LGBT travel 2012: Gay marriage becomes legal in Cancun, Mexico

gay marriage LGBT travelers can add Cancun, Mexico, to their must-visit destination list, as the city has recently legalized gay marriage. In fact, the first same-sex marriages will be taking place this month in the resort area.

While same-sex marriage has been legal in Mexico City since 2009, a recently discovered gap in the Civil Code, which only talks about “people interested in getting married” without specifying gender, has helped to legalize gay marriage in the Quintana Roo area for 2012.

The Mexican Caribbean is already a popular travel destination for the LGBT community, with numerous gay-friendly and focused bars and clubs, hotels, tours and beaches, and the desire for gay weddings in the area has been high. With this new development, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is teaming up with Colectivo Diversidad, Gay Tours Mexico, and Fusion G to work out deals with hotels and airlines so that gay marriage ceremonies can take place all over the region.

From the looks of things, Quintana Roo will be seeing a surge in LGBT tourism and destination weddings in the new year.

Galley Gossip: 5 tips for traveling with a wedding dress

From the moment my husband got down on one knee and proposed in the sand at sundown, I knew I wanted a destination wedding. When it came time to choose a wedding dress, I only considered styles that were sleek and simple. Basically I had to find something I could pack inside a suitcase since we had booked tickets on a regional carrier. Most of these airlines do not have closets or decent overhead bin space. So I knew beforehand that I’d have to gate-check a bag at the airport. It was a risk I chose to take. Thankfully my dress arrived safe and sound. I picked it up on the tarmac in Monterey.

Not all brides are quite so lucky.

“Can I hang this inside the closet?” asked a passenger on my flight from New York to Miami last week. She held a long, white garment bag with the words David’s Bridal written in gold across the zippered front.

Normally flight attendants are more than happy to accommodate a wedding dress, but sometimes it’s just not possible. This was one of those times.

“Congratulations!” I said to the blushing bride in an attempt to soften the blow. She smiled. Oh how I dreaded delivering the bad news. How could I tell her there were no closets and that first class coats had been hung on a hook between the bulkhead wall and the last row of first class seats? No way would her big puffy dress fit in such a confined space. And if miracle upon miracle it did fit, it would get crushed.

Tips for traveling with a wedding dress:

1. Ship it: FedEx / UPS / DHL and avoid airline hassles altogether! Most wedding dress places have shipping boxes and many will ship (domestically) for free. Too much can happen in transit. Do you really need the added stress?

2. Skip the poofy dress: Cinderella dresses belong in fairytales, not on airplanes. Sure it looks beautiful on you, but it’s not going to look so great after you pick it up at baggage claim because you were forced to check it when it didn’t fit on the airplane. Doesn’t matter that you’re getting married, if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t fit case closed! Be smart and travel light.

3
. Check aircraft equipment: Most wide-body equipment (an aircraft with two aisles used mainly on long haul routes) have closets on board for passengers to use. They’re usually located in first class. Not all narrow-body equipment (single aisle aircraft) have closets since so many of them have been reconfigured to make more room for passenger seats.

4. Board first: Just because there’s a closet on the airplane doesn’t mean there’s going to be space available for your dress. Closets are small and quickly fill up with large bulky items such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, paintings, strollers, musical instruments and garment bags. Your only option may be to place the dress inside an overhead bin. If you’re in coach, choose a seat near the rear of the aircraft since most major carriers board from back to front first. This will ensure you find a place for your dress since bins tend to fill up quickly now that passengers bring everything on board to avoid checked luggage fees. If you’re traveling on an airline like Southwest that uses a first come-first serve boarding system, get to the airport extra early so you’re one of the first passengers in line.

5. Buy the dress a seat: The only surefire way you won’t have to check the dress is to buy a seat for it. I’m not kidding. Passengers traveling with musical instruments do it all the time. There’s nothing more important than the dress, am I wrong? The dress to a bride is a lot like a child to a parent in that you’ll do anything to protect it from being harmed. Just make sure to book it a window seat and don’t forget to buckle it in.

In the Heart of Central America: Planning a wedding or honeymoon in Honduras

Imagine walking down a lush green aisle to a small open-air wooden structure where billowy white curtains frame a view of a valley spread below and blueish mountains in the distance. An intimate group of family and friends has gathered to watch you say your vows on this hilltop and after the ceremony, they’ll join you to celebrate as the sun sets and the lights of the village beneath you and the stars above begin to twinkle in the dark.

That fantasy, and several others, can come true in Honduras. Honduras is overlooked as a destination wedding or honeymoon spot, but the country offers just as many opportunities for romance as its Caribbean and Central American counterparts.

Whether you fancy yourself as a barefoot bride or want to go eco-chic, Honduras has a wedding locale for you. And because all-inclusive “wedding factory” resorts don’t exist here, brides can take comfort in knowing that their special day will indeed be special and private.

Those looking for an adventurous honeymoon in Honduras will find plenty of activities, like zip-lining, diving, horseback riding and white-water rafting here as well. Here are three location options to get you started planning a wedding or honeymoon in Honduras.

Copan
Hacienda San Lucas is situated on a hill just outside of the town of Copan Ruin as. From the hotel’s deck chairs, you can see the ruins of Copan and the town below. It’s a long walk from the Hacienda into town, but owner Flavia will arrange for pick up and drop off for guests. You can also hop into a moto-taxi for the $1 ride home.

The Hacienda was a labor of love, and it shows. Flavia was born in Honduras, but moved to Kentucky and lived there for three decades. She eventually returned home and took over the property that had been in her family’s name for a hundred years. It was in a sad state of disrepair, so Flavia set about restoring it piece by piece. As she says, she would sell one cow and have enough money to restore one wall. Another cow sold equaled another wall.

It was a long process, and by the time the renovation was complete, nearly ten years had passed, over 4000 native trees, including cacao and fruit trees, had been planted on the property, solar lighting had been installed in the rooms, and 50% of the employees were local Maya Chorti people, descendants of the indigenous Maya people.

When the resort first opened, it was just two rooms. Now it’s grown to eight rooms spread amongst three buildings. Rates for rooms that are basic but comfortable start at $125 for low season. Rooms don’t have A/C, TV, radios or telephones, but they do have hammocks and there is wi-fi at the main house. There’s also a restaurant where Flavia serves a four-course dinner ($30 per person) made of grown-onsite or locally purchased ingredients. Because she only buys as much as she needs each day, reservations are required.

On the night I dined by candlelight at Hacienda San Lucas, were were served a salad of cantaloupe and fresh cheese, a velvety cream of corn soup with chipilin flower and macadamia nut powder, and a rich creamy dish of chicken in lorocco (a native flower) sauce, baked in a corn husk and served with avocado and rice. For dessert: Kentucky rum cake. After tasting her delicious food, I could see why Flavia’s cooking retreats at the Hacienda were popular.

Hacienda San Lucas also has one feature that makes it perfect for a destination wedding. Gaia, the Hacienda’s yoga center (where Flavia also runs yoga retreats) is one of the most picture-perfect wedding locales I have ever seen. Perched at the top of a hill overlooking the whole valley of Copan, it feels incredibly intimate, romantic, and natural. As soon as I saw it, I told my husband that I’d found the spot where I’d someday like to renew our vows.

For couples who get married here, the planning couldn’t be easier – Flavia does it all. She’ll decorate Gaia and bring in chairs for guests (unless you want them to sit on pillows on the floor), arrange for flowers, a band, an officiant and a photographer.

Dinner will, of course, be served at the Hacienda restaurant. Afterward, guests can dance under the stars, relax with a view of Copan Ruins, or sit by the fire at the Hacienda’s firepit.

Rent out the whole place for your wedding, or just book a room for the bride and groom and then encourage guests to stay down in town. Flavia will arrange for round trip transportation for your party.

Pre- or post-wedding, spend a few days exploring Copan, venture off to visit an eco-lodge in La Ceiba or relax on the beaches of Roatan.

Roatan
If getting married barefoot in the sand is more your style, head to Roatan, where resorts like eco-friendly Palmetto Bay Plantation allow you to get married on an empty beach on the shores of the Caribbean.

Divers looking for an intimate ceremony can say “I do” to their scuba sweetheart at Anthony’s Key. The resort will handle all details and offers several ceremony locations to choose from. The honeymoon package includes 7 nights accommodations, all meals, 3 dives per day, 2 night dives, all equipment, dolphin snorkel and open water dolphin dive, wine and flowers on arrival, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing and other excursions for $1789 per person.

La Ceiba
If you prefer a more traditional wedding reception but want a natural setting, try the Lodge at Pico Bonito, named for the mountain that rises over it. Rooms start at around $200 and there are 22 rooms onsite. Set on 400 acres of tropical rain forest, the resort is home to hundreds of species of birds, which you can see on guided hikes around the property. There are two nearby waterfalls for swimming and the resort features a restaurant, pool, butterfly house and serpentarium.

Rooms are wooden huts built on stilts. Clean, with soft beds and ceiling fans, each cabin has its own hammock for lazy afternoons.

The reception space is air conditioned, seats up to 200 guests, and serves dishes like coffee crusted beef medallions from the restaurant.

Spend your honeymoon days zip-lining through the jungle, white-water rafting, and wildlife viewing, or explore the rest of Honduras.

Requirements for getting married in Honduras
Most resorts will help you with the paperwork and provide an officiant for the ceremony. Generally the paperwork is due 14 days before the wedding will take place. You’ll need to provide a certified copy of your birth certificate, a certified copy of your police record and an affidavit of single status, as well as a valid passport.

If you’ve been married before, you’ll need a certified copy of either the divorce decree or your previous spouse’s death certificate. You’ll also need two non-related witnesses, who must have valid passports.

This trip was paid for by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, but the views expressed are entirely my own.

You can read other posts from my series on Honduras here.

Get a free wedding in St. Maarten

Hosting a destination wedding is a great way to cut down on the expenses involved in getting married. Fewer guests equal less money spent on food, drinks and invitations, and fewer tables to seat those guests means your costs for flowers and rentals like linens and chairs will also be lower. Two Sonesta resorts in St. MaartenSonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino and the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Casino – are now making the idea of a destination wedding even more appealing. . .and affordable.

Guests who book a seven night stay for themselves and 20 guests (10 rooms with double occupancy) will receive a free wedding package. And we’re not talking a single bottle of champagne and a sheet cake. No, this package includes the reception dinner and open bar. With my friends and family, that savings alone would be significant.

The package also includes the services of a wedding coordinator, marriage licensing services, wedding cake, corsage and boutonniere for the bride and groom, room upgrade, and 10% off of spa services.

[via HotelChatter]

Complimentary destination wedding – it’s not a trick

The Ritz Carlton San Juan
The Ritz-Carlton has an amazing destination wedding offer for the rest of this year. And yes, the dreamy location above (San Juan, Puerto Rico) is included in the offer!

Here’s how it works. You call up the Ritz-Carlton and say “Hey. I’m thinking about a destination wedding,” and mention the Reconnect package, which starts at $269 (Jamaica).

Then, they hook you up with a $100 daily resort credit for spa treatments and/or recreation activities, a daily romantic breakfast for two, and a free ceremony including:

  • Ceremony Location (such as the above)
  • Wedding Specialist
  • Wedding Concierge
  • Minister
  • Signature Bouquet
  • Signature Boutonniere
  • Signature Location Décor

And the icing on the cake? They’ll give you a three night stay for your first anniversary at any of the following five locations: The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort Rose Hall, Jamaica, The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, and The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino (the same locations where you can get married with this package).

Like it? Sound too good to be true? Well, you do have to get your friends and family in on it. The offer is for couples whose party will occupy (and pay for) 25 rooms for three nights. But you can totally swing that, right?

The complimentary wedding ceremony is applicable to wedding events booked between April 1 – June 30 and held between May 1 and December 20, 2009. Click here for more information!