Destination weddings

Where to have your same-sex destination wedding

wedding cake

From State Library of New South Wales, via Flickr Commons


Recent decisions in Britain and New Zealand to legalize same-sex marriages have given gay American couples seeking a destination wedding some high-profile options.

Same-sex weddings will be legal in New Zealand starting August 19. Among the first to be married under the amended marriage law will be a gay couple from Australia who won a contest hosted by Tourism New Zealand. Air New Zealand, meanwhile, is looking for a Kiwi couple to wed onboard one of its jets while in flight.

Same-sex weddings in Britain won’t take place until next summer, but Visit Britain is already in the planning mode.

“We’ve always rolled out a warm welcome for LGBT travelers,” said Sandi Dawe, CEO of Visit Britain, “We hope this new law will result in an increase in tourism to Britain for gay and lesbian travelers who want to marry and honeymoon here.”

To help those couples “conceptualize their own dream weddings,” the national tourism agency has issued a list of gay-friendly wedding venues and locations, including castles in Wales, the Brighton Pier in England and the restaurant atop the phallic-shaped building at 30 St Mary Axe in London that’s been dubbed “The Gherkin”.

“I already have gay clients inquiring about planning a destination wedding for them in Britain,” said David Rubin, CEO of DavidTravel, a luxury travel agency in Corona del Mar, Calif.

In the past, Rubin has organized wedding celebrations and honeymoons for American couples in South Africa, Spain and in other countries where same-sex marriages are already legal.

“Sweden – with the Ice Hotel – has been a great destination, and in Iceland we’ve had couples get married on top of a glacier,” said Rubin. “Canada is easy: it is close by and same-sex weddings have been legal there since 2005.” Rubin’s agency is also helping plan same-sex weddings in France, where marriage equality became legal this May.


Benn Storey and Brandon Perlberg; courtesy B. Perlberg


Brandon Perlberg, a 35 year-old lawyer, consultant and “very proud New Yorker,” is currently engaged to marry Benn Storey, a 31 year-old senior newspaper designer from England, his partner of more than eight years.

They’ve set their wedding date for autumn 2014 and are hoping marriage equality reaches Scotland by then, because “my partner and I have completely fallen in love with Edinburgh,” said Perlberg. For now, though, they’re planning to be married in England, in either London or Durham.

“Either way, 40 to 50 friends and family will be flying to the UK from the US to share in the event with us,” said Perlberg.

The Visit Britain team now actively courting the same-sex marriage market will be happy to hear that, and not just because weddings are happy occasions.

While there are no official statistics on how many destination weddings take place or how much money is spent on them, “the potential spending associated with gay marriage is quite simply immense,” said Ian Johnson, founder and CEO of Out Now, a global lesbian and gay marketing and consulting firm.

Competition for the destination gay wedding and honeymoon market is really heating up, said Johnson.

“Places that get this right now can expect a far bigger payoff than just the gay and lesbian people they will attract. It will also affect the attitudes of wedding guests, friends, family and work colleagues of the happy couple, many of whom will choose to spend their travel dollars where all citizens are treated equally,” he said.

That was the scenario two years ago when Ernesto Rocco and his partner had an elaborate marriage celebration in France – even before same-sex marriage was legal there.


Ernesto Rocco and Richard Davies at their public wedding ceremony in France.

The couple first got officially married in Vermont (which legalized same-sex marriage in 2009) and then, with their priest from California presiding, they had a public ceremony at a French chateau with more than 100 friends and family.

“For that couple, the right chateau decided the destination,” said Rubin.

And while Rocco and his partner, Richard Davies, would have rather skipped the stop in Vermont if that was possible in 2011, they also chose France because they felt it important to celebrate and spend their money in a country that supports gay people. “We spent six figures and our friends and family also bought hotel rooms, plane tickets, meals, etc. to be with us. Why should that money go someplace that doesn’t accept us?” he said.

(My story, Where to have your same-sex destination wedding, appeared in a slightly different version on NBC News Travel)

Destination wedding travel advice from the TSA

If you’re a bride planning a destination wedding, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests you plot your trip through airport security as carefully as you plan that trip down the aisle.

That way, you’ll avoid wrinkles, both in the process — and in your dress.

Courtesy National Library of Wales

“Brides-to-be can definitely bring their wedding dress through a security checkpoint,” TSA employee and occasional blog contributor Lynn Dean wrote recently on the TSA’s blog. But she said if the dress can’t lay flat in its garment bag or box and fit through the X-ray machine, TSA officers will screen the dress manually.

If that happens, “Stay calm,” said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations, a luxury-focused Virtuoso agency that plans more than 200 destination celebrations a year. “Many dresses have wires and fake jewels and other decoration that may need to be inspected. And even through TSA agents wear gloves, you can ask them to put on a fresh pair before touching your dress.”

For the flight, Ezon suggests brides book a first-class or upgraded seat to get early boarding and first pick of storage space in the overhead bins or the closets. “I’ve had brides whose dresses were so elaborate that we even booked the dress its own seat.”

Ezon also said that while it’s important to protect a wedding dress on an airplane, there are other outfits to be concerned with as well. “You have the mothers of the bride and groom as well. They’re all focused on getting their clothing there, too.”

Beyond dresses, the TSA’s Dean notes other wedding-related items that may cause a checkpoint glitch for those on their way to getting hitched. Knives designed to cut wedding cakes should be shipped or put in checked bags, but wired bouquets are OK, “along with rice, birdseed, sand and candy-coated almonds,” she said.

Jewelry and other valuables should be packed in carry-on, not checked bags. And gifts for the bridal party should be wrapped at the destination, in case they require additional screening.

Another important consideration: identification. A bride may leave for her destination wedding with one last name but return to the airport with another. Current TSA rules require that the name on a ticket match the name on an ID exactly but, often, honeymoon tickets are made in the married couple’s name.

The TSA’s advice: “Take your marriage license with you in the event you booked your plane tickets in your married name but haven’t updated your driver’s license.”

Ezon isn’t totally comfortable with that advice. “It’s often left to the discretion of TSA or immigration officers whether or not to accept a marriage license as a legal document. But a wedding or honeymoon is such a big deal. You don’t really want to rely on that.”

Bottom line: Make sure your paperwork, like your partner, is a perfect match.

(My story: Planning a Destination Wedding? What to know before you go, was first published on’s Overhead Bin)