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Getting Married Up North
by Gina Daggett

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Canada, the land of the rainbow maple leaf, joined the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain in 2005 by legalizing same-sex marriage, and since then it has become a mecca for gay people looking to tie the knot. Gay and lesbian American couples are heading to the border (a pilgrimage of sorts) to a country that celebrates and validates love between everyone. According to Darryl Persello, founder of 2 Dears & a Queer, a Vancouver, BC-based wedding and event planning company, “98% of our business is international, and our clients come to us from virtually all 50 US states.” It’s no wonder; Canada is not only on the cutting edge of sanctifying the dignity and worth of its entire population, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places in the world with white-capped mountains, rocky coastlines, and vibrant, booming city centers. Whether you’re looking to get married with all the bells and whistles available in places like Vancouver, Montréal, Toronto, or Halifax, or you prefer a laid back rural ceremony, Canada has it all.

As host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver, BC just might be the hottest place for American LGBTs to get married these days. With its scenic Canadian Rockies as a backdrop and its seaside bonuses (combined with the city’s epitomical cosmopolitan flare), Vancouver is a top pick for Americans traveling north for their nuptials.

Lauded the “Best City in the Americas” by Conde Nast Traveler, Vancouver is clean, safe, and picturesque, while also boasting a dynamic breadth of culinary delight and rich multiculturalism. Not to mention it’s super gay. “We have a wonderful gay village and the city itself is very gay-friendly,” says Persello, who specializes in same-sex weddings in Vancouver and the surrounding areas, including Whistler and Vancouver Island.

There’s a reason for this: Vancouver and its municipalities are enthusiastic about the gay community. “We have actively reached out to the GLBT community in a way that not a lot of other travel bureaus have,” says Amber Sessions of Tourism Vancouver. “Vancouver is surrounded by ocean and mountains so it’s a stunning place for a wedding. Hundreds of [gay] couples from around the world have come to Vancouver to legally exchange vows. Ceremonies have varied from intimate gatherings, to seaside and garden services, to full blown large-scale events with all the trimmings,” she adds.

“I have a lot of clients eloping from the states,” says Vancouver photographer Leanne Scherp, who moved to Canada to be with her partner because of its inclusive environment. “I love it when couples get married here because they are recognized and supported by our government and community, which adds another positive spin to the celebrations.”

Rich Dalton and Luis Grisales are the perfect example. They not only tied the knot in British Columbia, but actually picked up and moved to Vancouver from the States afterwards. “We chose Vancouver because Luis is from Colombia and we were able to immigrate to Canada,” says Dalton. A special on the Style Network, Whose Wedding is it Anyway? featured Rich and Luis and their wedding. Their celebration was two-pronged: a commitment ceremony at home with loved ones and a legal wedding in Canada. “I don’t think a lot of people will travel for a wedding,” says Dalton, so it made sense for them to do it this way.

In terms of venues in Vancouver, the possibilities are endless,” says Scherp. “Beaches, mountaintops, lakesides, forests—it’s worth looking around to find the venue that suits your style.” Some ideas from locals: Grouse Mountain, Vancouver Art Gallery, Stanley Park, Unitarian Church of Vancouver, and Sunset Bay Yacht Charters to name a few. “You can even get married at the Vancouver Aquarium,” Persello says. “You can dine next to the Beluga whale tank!”



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Where to stay? Vancouver is loaded with great hotels—large and boutique alike. Great hotel accommodations include the new, simple, and stylish Loden Hotel that welcomes guests with strawberry-infused water in its lobby. The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa is draped in old-world elegance within the downtown business district, and home to a fantastic lobby bar, Bacchus, which is the perfect spot to cozy up by the fire when it’s raining. The pro-gay Kimpton chain has a fantastic hotel in Vancouver, too, situated right off Robson Street. Their Pacific Palisades property offers vintage charm and is a short stroll to Stanley Park. For those on a tighter budget, the Sandman Suites on Davie is always a good bet, as it’s close to the beach. Most of the fully-furnished suites, 198 of them, have outdoor balconies and fantastic views.

If you’re looking for something a little cozier, there are some great gay-owned or gay-friendly B & B accommodations. The charming Nelson House, which has been hosting queers for 19 years, is located in the heart of the gay/shopping district, sandwiched between Robson and Davie. Built in 1907, the three-story gem overlooks a quiet garden. Also in the neighborhood is the homey Ashby House. Built in the 1800s, it is steeped in history and is home to a stable of furry, four-legged residents who’ll gladly spend time with you on the porch.

Hailed as an international “food capital” by the New York Times, Vancouver is a foodie’s culinary dream. From five-star cuisine to three-table sushi joints, Vancouver has everything your palate desires before and after your wedding. Don’t miss Bluewater (where there are frequent celebrity sightings and delicious oysters). The best raw bar in town—with great sushi and shellfish—Bluewater is tucked into trendy Yaletown. Romance is served at CinCin on Robson Street. This Tuscan eatery overlooks the shopping district, but it feels like a true Italian departure. It has contemporary cuisine and an award-winning wine list. At Parkside, an unassuming restaurant smack dab in the middle of the West End neighborhood, the Mediterranean meets France. In the summertime, their enchanting outdoor patio is hard to beat.

Looking for a cozy spot to snuggle with your honey and a cocktail? Try gay hotspot Oasis; they have great happy hour specials and a delectable $5 tapas menu. For signature cocktails and light bistro fare, try Gerard in the Sutton Place Hotel. Gerard is a well-known film industry hangout and has the air of an English club with tapestries, leather chairs, and its own cozy fireplace. Another great lobby bar is Elixir in the Opus Hotel, which serves a fusion of contemporary and classic French cuisine. Depending on your mood and motive, choose from one of three of Elixir’s rooms—bustling bistro, airy garden room, or plush velvet room. In the Four Seasons, Yew serves over 150 wines by the glass and a Latin-inspired Sunday brunch. It is often host to non-profit auctions and fundraisers, notably for Friends for Life, a Vancouver-based organization that helps care for people living with HIV and AIDS. Their elegant lounge/restaurant pays homage to three of nature’s most exquisite elements—glass, wood, and natural rock—in its decorative flare.

After the wedding pandemonium, the honeymoon beckons and there are plenty of places in British Columbia and nearby to take a load off. “The most popular honeymoon vacation when getting married in Vancouver is boarding a cruise ship to Alaska,” says Persello. Scherp has seen her clients and friends honeymoon in Whistler, Tofino, and Harrison Hot Springs. Many couples also enjoy a grape escape by heading off to the Okanogan Valley, Canadian wine country.

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Washington state is about to pass a law that will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions to be same as "registered domestic partnerships". Soon Washingtonians will be able to get married across the border & have it recognized here.
- steve bell , Chehalis, WA USA

Oh Canada, indeed! We are proud of our liberal values and welcoming climate. Come. Explore. Get hitched!
- Daniel Baylis , Montréal

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