Planning a destination wedding can be a magical experience, allowing marriers to exchange vows in a picturesque location surrounded by loved ones (or just your photographer!). Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not, the process remains a joyful journey filled with excitement and many decisions to make. But it can also be hella stressful if you don’t have some help along the way. Here’s an inclusive guide to planning your perfect destination wedding and vetting destinations and properties for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Let’s dive into the steps to ensure your fabulous inclusive destination wedding is a memorable celebration of love and acceptance, no matter what corner of the world you say “I do” in.

Step 1: Establish Your Budget

The first and most crucial step in planning your destination wedding is setting a realistic budget. Discuss your financial boundaries openly and honestly with your partner and anyone else contributing to the wedding. Destination weddings can range from intimate affairs to extravagant celebrations, so defining your budget early will help you narrow down your choices.

Step 2: Choose the Perfect Destination

Selecting the right destination is at the heart of your wedding planning process. When considering destinations, think about the following factors:

1. Climate: Ensure the weather aligns with your wedding date and your desired atmosphere.

2. Accessibility: Consider the ease of travel for your guests, as well as any visa or passport requirements.

3. Legalities: Research the marriage laws and requirements of your chosen destination.

4. Personal Connection: Opt for a location that holds significance to the marriers, such as where you met or had a memorable vacation.

5. LGBTQ+ Friendliness: Research the destination’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance. Look for LGBTQ+-friendly, inclusive and affirming locations where you can celebrate your love without fear of discrimination, violence or arrest.

Step 3: Choose an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Venue

Once you’ve narrowed down your destination options, it’s essential to vet potential wedding venues for LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Here’s how you can ensure a welcoming atmosphere:

1. Research: Look for venues that openly support LGBTQ+ weddings or have a history of hosting inclusive events. Check out the venues and vendors who we’ve featured on Equally Wed in real LGBTQ+ destination wedding features, as well as our directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive wedding venues and vendors.

2. Reviews: Read online reviews and testimonials from LGBTQ+ couples and marriers who have held their weddings at the venue.

3. Ask Questions: Contact the venue and ask about their policies and practices regarding LGBTQ+ weddings. Do they have LGBTQ+-friendly or LGBTQ+ inclusive vendors in their network?

4. Inclusivity Training: Inquire if the venue staff has undergone diversity and inclusion training, such as Equally Wed Pro’s LGBTQ+ wedding certification course and workshops. Knowledgeable and respectful staff can make a significant difference in your wedding experience.

5. Inclusive Language: Pay attention to the language used on their website and promotional materials. Venues that actively use gender-neutral language are often more inclusive.

6. Check Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local laws regarding same-sex marriage, and ensure that your wedding will be legally recognized.

Step 4: Guest List and Invitations

Create your guest list carefully, considering the number of guests you can comfortably accommodate at your chosen destination. Be mindful of your budget and keep in mind that some loved ones may be unable to attend due to travel expenses or other commitments.

When sending out invitations, include all relevant information about the destination, such as travel arrangements, accommodations and local activities.

As always, if someone’s pressuring you to invite a homophobic or trans hostile person to your wedding, consider this: It’s your wedding, and not theirs. You don’t owe anyone an invitation who isn’t fully committed to celebrating you, your spouse(s)-to-be and any other LGBTQ+ people who’ll be at your wedding, either as a guest or as a wedding pro.

Step 5: Wedding Planner or DIY

Decide whether you want to hire a professional wedding planner or take a do-it-yourself approach. A wedding planner can help alleviate stress and manage the logistical aspects of planning a destination wedding. If you opt for a wedding planner, ensure they are LGBTQ+ inclusive and respectful of your specific needs, pronouns and identities. Hiring a wedding planner familiar with the spot for your destination wedding is key, and it’s even better if they work there often or always.

If you choose the DIY route, start early and create a detailed checklist to stay organized. Utilize online resources, such as Equally Wed, a solid spreadsheet and apps, to help streamline the process.

Step 6: Accommodations and Travel

Secure accommodations for yourselves and your guests well in advance. Consider booking a block of rooms at a local hotel or resort to make it easier for your guests to find lodging. Provide a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences.

Create a dedicated wedding website where you can share travel information, itineraries and local recommendations with your guests. Make sure to include information on LGBTQ+ resources and support in the destination, such as LGBTQ+ community centers and LGBTQ+ friendly and LGBTQ+ owned businesses.

Step 7: Wedding Vendors

Choose your wedding vendors carefully, ensuring they are LGBTQ+ inclusive. This includes photographers, caterers, florists and officiants. Share your preferences and expectations with them, so they can create a wedding that reflects your love story.

Step 8: Legalities and Documentation

Before your wedding, research and comply with all legal requirements for marriage in your chosen destination. This may include obtaining marriage licenses, providing necessary documents and adhering to waiting periods. Keep copies of all essential documents in a secure folder and consider consulting with a local attorney or wedding planner for guidance.

Step 9: LGBTQ+ Friendly Activities

Incorporate LGBTQ+ friendly activities into your wedding itinerary to celebrate your love in an inclusive environment. Consider hosting a welcome party or pre-wedding event at a LGBTQ+-friendly venue or organizing a local LGBTQ+ cultural excursion.

Step 10: Celebrate Your Love

On your wedding day, focus on what truly matters—celebrating your love and commitment to each other. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who share in your joy. Embrace the beauty of your chosen wedding destination, and let the love you share be the centerpiece of the celebration.

Planning a destination wedding can be a big adventure filled with love, excitement and anticipation. Regardless of your sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, every marrier deserves to celebrate their love in a welcoming and inclusive environment surrounded by people who are committed to queer joy. By carefully vetting your destination and wedding vendors for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, you can ensure that your special day is a celebration of love and acceptance that will be cherished for a lifetime. Love knows no boundaries, and your destination wedding can be a testament to that truth.

Photo by Paradise Photo Studio