You’ve probably heard me talk about the importance of finding gay-friendly elopement and wedding locations before. If you’re queer and tying the knot, you may be wondering where the most LGBTQIA+-friendly destinations actually are.
When it comes to celebrating your love, you must take the time to choose a place that makes you feel comfortable showing affection without a second thought. To help you, I’ve put together a guide for finding the most LGBTQIA+-friendly places in the US and beyond so you can look forward to a worry-free elopement full of the love and happiness you deserve!
The answer to this question might feel a bit of a no-brainer. If you’re a queer couple getting married, this means you’re probably going to have your relationship on full display in the immediate environment you choose to elope in. If you elope outdoors in a national park, for example, you’ll probably cross paths with strangers. Even if you elope in an indoor venue, you’ll likely have other activities planned throughout the day that might require encounters with others outside your immediate circle.
So, queer-friendliness matters because you deserve to exist as yourselves in all your beautiful glory anywhere you go. There’s little sense in choosing a place that will require you to hide who you are or be extra cautious for your own safety.
As a queer person myself, I’m always hyper-aware of where I travel and what people might be thinking—especially when I’m with my partner. Far too often, I come across people trying to figure out her gender and, therefore, how they should treat us. If you relate to these situations, just know that I understand this experience, so my goal as your photographer is to do the work for you when it comes to vetting locations so we can all avoid as many unsafe scenarios as possible.
Before we get into the process of finding these locations, we need to understand what classifies places as queer-friendly to begin with. Generally, you’ll want to be on the lookout for locations that:
I want to make clear that even if you do all the research, ask for advice, and do everything in your power to choose the most queer-friendly locations, it doesn’t guarantee safety and comfort 100% of the time. There can be bad apples anywhere you go—and this is hard to plan for.
But, when you do everything you can to choose a safe place, your chances of avoiding awkward and uncomfortable encounters increase significantly. I chatted with queer travel agent Andy Knowles in my podcast Queerly Beloved to get his expertise on finding queer-friendly destinations. Let’s get into it!
In general, gay-friendly places are outwardly celebratory of the LGBTQIA+ community. This means visible displays of support everywhere you go at all times of the year. You might see pride flags hanging all year round or businesses advertising their commitment to inclusivity when you pass their shops.
Gay-accepting places are less outwardly celebratory, but most people won’t bat an eye when they see you walking down the street hand-in-hand with your partner. These are places that acknowledge and support the existence of queer folks and have the legislation in place to protect them.
Unsafe LGBTQIA+ locations are those that don’t have protective laws in place and have largely homophobic attitudes towards the community. These places are usually not recommended for LGBTQIA+ people because of safety risks and potential legal consequences.
Depending on your visions for your elopement, begin with an online search like “most queer-friendly places in the US” or “most LGBTQIA+- friendly countries in the world.” Many resources provide studies, reports, and up-to-date rankings based on public opinions, personal experiences, and law analyses. These include:
Aside from these resources, it’s also a good idea to check out articles and blogs written by other queer folks who have traveled to various locations. These pieces usually speak closely to the personal experiences of what it felt like to be in these places—something that indexes and quantitative studies can’t always capture.
Once you have a list of top contenders, dive deep into the specifics. Some things to look for include:
Looking into these factors can give you a better pulse of the attitudes of the location and what you can expect when traveling there.
If you know other queer people who have traveled to or live in these locations, ask them what their experience was. If you don’t know people who have been to these spots, social media can be a powerful tool. You can also lean on professionals to provide advice. Queer travel agents like Andy, for example, are well-versed in giving recommendations. I can also offer insights as an LGBTQIA+ elopement photographer based on my travel experiences.
It goes without saying: It sucks that we even have to think twice about whether or not we’ll be safe in spaces because of our identities. But because this is our reality, here are some tips to keep in mind when traveling for your elopement:
A best practice when you travel for anything. Share your location with the people you’re traveling with, and consider also doing so with a trusted friend or family member back home.
During your elopement travels, you might encounter situations that put you in an uncomfortable position. To prepare for these cases, you should talk with your partner ahead of time about how you want to handle them. For example:
Being on the same page in advance will ensure you know how to handle awkward situations together without upsetting each other in the process.
If you choose a location that is LGBTQIA+-friendly, you should be pretty safe booking your accommodations virtually anywhere. However, there can still be cases where you might be met with hostility, especially if you book private rentals.
In my podcast, Andy mentions that your safest options are usually well-known hotel brands because they have global standards. The attitudes of smaller boutique hotels or Airbnbs and VRBOs can be more challenging to gauge, especially if there is no explicit mention of queer folks on their website, listing, or in their review section. When in doubt, you can also message the rental host to understand their acceptance levels.
If you plan different adventures for your elopement, it could be beneficial to find a guide that can help you explore the area. One important thing to note here is to ensure the guide is queer-friendly. The best way to know for sure is to inquire directly.
Group tours and experiences can also be a good option if you and your partner want to sprinkle some adventure into your elopement because there is safety in numbers. On top of that, travel groups are often full of diversity because people come from all over the world.
The United States is a mixed bag when it comes to queer-friendliness. While the federal government legalized gay marriage in 2015, certain states are less than accepting, with homophobic attitudes and a lack of anti-discrimination policies in place. But, other states are known to be more progressive with their policies and public attitudes, making them better places to elope in. The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an excellent resource that highlights LBGTQIA+-related laws and policies by state, giving you a better picture of protections in place. These states include:
If you want to elope abroad, this opens up many options. Keep in mind that there can be a diverse range of acceptance levels within each of these countries, depending on the city or region, so it’s crucial to research your specific location in depth. According to the LGBTQIA+ Equality Index, the following countries are some of the most queer-friendly in the world, based on laws and general public attitudes:
Finding the ideal elopement destination can be hard work, and the extra burden that we carry as queer people can make the process feel even more daunting. During your research, you may stumble across disturbing statistics or stories that tie knots in your stomach. If this happens, it’s essential to take care of yourself. It can be easy to fixate on the bad things rather than the good, so if that anxiety arises, take the time to practice self-care with your partner. Remind yourself that your love is beautiful and that many people in this world are cheering you on—whether they know you or not.
As an LGBTQIA+ wedding and elopement photographer, booking your elopement package with me means I can help you through this process of narrowing down your destination. Whether you want to elope somewhere in the US or abroad, we can work together to ensure your celebration of love is everything you’ve dreamed of and more. Reach out to me today to learn more!
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