.” To make sure you’re headed in the right direction, “research everything. Go online and check out all websites, and call other hotels in the area, and ask for places and vendors they recommend.”
Bobish recommends hiring your own photographer to the destination, because “at the end of the day, it’s all you have left. If anything happens to photos, you’re out of luck. Flowers won’t be remembered for as long, and often the site’s décor is part of the beauty.” The photographer doesn’t have to accompany you beforehand, but Bobish strongly suggests that you hit the island at least once before the big day. (“You need to make sure everything is going in the direction you want.”) If you’re hiring an outside planner, he or she needs to visit too. “Also, anything like favors should be taken care of early on, as they’ll need to be shipped to your home in the states, then shipped to the destination.”
Finally, Bobish says that you should always send out save-the-date cards for a long-distance affair, and to give your guests a year to plan. “Your wedding away is a vacation for guests, and they need time to schedule it, and plan around it. Check on group airfares, and work with the hotel on group rates. And never schedule your wedding on a holiday weekend, when people often have other plans.” That last tip is the best way to avoid taking the “gay” out of your festivities.
Photo credit: Curacao.com
David Toussaint is the author of the Gay Couple's Guide to Wedding Planning, Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony, and TOUSSAINT!.