Top 10 destinations that celebrate marriage equality in the Caribbean and Latin America

A wedding at Costa Sur Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, photo courtest EnRoute Communications

As the list of countries with legalized marriage equality in Latin America grows – Chile and Mexico are the most recent additions to the list, as of 2022 – so does the array of choices for the big day.

Latin America is generally defined as the countries from Mexico, through Central America and The Caribbean, and South America, where Romance languages are spoken as a result of European colonization (usually Spanish, Portuguese, and French, or any adaptation as a local dialect). Also, the Catholic Church is a major influence on daily life.

Weddings in Latin America offer stunning locations, with gorgeous beaches and picturesque city centers, and of course, the lower prices’ value is tempting. These recommendations come with an important suggestion: a wedding planner is a must-have, to navigate those pesky details like how to get a marriage license, which can be quite complicated for an international couple. Also, a local wedding coordinator will know of facilities that welcome gay and trans weddings at their properties.

But enough of those details. It’s time to dream of The Big Day. Here are the Top 10 locations in Latin America for hosting a memorable destination wedding:

10) Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is part of the United States, but the island is still uniquely Caribbean. Hurricanes have damaged parts of the island in recent years, but the northeast area, including hotspots like San Juan and Vieques, was barely touched by the storms.

The view from El Blok Hotel in Vieques, Puerto Rico, photo by Dennis Rivera of Visit Puerto Rico

The beaches of Puerto Rico really are magnificent, with cliffs and palm trees, and wide stretches of sand. It should also be noted that San Juan is referred to as “the gay capital of The Caribbean,” and the city’s drag bars, gogo bars, and dance clubs can be a lot of fun. The owners of Coqui Del Mar, a clothing-optional guest house in San Juan, put together this handy guide for getting married in Puerto Rico.

RELATED: How to have a tropical destination wedding without traveling abroad

9) Brazil

Same-sex marriages have been legal in Brazil since 2013, although there has been an uptick in anti-gay and anti-trans violence in recent years, during the reign of ultra-conservative President Bolsonaro. Nevertheless, this sexy nation still remains a major tourism destination, especially the megacities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with busy gay beaches (in Rio), thriving queer culture, and legendary nightlife.

Brazil has some tough bureaucratic obstacles for hosting a destination wedding, starting with a required visit to a Brazilian consulate in your home country a month before your big day. But after cutting through the red tape, the destinations can be breathtaking, particularly the beaches–the country has over 2,000 beaches along its 5,000 miles of coastline. If the packs of men in Speedos in Rio are too much, try the very queer-friendly Florianópolis, south of São Paulo, which is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Brazilian citizens. For adventurous travelers, check out the undeveloped beaches in the northeast, like Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (photo above).

8) Ecuador

The city center of the capital Quito is a living museum of colonial architecture and magnificent Catholic churches, where Basílica del Voto Nacional and The Church of la Compañía de Jesús are among the most spectacular churches anywhere in Latin America. Although a same-sex wedding ceremony probably won’t happen in either of those Catholic landmarks, marriage equality has been legal in Ecuador since 2019. Check out the photos of this wedding in the Cloud Forest in Ecuador’s Andean Mountains.

7) Bonaire

While many islands in the Caribbean recognize a same-sex marriage performed in other countries, Bonaire is one of the very few where same-sex wedding ceremonies can be performed legally. As a location for a destination wedding, it is hard to beat Bonaire’s stunning white beaches on the central west coast, particularly Te Amo Beach, perfect for a sunset wedding ceremony, barefoot in the sand.

Bonaire is only around 50 miles away from Venezuela, and the history of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism is part of daily life. Now as a territory of The Netherlands, the island’s citizens and visitors are protected by strict anti-discrimination laws. Same-sex couples are warmly welcomed, especially when they have tourist money to spend. (Fun fact: Bonaire uses the US Dollar as its currency.)

6) Argentina

If Brazil is “sexy,” then Argentina is “romantic.” Sit in cafes along cobblestone streets, drink local Malbec, and watch couples dance the tango until dawn. Or practice your wedding-night tango at one of the gay milongas in Buenos Aires, although mainstream milongas are also becoming increasingly inclusive.

Photo courtesty Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, the capital, is a Gilded Age treasure, where mansions and hotels were built during the years when opulence was everything. The Alvear Palace and the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt (photo above) are the most famous landmarks. Still, there are many glamorous hotels to act out your Evita fantasies from your balcony.

Argentina was the first country in Latin America to legalize marriage equality, back in 2010, but weddings in Argentina require some preparation; there are various legal forms to sign, and a doctor’s visit is required (at an Argentinian doctor) a week before the big day. So turn the wedding into a vacation, and visit the wine country of Mendoza, or tour Patagonia.

5) Colombia

Colombia is having a moment. In 2016, Colombia achieved two monumental victories: the government established a peace treaty with the nation’s largest guerilla militia, after decades of violence, and same-sex marriage was legalized. Now the economy is strong, the streets are safe, and the low-cost medical care (translation: plastic surgery) in Bogotá and Medellín, performed by American-trained doctors, is drawing in visitors from around the world.

Near the capital Bogotá, Catedral de Sal is a unique wedding location. Back in the city, host your bachelor party at Theatron, perhaps the most lavish gay club on Earth. Or have your big day in the coastal city of Cartagena, the gorgeous jewel of the Caribbean with white sand beaches and colorful colonial-era streets. At Teatro Adolfo Mejia you really can have your wedding reception on the stage in this theater.

RELATED: How to say ‘Hasta mañana, Medellín!’ with a day trip to Colombia’s most colorful town

4) Chile

The capital of Chile, Santiago, is a modern and prosperous city, notable for also being one of the safest destinations in Latin America. The historic architecture mixes with new design, and towering skyscrapers are just as common as colonial Catholic churches. Santiago also has one of the most vibrant gay and trans social scenes in Latin America, where the bars and clubs in the Bellavista neighborhood are wild.

One of the best ways to enjoy weddings in Chile is to partake in the many wineries throughout the central coast. Chile is the world’s largest producer of cabernet sauvignon, so be sure to raise a glass of a local red.

3) Uruguay

Social progressives, take note of Uruguay: this little country is notable for being among the Latin American countries that are least influenced by the Catholic Church. Homosexuality was decriminalized back in 1934, marriage equality was legalized in 2013, and the Integral para Personas Trans (Integral Law for Trans People) was legalized in 2018.  Even Christmas isn’t called “Christmas,” but Día de la Familia (Day of the Family), to keep the Catholic Church out of secular life.

Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa

Montevideo, the capital, does not have the crazy nightlife of São Paulo or Santiago, but the city is beautiful, with beautifully preserved historic architecture, like Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa (photo above). The beaches along Uruguay’s coast are as beautiful as its northern neighbor Brazil, and the country is the destination of choice for affluent Argentinians, who luxuriate among the lovely beaches and yachts at Punta del Este.

2) Costa Rica

Costa Rica has carved a place for itself as both an ecotourism hotspot, and a haven for the gay and trans community. Beautiful beaches and national parks draw over a million tourists each year to this tiny Central American country, thanks to strong environmental protections from the goverment, and gay and trans legal rights are particularly progressive here. Same sex marriage has been legal since 2020, and the government officially recognizes International Day Against Homophobia, on May 17 each year (the US does not).

The most popular tourist areas are along the central Pacific Coast, where Manuel Antonio Antonio Park has a beautiful beach. There are magnificent resorts along the coast, thermal spas in the mountains, gay guesthouses dot the Manuel Antonio area, and gay tours pass through frequently.

1) Mexico

After years of piecing the country together state-by-state, as of 2022 Mexico has finally legalized same-sex marriage across the entire country. As a wedding destination, Mexico has an exceptional range of diversity, from beach destinations to historic cities. Puerto Vallarta, once the playground of Elizabeth Taylor, is now one of the gay meccas of the world, and wedding destinations range from beaches to seaside cliffs, from gay guesthouses to luxury resorts (although it would be best to avoid the Sheraton there).

Parish of San Miguel Arcángel, in San Miguel de Allende, photo courtesy Secretary of Tourism of the State of Guanajuato

Tourists tend to associate Mexico with beach destinations like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, the inland cities are equally delightful. Guadalajara is referred to as the Silicon Valley of Mexico, where the tech industry has pumped money into the community and the gay nightlife scene is thriving. San Miguel de Allende, repeatedly ranked by travel publications as the #1 travel destination in the world, is a time capsule of colonial Spanish architecture, where historic buildings and parks have been adapted into wedding venues. San Miguel also benefits from temperate weather, and vineyards now flourish in the region.

RELATED: Guadalajara is your sexy undercover gay gem in Mexico

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