Top Trends in LGBTQ Destination Weddings
With their wedding originally scheduled for October 2020, Jody Reynard and David Bushman realized that a change was in order. The couple, both Broadway actors, had envisioned their nuptials in New York’s Fort Tryon Park. But once they decided to move the wedding date to May 2021, they realized that a destination wedding was a simpler option.
“I remembered attending a ‘rustic chic’ wedding in a barn and David liked the idea of a venue like that,” said Reynard. “We searched online for barn venues in the Catskills and found Owls Hoot Barn. After traveling to the grounds, we knew we had to get married there. A smaller venue and more intimate guest list turned out to be what made the most sense.”
Indeed, the wedding industry is moving into overdrive, with many weddings originally planned for 2020 now being shoehorned into 2021’s summer and fall seasons.
But as different countries and regions open up, what is trending for destination weddings for LGBTQ couples? We spoke to several industry experts to get a feel for how these ceremonies will look in the coming months and years.
Kirsten Ott Palladino, Editorial Director + Cofounder, Equally Wed & Equally Wed Pro, said that queer couples are working more with locations to personalize their weddings even more.
“So often, destination wedding locations work hard to make it easy for the couples with packages to choose from, which is great, but more couples are looking for an even more custom experience beyond this. And some locations are rising to the challenge with add-on excursions for the group, allowing the couple’s photographer to shoot the wedding instead of insisting that the hotel’s photographer get the gig—and greatest of all, honoring the diversity of the couple and their guests with authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive practices,” Palladino said.
“Weddings this year have become super design-oriented,” said Cassie McNulty, Catering Sales Manager for Palm Springs’ Ace Hotel & Swim Club. “Couples are scaling down their guest counts and spending more of their budget on creating a space that is totally unique to them. This might include lounging areas with rental furniture, upgraded lighting, accent pieces and installations in the swimming pool.”
She also noted that couples are seeking spaces that are multifunctional—asking for spaces that can be set up for a polished, sophisticated dinner and transitioned into a party of a lifetime.
Alecia Walstrum, Sales Manager for the Saguaro (also in Palm Springs), noted that they’ve been seeing a lot of pop-up micro weddings and elopements, which fits in to the trend of smaller events.
But in addition to delaying many weddings, Covid-19 has also made many couples reconsider what’s most important to them.
“People’s priorities are clearer, they spend more on experiences and photography and videography rather than things like decor, napkins, stationery, etc.,” said Birna Hrönn Björnsdóttir of Pink Iceland, the country’s first gay-owned and -operated travel company.
McNulty said she is seeing that couples have decided to downsize their guest list and focus more on immediate family and their closest group of friends.
“The Palm Springs market has certainly changed, and we are finding that we’ve gained more couples within our drive market like Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco,” she said.
Palladino noted that people being able to safely leave the country has been a big challenge, not to mention then expecting their guests to be able to as well. She said locations where the response to the virus was swift and strong are, for the most part, enjoying a better comeback.
“Part of this is having regulations about following safety precautions for guests,” she said. “Couples and their guests are much more likely to have their weddings at businesses where employees are masked and vaccinated as well as following CDC guidelines, requiring temperature checks for guests and offering sanitizing stations.”
“We’re used to facing all kinds of adversity through life—but it becomes more serious on the wedding day, when the couple is vulnerable and emotions are running high,” noted Björnsdóttir.
The New Hotspots
Walstrum explained that up until recently, California was not allowing receptions and had limitations on who could attend ceremonies.
“This put a huge halt and cancellation on weddings,” she said. “We had a handful of small elopements from reopening in June until just recently. We will be having our first big wedding in June 2021. Now that couples are able to have weddings again and travel restrictions have eased, we have been getting a lot more inquiries and fall is looking very promising!”
“Iceland has always been a popular place due to its gorgeous nature,” said Björnsdóttir. “The recent addition of an erupting volcano is sure to be the next hottest destination as it’s both accessible, very visual, safe (or as safe as an active volcano can be) and predicted to erupt for [several] months.”
“I’m seeing a lot of proposals and elopements in Iceland,” agreed Palladino. “For full-scale weddings with guests, Hawaii, Mexico (specifically Riviera Maya, which boasts affirming and inclusive attitudes), Spain, Italy, Greece and Australia are hot locations for Equally Wed couples. Now that Costa Rica has marriage equality, this will definitely increase its attractability for destination weddings!”
Palladino said the LGBTQ community is as varied as any other community. In this sense, she feels that some couples are more interested than others in feeling included and respected, while others just don’t want to be disrespected.
“LGBTQ+ couples are also looking for destinations where they’re not going to be arrested for kissing in public while taking a stroll as well as countries that treat their LGBTQ+ residents like second-class citizens,” she said. “The wedding is one of the most important experiences in a couple’s relationship, and they deserve to feel safe, appreciated and understood while they celebrate and commit their lives to each other.”
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